Page 1


'


Carl Flesch


THE MEMOIRS

OF

CARL FLESCH Translated by

and

Hans

edited by

Keller

him

in

collaboration with C. F. Flesch

Foreword by

MAX ROSTAL

SALISBURY SQUARE

LONDON


PUBLISHING 1957

by

Printed in Great Britain J. JMackay Sc Go Ltd, ClxatJbiana

W. &


10


FOREWORD by

IT IS

Max

Rostal

well-known and undisputed

a

fact that the

high standard absolutely unthinkable without the

of violin playing of today is powerful and lasting influence which Carl Flesch exercised his researches, writings

through

interest to all musicians in the

and teaching.

It is

of the greatest

world and in particular to

violinists,

to have the carefully considered opinion of such a distinguished

mind on critics

other

violinists, 'cellists, pianists,

of his time.

in the history

conductors and even

To my knowledge it is almost for the first time

of violin playing

us an authoritative

and

that a really qualified person gives

detailed account

of

his colleagues

and

other artists, whom the younger generations cannot have known. How fascinating it would have been for us and later generations to have had, for instance, an unbiassed

and

reliable description

of

of the usual, highly coloured, fanciful Paganini's playing, instead

and on the whole amateurish fairy-tales From now on, of course, history will be better served through the medium of recordings, !

which

if

they do not deteriorate in the course of time

will

give a fairly accurate picture.

For me, the most astonishing aspect of this book is the frankness which Flesch evinces towards his own abilities, and objectivity

limitations

and

difficulties.

Only

a truly great

man

could have

both the insight, as well as the courage, to make such admissions. In his extremely honest endeavour to apply the same high standards of objectivity towards others, he succeeds, I think, as far as it is great artist holds strong views

humanly possible. Every

on

his subject

tastes;

and naturally has

his

own

ideas, principles

and

more clearly defined are his that Flesch's opinion of some

the greater the personality, the

aesthetic values.

No

wonder

then,

be shared by everyone who knew the playing of those concerned and I must admit to being one of them but the artists

will not

Vll


FOREWORD number of

these idiosyncrasies

is

very small indeed and what

the thoroughly professional, scrutinizing and astute analysis of the various styles, rather than the conclusions at which Flesch sometimes arrives.

matters after

all is

therefore believe that these Memoirs of Carl Flesch will not only be of fascinating interest to all musicians and music lovers I

in our

own

time, but will serve also in the future as a

most

valuable contribution to the history of violin playing.

MAX LONDON, OCTOBER, 1957.

vm

ROSTAL


TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE THIS

is

original

the

the German publication of Flesch's Memoirs; in manuscript. I have condensed and edited it with

first

is still

the generous help of his son, C. F. Flesch,

objected to any of my suggestions, while course, heeded

his requirements,

who

I in

has hardly ever

my

turn have, of

and have not scorned

in certain details of translation and formulation.

I

his advice

think

it

can be

said that scarcely anything of musical relevance has been omitted. I have been careful to eschew slick editing, and have left un-

touched one or two varied repetitions and seeming contradictions because I regard them as meaningful, and because it is not for

me to tell Carl Flesch posthumously what he meant. In view of

reader might come to pp. 76 and 103, for example, a superficial the conclusion that Flesch acquired his sight-reading facility twice over, and there was the temptation to cut one of these passages or edit

them both. Closer

attention will show, however,

other out, and that they necessarily cancel each Flesch are, in any case, of equally substantial interest. It seems that his facility on the earlier occasion and developed it on that they

do not

acquired the later one.

Flesch did not throughout adhere to his original decision to leave

'official

dates

... out of account

(p. 5)

in so far as they can

be found in every dictionary of music.' Consequently, I have endeavoured to complete his practice rather than follow his easily

initial theoretical intention, inserting dates ancf facts

wherever they are relevant

either within his

in the text

own context or from

a more general historical point of view. It has been C. F. Flesch's as well as the publisher's wish, however, that the text should not brackets. These have therefore been conbe disrupted by square fined to a few insertions which

would otherwise make

curious

and to all dates of reading from the chronological standpoint, births and deaths, which I was asked thus to standardize typographically.

I

mention these details for one reason alone ix

:

my textual


TRANSLATOR

S

PREFACE

and corrections are not recognizable as such, and I do not wish to saddle Flesch with any wrong Christian names, dates, opus numbers, and the like for which I may be responsible. additions

Flesch's

marked by

own

footnotes,

of which there are only seven, are examples and two

asterisks, editorial footnotes (music

identifiable publisher's notes included) by figures. The editorial notes as well as the text supply details about the extended period

during which Flesch worked

at

the book, so far as

able to ascertain the relevant dates.

thus

become

clear

why

I

have been

The chronological reasons

certain artists (such

as

will

Menuhin) have

remained unmentioned.

Most

gratefully, I

acknowledge the

assistance

rendered by

my

Hamburger, Donald Mitchell, and H. C. Stevens, who have provided me not only with draft translations of considerable sections of the book, but also with invaluable editorial colleagues Paid

advice.

*

*

*

On a preceding page,

Rostal draws attention to Flesch' s exceptowards himself. Objectivity was indeed his overriding passion, and he would seem to have forced himself not to overlook any weaknesses, whether in himself or in others. tional objectivity

No grain of salt is needed for assimilating his positive evaluations, but if the reader

feels like adding a grain of sugar to one or the other of his unfavourable judgments, Flesch's own aims, which he

is

setting out in greater detail in the ensuing Introduction,

be harmed in the process.

may not


CONTENTS FOREWORD BY MAX ROSTAL TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

...... .

.

.

.

.

vii

k

INTRODUCTION

I

WIESELBURG [1873-1883]

6

VIENNA [1883-1890]

13

PARIS

60

[1890-1896]

BERLIN [1896-1897]

130

BUCHAREST [1897-1902]

l6l

BERLIN [1902-1903]

195

AMSTERDAM [1903-1908]

212

BERLIN [1908-1913]

250

AMERICA [1913-1914]

280

THE WAR YEARS [1914-1918]

294

THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923] AMERICA [1923-1928]

.

I

.

-310

.

329

THE LAST SIXTEEN YEARS [1928-1944] APPENDIX

.

.

.

.

.360

HUBERMAN

367

APPENDIX H LETTER FROM HUBERMAN TO

APPENDIX HI TRANSLATION OF LETTER

INDEX

C. F,

FLESCH

.

ROM SEVCIK TO FLESCH

370 371 373

XI


LIST OF PLATES CARL FLESCH

....

THE AUTHOR'S MOTHER

Frontispiece

facing page

10

THE AUTHOR, AGED 6

10

THE AUTHOR'S FATHER

10

MRS CARL FLESCH

II

THE YOUNG ENESCO

l62

THE YOUNG TffiBAUD

163

ENESCO, THIBAUD AND FLESCH REHEARSING FOR THE MARSICK MEMORIAL CONCERT IN Ip33

1 78

DONALD TOVEY, JULIUS RONTGEN AND PABLO ADELA AND JELLY D*ARRAGNI

178

CASALS,

WITH

ARTUR SCHNABEL (ABOUT 1935) LEOPOLD AUER

179

242

THE AUTHOR ABOUT 1914

243

PHOTOGRAPH GIVEN TO THE AUTHOR BY THOMAS EDISON

.

....

258

ARTUR SCHNABEL, HUGO BECKER AND CARL FLESCH DURING ONE OF THEIR RECITAL TOURS, 1917

259

GREGOR PIATIGORSKY, CARL FLESCH AND CARL FRIEDBERG AT BADEN-BADEN (1930)

259

THE AUTHOR WITH

MAX ROSTAL IN THE GARDEN OF HIS HOUSE

AT BADEN-BADEN (ABOUT 1930) THE AUTHOR WITH FIRTWANGLER AT BADEN-BADEN (ABOUT

322

322

1930)

:ARL FLESCH WITH A GROUP OF PUPILS

AND

LISTENERS IN

5

BADEN-BADEN IN THE EARLY I930 [HE CARL FLESCH JITTER

FROM

SIR

MEDAL

S

.

.

.

FOR EXCELLENCE IN VIOLIN PLAYING

ADRIAN BOULT TO

THE FIRST PAGE OF

.

C. F.

FLESCH

.

323

338

.338

A LETTER FROM OTAKAR SEVCK TO CARL

-339

FLESCH xiii


INTRODUCTION

WHEN a man has reached his sixtieth year, the ments of the symphony of his

whose length

is

uncertain.

life

and the

are over,

The time seems

first

to

three

move-

finale

opens

have come for him

on this earth left any he Has useful to his fellow been contemporary history? men and made the most of his talent? From such thoughts there to strike a balance: has his guest performance

traces in

but a step to the decision to chronicle the experiences of a lifetime for posterity. Why should not later generations know more

is

gather from one's birth and death certificates or a a dictionary of music? superficial entry in They will perhaps be interested in a description of the starting-point, development and

than they

fulfilment

may

of one's

career.

Allied with these personal motives is a desire to rescue from oblivion even those artistic events which may seem of minor

Our

biographical knowledge about great composers without a gap and thus stands in the most striking contrast to what we know about outstanding re-creative artists

importance. is

in

most

cases

whose creative art was of secondary import. the art of violin playing,

In our special field

of

we only possess superficial, feuilletonistic

notes and notices, unfactual and unauthenticated, about such figures

as Corelli, Tartini, Nardini, Locatelli, Viotti,

their best, these writings give us

no more than

or Rode; at

the barest bio-

In fact, without their actual music, which graphical outlines. inferences about the technical abilities of these certain admits artists,

the old Italian school

would be more myth than certainty.

Thus we know no more about Nardini as a violinist than that he had a noble and 'moving' tone. As for Tartini, we first of all* think of the devil who sat on his bed and pkyed him 'The Devil's Trill',

1 then of the resultant tones, and finally of his extant corre-

tones' in American, i.e. secondary tones which can be heard notes are played at the same time. They are produced either by the difference or by the sum of the two primary notes and, accordingly, fall into ls

Combination

when two


CARL FLESCH 1 which nowadays for Signora Lombardini spondence lesson would probably result in his being struck from the teachers' since a correspondence course in violin playing may register, 2 as so much wind. Or take Arthur Pougin's safely be regarded ,

essays

Rode

Viotti (Viotti et I'ecole moderne de violon, Paris, 1888) and sur Rode, Paris, 1874): their documentary value (Notice

on

a compilation of dates, contemposo far and newspaper notices, informative enough rary judgments without but are circumstances concerned, as external

are apart, they

no more than

biographical

even a

now,

superficial

account of the art of these

flashy platitudes

of his

life.

Then,

as

seem to have constituted the chief content

of critical evaluations. Louis Spohr was the 3

violinists.

first

who

tried to give a detailed

His autobiography centres

account

on

subjective impressions; to say the least of it, doubtisolated flashes of genius', he finds the first

the objective value of his judgment 'Despite some three movements of Beethoven's

ful.

is,

Ninth Symphony 'worse than

the finale is any of the preceding eight symphonies', while lacks 'Beethoven that and trivial' and tasteless 'monstrous, proves he menaesthetic culture and a sense of the beautiful'. Paganini tions twice, and very superficially too. Nor do these memoirs of distincattempt to evaluate any other contemporary violinist tion; instead,

history and

we hear

success

all

of

about Spohr's concert tours, about the works information that is of little

his

His autobiography is too self-centred; it does not enrich our knowledge of the violinists and violin playing of

interest to us.

his time.

As

for the legendary Paganini himself, despite his thirty-odd we chiefly have to rely on feuilletonistic

years of concert-giving,

gush from raving newspaper reporters, or differential tones tively. It is the

else

on

fantasies

of

and summational tones ('summation tones* in America) respecformer kind which more easily heard was discovered by

Tartini in 1714: see his Trattato dei prindpii del? armonia musicale (1754). 1

Maddalena Sirmen, nee Lombardini, an

who 2

3 still

Italian violinist, singer

and composer

died in 1735.

French musicologist [1834-1921].

An anonymous English translation available in music libraries.

of Spohr's Autobiography (London, 1865)

is


INTRODUCTION undoubted

literary value

which, however, are beneath factual

discussion (e.g. Heine's Florentine Nights, or E. T. A. Hoffmann). Concerning his style, then, we are completely in the dark; each

of us has

a different picture

of this mysterious figure, so that our may with impunity permit them-

violin quacks

contemporary

selves to use Paganini's

name

as a

signboard for their dubious

reforms. 1 Turning to the biographical literature of our own day, we have to appraise, above all, Moser's Joachim biography. A disvalue for our tinguished literary effort, it is also of unquestionable

knowledge of Joachim

in relation to his contemporaries. In

regard to his purely violimstic quite uncritical.

activities,

however, the book

is

Moser was much too insignificant as an executant,

teacher too narrowly confined within the 3 strait waistcoat of the concepts of a loose' wrist, a 'stiff upper

moreover, and

as a

arm, and a thin finger vibrato, to be capable of unprejudiced comand teacher and other great parisons between Joachim the fiddler

The lasting value of this biography consists, wealth of documentary evidence, which sheds of an only partial) light on the musical activities

contemporaries. therefore, in

stimulating

its

(if

entire age.

For the sake of completeness, another kind of autobiography must be mentioned, of which Willy Burmester's attempted selfis a characteristic example; based on an overglorification

estimation of his

own personality,

it is

a striking

reminder of the

an executant's self-assessment and the place disparity between to him. The laurels he reaps turn out to be made posterity assigns which becomes waste paper within a day. of chiefly

But it

is

news-print

from the ephemerality of newspaper criticism, almost always impossible to obtain a clear picture of a notices. In this respect, there is not from

quite apart

performance

journalistic

violinthe faintest difference between, say, the reviews about the of the end the at ists who played at the Paris concerts spirituels

nc

Flesch's death,

(London, 1951), Joseph

we

Kreisler biography autobiography, With Strings

have had Louis P. Lochner's

valuable Szigeti's highly

would no most

which Hesch Attached: Reminiscences and Reflections (London, 1949), doubt have accorded an exceptional place in the present context, and, Yehudi Menuhin (London, 1956). recently, Robert MagidofFs


CARL FLESCH and our contemporary critical efforts; in eighteenth century behind an either case, there is a tendency to conceal ignorance

empty impressionism. The

result becomes particularly amazing terms. As late as the art of when these judges try to use technical Berliner Tagettatt, the of twenties, Leopold Schmidt, the critic in normal posture was identical with thought that an elbow held confused with sautille; an Staccato is . "stiff 5

bowing

regularly

occasional failure of the

open

steel

E

string,

for

which the

fiddler

can hardly be blamed, is regarded as a crime against sound, whereas a scraping tone is described as Vigorous or 'racy'. At the about the outside, one in a hundred music critics knows something 9

technique of violin playing and

newspaper criticism

is

in

proper nomenclature. In sum, a substitute for factual informa-

its

no way

young violinist of of his individuidea accurate an of no getting possibility today has

tion.

Though

ality, just

Sarasate died as late as 1908, the

as tie

reviews in Mercure de France

tell

us nothing about

Viotti's actual style.

The gramophone cannot

altogether

fill

this

vacuum. The

frame of mind, more or less favourable recording player's personal conditions,

what

and the record's limited durability make for some-

unreliable judgments. In addition, there

is

the inevitable

lack of rapport, as well as the importance of pure sound for a successful recording, which makes for an extremely one-sided know that there are approach from the artistic point of view.

We

of tone which are eminently suitable for mechanireproduction, even though the total effort cannot make any

certain, qualities

cal

pretension to

formance

whereas a highly artistic pernot come off on a record. One of my American

artistic excellence,

may

whose

technical and psychic inhibitions prevented her from ever achieving unobjectionable artistic results in public performance, was engaged in Edison's laboratory: according to his point of view, she possessed the most perfect violin tone. In my own memoirs I shall attempt a new approach of evaluation; what I particularly want to avoid is personal bias in either direction and narrow-minded technical prejudice. On the one hand, I shall revive all kinds of lasting impressions I have received pupils,

in the course of

my career. On the other hand, I intend to describe


INTRODUCTION violinistic aspects of musical life since 1883 as far as I know hem from personal experience. I am interested in determining lot so much my own share as that of my professional colleagues;

he

want

to write the

memoirs of others

rather than

my own.

and stages in the careers of contemporaries shall leave out of account in so far as they can easily be found in notes on people and things are very dictionary of music.

my

Official dates

My

ntended to complete the picture drawn by professional musical esearch to supply the setting, the scenery as it were, of conemporary musical (and not merely violinistic) life.

But above all I propose to offer a reliable source for the history f violin playing from 1883 to I933- 1 If I succeed, musicology in ie twenty-first century may be able to get an idea of iolinists used to play a hundred years previously. 1

Flesch did not, in fact, get

>me of his observations on ter years.

beyond 1928 with his life and violin playing

violinists

how

story as such, though will be seen to cover


WIESELBURG The

First

WAS born on October

I

9,

[1873-1883]

Ten Years

a small 1873, in Wieselburg (Moson),

Hungarian market town with about 6,000 German-speaking be known inhabitants, chiefly fanners. The whole region used to a musicians'

as

breeding-place: Haydn, Liszt,

Nikisch,

Hans

Richter, Dohnanyi, Mosonyi and, amongst others, the famous Wagner singer, Katharina Klafsky, were all born within the ambit 1

of about fifty kilometres. My father was a general practitioner and,

same time, an army surgeon. His grandfather and greathis father a modest grandfather had been highly-esteemed rabbis,

at the

a fine figure, influential in the

dealer in tailor's cloth

and an unusually seventy-five.

one

who had

excellent;

religious,

Amongst

orthodox Jew; he died

his four children,

chosen a professional

he used to

tell

my father was

calling.

us that in his

community, age of

at the

the only

His education was

day you were required to

speak Latin in Hungarian public schools and, in fact, when he held with his colleagues he showed himself able to talk

a consultation

fluent Latin.

He had

an original mind and a tender heart; in his illiterate Hungarian farmers he had,

dealings with the mostly

however, developed a brusque manner.

he gave

free treatment to the

It

was well known,

poor, whence

his kindness

frequently abused. In his professional capacity, he

upon

as

an authority by layman and colleague

alike.

that

was

was looked His catholic

knowledge and abilities would seem wellnigh incredible in our own age of specialization. He regarded his profession as a mission means of earning money. The most popular figure Wieselburg, he was a typical family doctor of the old school

rather than a

in

whom Gentiles as well as Jews consulted about both their physical, and

their

spiritual ailments.

graced by

modern

Consulting hours were not, of course,

antiseptic precautions in those days; a

*A composer of Hungarian

national music [1815-70].

doctor

:


WIESELBURG [1873-1883]

would only wash

his

hands

when

was some imminent of the body which he

there

when the parts treated successively happened to be of a diametrically opposite nature. Occasionally, we children had to assist at operations; with danger of infection or

horror I remember co-operating in the surgical treatment ofa youth

who, while serenading, had been stabbed in the belly by his rival. Old-fashioned as he was, my father regarded caresses as unhe dearly loved his children, he stopped as soon virtually physical expression of affection towards them as they went to school at the age of six; thenceforth, the strict pedagogue took charge. Altogether, in fact, his mode of life was dignified: although all

To

the end of his days, he forced his entire household to eat, lunch after lunch, soup and boiled beefwith veg-

of Spartan

simplicity.

only on the sabbath did we get the traditional roast goose.

etables;

income was enormous; yet he left died of pneumonia in 1907 for he had always followed the generous

Relatively speaking, his only an inconsiderable sum

age of sixty-seven,

at the

principle

of investing

when he

his savings in the

education of his children.

According to German-Hungarian custom,

we had

a resident

French-Swiss nurse who taught us the rudiments of her language. The study of a musical instrument, too, was considered obligatory. a matter of course, moreover, a growing lad

As

had eventually

to be sent to a provincial town or a capital in order to complete father bore the dishis education. Without a murmur,

my

had to treat many patients proportionate expense involved. He before he could meet the demands of my first years of study in the cost of the education he lavished upon us was quite incommensurate to his income. Fortunately, he lived to see the investment. justification of his Work was his credo. In no circumstances did he tolerate idleParis

ness.

:

His stereotyped question used to be, 'What are you doing

now?' felt

an

owed

to his systematic education that, in later years, I insatiable need for activity, which almost amounted to a

I

it

vice; 'pleasure trips' were not only repulsive to resulted in attacks of neurasthenia.

My mother had noble features

a classical

me, but

actually

Greek nose which,


CARL FLESCH alas, I

did not inherit, and a particularly beautiful

mouth with an

a la Mona Lisa, a characteristic which she transenigmatic smile was extremely mitted as far as her great-grandchildren. She her last be and energetic and could very hot-tempered; spirited

box on

my

children

been

a

sixteenth year. Nevertheless, we attached to her; there could hardly have

ears dates firom

were deeply

my

more devoted wife and mother. She died relatively young,

of cancer of the breast an exemplar of conjugal treatment. For when she showed the first symptoms diagnosis and of her malady to my father, he resisted the idea of a malignant

at fifty-two,

he knew all too well from his experience) growth (whose signs and persuaded himself that he was confronted with a benign tumour. When an operation was eventually decided upon, it was one and a half years later. As a doctor's already too late: she died condition and was seized by a wife, she had no illusions about her death delivered her. deep melancholy from which only was a model marriage, even though there were

My

parents'

mother's passionate frequent storms, usually provoked by my whose a love as match, nature. It had started amusing history

my

father recounted to

me in an exceptionally communicative mood

on the day of my mother's funeral. round for university, he was looking

A

doctor fresh from the

match and conof the 'inspection' latter's flat, but the result was the in was arranged marriage object a suitable

tacted a Viennese friend for the purpose.

An

did not take to his proposed bride. unsatisfactory: the candidate He took his leave and, outside the flat, ran into a pretty young girl

whom he thought highly attractive.

At once he turned back and

who the young lady was. 'My enquired of the householder I do want to marry!' daughter.' 'Well, your daughter of my parents were redifferent The basically personalities dualism of character, which sponsible for the essential artistic both an impelling and an inhibiting influence on

my

my

had and

methodical personal development. From my father I inherited my

and analytic tendencies myself

owe

as

a certain reserve.

the impulsive, fiery side of

independently of each

aversion to exhibiting mother, on the other hand, I

well as

To my

other,

two

my

my

nature. Side

by

side

and

opposite temperaments have


WIESELBURG [1873-1883] always determined

and

my mental constitution;

reflective, enthusiastic

and

calculating

could be impulsive not only in turns, but I

same time. Like my mother, I would experience the spontaneous loves and hates of a child of nature; from my father I have the philosopher's critical attitude. I was capable of making music with the deepest passion and, simultaneously, of actually at the

writing the Basic Studies and the Art of Violin Playing. In this respect, my fellow beings have never really understood me. Some consider

me

a calculating, dissecting pedagogue, while others

regard me, above all, as an impulsive and vigorous artist. In mental reality, I always have been both at the same time. As a I

performer,

never succeeded in welding these opposite talents

was only in the teaching activities of my later years my vocation completely fulfilled, for there I was able

into a unity. It that I found

simultaneously to enlist

would would

my

intellect

and

my

emotions:

first I

afterwards I analyse a pupil's efforts, and immediately re-create for him the living work of art.

To judge from photographs and the reports of my elders, I was

my

My

a sprightly and pretty child. precocious gifts prompted of four years and eleven parents to let me attend school at the age months. I was to suffer for this early 'breaking in' during Viennese school-days, when I proved unable to concentrate an due to malice or lack of talent. incapacity that was thought to be and Jewish elementary Christian were there In childhood,

my

my

was of course sent to a Jewish one, where I learnt German and Hebrew and all the other things one is supposed to need in life. Before I had reached the age of six, the question of my musical career had grown acute. Now, this would be the place to insert the usual emotive anecdote about the young violinist, but as a matter of schools;

I

predestined

fact I did

not even choose

for me. parents did that

elder sister children)

;

and

my

two

this particular

instrument myself:

my my

to assigned the piano six were we elder brothers (altogether,

They had

school finished at four o'clock, piano practice at seven we ate and went to bed. Thus there would

whereupon have been no opportunity for me to get at the piano at all, and I had to learn an instrument which I would be able to practise even

o'clock,


CARL FLESCH while the others were busy at the piano. That was how the violin and I met; in fact, my case was typical. The story of the two-yearmuch old who practises pizzicati on a stringed cigar-box is so the environmental; bunkum. The incitement is almost invariably his child will be only too glad to seize any opportunity to gratify instrua certain definite, innate predilection for play-instinct. ment is extremely rare, and even when, in later years, a student to be determined by his instrument, his motives will

A

prove

changes muscular inhibitions.

entrusted a saddler Shortly before I was six, then, my parents with the task of teaching me the rudiments of violin playing; his owed to the circumstance that every reputation as a violinist he first (and only) desk. Despite* Sunday, in church, he played at the

have been somewhat their musical ignorance, parents must in due course they for doubtful about his teaching methods,

my

me to the promoted me to a higher rank, apprenticing of the local fire-brigade band. After about eighteen months

conductor

decided upon a surprise demonstration of the fruits of educational labours he studied a few dances with me, and took

jovial his

this

man

:

my violin along to a parish fair which I attended with my parents round which

there he suddenly lifted me up on the table musicians with their pint mugs, and I struck up a dance or

the peasants.

I

;

sat the

two for

created such a sensation that the dancing couples

Landler and gazed at 'the son of Dr Flesch' as if he were one of the seven wonders of the world. This was the first, and perhaps the only, complete satisfaction my parents derived interrupted their

\

teacher assumed and the prestige of his authority ^yas sacrosanct. thenceforth, gigantic proportions three lessons a week. Meanwhile, I scraped hard during 1 for all school violin In our parts, Schon's enjoyed great esteem;

from my

my

artistic activities, :

my

worse than any other: at that stage it' was, after all, a question of 'how' rather than of 'what'. And it was in the former respect that things went seriously amiss; it is almost impossible nowadays to get an idea of the kind of violin educatio^ I

I

know,

it

was not, in

fact,

received up to the age often.

Schon [1808-85], a pupil of Ries and Spohr, taught wrote various instructional works for the violin. ;

10

at

Breslau and

1


The

author's

mother

The

The

author's father

author, aged 6


Mrs Carl

Flesch


WIESELBURG [1873-1883] Since most of Schon's exercises are accompanied by a second teacher always performed with me; whence it was fiddle,

my

which of us two played out of tune. As for to practise an hour a day, and the most had my care was taken that it shouldn't be a minute less. This scrupulous unbearable coercion soon aroused my lively opposition, and I impossible to ascertain

homework,

I

began to sabotage my practising activities with all the resources at my disposal. Those who know me from my artistic and educational career and are aware that a sense of duty is for me the greatest of all human virtues, will no doubt be surprised to learn I spared no trouble to shorten my practising would put our big clock on a quarter of an hour,

that as a child

hour; thus

I

my strings in two, and so forth. During lessons, my teacher frequently

cut

with his

rapped

my

knuckles

bow in order to keep me in time owing to his profession, :

rhythm was the foremost requirement. Thus,

for four long years,

dragged myself through the dead wood of Schon's exercises, which were but rarely relieved by arias from Italian operas, I

Schubert songs, and scraps of melody torn out of popular chamber in short, the kind of stuffyou find in the usual collections

music for

amateurs.

Small wonder, then, that

my

initial

progress

my playing even suffered gradually ceased, from an unmistakable retrogression, so that it eventually dawned upon my parents that this was hardly the way which could lead and

to art

and

that, later on,

artistry.

had finished elementary school and had gymnasium at Altenburg in Hungary, two kilometres from Wieselburg, which was administered by friars. This meant In the meantime,

I

entered the

up at seven o'clock every morning, for school started at would sometimes make the way eight, and frequent snowfalls was by very troublesome. Although my command of Hungarian no means great, I was getting on quite well, and in the first trimester before Christmas I even came third in a form of about getting

Excited by my many distinctions, I raced home in a heavy frost and, on the following day, ran a high temperature which anon developed into a dangerous facial erysipelas the

fifty pupils.

only grave illness of my life. II


CARL FLESCH

My parents eventually decided that my violin studies should take a

more

poor results of my actual playing, of music seems even then to have shown an inmy way making definable something which justified the assumption of a special talent.

serious path. Despite the

Speaking from

my later teaching experiences, the only basis

for a favourable prognosis at such an embryonic stage of artistic development is the young violinist's general mode of behaviour, his posture, attitude, expressive needs, etc., for tangible results

technical, tonal, or interpretative nature cannot possibly from such a primitive kind of instruction as I received.

of a

emerge

My parents chose Vienna for my future studies,

both musical not only because we regarded ourselves above all as Germans, but also because my mother's sister and her two

and

classical,

brothers lived there.

Thus

my

premature end, even though well to

my parental home.

I

It

carefree childhood

did not find

was only

realized how strongly I was attached to

going, rural

way of life of the

you have been born in a by it I was not yet ten when,

me to

to bid fare-

in later years that I fully home town, to the easy-

my

you always remain bewitched

in July 1883, I

to a

provincial lower middle class: if

village,

Vienna. Henceforth, of Central Europe.

it difficult

came

was to

12

my mother travelled with

participate in the musical life


VIENNA Aged Ten

[1883-1890] to

Seventeen

UPON OUR arrival in Vienna we put up at my grandfather's *Zum

hotel

Lowen'

"Weissen

in the Salzgries, at that time a

tumbledown, dirty and evil-smelling quarter. My grandfather's own flat, however, was just acceptable, for he had secured the best part of the house for himself and his family. For all that, innumerable blackbeetles had taken up their abode in the kitchen and filled

me whose home

had been a model of cleanliness

with

indescribable terror. Rats busied themselves quite fearlessly about the pump in the yard, while the hotel guests supplied bugs and fleas,

must have been a pretty sound remain unconscious of the activities of these

Vienna's favourite vermin.

to sleeper, for I used

blood-sucking

The

parasites.

changeful

interested

on the other hand, and there even developed, with a girl of my

in

life

me greatly,

age and of

I

and outside the

hotel,

angelic appearance, a friendship full

of childhood

poetry. I also

have a

distinct

tion in the Prater

:

it

In the meantime,

memory of a visit

was there

the

first

saw a telephone.

my mother had been busy looking about for

a suitable violin teacher for me.

by

that I

to the electrical exhibi-

Her choice had

name of Adolf Back who enjoyed

a

fallen

on a violinist

good reputation as an

elementary teacher in certain petit bourgeois circles. His violinistic attainments, to be sure, were not up to much, and the artistic distance

between himandmy Wieselburg mentor was minute;

still,

he lived in Vienna where he had frequent opportunity to hear decent violin playing.

Amongst

his pupils

were Artur Bodanzki1 who

Austrian conductor [K Vienna 1877, d. New York 1939]- Before his various German engagements and his eventual New York appointment(i9i 5), he had been assistant

conductor to Mahler at the Imperial Opera in Vienna. See also pp. 341

13

f.


CARL FLESCH had an excellent reputation as conductor at the and Back's own son Oskar, Metropolitan Opera in New York, esteemed violin teacher at Brussels and Amsterdam. later a for

many

years

highly old Back, incidentally, had two or three strings to his bow: he acted as a house-agent and also negotiated other sales as far as his business worries tended to distract his they were profitable; but attention during lessons. He had an extremely skw vibrato and his first educational measure was to let me share in its 'advantages',

The

with the

had the greatest difficulty in getting rid a fraction better than the instruction I had

result that I later

of it. In sum, though

two his tuition was still pretty primitive. previously received, later were wasted, and in years they years under his guidance served to remind me to warn pupils' parents again and again that

My

was just good enough for elementary instruction. harm done by defective or actually absent

the best teacher

In most cases, the

And only quite irreparable. at times succeed, through intense mental

rudiments

in

is

making up

for

the greatest talents may and physical exertions,

what has been neglected

at the decisive

primary

stage.

Back had been

active as a

several trios for three violins his pupils to

My

composer too and had perpetrated which it was the traditional duty of

perform at periodic recitals.

aunt Regi, with

whom I now

went to

live,

was a well-

conserved, in fact strikingly pretty, blonde in her late thirties.; ten Having been married to a well-to-do merchant for about

good-looking stockbroker for whose sake she got divorced from her husband. It soon was unable to support appeared, however, that the new Adonis years, she

became infatuated with

a

The whole family was forced to live on the allowance which her good-natured first husband provided for his three^ children, so that the price paid for my board and lodging afforded his wife.

a considerable

relief.

my new

surroundings were scarcely calculated to exert a favourable influence on my development. The six of us lived in

But

three rooms;

I

graceful blonde

shared one with

who

my

oldest cousin Risa, a tall and,

died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-one,

14


VIENNA [1883-1890] having caused quite a well as on

stir

was

in provincial

German

theatres, off stage

good, but somewhat reckless soul who had to be forgiven much, for she had loved much. I liked her best amongst my Viennese relatives, transfigured as she seemed by the as

it:

she

a

glory surrounding her provincial roles as a French demimondaine. Judging from various visitors, I was not alone in my admiration for my beautiful cousin, and although I did not alarm myself about them, this kind of schooling was hardly likely to inspire a ten-year-old boy with sound principles. was of to this doubtful parents to expose

me

my

How

naive

it

atmosphere change for the worse. Aunt Regi was an unloving egoist for whom I was but an additional means of meeting her household expenses. I was expelled from the rural paradise of my childhood, without friends, far

For the

rest,

my life had taken a

!

drastic

away from family, amongst people who remained strangers to me. Perhaps only joy was going home for Christmas, Easter, and the summer holidays, though it made the return to

my

my

Vienna all the sadder. During my second year in the capital, my mother once accompanied me there with my favourite brother because she wanted to consult a doctor about his state of health. They only stayed for two days. The separation affected me so deeply that I a child of eleven walked over one of the bridges

Danube, stared for a long time into the black, wintry and water, contemplated whether it would not be best to jump. the holidays, I had to return to the hateful Viennese after When, I used to shut atmosphere, myself into the lavatory on the train in order to be able to cry unobserved. This lack of love and emotional security was no doubt largely responsible for my somewhat reserved nature, for the periodical lack of artistic expansiveness and spontaneity which was to cause me great trouble in the later course of my development. At the outset of my Vienna years, I had failed the entrance across the

examination for a

state gymnasium owing to my inadequate was therefore put into a private gymnasium whence, preparation. in die course of the following year, I was supposed to move on to a regular school. At first I made fair progress, but what with the and my own pedantic, impersonal pedagogues who taught me, I

15


CARL FLESCH

on a single subject, I gradually receded for scapegraces. towards those back desks which were reserved when my terminated was affairs of state This unsatisfactory were studies violin progressing, and saw how slowly my

concentrate inability to

parents

decided to enrol that

me in the Conservatoire

would, in any

it

case,

have become impossible for

me

to

a private teacher

was

to

my studies at the gymnasium; take care of my general education.

continue

I

1 of the Musikfreunde, so

had appeared in public for the

first

time on December 31,

Fantasy in a New Year concert (with subsequent dance) of the Wieselburg Geselligfound that keitsverein; the musicians of my birth-place generally

when

1883,

I

had

played Alard's

I

'Faust'

my parents thought that Back of months of eighteen ought to be judged by a

greatly improved. Nevertheless,

the result

to wit, Joseph Hellmesberger sen. (of whom recognized authority, more anon). On a dull winter day early in 1885, then, my mother

me examined by its who had conveyed her

took me to the Conservatoire in order to have director.

The

caretaker,

all-powerful returned with the instruction that, first of all, a fee request to him, 2 had to be paid. That done, we were asked to wait a often

gulden

of the students' while, since the director was conducting a rehearsal band; we could, however, listen to it if we were interested.

We

box in the large hall where a small boy of about to play Sarasate's 'Faust' Fantasy or ten nine years was just about were led into

a

with orchestral accompaniment. I sat gaping, for such fiddling I had never heard before. The rehearsal over, the caretaker conducted us into the Holy of Holies the director's office. He first

of all asked me about the impression my little colleague had made I expressed my admiration he commented,

on me, and when

'Yes, little Kreisler will cause a great stir in the

world; if only he

had a better posture !' On one and the same day, then, I had encountered two violinists who were to exert a great if basically different influence on my artistic development and my personal fate alike: for me, as The Gesellsduift der Musikfreunde, a world-famous 'society of the friends of was founded in Vienna in the year of Wagner's birth for the purpose of promoting, performing, collecting and teaching music. ir

music', 2

Ten

Austrian

florins, i.e.

about ids 8d at the time.

16


VIENNA [1883-1890] indeed for

all violinists

the guide to

modern

of my generation, Kreisler was to become playing, the evolution of which had

violin

begun with Ysaye; whereas Hellmesberger became the negative and unwitting cause of my move to Paris and thus determined

my

career altogether. for the 'examination'

As

itself, it did not yield any result that future guidance. The director contented himself with murmuring a few talent, phrases about

could have served for

my

my

my

favourable prospects and the need for continued diligence,

whereupon he graciously dismissed us. as before, and my parents decided to

My mother knew as much consult a sounder judge

M.

Griin who, incidentally, was f. father's distantly related to This time we had indeed hit upon the right person. family. Grxin told us straight to our faces that the instruction I had so far

my

been given had been quite inadequate, recommended us Josef Maxintsak, the teacher of the preliminary course 1 at the Conservatoire,

and promised to take me into his own main course in (as he certainly expected) my preparation

the following year if

proved

successful.

In the meantime, I had entered my twelfth year and had been playing the violin for six years, without the vaguest idea of an artistic approach to the instrument. If one considers the level of

accomplishment which wellnigh

all

my

kter professional col-

leagues had reached at that age (e.g. Kreisler, Thibaud, Elman, and 2 Heifetz), whereas I was firmly stuck in the mud of dilettantism, one can only regard it as a miracle that something became of me after all another year and it would perhaps have been too late,

1

The British equivalent is the graded Associated Board Course which is usually taken before joining the R.A.M. or R.C.M. 2 Huberman, indisputably the most striking case in point, is omitted from this 4ist; see App. I. As for Kreisler, a letter which Freud sent his future wife from Paris (December 5, 1885) forms an amusing complement to Flesch's reminder. Freud had called on the wife of his parents* family doctor, then in Paris: *. The unhappy woman has a ten-year-old son who after two years in the Vienna

r

.

Conservatorium

won

the great prize there and

was pronounced highly

Now instead of secredy throttling the infant prodigy the wretched overworked and has a house

,

gifted.

father,

who

of children, sends the boy with his mother to Paris to study at the Conservatoire and get another prize. Just t-hinV of the expense, the separation, the breaking up of the household*' Two years later the boy, Fritz Kreisler, 'concerted' at Steinway Hall, New York. is

full

17


CARL FLESCH In the autumn of 1885 I began to study with Josef Maxintsak. new teacher was about forty years old, Viennese, with a

My

pronounced Slav

tinge.

His features were well drawn, if some-

body was

by a clubfoot. Originhe became the viola ally a pupil of Joseph Hellmesberger sen., 2 he also had a good reputaplayer of the Hellmesberger Quartet; tion as a first violinist in the Opera Orchestra and as a teacher at the Conservatoire. With his thorough orchestral training, he belonged to the upper middle class of violinists. He was a harsh, un-

what crude, while

his

disfigured

1

and extremely hot-tempered teacher, but while he he was uncommonly hardly bothered about bowing technique, sensitive to intonation and all matters rhythmical. My hyperthe bugbear of my pupils is largely his work, for critical ear restrained

all life, although, it was grateful to him decisive influence to the alive only at a maturer stage that I became craftsmanwhich he thus exerted upon the development of

my

which I have remained

my

ship; in

my

all too inoriginal recollection, his tuition seemed Since I had lessons twice or thrice a

and unimaginative. found sufficient time to work through an enormous we week, field of violin studies within ten months: Kreutzer, Rode, 3 and May seder4 were studied, not once, but Fiorillo, Rovelli, three or four times successively, with a thoroughness which even artistic

today enables me to play most of these pieces from memory for my pupils. For the considerable rest, concertos by Viotti, Kreutzer, *At this point, a brief genealogy of the somewhat confusing Hellmesberger family may be welcome: (i) Georg Hellmesberger sen. [1800-73], violinist, conductor and composer, from 1829 conductor at the Vienna Court Opera, and from 1833 professor of the violin at the Vienna Conservatoire; (2) His son, Joseph H. sen. [1828-93], professor at the Conservatoire from 1851, and conductor of the Philharmonic Society the man of Hesch's story (see also pp. 22 f); (3) The latter's

brother,

Georg H. jun. [1830-52],

violinist

and composer;

(4)

Joseph H.

jun. (son of Joseph H. sen.), violinist, composer and conductor [1855-1907], violin professor at the Conservatoire from 1878 and leader at the Opera; (5) For

Ferdinand H. [1863-1940], brother of the latter, see p. 25. 2 Led by Joseph Hellmesberger sen. from 1849 until 1887, had been his second fiddler) succeeded him. 3

was

when bis son (who

Pietro Rovelli [1793-1838], the most famous member of the Rovelli family, a Kreutzer pupil. He composed violin studies, caprices, and variations.

A lesser

4

known

figure in this country, Joseph Mayseder [1789-1863] was a and composer, and a chamber musician to the emperor. Aside from his violin works (including concertos), his output includes a mass, eighty string quartets, five string quintets, piano trios and other chamber music.

Viennese

violinist

18


VIENNA [1883-1890] Rode, and

also

some

Beriot, provided the necessary variety. In a teacher thus succeeded in establishing a fruitful basis for In technique. September 1886, 1 went entrance examination, Beriot's Seventh Concerto played

relatively short time,

firm and in for

my my

my

and was immediately admitted to Professor Griin's main course, Jakob (called 7-M') Griin [1837-1916] was a tiny and insignificant-looking figure of strikingly ugly features. Good-natured and somewhat limited as a man, conscientious and as a dry

violinist,

pupils.

he was an

His

artistic

enthusiastic teacher

career

gained some fame owing

had been

a kind father to his

ill-fated.

In his early years he

to the fact that his

name was connected

with Joachim's resignation from Hanover and his removal to Joachim had proposed Griin (at the time a member of the Court Orchestra at Hanover) for the appointment of a Chamber

Berlin.

Musician, but Griin was rejected because he was ofJewish descent. In view of his own origin, Joachim regarded this as an insult and tendered his resignation. In the late 'sixties, Griin became leader

Vienna Court Opera, succeeding Hellmesberger who, as Court Chapel concerts, quartet player and teacher, had no time left for orchestral at the

director of the Conservatoire, conductor of the

But Griin was not to the taste of the Viennese, and his and malicious predecessor soon made him into a witty laughingstock: for a long time to come, Hellmesberger's 'Griin Jokes' were to form an essential contribution to the amusement of the musical world. 1 They seemed to make Griin himself increasingly nervous; besides, he must have suffered from mental inhibitions in his art, for in 1880 the eighteen-year-old Arnold Rose was appointed second leader and had to play the solos instead of Griin. When we consider that Griin was only forty-three when it was made clear to him in this brutal manner that his soloistic career had come to an end, we can easily imagine the severe psychic trauma he must have suffered. All the more intensely, then, he devoted himself to his beloved teaching profession, in which he came to enjoy great esteem. A confirmed bachelor, he spent his entire life with his mother who, even in later years, treated him like a little services.

1

Some of them have even descended

generation.

C.F.-C

19

to the present translator's musical


CARL FLESCH included Franz Kneisel, WesApart from myself, his pupils Mrs Hochmann, and many violinists both sely, Lewinger, Rebner, Court in the Vienna Opera Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (founded in 1 8 8 5) Griin retired at the age of seventy an occasion which was celebrated by a concert of his most outstanding 1 As often happens with men who are used to work, his enpupils. forced retirement weakened his mind and body; he died in 1916. He was a violinist with a sound left-hand technique, but his

child.

.

in a dry thin, almost invisible finger vibrato inevitably resulted effect that had a most disenchanting tone upon the

production

the best period, though he played a Stradivarius from

listener

2 which he had bought in the 'seventies for 5,000 fl. Like many other players, he was wont to make his instrument responsible for his own tonal insufficiencies, and to have it continually reLater on, the violin was bought by Franz Kneisel in New paired.

York and it is

still

in his family's possession.

mastery of all possible bowings, Griin's right-hand was dominated by the portato then usual in Vienna, technique which made impossible both a real legato and any subtle dynamics and nuances. Amongst his technical specialities was a 4 as well as a well-marked and rhythmical perfect mordent 1 An eminently competent ear-witness Oskar Adler, Schoenberg's first teacher Despite his

and quartet-partner, and the leader of the Adler Quartet described this concert to me. Rebner started off with the Mendelssohn Concerto and played it in what Adler called his usual manner. Next, Wessely played the Brahms Concerto which, at that time, was a new and formidable proposition; in the circumstances, he acquitted himself well. Tien came the climax of the evening Flesch's Beethoven Concerto it was an outstanding performance by any standards, technically perfect, crystal-clear, with a noble and big tone. Adler seemed to remember that Hesch played his own cadenza. Mrs Hochmann came last, playing Spohr's Scena cantante. Considering the brilliant halo which surrounded her name at that time, and the stories one had heard of her wonderful tone, she proved a disappointment; even her intonation was somewhat uncertain in the upper positions. Incidentally, it is instructive to compare Flesch's description of Griin's tone, and of his teaching methods in regard to tone production, with Adler's description of Hesch's own tone which, it seems, developed despite his teacher. *Then over 410. :

'Pralltritter:

V ULT

""

g B

Hesch

1

f

I

rather than the historically accurate tended to be executed before the beat.

J

one

20

uses the current

(Schneller).

After 1830,

German term this

mordent


VIENNA [1883-1890] 1

quite generally, in fact, his Spohr interpretawere lucid and stylistically true. If only his absolutely unsensual and unattractive tone production had not weighed so

'Spohr staccato';

tions

heavily

upon

intentions

!

the listener's ears, destroying the player's noblest

This lack of a corrective vibrato was the cause, too, of

his reputation

emphasized by Hellmesberger

persistently

of

2 being a 'note-sharper'. For even the greatest violinistic genius will play out of tune without a levelling and corrective vibrato,

Basically, however, Grtin's failure as a violinist must have been rooted in his personality itself which, pace his noble character traits, appeared to be the very opposite of all that is commonly

comprised in the term 'artistic' impulsiveness, charm, imagination, boldness and attack. No doubt his outstanding attribute as a teacher was his almost religious devotion to his profession.

An

unbiassed resume of his teaching methods, however, will have to arrive at an unfavourable conclusion: they were one-sided and defective.

On the credit side, his categorical demand for technical

precision

must be mentioned,

his aversion to cheating, to all

the glossing over technical deficiencies, and his emphasis upon purely musical aspect of performance. On the debit side, however,

we should have to

adduce his neglecting the functions of the right

arm and hand, and the correct movement of the bow,

as

well as his

habitual portato and the scant attention he paid to the vibrato. The highest aim of any really artistic education, moreover, ie.

the recognition, support and development of a pupil's personality, his comprehension. It was for this reason that far

was

beyond

level who left only those of his pupils were able to reach a higher him in good time and turned to a higher authority with higher

came development. Apart from of Martin Marsick after

ideals; all the others

to a standstill at a certain stage in their a myself, therefore (who became pupil

a

few

years),

gained an international reputation

none of

as a soloist,

Griin's pupils

whereas there

is

a

A

a see Carl Hesch, The Art of pure martete staccato adjustable to any tempo: Violin Playing (trans. Frederick Martens), Vol. I, revised ed. (New York, 1939),

*tt& nearest sharper

I

can get to Hellmesbcrger's pun: his Falschspieler (card-) verb falsch spielen, i.e. to pky out of tune

refers to the usual musical

(though not necessarily sharp

!).

21


CARL FLESCH disproportionately great excellent attainments.

At

number of Griin pupils of fair rather than

head of the Conservatoire of the Gesellschaft was Joseph Hellmesberger sen. [1828-93]. There is no comparison between the role he played in his lifetime and his historical significance which, with the present generation of violinists, is confined to his Peters edition of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin, and to his numerous anecdotes and puns, chiefly on the subject of poor old Griin. His 1 father was Georg Hellmesberger senior who, as Hanslick indicates, had been a dilettante and become a professional; his brother was Georg Hellmesberger jun., Joachim's predecessor at Hanover; and his sons were Joseph Hellmesberger jun. (known as 'Pepi'), that time, the

der Musikfreunde

the violinist, composer and conductor, and the 'cellist Ferdinand. In short, the Hellmesberger dynasty dominated, and at times tyrannized, Vienna's musical life for close upon a century. At the

time

when

I

entered the Conservatoire,

its

director, the 'old'

me

to be a man of the world Hellmesberger, appeared to well on in years, tried at all costs to make a youthful

who,

impression, what with his wig and the jet-black dye of his whiskers a la Franz Josef. His tripping and stilted gait created the impression of a forced and coquettish grace which, according to Hanslick and Rose, had characterized his playing too. 2 I could not judge this question for myself, for owing to a complaint of the hand he had abandoned solo playing for several years past, and in the quartet, too, his son 'Pepi' had succeeded him. As opposed to Griin, the

old Hellmesberger mellifluence.

is

said to

He conducted

have produced a tone of captivating the students' orchestra

and directed a Three types of people were anathema to him Jews, short-sighted individuals, and Griin pupils. Since I rolled the three into one, he made me the of his

chamber music

class.

object

especial

^ee

the genealogy on p. 18. 2 I cannot trace the Hanslick reference. In fairness to Hellmesberger, however, it must be pointed out that Hanslick thus concluded an otherwise extremely favourable review of one ofJoachim's six concerts at Vienna in 1861 'In many a Beethoven [Concerto] passage, Hellmesberger's fine, stimulating naturalness would have played more directly to our hearts than Joachim's unbending Roman earnestness/ (Vienna's Golden Years of Music: 1850-1900, trans, and ed :

Pleasants, 3rd,

London,

Henry -my

1951.)

22


VIENNA [1883-1890] antipathy, which went so far that he came to dispense me from the operatic performances, for the sole purpose of getting me out

whereas I was the favourite pupil of all my other Without being an occultist, I am inclined to think that his aversion to me was something of a divination: some forty-five years later, my Peters edition of the Bach solo Sonatas supplanted his own almost completely, and it was this latter to which he owed most of his popularity amongst violinists.1

of his

sight;

teachers.

Be

that as

it

may, in the

last resort I

entire career, for the following reason.

owe Hellmesberger my

Apart from the concerts of

the Philharmonic Orchestra (which was identical with the Opera Orchestra), there were the so-called Gesellschaftskonzerte pro-

moted by

the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and given

by an of the

of variegated constitution, including licentiates candidate for membership had to be approved Conservatoire,

orchestra

A

the conductor. Like most of colleagues, I if I the test as an orchestral player, stood for membership: applied I could in due course get on to the last desk of the second violins

my

by Hellmesberger,

and

twenty years' service I might well hope to be promoted to the rank of first violinist! Hellmesberger, however, saved me from this fate: he deleted my name from the list, It seemed that entering the word 'blind' by way of explanation.

in the opera,

after

he found my short-sightedness the most antipathetic of my defects.

was obvious,

It

like Kreisler later

then, that

on

I

had no

future in Vienna, not even as an orchestral player; whipped up by the threat of artistic stagnation, the desire to leave the city dominated me from then onwards. With horror I think of what

would have become of me if I had been Hellmesberger's protege: when,

after thirty-two years,

I

performed

as a soloist

with the

discovered one of my best friends from

Philharmonic Orchestra, :he days of the Conservatoire at the I

first

desk of the second

Tiolins.

Viennese par excelHellmesberger was the naturally musical even compose, although he had ence he could do everything :

x

The psychoanalytically trained

train: the 'bad father's*

Bach

to replace it by a better one.

observer will be inclined to reverse this causal may well have been an incentive for Hesch

edition


CARL FLESCH

no

creative talent. His

magnum opus was

a waltz-like salon piece

and eminently

suitable for the charity concerts of the Princess Pauline Metternich. His real significance lies entitled Ballet Scene

he was the first who after Schuppanzigh's and but Jansa's similar, pretty unsuccessful attempts introduced the Viennese public to the wonderland of quartet literature. The in the fact that 1

construction of his

programmes

at that

time

middle of the century) was exemplary. As early

(i.e.

as

round the

1849 he per-

D

minor Quartet, which had been virtually Schumann's and Brahms' unknown; chamber music and, above all, the Beethoven quartets, of which only the op.iS set was generally known. If we stop to reflect that even today there are only few people who understand Beethoven's late quartets, we must have the greatest respect for the courage which must have been necessary at the time to present these works

formed Schubert's

in later years, he played

to utterly unprepared audiences. With his son's accession to the first desk, however, the popularity of the quartet diminished all

rapidly, far

the

more

superior rival

so since a dangerous and altogether was emerging in the form of the Rose

Quartet.

As

barely twenty-two-year-old

artistic

director

of the Gesell-

Hellmesberger succeeded in breaking put an end to the unworthy combinations of items in which the programme-builders used to indulge, and"

schaft der Musikfreunde, too,

new

ground.

He

should not always play their own products, but rather works of musical merit. There is no doubt that Vienna's

insisted that virtuosos

owes much to his artistic initiative. His conducting, to be sure, did not seem to amount to much, at any rate from the point of view of our own contemporary standards. In my recollection, he appears as a pretty mediocre and impersonal timemusical

life

beater of the roughest variety, too, he showed a downright

and

as a

chamber music

disarming negligence.

teacher,

Add

to

this

A little-known figure in this country, the Bohemian violinist and composer Leopold Jansa [1795-1875] actually lived in London from 1849-68, having been banished Austria for political reasons. From 1834, he had been musical^ from^ director and violin professor at the Vienna Conservatoire. He wrote four conX

certos, thirty-six duets, eight string quartets, three string trios,

and some church music.

24

many

solo pieces


VIENNA [1883-1890] that his violinistic attainments

have enabled him

were not of the

sort that

would

to master

supreme soloistic tasks and that, on the other hand, his ethical self was not sufficiently developed to produce a powerful personality, and you cannot be surprised that he remained, after all, a local celebrity who was soon to be. forgotten.

His son, Joseph fPepi') Hellmesberger jun. [1855-1907], was highly gifted, amiable and good-looking, and seemed destined for a brilliant future; at a relatively early age he had become conductor of the Court Chapel and of the Court Opera, and had com-

posed several successful operettas. Though he did not attain to Griin's stature as a teacher, he had prepared several 'child prodigies',

Kreisler

among them,

for their concert careers,

whence he

in great esteem in the educational field too. One day, he had seduced slapped however, the father of a ballerina

was held

whom

his face in the street,

whereupon he had to

He became

conductor

resign his court

at Stuttgart

where, shortly age of fifty-two. His brother Ferdinand, a distinctly mediocre 'cellist, changed over to conduct1 ing as a young man, in which capacity he obtained an appointappointment.

afterwards,

ment

he died

at the early

at the Berlin State

Opera

World War He left after a short

after the First

because he was confounded with his brother

!

time and, thenceforth, earned a scanty livelihood as a conductor of various spa orchestras: the sad end of a dynasty. Most outstanding amongst my fellow students was the eighteen-year-old Max Lewinger [1870-1908], who joined Griin's course at the same time as I did; he seemed an inimitable

With his strong natural musicality and his manual skill, he yet lacked distinctive personality extraordinary the ideal and represented type of an eminent Conservatoire 2 became student. Later on, he my predecessor at Bucharest, and an unsuccessful attempt to take up a soloistic career, he model

upon became

to us

all.

orchestral leader in 1896,

Leipzig, and

finally at

Dresden.

He

first at Helsingfors, then at died of a kidney disease.

*He had however been 'cellist in his father's quartet, 'cello teacher Vienna Conservatoire, and principal 'cellist at the Vienna Court Opera. 2 See pp. 159 and 162.

at the


CARL FLESCH In the orchestra,

I sat at

a desk with Berthold Bachrich, a son

of the viola player in the Hellmesberger Quartet, who soon and became second violinist in the joined the Opera Orchestra

Rose Quartet which, at Amsterdam in 1905, he suddenly left in the lurch because he was home-sick. He attained a certain degree of parochial fame by transferring the popular genre of the 1

time, Schrammelquartet to more respectable spheres: dinners was to serve up his ensemble Viennese at fashion big with the dessert. Barely fifty years old, he succumbed to for a

the

together

sudden heart attack while mountaineering. Of the same age and both strikingly tiny, the two of us had been inseparable. a

Beside orchestral and chamber music practices, the subsidiary harmony and musical history.

subjects

My

comprised piano,

piano teacher, Professor Ludwig

changed

his profession), tried to

former bank clerk

(a

who

had

make

the subject as attractive as rascals tended to regard piano

For we possible for us 'subsidiaries'. as a useless torture; besides, I playing

had not the faintest technical myself with the recognized fact of Richard Wagner's and Antonin Dvorak's pianistic ineptitude; when, at some later time, I was to play to Hans Richter at the Vienna Opera House and had to wait in the antechamber, a gruesomely cacophonic piano duet reached my ears from the direction of the directorial chambers, and when Richter eventually received me he told me that together with Dvorak he had just run through the latter's symphonic poem, The Wood-Dove Far above the rest of us 'ignoramuses' towered a young university student who seemed half starved and studied music as it were by the way. It was Heinrich Schenker, who later came to talent for the instrument. I consoled

I

An

x

instrumental group for which Johann Schrammel, a Viennese violinist,

was and

originally (1877) responsible; at that time, it consisted of two fiddles, clarinet, guitar. Later, the woodwind instrument was replaced by the accordion. From Vienna's pubs (Heurigeri) to Hollywood, the genre gained immense

popudo not think, however, that Berthold Bachrich's more powerful, creative successors have yet been mentioned in the Schrammel history: there are traces of the Schrammelquartet in Schoenberg's work (the Serenade and the Septet) and, far more obviously, in Alban Berg's opera, Wozzeck (the pub scene in the second act), where the instrumentation of the stage music is two to four fiddles, one clarinet in C, accordion, several guitars, and one bombardon in F. larity for the

performance of light Viennese music.

26

I


VIENNA [1883-1890] enjoy high esteem for his original musical theories and his

all-

1 embracing, practical and theoretical musicality. Kind Robert Fuchs, called the 'Serenade Fox', 2 tried to teach

me the rules of harmony. On two later occasions, I again occupied myself with the

subject, in order to acquire the necessary knowrather than to satisfy an inner need. ledge Fortunately for rny

contemporaries, however, (for posterity would not have been concerned in any case !), my composing activities have remained confined to the writing of cadenzas for violin concertos. I am using the term 'composing' in its

literal

a

Beethoven or Mozart

Among Institute,

!

the teachers

I

used to meet in the corridors of the

Anton Bruckner must be mentioned

incredibly wide figure.

of 'putting together'. for the inspirations of

sense

What a degrading description, incidentally,

pants,

Amongst

Epstein were the

first;

with

his

he then seemed to us students a ridiculous

the piano teachers,

Anton Door and

Julius

favourites, whereas Franz Sdhalk and Ferdinand

Loewe

were, as yet, in subordinate positions. Amongst my colleagues in other departments, the composer and conductor

Alexander Zemlinsky and the singers Franz Naval and Leopold to play an important part in our musical life. The

Demuth were 'cellists

Friedrich

Buxbaum3 and DemeterDinico (later my quartet

fellow students. partner in Bucharest) were likewise among The Vienna Conservatoire was steeped in a curious atmosphere genial and galant, artistically romantic. The voice of our

my

director, so strikingly impolite as a rule,

tender tone

when he

would assume

addressed himself to certain

a strangely

young

singers

of the opposite sex, and although Mrs Liebig, the lady who watched over the proprieties (Anstandsdame), was most anxious to prevent any outbreak of flirtation in the corridors, nobody could forbid students of different sexes to meet outside the Institute. 1 Schenker's prestige is still mounting, steadily and justly, especially amongst American musicologists and analysts. He coined the highly relevant terms Urlinie and Ursatz (fundamental line and fundamental structure) for what he demonstrated to be the underlying skeleton lines and patterns, the background, of all music from Bach to Brahms. He lived from 1868 to 193 5. 8

3

He composed

five serenades.

Later principal Quartet.

'cellist

of the Vienna Philharmonic and

27

member of the Rose


CARL FLESCH

On

rehearsals in the mornings when there were orchestral

in reachall prohibitions, large hall, we usually succeeded, despite to this day links the two sides of the hall which tunnel the ing

under the platform, and in picking up parts of the performances. It was thus that I first heard such virtuosos as Joachim, Sarasate and Ysaye.

we had a concert with the students' which the matadors of the different instruments

Twice or

thrice a year

orchestra in

have retained a particularly favourable impression Violin Lewinger's interpretation of Bernhard Molique's

collaborated.

of Max

Concerto in

I

A

minor. 1

Then

there

were the Princess Pauline

2

Metternich's charity academies, at that time a permanent institution. I remember this famous friend of Napoleon Hi's and Richard

outstandingly ugly old lady who, during order people about with a trumpet-like, tinny

Wagner's

as a quite

rehearsals,

would

voice, tyrannizing even old Hellmesberger.

The

concerts

them-

above all particularly popular with the students, because they entailed the distribution of gratis vouchers for one usually congulden's worth of refreshments at the canteen. selves

were

We

tented ourselves with a glass of beer, and pocketed the change. In addition, these events offered an opportunity to hear and see

was

at such an academy, for indebut in 1887; a carpet-knight with reddish curls, fresh from Leschetizky's school-bench, he caused a stir at the time in Vienna's fashionable circles. I also

famous

stars free

stance, that

of charge.

It

Paderewski made

his

remember Marcella Sembrich, Institute

of Philadelphia, then

my future

still

colleague at the Curtis

an attractive brunette.

And an

unforgettable impression was forty-six-year-old Pauline Lucca, surrounded by the nimbus of her relation with Bismarck, which

was

attested

by

had become famous. She was a woman with dark hair and strik-

a photograph that

graceful and enchanting little ingly black eyes (whence chocolate pancakes used to be called 1 One of six (excluding a Concertino). Molique [1802-1869] was highly regarded as a composer, solo and quartet pkyer, and as a violin teacher. As late as 1915, Hugo Riemann mentioned the esteem his music continued to enjoy. I gather that he left a sum of money to the Berlin Hochschule to be used for scholarship grants,

once a 2

on condition

that a

work of his be performed

year.

*Academies' in the eighteenth-century sense of 'concerts'.

28

at the Institute

;


VIENNA [1883-1890] 'Lucca Eyes'). Amongst other things, she sang Schubert's Heidenroslein with inimitable charm. Finally, there were the fair-haired

Bernhard Stavenhagen [b. 1862], a Liszt pupil and from 1907 conductor in Geneva, who died in 1914 from pneumonia; the Polish tenor Mieczyslaw Mierzwinsky; the American coloratura soprano Nikita (Louisa Margaret Nicholson); and the

pianist

Viennese baritone Theodor Reichmann, who,

at Bayreuth in 1882,

created the role of Amfortas in Parsifal Amongst the violinists who shone in these concerts, I only remember two: the fourteen-year-old Fritz Kreisler, who had just won a first prize at the Paris Conservatoire and older than his age, though artistically he was still

seemed far emerging; and a local celebrity from Vienna, appearing under the name of Marcello Rossi, 1 a pretty mediocre fiddler. An anniversary concert of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde was

by the protectrice, Crown Princess Stephanie, unhappy Crown Prince Rudolph. True to a

attended the

the wife of

deplorable

custom, Mayseder's Sixth Study, a kind ofperpetuum mobile, was played by the pupils of all violin classes in unison about fifty of

them. Berd Bachrich and myself played standing at the same desk, and our strikingly small stature together with our great agility aroused the particular interest of the sovereign lady. Unfortunately, my fosterers were not intelligent enough to see that

it

was absolutely necessary

violin to hear

for a prospective artist on the order to be set an example

great violinists, if only in

I do not remember ever having received the necessary for a standing ticket from aunt, and I had to resort to the afore-mentioned tunnel in into concerts; myself

and an aim.

money

my

smuggling

the large hall served as an important refuge in cases of emergency. desire to hear good things was strong, I soon became a Since

my

concert-goers and was thus able to hear an outstanding performance. At that time in Vienna, and Sarasate competed for the palm among violinists. I

virtuoso

many

among

illegal

Joachim was in a position to follow both their careers from 1886 until their deaths in 1907 and 1908 respectively; I also came to know them personally. There being countless well-known

1

Italian

29

musicians

by the name of Rossi.


CARL FLESCH at Kittsee in the

Hungarian 1831 Joseph Joachim was born from kilometres about of my own thirty Wieselburg, county traders. So far as the of son the was he poor Jewish birth-place; external circumstances of his life are concerned, Andreas Moser's in

1

biography

offers

us the

most

detailed information in every

cannot be gainsaid, however, that Moser glorifies art to the extent of utterly unobjective Joachim's personality and whereas in reality, even this supreme figure showed respect. It

idolatry,

certain unmistakable weaknesses.

In the course of his career, which spanned about sixty-six

Joachim was

active as a quartet leader,

2

soloist, composer, head of the newly-established department for musical execution Hochschukfur ausubende Tonkunst at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin. I have here enumerated his activities in what I consider to be the order of their importance. As a quartet player, he not only gave his best, but also conor after. It was not the perfecquered peaks never reached before tion of his execution to which he owed his lonely greatness, for

years,

teacher, conductor,

Sarasate's

and

as

sensuous euphony, Wilhehnfs powerful tone and fire were all superior to what Joachim had to offer

Wieniawski's

in these respects; it was not beautiful sound as such that made his it was the inner quartet playing a profound experience. Rather,

of his performances, the nobility of his musical outlook and the imaginative freedom which marked his interpretations despite all due obedience to the written text. His playing was informed

life

with an indefinable suggestive power to which every sensitive musician had to submit. In his last years, I sometimes heard him play out of tune, drily, and with a shaky technique (unsicher). Owing to the absence of any kind of vibrato, his tone had senile character, and his fingers had become so that semitones in the higher positions came

assumed a somewhat

gouty and

stiff,

critically close to

whole

tones. Nevertheless,

one could not but be

deeply impressed by his genius for shaping his phrases, by the somnambulistic certainty of his intuitions which always seemed 1

Joseph Joachim: Bin Lebensbild, Berlin, 1898. Completed edition (2 vols.), 1907-10. English translation by L. Durham (1901). 2 Also, together with Ferdinand David, as orchestral leader at the Leipzig

Gewandhaus.

30


VIENNA [1883-1890] to find the only true violinistic expression for the inner significance of the music. Unjustly, he used to be known as a 'classical' violinist in the slightly suspicious sense which the adjective had in the course of and which made one think time, acquired always

of a kind of respectable dullness. In actual fact, he was a romantic through and through, uninhibited, even somewhat gipsy-like by nature, and he always retained these traits which, indeed, can still be heard in his Violin Concerto 'in the Hungarian Style', op. n.

The Joachim Quartet, on the other hand, left a good deal to be desired as an ensemble. Robert Hausmann [1852-1909], the 'cellist, from a variety of technical insufficiencies; and on the Emanuel Wirth [1842-1923], known and feared as 'the viola, wrist player' (derHandg'lenkler), was as dry as desert dust; while the otherwise outstanding violinist Karel Halif [1859-1909] was not

suffered

sufficiently flexible to adjust

himself to Joachim's tonal peculiari-

Altogether, the quartet consisted of a solo violin with three instruments accompanying a style which is diametrically .opposed to the aims of our own time's quartet playing as first ties.

introduced by the Bohemian String Quartet. But then, the 'regulars' at these recitals only wanted to hear Joachim anyway; willynilly, the other players had to be accepted as part of the bargain. The leader's personality would indeed have towered

above even far greater instrumentalists than were his colleagues. My opinion ofJoachim as a soloist, on the other hand, can only be accepted with reservations: when I heard him for the first time, he had already reached the age of fifty-seven, whereas I was no Nevertheless, the nobility of his cantilena, the in adagio of Spohr's Second Violin Concerto and in especially violin transcription of Schumann's Gartenmelodie, has remained fhe

older than thirteen

!

all great violinists, he virtuoso tasks. In on concentrated his earliest in had, youth, Ernst's 'Othello' Wilhelm to play Heinrich particular, he liked

an unforgettable experience for me. Like

as well

Fantasy, which is almost completely forgotten nowadays, is that composer's Violin Concerto in F sharp minor. But he soon

turned to worthier tasks. In the development of modern violin playing he has, as it were, ntervened with his characteristic primacy of the spirit over 31


CARL FLESCH musical history, he survives in the first technique; and in general have a large-scale reformer of programme-maldng. place as

We

to

remember

was the period of operatic fantasies, mazurkas and so forth, of the tyranny of the

that this

polonaises,* elegies, salon piece, if we want to appreciate his courage in expecting his audiences to sit through the Bach Chaconne, the Violin Concertos

of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, the Schumann Fantasy for and orchestra, and indeed even his own 'Hungarian' Concerto. He had to renounce all easy and cheap success, the

violin

enormous demands his stature was programmes made on the average listener, Joachim's from the outset of his career, this only proves generally recognized succeeded in educating the public and raising that he had acclaim of the broad masses.

its

quickly standards to his

own.

If,

We

despite the

owe

it

above

all

to

him

that the

virtuoso for virtuosity's sake came to be relegated to an inferior that the music itself was promoted to the first place. position,

von Bulow, too, began to reshape his piano programmes in a similar way. Thus the primacy of the musical over the virtuoso element was established on a firm basis Stimulated by Joachim, Hans

which, ever

proved unshakeable. Thanks to the high of Joachim's art, the virtuoso developed, within a

since, has

ethical ideals

mere thirty years, from his early nineteenth-century position of an entertainer to that of an artist who wished to be primarily regarded as a mediator between the work and the listener. As a violinist per se, we remember Joachim as a supremely comoutstanding figure although owing to his over-numerous an unmistakable he showed mitments in all possible spheres

We

technical deterioration at a relatively early stage. who tell us that in his early days

believe the historians

above

all

his rivals.

But on the other hand

certainly

he towered,

we know

that, for

instance, the unjustly forgotten Ferdinand Laub [1832-75], of Joachim used to say that he played the 'Hungarian'

whom

Concerto better than the composer himself, was cally his equal; that Wilhelmj later surpassed

at least techni-

him in both beauty of ^

*In his History of Viennese Concert Life, HansHck writes of this era that there was hardly a concert programme without one of Joseph Mayseder's [17891863]

popular Polonaises.

32


VIENNA [1883-1890] sound and racy virtuosity; and that the smooth technique, sweet tone and pure intonation of the Sarasate of the 'eighties ousted Joachim, purely as a violinist, from his leading position, though we must not forget that he more than compensated for his

by his unique spiritual and musical superiority. such could be described as rather cool; it needed

technical defects

His tone

as

from within before it stirred the listener, and was thus extremely dependent on his own mood. The outstandingly brilliant features of his technical equipment were an incredibly

inspiration

1

racy mordent, a pithily rhythmic 'Spohr staccato' (as distinct from the extremely rapid and stiff 'Wieniawski staccato') 2 and

extremely subtly differentiated ordinary and thrown spiccatos, which he very originally described as 'rain' and 'hail' respectively. Judging from the difficulties of his 'Hungarian' Concerto, moreover, his general double-stopping technique must also have been equal to the greatest demands in earlier years. Joachim seems to have been prevented from regular practice by his travels, his quartet playing, teaching, administrative duties and social obligations. As a result, he showed from his fiftieth year onwards a high degree of nervousness when he had to cope with solo tasks, so that for example he very seldom achieved his full

powers in the first movement of the Beethoven Violin Concerto; only in the second movement did the greatness of his personality md skill fully manifest itself. As he grew older, moreover, his strikingly unreliable, often forcing him to uterrupt his performance. From his sixtieth year, therefore, he

memory became

ievoted himself almost exclusively to quartet playing and, despite lis rather disturbing mechanical inhibitions, led the field there mtil his death, with a capacity for musical empathy that amounted ;o

genius.

bowing technique requires detailed discussion, not of the German >nly because it came to determine the development riolin school from the middle of the nineteenth century, but also Finally, his

Because

it

of his provides a transition to an appreciation

activities

See footnote 4 on p. 20. In bis Art of Violin Playing (Vol. I, p. 69), Hesch observes that 'neither Joachim tor Sarasate were masters of a normal staccato*, whose 'importance with regard to echnique as a whole should not be exaggerated*. 1

33


CARL FLESCH as a teacher. Joachim played with the then usual lowered upper arm, which necessarily .involved a right-angle relationship between the hand and the forearm at the nut. The bow was held by

the fingertips, the index finger touched the stick at the line of the top joint, while the little finger remained on the stick even at the point, all this as a result

forearm

at

of the unsatisfactory pronation of the

The change of bow at the fingers by means of a combined

the upper half of the bow.

nut was accomplished with

stiff

movement, very difficult to describe, consisting of a horizontal jerk of the wrist and a slightly rotating movement of the forearm. In my opinion Joachim's bowing was a purely personal affair, an intuitive

motional translation of a thoroughly individual expres-

The error started only when his followers and pupils attempted, on the basis of this personal and even physiologically defective style, to found a school whose principles claimed 1 universal validity. Emanuel Wirth [I842-I923] and his colleagues made the purely horizontal wrist movement the key to bowing technique altogether. Since, however, this movement had nowise sive need.

been provided for by nature, and hence was unnatural in the true sense of the word, it was not surprising that the majority of the students thus maltreated contracted

arm troubles and, as violinists,

Of

became

the smaller proportion cripples for life. succeeded in surviving this torture, the

of pupils

who

majority turned into the type of Joachim pupil of mediocre quality well known in orchestras and conservatoires, while a minimal number of especially talented fiddlers

succeeded in casting off the

strait

jacket into

which they had been thrust, and developed to a higher stage. But in the forty years of his activity, Joachim never trained a single violinist who achieved world fame, though during the years when he was its director, the Berlin Hochschule formed a centre at which the world's strongest talents assembled, him with providing

2 the best possible material. People like Halif Hess, Petri, Eldering, Klingler, Berber, Gregorowitsch, Wietrovecz, Wittenberg, ,

Havemann

etc.

were mostly

talents

x

of the

first

rank,

who

did not

Viola player in the Joachim Quartet, where he succeeded Edward Rappoldiin 1877, the year when, also at Joachim's request, he became professor for violin at the Berlin Hochschule. (Seep. 31.) 2

Henri Wilhelm, the father of Egon.

34


VIENNA [1883-1890] development only because from the beginning their had been thrust into a false path by this tragical wrist technique mania. Joachim himself is really innocent, for he never made any pretensions to be a teacher of basic principles. He was the ideal type of a training teacher, the playing teacher par excellence who influenced by his example, which, however, he was unable to analyse and explain purely rationally. Only those whose technical training was firmly established could profit by his teaching. His performances were distinguished by a poetic quality which, once one had experienced it, accompanied one all one's life. Marsick and Hubay, for instance, were thus affected; and I, too, have been unable all my life to free myself from the memory of his interpretation of certain works. But here again ky the danger of a repression of the pupil's individuality if, that is, he remained too long exposed to Joachim's seductive influence. As teachers, achieve

<

full

towering individualities usually are vampires

who

suck out their

pupils' personality.

All in

all

Joachim achieved no very beneficial effects as a he could have made up for his lack of a pure

teacher. Possibly

teaching talent by enlisting outstanding preparatory teachers, who :ould have supplied him with pupils technically perfected and ;hus ready for his specific spiritual and musical influence. But as

head of an

:he

institution

he seems to have been too

Dy the advice of others. There can be

easily swayed no other explanation for the

ircumstance that around 1900 such teachers

as

Hess, Petri,

and Wendling were employed omewhere in Germany, while the education of the young generation in Berlin was entrusted to Wirth, Moser, Markees,

ildering

nd Exner. As a result,

all

in smaller institutes

in the last seventy years the Franco-Belgian

and the Russian schools have achieved an indubitable superiority 1 over the German in world opinion. A similar state of affairs ^seems to have obtained in the other teaching departments instead :

2 Robert Hausmann was

in of Julius Klengel and Hugo Becker, was of singing pupils charge of the 'cello class, while the training 1

This was written in the early 'thirties. From 1879 until Joachim's death in 1907 he was a

2

Quartet (see p, 31).

G.F.-D

35

member of the Joachim


CARL FLESCH entrusted to Frau Schulzen-Asten, though there was a Julius Stockhausen available. And the teachers of composition, Heinrich

[1843-1900], Friedrich Kiel [1821-85], and Ernst F. K. Rudorff [1840-1916], took care to ensure that no blow into the fusty draught from the new-German school should

von Herzogenberg

atmosphere of epigonic mediocrity. As a composer, too, Joachim was an exceptional talent. It is Concerto in the Hungarian hardly astonishing that in view of his Style,

which

is

a

work of genius, Brahms regarded him as more work marks a climax in our literature; it

This gifted than himself.

the most outstanding creation that a violinist has ever written for his own instrument. The E minor Variations for violin and is

though several degrees more conventional, still an exceptional place in violin literature. But his activities occupy in the concert hall and Hochschule soon crippled Joachim's orchestra, too,

creative urge

to

Brahms's profound disappointment. Joachim the

composer seems to us like a meteor whose magnitude we can only divine from the brilliant trail of the 'Hungarian' Concerto and the Variations.

Joachim too time-bound as a composer, we must profoundly admire his cadenzas. That for the first movement of the Brahms Concerto is a masterpiece of which Brahms himself might have been proud, a paraphrase of the themes which If many consider

all

no equal in the relevant literature. The cadenzas for the Beethoven, Mozart and Viotti Concertos can likewise be regarded as models of their kind. Joachim's editions, on the other hand, are open to criticism. At times he left far too many fingerings and* bowings to discretion, as in the case of the Corelli and Beethoven Sonatas, which are hardly distinguishable from the original text. On the other hand, in the Violinschule bearing his name and in the Bach Sonatas he succumbed all too easily to the influence of his has

collaborator Andreas Moser;

many of the fingerings and bowing^

bear the stamp of a personality theoretically well-versed, but and reactionary; for Moser was really

practically inexperienced

one of the weakest violinists who emerged from the Joachim* and he hardly got a chance to acquaint himself personally with the pitfalls of playing in public. The unbiassed observer must school,

36


VIENNA [1883-1890] therefore find that while

we owe

to

Joachim epoch-making

changes in the ethical and musical aspects of virtuosodom, he has not advanced its purely technical side. This latter task was reserved for others, for Jakob Dont [1815-88], Henry Schradieck [18461918], Emile Sauret [1852-1920], Otakar Sevcik [1852-1934], and grhaps also for myself.

Conducting was decidedly the weakest of Joachim's musical talents. Like his friend Brahms, he was far too unshowy to express his personality by way of the baton. In regard to his intellectual and moral was an exception among contemporary spondence shows notwithstanding his

character, too,

Joachim

violinists, as his

corre-

obstinate rejection of his Wagner, susceptibility to the influence of his inferiors and a somewhat jealous attitude towards other artists and schools. Fritz Kreisler, for instance, had a sensational success when he made his debut in Berlin in 1898. His name was on all lips. It was felt that with him a new era was beginning in the history of violin

playing.

him

Now one of Kreisler's friends, a pupil ofJoachim, invited

to visit Joachim's class.

politeness,

Joachim received

Kreisler

without indicating by a single word that he

with icy

knew who

was no accompanist present Kreisler and carried it through with the had verve which always distinguished his piano phenomenal end lesson At the of the Joachim took leave of the great playing. 'You certainly are a ready the classic sentence: violinist with the visitor was.

As

there

offered to undertake this function,

pianist.'

Joachim was not happy in his marriage. He thought he had grounds for doubting the legitimacy of his youngest daughter. The divorce proceedings which he instituted were decided against him, since his wife, the famous singer Amalie Joachim, declared her fidelity to .

him on

handling of this

oath.

affair.

Brahms never forgave him the public

When

far

advanced in

his sixties

Joachim

the singer Melba; he even wanted to passionately in love with But her. Melba, according to reliable contemporary remarry fell

ports, did

not take him

seriously.

Joachim went on giving public performances until shordy before his death, at the age of seventy-six. He was, and will always 37


CARL FLESCH remain, one of the greatest figures, a landmark in the history of

our

art.

all who played the violin during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Pablo de Sarasate [1844-1908] was a magic name, and even more: he stood for aesthetic moderation,

For

euphony, and technical perfection slightly superficial emotionas if he was a supernatural phenomenon from a ally. With awe, wonderland for ever inaccessible to us, we boys looked up to the small, black-eyed Spaniard with the well-trimmed, coal-black moustache and equally black, curly, over-carefully arranged hair. His features were regular, only the lower jaw was rather long in

relation to the upper part of his face. It was a unique experience to see this little man stride on to the platform with genuine Spanish

grandeza, superficially calm, even phlegmatic, to witness how, after some stereotyped movements, he began to play with unheard-

ofsovereignty and, in a rapid climax, put his audience into astonishment, admiration and highest rapture. I knew Sarasate much better than Joachim, both personally

Ysaye summed him up when

and

as a violinist.

once in Amsterdam in the

course of a conversation he said to me: 'C'est lui qui nous a appris a jouer juste.' (It is he who taught us to play exactly.) From him,

modern

and and fluency brilliance were considered the most important thing. Sarasate had been Alard's pupil at the Paris Conservatoire, and seems to have vegetated for quite some time as a popular salon player in Paris. The programmes of the spa concerts at Baden-Baden from the in fact, dates the reliability,

middle of the to

striving after technical precision

whereas before him a somewhat

'sixties still

facile

acting as a stop-gap who had a classical sonata and maybe play the

show him

open the concert with

obbligato violin for the singing star. It was only when he made debut in Vienna in 1876 that he caused an enormous sensation

his

and thus

one stroke became a European celebrity. With the effortless function of both his arms, he represented a completely new type of violinist. The fingertips of his left hand were quite smooth and ungrooved; they hit the fingerboard in a normal fashion, without excessive raising or hammering. His vibrato was rather broader than had hitherto been customary. at

precise and

38


VIENNA [1883-1890] Following an absolutely correct if unconscious principle, he conbowing first and foremost a means of producing the kind of tone which he regarded as ideal, and which was of a sidered his

pleasant and elegant smoothness, free from any extraneous noises, but at the same time unintensive and a little indifferent emotion-

an expression of his own fundamental character. ally label of 'sweet' tone, which hung around his neck all his

not so

But life,

the

was

much

the result of an inner need as of a technical peculiarity. In later years, I had occasion to establish this fact beyond

doubt: when, during my Bucharest period, he spent a whole week in music the Rumanian making Queen's salon, I was able to study his from a of two yards above him, distance bowing technique where I sat in a small gallery. I found that his stroke held constantly and firmly to the exact middle between the extreme regions of the bridge and the fingerboard, and hardly ever approached the as we where, know, a characteristic oboe-like bridge, intensity

can be achieved.

Sarasate's effect

on

his audiences

depended, in the first place, on the complete lack of friction in his tone production, a circumstance which today, in the age of a Heifetz,

would hardly impress were

us so strongly, but

which

when

then,

used to 'scraping' fiddlers, was regarded as It was not given to him to touch deeper strings absolutely unique. in the listeners' minds, except in his very own field that of listeners

still

Spanish dances, which he played inimitably.

Among his most were those of the now completely forgotperformances 3 ten Fee d Amour by Raff, Saint-Saens' and Bruch's concert and genre pieces, Ries* Suites and, above all, of his own compositions. It goes without saying that the last movement of the Mendelssohn Concerto came from his bow in a multicoloured pyrotechnic brilliant

He was, incidentally, the only violinist whom I ever heard play the flying, thrown staccato of this movement at the extreme point of the bow.1 As an interpreter of the Beethoven display.

Concerto, on the other hand, he was impossible. Later on, in Paris,

%L

Art of Violin Playing (Vol. I, p. 77), Flesch writes: 'The Flying Staccato combination of the martele staccato with the "thrown" or 'springing" staccato bowing, inasmuch as a number of short notes are produced . It is ?y a single bow-stroke, while the bow leaves the string after each note. . ised almost exclusively in the middle, although I know of some rare examples of his

sractically represents a

.

39


CARL FLESCH I

heard him play, for the

first

time, Schubert's

B

minor Rondo,

the violin transcription of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances and one of his fortes Saint-Saens' Concert Piece. 1 For chamber music he

When he visited Vienna he always with who took second violin, and during Griin, played quartets in I also had the my stay Rumania, opportunity to play second violin with him in several Beethoven Quartets. At the same time I also heard him play Bach Sonatas for clavier and violin. For this cherished an unrequited love.

kind of music he had the shy respect which Romance artists tend to show in face of everything classical: his interpretations were scrupulous and musical, but dry and lacking in imagination. years his art began to evince two unpleasant symptoms: he played sharp, and he lost his vibrato a typical

With advancing

I heard him for the last time in Bucharest in 1902; both grown older meanwhile, and since 1886 the artistic distance between us had considerably narrowed. No wonder that

sign of old age.

we had

him

more

childhood; Ysaye, soberly than in too, had meanwhile emerged, and for us younger artists he was a I

listened to

far

my

revelation.

In the course of the years

I

had only three opportunities to

come

into closer personal contact with Sarasate. The first time, while I was still a pupil at the Paris Conservatoire, he invited

me

through a mutual acquaintance to play the fourth violin in Svendsen's Octet during a musical tea in his Paris home. Thus encouraged, I asked him after some time whether I might play something over to him. He appointed an early hour in the morn-

When I arrived at his home he appeared not to be up yet, and kept me waiting a long time, during which I had an oppor-

*

ing.

tunity to admire his remarkable collection of snuff-boxes,

them

presents

from princely personages. At

the utmost neglige, begged

my

last

most of he appeared in

pardon and asked me to play he made his toilet in the^

something while, quite unembarrassed,

charming flying staccato at the extreme point.' Curiously enough, these 'rare examples' are not mentioned in the original German edition of the work (where, on the other hand, the reasons are given why the point and the nut are unsuitable'for^' this bowing) : Hesch must have remembered Sarasate and one or two others when revising his treatise for translation.

above, Flesch

is

speaking of the Morceau de

40

concert,

op. 62.

.


VIENNA [1883-1890] next room.

I played part of Joachim's 'Hungarian' Concerto and some then Spanish dances, accompanied by his impresario, Goldschmidt, who had meanwhile turned up. When anything interested him particularly, he became visible through the door to the next room, usually with his torso completely bare, and I observed the abnormally high arching of his chest, which provided a natural support for his violin and was the cause of its ideal

He expressed himself very flatteringly about my playing, but without making the least productive criticism. I met him the last time in Rumania, as I have already mentioned. He owned two

position.

magnificent Stradivarius violins: the 'Boissier', which, however, he never played, and one dating from 1725, which he used exclusively. He withdrew both violins from use for ever, by leaving

them

in his will to the

museums

in

Pamplona

(his birth-

and Paris

an ugly and petty step, considering that these place) achievements of the art of violin making are of the very supreme for musical practice. An artist with a genuine greatest importance

on the contrary, see to it during his lifethat his time favourite instrument be placed at the service of the social conscience should,

younger generation

after his death.

or one-sided powers of expression he had the very praiseworthy aspiration to build interesting programmes, in which he also included moderate moderns; but all his life he Despite his limited

never ventured on the Brahms Concerto. In his excuse

remember that even Ysaye did not include

this

work

we

must

in his reper-

toire until twenty-five years after its first appearance, and then he did so with reluctance. As a composer Sarasate was very prolific.

Quite early he reached a high goal with his Zigeunerweisen (Gipsy Melodies), probably the most popular and most grateful virtuoso piece of

all

time.

No

fewer than eight volumes of his Spanish

and correctly written paraphrases of Spanish folk songs and dances of intense melodic charm. There is no 'development'; invariably, we only find the bare themes, at times garnished with virtuoso runs, but with no other compositorial additions and that is as well, since as a professional and learned composer Sarasate would have been

'Dances appeared over the years.

They

unbearable. These dances are far too

41

are simple

little

considered by virtuosos,


CARL FLESCH

who nowadays much pot-pourri-like

prefer to play

Sarasate's

arrangements. in

its

perfumed and coiffured folk

simple

music,

lack of make-up, bears the same relation as a fresh, rosy-cheeked

charming our contemporary arrangements

infinitely

to

a peasant girl to

made-up

city lady.

But patience

!

His Spanish

have clotted

Dances will soon be 'rediscovered', when listeners their stomachs with the treated liqueur confectionery. Sarasate had far less success with his other compositions, in which he used

own

are inferior throughout, at technical studies in the mere or times vulgar, like the Tarantella, form of variations, like the Muniera. And yet he will I am sure

themes of his

invention.

They

of it dominate the virtuoso's repertoire with his Zigeunerweisen and his Spanish Dances much longer than many of his far more learned colleagues. Who today plays anything by his contemor porary Sauret or, going farther back, by Beriot, Alard, Sivori, dead all the of and fastest Prume? The dead ride fast, composing virtuosos.

In intellectual respects Sarasate was in the lower income He was what the French describe as 'simple d' esprit', a collector of snuff-boxes and walking-sticks. slightly obsessional, brackets.

Occasionally he delivered himself of amusingly simple aphorisms, which his friend and fellow countryman Fernandez Arbos1 passed

on to

his contemporaries. In the course of his fabulous of fortune he developed a ruthless indifference

career as a favourite

beggared description. An example from my own experience: Elisabeth, Queen of Rumania, wanted to give him a surprise during his stay in Bucharest, and to acquaint the author of the that

Hungarian Gipsy Melodies with Rumanian gipsy music. For this purpose she arranged for the finest gipsy band to play in the castle, and beside the guest of honour invited

a large

company. Sarasate

turned up unsuspecting, the beaming Queen informed him of the surprise she had prepared for him, and led him to the winter garden, where the orchestra was waiting. I was curious to hear his opinion, and attached myself to them.

He

nian national music for a few minutes, and *A

violinist

and conductor [1863-1939]

years.

42

listened to the Rumawhen the Queen asked

who was

Joachim's pupil for three


VIENNA [1883-1890]

him his <;a

P

(It's

impressions he answered quite drily: 'Mais, c'est mauvais pretty bad

!)

While Joachim through his personality and his

art set his

stamp

the world of the vioHn for half a century and educated it towards a radical change in the customary conception of art,

on

Sarasate influenced his violinist contemporaries for no longer than twenty-five years. His influence was partly beneficial, partly

harmful; for whereas his living example resulted in a far higher demand for purity of intonation and tone and raised the technical

of violin playing by several degrees, his continually mild, passionless, smooth, eely tone production brought into fashion a level

certain worldly-wise,

the

oncoming young

weary

whose hypnotic effect on was almost irresistible until Ysaye's

elegance,

violinists

appearance. His influence was so enduring that everybody

who

had once succumbed to it found it thereafter extremely difficult to free himself from it. As late as 1914 I was able to discern clear traces of this influence in the playing of Franz Kneisel in New York. I, too, long had the tendency to slip into Sarasate's style, heard him play. Here, as in all especially in pieces I had often imitation, the danger was that whereas in the original certain faults were inevitable and even lovable characteristics of the style as a whole, in the copy these same faults became unbearably magnified and coarsened, for they no longer complemented the valuable peculiarities of the original. Sarasate's personality would have appeared incomplete without his amiable phlegm. But the same quality, grafted on to another individual, aroused the imwith an unconscious pression of an aping affectation, coupled falsification of the player's own way of feeling. Thus it can be said that Sarasate's influence

epoch-making expression. :>f

on the development of violin playing was in matters of

technically, but not unobjectionable all is said and done, however, he remains

When

one

the greatest and most individual figures of the nineteenth the ideal embodiment of the salon virtuoso of the greatest

:entury, the history style;

without him. So

of modern violin playing cannot be imagined far as I am aware, he never practised as a

teacher.

At

a

becoming

distance

from 43

these

two

giants there was,


CARL FLESCH amongst the

violinists

I

heard

at

the time,

above

all

Cesar

Thomson [1857-1932], who, like Ysaye and Marsick, was brought into existence in the fiddlers' hot-bed of Liege. As a curio, the little-known fact may be mentioned that for several years towards

the middle of the 'seventies, Ysaye and he sat together at the first desk of the Bilse Orchestra in Berlin, which was to grow into the

Philharmonic Orchestra hear, all you young virtuosos who regard the demand that you should spend some time in an orchestra as a :

serious insult

!

Thomson's variously judged importance in the history of violin playing is chiefly due to the fact that he initiated a renaissance of pure virtuosity some twenty years after the programme reform which Joachim had achieved; a renaissance which was to reach its culmination with Kubelik, only to die away again as quickly. True, as early as the 'seventies "Wilhelmj had attempted to bring Paganini back into fashion, but his example seems to have had few imitators; Joachim's cleansing effect on the taste of the public had too strong. Thomson only appeared upon the CentralEuropean scene in 1886, and meanwhile the excesses of the

been

far

'technical' age, i.e. the first half

of the nineteenth century, had

sunk into oblivion. His strength lay in the so-called 'fingered octaves', a speciality which was regarded with reverential awe; legend had it that no ordinary mortal, but only a technical genius could play them. In my teaching, I have thoroughly disposed of this prejudice, as my pupils show. On the basis of a method which

much

doesn't take for that,

time to

practise,

and

is

none the

less rational

nowadays possible for every violinist to acquire the 1 necessary technical facility for fingered octaves, if he so desires. But at that time Thomson was regarded as a when his it is

magician

octaves rolled up and

simple

scale.

down under

his fingers at the

He had deliberately remained faithful to

pace of a

the old style

of bowing with lowered upper arm and a right-angle relationship between forearm and wrist at the nut, whereas his two close fellow countrymen Ysaye and Marsick had long since scrapped this survival of a His tone was past age. big, but inflexible and cold; his style of interpretation musically correct 1 See The Art of Violin Playing, Vol. I, pp. 43 f.

44

though dry. His


VIENNA [1883-1890] performances were extraordinarily uneven. la 1897 I heard him dispose of three-quarters of his programme in a sovereign manner,

when he came

F he wanted to pull his listeners' legs. Ten years later in Amsterdam, I heard him again play strikingly out of tune. With the best will in the world it was not possible for whereas

sharp minor,

it

seemed

to the final item, Ernst's Concerto in

as if

me

to be very enthusiastic about him; his other contemporaries appear to have reacted similarly. He was respected without being

on closer view one even had to pity him. In his career he had been pursued by a tragic fate; that fate was named Ysaye. By the middle of the 'eighties Thomson was famous. Five years loved; and

Ysaye appeared a heavy blow for Thomson, who thereby lost the title of the greatest Belgian violinist. Now he tinned mainly to teaching and took over Ysaye's place in the Brussels Conservatoire: Ysaye had resigned because of his unprecedented successes as a soloist. During and after the World War, Thomson in 1932. taught in Italy and Italian Switzerland; he died at Lugano After his brilliant start he had run on a sandbank, from which he never floated off. Through Ysaye the world had come to know a kind of Belgian violin playing that was related to Thomson's as later

genius is to talent.

His lanky appearance had a somewhat monkish, aesthetic his face, already a long shape by nature, quality in his youth; he made a further still seemed protracted by an oval beard. Thus

somewhat uncanny,

fantastic impression

on

the public

as

was

appropriate to a true Paganini interpreter. Thomson was one of the few concert-giving violinists of his

time

who

took his teaching seriously and devoted a krge part of But when we consider the results of his fifty years or

his life to it

we find

only two violinists of importance 1 Albert Spalding [b. I888] method who 2 The average of his pupils and Paul Kochanski [i 887-1934] not above that of the Joachim school. As a teacher he

so

of teaching

activity,

the value of his testify to

-

is

.s

certainly said to have

nolence. 1

His

been conscientious, but brutal to the extent of was like his playing: bizarre and

teaching

American violinist and composer. and teacher who settled in U.S.A. in the 'twenties

'Polish violinist

45

(see p. 540).


CARL FLESCH one-sided.

the

first

At times he had ideas that showed genius. Perhaps he was

who

attempted to correct faulty vibratos through

method

gym-

was

further developed by Achille the other hand, Rivarde [1865-1940] and perfected by myself. one of his pupils showed me some handwritten exercises of his

nastic exercises, a

that

On

which moved quite unoriginally along Sevcik's lines of thought. Thus the 'Thomson pupil' has not become a well-defined concept, and he himself, despite his incontestably high qualities, cannot be considered a necessary element in the development of our

was an

odd man

outsider, deliberately The traces that he left in

fired' genius.

out,

our

art.

He

something of a 'mis-

art are already difficult

Only twice did I come into close personal contact with him. The first time I was thirteen years old, and Griin introto recognize.

duced

him.

I played Vieuxtemps's second Air varie. himself expressed very favourably about my prospects. before his death I met him again, on the occasion of a years

his class to

Thomson

Two

I gave at Lugano, after which we sat together over a glass of beer; he left on me an unhappy, embittered impression and railed at all the younger violinists, especially Thibaud; nor did he say anything about my own performance: I have to assume that

concert

it

didn't please him In those days the

much

either.

Czech Franz (Frantisek) Ondricek [1859-1922] was the most outstanding violinist of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Between 1880 and 1900 he certainly was a violinist of great stature, a mixture of French training and Slavonic individuality. Over the years I heard him perhaps half a dozen times, and thus obtained a good view of the various phases of his development. In his prime he was an excellent technician, had a noble tone full of vitality, was spirited and fiery and played with true and spontaneous feeling. I have retained a most beautiful memory of an extraordinarily inspired interpretation of Dvorak's 1 unjustly forgotten Romance for violin and orchestra, op. n. His decline, like that of so many violinists, began surprisingly early. The last time I heard him was at Amsterdam, when he played the Brahms Concerto under Mengelberg. He was then only forty-

six. I

could not understand

why 46

the solo violin

was always a


VIENNA [1883-1890] quaver ahead of the orchestra and why the conductor, who usually showed such great presence of mind, did not follow the soloist. I did not know that he had asked Mengelberg to hold him back throughout, because of late he no longer possessed sufficient self-control to keep in tempo During the last twenty years of his life Ondficek hardly ever played in public. Yet he is unjustly !

forgotten the present generation hardly knows his name at all for he doubtless was one of the most interesting violinists of

know

nothing about his teaching at Vienna during of his life. In 1909, years together with a certain Dr S. 1 2 Mittelmann, he published a work on left-hand technique, in which one finds the bold assertion that the key to the achievement of a powerful technique lies in the capacity for abnormal stretches. Asked by the Peters Edition for an opinion on the pedagogical value of this theory, I declared it to be false, since it violently exaggerated the normal distance between the fingers, which is so necessary for purity of intonation. In addition, the practice of the method in question could easily injure the hand. The publisher was not to be stopped from printing the work, and his day. I

the

last

unfortunately

able to establish in the course

to apply his

as I

was often

years. If Ondficek

attempted not sur-

my prediction proved entirely true,

method

of the

in the course

of his teaching,

it is

prising that he achieved no educational success at all. However, among the 'miracle-workers' who claim to be able to eliminate

by means of a single pill, he was a laudable exception to the extent that he himself could fiddle, and quite superbly at all

inhibitions

that.

One day there was great excitement among us students: the word went round, 'Wilhelmj will be playing here shortly; we

We

were punctually in at least be present at the rehearsal.' the tunnel in the morning and heard Joachim's former rival rehearse the Beethoven Concerto with the orchestra, and with

must

the music in front of him.

It

must have been very mediocre, for

A medical man. *Neue Methode zur Erlemung der Meistertechnik des Violinspiels auf anatomischMethod of Achieving Technical Mastery in Violin ohysiologischer Grundlage (New in two parts, with an appendix Playing on an Anatomical and Physiological Basis), rf fifteen studies by Ondficek. X

47


CARL FLESCH his playing left

not the

least

impression on me. For that matter,

1

WiUielmfs picture in the history of our art is heavily blurred. doubt the chief reason is his fragile artistic development. He

No

gave up giving concerts earlier than any other great violinist; hardly forty, he devoted himself exclusively to teaching. The opinions that have come down to us about how he played in his prime contradict each other. Moser is certainly prejudiced, for

Wilhelmj was the 'red rag' to Joachim. Nothing could provoke Joachim more to fury than if someone dared to play in his presence the Wilhelmj transcription of the Bach Air, transposed

C major, and all on the G string too.* Also, Wilhelmj had early on joined the new-German Wagnerian movement which was so loathsome to Joachim; he was Bayreuth's first orchestral leader. While his supporters praised his unprecedented big tone, his opponents maintained that he owed it only to an abnormally 2frequent change of bow. His appearance, typically Alemannic to

Romanic,

as

well

as

his

audiences in his favour.

was due

It

bearing, immediately prejudiced his said that his early artistic decline

was

Rhine wine (he himself came of stock). In London, to which he

to his passion for strong

an old wine-growing peasant

*On the occasion of a series ofJoachim quartet recitals in Paris at the beginning of the century, a passionate admirer of Capet gave a musical soiree ostensibly in honour of the German master, but in reality in order to let him hear Capet. The evening fell under an unlucky star. It began by the hostess introducing Capet with the words, 'Allow me, dear master, to present to you the French Joachim.,* which immediately put him, who attributed no value whatever to being regarded as the German Capet in his native country, in a bad humour. Now Capet played* Bach's Chaconne, probably hardly in Joachim's spirit, and when it was over, Joachim

said to the expectant

Capet

flatly:

'Couldn't

you

rather play something

typically French, a piece characteristic of your nationality?' Instead of following this suggestion, Capet hit on the unhappy idea of playing the Bach Air in the

;

Wilhelmj arrangement. Joachim grew more and more restless and, when Capet had finished, he flew into a rage, to the horror of all present, completely lost his self-control, and shouted in the utmost indignation at the unfortunate violinist: *My dear sir, how can you as a musician have the tastelessness to play such a$ shameless falsification of a work by Bach?' Capet burst into tears, and the guests present considered rightly or wrongly that Joachim's outburst was out of all proportion to the importance of the issue. [Meanwhile, the Air on the String * has become an established solo piece, played rightly or wrongly in the

G

highest

musical 2

circles.

Tr.]

Geographically speaking, the region covered Switzerland.

by south-west Germany and


VIENNA [1883-1890] he gathered a large circle of pupils around him. But knowledge no outstanding violinist owed his training to

later retired,

to

my

him.

He

successfully arranged Wagner themes for violin under of 'Paraphrases'. The arrangement of the first movement of Paganini's D major Concerto which appeared under his name

the

is,

title

however, attributed on good authority to the authorship of

Max

the American

1

Vogrich.

He was

the

first

to recognize the

new Italian violin makers Rocca and Pressenda, whose instruments he bought in large numbers. He recommended them to his pupils, and thus drove their price up ten or twenty

importance of the

times.

Altogether, we, posterity, are

somewhat perplexed by the

was August Wilhelmj, He died the year after Joachim, but had been off the platform for twenty years. Joachim was sixty-four years before the public; Wilhelmfs career as a that

phenomenon

spanned barely twenty-five years. Great artistry needs an extended period of time for its development. Precocity is not soloist

maturity.

Towards the end of

Ysaye visited the with Wieniawskf s city for the first time. He made his debut D major Concerto in the Philharmonic concerts, and followed it

up with

my

studies in Vienna,

a recital. His appearance

next chapter, 2

1 shall

was a revelation to us

be dealing with him

the smaller-scale violinists,

Among

who

all.

In the

at length. I

heard Teresina Tua

active as a violin time of writing teacher in Rome. At that time she was a charming young girl with a seductive smile, which she turned on to the public when [b. 1866],

at the

she muffed a passage.

is still

The

violinist

Tivadar Nachez [1859-1932]

who came from Budapest and settled in London, now known

as

an arranger of old violin concertos, also presented his card in the Bosendorfer Hall. Of the German violinists I heard the GermanBohemian Halir [1859-1909] and one Waldemar Meyer, a pretty poorly

gifted,

Far above

but highly vocal, Joachim pupil.

all

these

was the

still

youthful Arnold Rose [1863-

1 i852-i9i6. Originally an Austrian. He came to but I can find no evidence of American nationality. pp. 78 .

49

live,

and died, in

New York,


CARL FLESCH 1946], the desk colleague

and deputy

soloist

of my teacher Griin.

He is worth while considering more at length. The outward circumstances of his life are quickly told. Rose's name was originally Rosenbaum he was born at Jassy in Rumania. lessons as a child from Heissler at the Vienna ConAfter ;

taking

under Massart, then the most famous teacher in the world. A Viennese stockbroker and amateur of the violin named Spielmann introduced him to the master. Rose, who was then sixteen years old, played Bach's servatoire,

he went to Paris

to study

who

in the following expressed his opinion votre words: 'Vous jouez tres bien du violon, mais jeu ressemble !' a une belle fleur sans (You play the violin very well, but

Chaconne

to Massart,

parfum

your playing

is

like a beautiful flower

tears at

without perfume.) The

wounding judgment, burst into and could not be persuaded to accept lessons from Massart He went straight back to Vienna, where lie had

youthful Rose, shattered

any

by

this

price.

of being an up-and-coming celebrity. already had the reputation directorate of the Vienna Opera was highly the time that at Just dissatisfied

with Grtin

as a soloist,

and was seeking

a

means of

making it possible to keep him as leader without being compelled to allow him to play the solos. So they made Rose the deputy leader and

first soloist.

1

Soon

after

and from then on he devoted

Rose started a string quartet, and quartet

his life to orchestral

he appeared but occasionally. His career was playing; as a soloist 2 one of die longest in the history of violin playing. As a quartet to Hellmesberger in the esteem of the player he was the successor Viennese public. When Gustav Mahler was director of the Vienna

Court Opera he followed this master's highly controversial and thin. He married Mahler's sister, and had genius through thick

two

children,

who

also chose the musical profession.

Rose was the type of natural, versatile, unintellectual Viennese music-maker. His style was that of the 'seventies, with no concession to modern tendencies in our art. His strongest suit was in changes of position. unquestionably his absolute certainty

The

History repeated itself when Mahler made Franz Schmidt the desk colleague the unofficial solo 'cellist. "cellist Friedrich Buxbaum 2 Close on seventy years. 1

of the principal

50


VIENNA [1883-1890] 1 purity of his intonation was proverbial. His

scales, runs,

and

passage work, moreover, showed an outstandingly fluent lefthand technique. His vibrato was noble if a little thin; in his later

an unavoidable tendency in old rime to counteract it age good by means of studies. His appropriate gymnastic bowing technique was dis2 tinguished above all by his skill at 'tone spinning', and he was equal to all, even the most complicated bowings. Against these virtues has to be set an habitual orchestral attack, i.e. noisy impacts of the bow at the nut, which with time became second nature to him. On the interpretative side the highest was due to Bis it

years,

gradually degenerated

if no steps are taken in

power of phrasing,

praise the absolute certainty with which he always

found the right kind of dynamic and agogical 3 expression. An ideal orchestral leader, irresistibly carrying the others with him, an infallible sight-reader, an unfailing support to the conductor, he

when

at the helm of the orchestra, even was closest to his heart. In his though quartet playing programme he acted as a building, too, pioneer, opening the way for the later Brahms, Reger, the earlier Schoenberg and many others. His gifts as a soloist, which originally were certainly extraordinary (I particularly remember an excellent performance of the Goldmark

perhaps gave his best

Concerto) did not

come

to full fruition,

to his time-

owing

and chamber-musical activities. He related consuming with pride that Ysaye said to him one day, 'Quelle chance pour nous autres que vous n'ayez pas choisi la carriere de soliste' orchestral

(What luck career)

;

you did not choose

for us others that

generally,

he spoke quite readily of

qualities as a violinist, in a

manner disarming

in

his its

the soloist's

uncommon naivete.

I

do

not, however, believe that the aura of his style was sufficiently effective for a successful career as a soloist. His playing in itself

made

a

somewhat

prosaic impression

on many

listeners;

plays beautifully, but coldly,* people used to say during 1

He

2

Slow-motion bowing.

used to say, quite naively, hit the right notes.' a

*My fingers are so constructed

lntroduced by Hugo Riemann, than in English-speaking countries. that are part

this

that they always

more widely known

in

Gennanof tempo

is

and parcel of a living interpretation.

51

my years

to the small modifications

term

It refers

'Rose


CARL FLESCH of study in Vienna.

I

myself never shared

this impression.

Essen-

was purely musical; he did not belong to who put their 'feeling* on show as soon as they

his individuality tially,

those violinists

tune their instrument. His feeling required a worthy object, a to reveal itself an attitude of composition, in order significant

which Joachim had been a shining example. For Rose, as for all real artists, sound and technique were valued only as a means in the service of a higher idea. Such a conception is alien to all who are chiefly concerned with sensuous ear-tickling hence the legend of the

'cold'

Rose.

the age of about forty he started to teach, but without any he was quite ungifted as a teacher. As a man success.

At

Apparently

he was rather unpopular with his orchestral colleagues. He was said to be tyrannical, and the orchestral players never forgave him his unrestricted autocracy and the merciless supervision he organized under Mahler in a

somewhat uncomradely

fashion.

In

many of our professional colleagues he was a little primitive; his general education was elementary. His editions of classical works are pretty superficial and are litde used. intellectual respects, like so

He renewed his quartet fiequendy over the years, beginning with the unsurpassable 'cellist Hummer and the versatile viola player Bachrich, down to his most popular partners Fischer, Ruzitzka and Buxbaum, whose imperturbable Viennese humour

celebrated

cheerful orgies after every quartet evening. While in the total picture of Rose's personality light and shade were closely allied, the echo of his artistic activity will un-

doubtedly continue to sound long after his death. In any case he cannot be excluded from the history of Viennese musical life. He fructified it and stamped it with bis artistic personality. He will live in

our

memory

as the

most perfect and

versatile

type of

Viennese musician. After the

German annexation of Austria Rose was pensioned

off. I instituted

he was able to

a collection for him, with the result that in 1939 settle in

1

England.

Meanwhile, what was happening to me? In Griin's class gained an insight into a higher quality of playing. Hitherto Wliere he died in 1946.

1-

52

I

I

had had


VIENNA [1883-1890] advanced only as far as Viotti, Kreutzer and Rode, but now the worlds of Beethoven, Spohr, Vieuxtemps, Mendelssohn, Ernst, Joachim, Bruch and Brahms revealed themselves to me, while in the orchestra

I

was learning the classical symphonies and overWagner and various other operatic frag-

tures as well as a little

But

my general musical education left very much to be was excused from the choral class because my voice was breaking, I had little liking or gift for piano playing, and I was extremely neglectful of the harmony class. In addition, Hellmesments.

desired. I

berger's

music

open antipathy prevented

class: I

my taking part in the chamber

waited in vain for an invitation to the quartet.

My

was proceeding along a very tortuous path. During my first year I was considered a future celebrity; my tone possessed a natural bloom which, it was said, was reminiscent of Hellmesberger. 1 Imagination and feeling were development

as a violinist itself

unmistakably present in rny playing, whereas everything techniwas still undeveloped. I was small and frail, my hands were correspondingly weak, my little finger too short and without

cal

Only in later years did I succeed in largely eliminating organic defect by regular studies in fingered octaves. But at that time the constitutional condition of my left hand was still so strength. this

defective that Griin greatest bar to

my

was able

to point

it

career as a violinist.

out to

My

my father as

the

shakes and staccato

very primitive stage, and my teachers were unable to propose effective measures to improve them. The running sore of teaching at that time was the complete ignorance of

were likewise

at a

methods of study. After inadequate performances the was always 'try again' or 'more* study, without any disremedy cussion of the whys and hows. The quantity of practice was regarded as the criterion of virtue. Apparently nobody knew that logical analysis of the task would yield twice the result in half the rational

time.

No

wonder, then, that

as I

advanced to the higher

classes,

performances, at first highly promising, declined step by step. All that for which I later invented the phrase 'applied technique',

my

the utilization of general abilities for a special task, or in short die science of study, was an unknown notion to me. By present-

i.e.

^.e.

Joseph Hellmesberger

sen.

53


CARL FLESCH as a violinist would day standards a stocktaking of my position have evinced a highly unfavourable balance: on the positive side a certain natural dexterity coupled with a natural sense of sound and tone and a ear; on the negative side the lack of a solid

good

technical foundation, feeble fingers, too broad a vibrato, instead of legato, in short the absence of about habitual

an all

portato those things which really make up artistic violin playing. The usual method of teaching consisted of the kind of planless and advice in interpretation, in view of which purposeless primitive the question always arises whether the recommended manner of

performance is really

right,

and indeed, whether there can be any

instruction in this direction, whether it is not in generally valid fact interpretative differentiation according to different students' that ought to be the ideal of teaching. personalities In the third year

of my study Griin had me play the then highly Zarzicki at a concert. This marked the true popular Mazurka by as a soloist. My debut on the concert beginning of my career so terribly remained has vividly in my memory. I was platform I was played quite mechanically and unconsciously; over was the when and, suddenly piece pleasantly surprised awakening from my cataleptic trance, I heard my teacher's en-

scared that

I

comtwo While Concerto. my major

couraging words of praise. Some examination1 took place, in which petitive

months

later the I

annual

played the

first

movements of WieniawsH's D was unanimously awarded colleague Fraulein von Brennerberg distinction the same the first prize, I received only by a majority vote. In the course of the three years I had spent at the Conservatoire, then, I had only reached second pkce. I could not rid myself of the obscure feeling that something was not all it should be in

my artistic development. Meanwhile I had grown from boyhood to youth. My classical education was supervised by a medical student. Although I wassupposed to continue

my

high school (Gymnasial)

studies,

my

teacher proved very liberal in the selection of the subjects; he let Latin drop and favoured German literature, world history and all"

those subjects

which could be assumed

M.e. Flesch's final.

54

to interest an alert

and


VIENNA [1883-1890]

My

artistic young mind. intellectual horizon widened and created a free road for a higher education which was chiefly autodidactic, but based on solid foundations.

While I was at the Conservatoire my parents bought me a Dutch violin for 150 gulden from the music historian Eusebius Mandiczewski. I went on playing this instrument until I was able to acquire a Storioni violin in Paris. In those days in Vienna, one could still buy very good violins by the lesser-known Italian

masters for 300 gulden (about ^25 los). The violin trade the hands of old Gabriel Lembock, who himself made

instruments

was in

very good (Hellmesberger senior played solely on one of

Lembock's imitation Guarneris); of Bittner, Zach (who later invented a new method of treating violin wood a la Vuillaume, without, however, achieving a success with

it)

and, finally, the

1 greatest expert and most successful dealer of them all Voigt. In the middle of the 'eighties a first-class Stradivarius of the best

period could be bought for 6,000-12,000 gulden and a Guarneri (Guiseppe del Gesu) for 5,000-8,000 gulden. Amatis and Magginis obtained roughly the same price, while the great Italians of

second rank, such as Guadagnini, Montagnana, Joseph Guarneri, the son of Andrea, and Petrus 2 Guarneri were obtainable for

The minor Italians such as Gagliani or below the French Lupot or Vuillaume, and few hundred marks at the outside a golden age

1,000-2,000 gulden.

Grancino cost reached only a

far

young talents who wished to acquire a good Italian instrument at a low price. As for my activities as a teacher, I took my first pupil at the age of twelve: in Wieselburg I had a friend of my own age, named

for

foska,

who

played the violin and was a pupil of the fire brigade's whom I have already mentioned. At the time, I

band conductor

was already studying the art in an allegedly big way in Vienna. I aad far surpassed Joska, and his father decided to exploit my as a violinist and arranged for me to give his son superiority .essons

during the long vacation.

^The firm is now in London. 2 Pietro ('Peter of Venice*), as

distinct

When he asked me what my fee from

>fMantua').

55

his uncle

Hetro Giovanni

('Peter


CARL FLESCH

would be,

I

answered that

as

recompense for

my trouble, I would

compote after each lesson a kind of sweetmeat made from unripe nuts, of which I was passionately fond. So after each lesson I consumed my fee stantepede; I would not tolerate 'credit accounts'. Joska's father had his afternoon nap in the

take a plate of nut

next

room while I was

giving his son the lesson; nevertheless,

we

for he awoke perform our task without interruption, as soon as his boy stopped playing. However, I preregularly ferred to play myself rather than try to correct Joska's wrong

had

to

we

his father thought of the following trick: as could not see us from the next room, I myself played instead of my own mistakes with a very loud voice. In this

notes,

and so

Joska, correcting way all the participants tried

were helped except the pupil himself. I my incipient teaching ability on a few other children of my in Vienna, for a fee of fifty Kreuzer per hour; but not

own age until I

had passed out of the Conservatoire did I begin to teach, Most of my pupils were dilettantes, professionally.

so to speak,

with the exception of the violinist Paul Riesenfeld, who later became one of the most popular cinema conductors in America. Until I was about thirty-three, however, the giving of lessons

was a torture for me, a troublesome means of earning a me of time for my own studies. Not until living which robbed much later did I begin to realize what a noble mission a spiritual is the transmission of one's knowledge and experiusually

propagation ence to the younger generation: one can live again not only in one's children but also in one's pupils.

Meanwhile

Gyula had come to live in Vienna, to the university. We both went to live with our

my brother

study medicine at

toilsome existence by our grandmother and greatly relieved her contributions for rent. As she looked after us very well, and my brother and

new

lived in perfect harmony, I felt very happy in my sunroundings, studied diligently, and was able to meet part oi I

maintenance by means of my teaching activities. Free from the fetters of Conservatoire lessons, I tried independently tc

my

perfect myself as an artist; at the same time I occasionally played for teacher Grion for supervision as it were, at which times my

my

brother accompanied

me on

the piano. Although

56

my

powers

oi


VIENNA [1883-1890] judgment were not yet developed

my own

evaluate

performance,

reached a dead end in influence larly

and

would not

sufficiently to enable

could not help realizing

I

my artistic

me I

to

had

development, and that Griin's

get me beyond it.

I certainly practised regubut without extensively, rhyme, reason, or enjoyment.

Psychologically

I

who was enough but dry and dormant artistic emotions.

lacked the stimulation of a mentor

worthy of imitation.

Griin's style, musical

lacking in poetry, did not arouse Then there was the utter lack of prospects in the prevailing circumstances, as well as Hellmesberger's animosity and the re-

my

was

My

former rival Irene von Brennerberg, her situation, had gone to Paris immeaccurately summing up after her course at Vienna, and fantastic diately completing rumours circulated in Vienna about her artistic development.

stricted life I

What was more that the

leading.

natural than that

name of Paris had always

I

by the spell good Germans,

too, fascinated

exerted

on

all

began to have the ardent wish to continue my studies at the which the young Kreisler, covered with glory, had left a few years before. My father was -undecided. On the one hand he could not conceal from himself the fact that a change of artistic atmosphere would be of fundamental importance for the shaping institute

of my future, while on the other hand he recoiled from the enormous sacrifice that my stay in Paris would impose upon him. He was, after all, the father of six children, of whom the three lads were studying abroad, while he still had to scrape together the dowry for two girls. So long as I was not capable of earning my own living, he had to reckon with having to put at

my disposal over 3,000 francs a year; in other words more or less amount as his own household cost him. He eventually swallowed the bitter pill and pkced the education of his children above his own well-being. Nor could his confidence in the firmness of my moral principles have been limited: the thought that it was not really altogether safe to set a lad of sixteen on the Paris there pavements did not seem to bother him. At the same time, the same

was in Paris a merchant by the name of Maurus Deutsch, who came from Wieselburg, whom my father had known since his who had promised to look after me and help me in pouth, and 57


CARL FLESCH everything that concerned ance, too,

was

a

was

installation;

and in the summer of 1890

question.

my

my

monthly allow-

The fact,

to pass through his hands.

man they could trust in Paris was

parents,

then, that there

my

a great reassurance to transference was a settled

My life acquired a new meaning, and I was once more of

heart.

good

my

Four weeks before the date fixed for my departure, but lost my life in the Danube. Familiar with the

however, watery element from our I all

earliest

childhood,

we

youngsters as

swimmers were in the habit, without practised and exceptional to it, of swimming mostly outside the giving much thought

took us we swam right across the Danube despite its rushing current, had a short rest on bank and then returned to our starting-point. One the bathing establishment.

When

the

mood

opposite afternoon I once again undertook this trip without a companion, but owing to the high water I could not land on the opposite

bank and had to return without a moment of rest. I had not reckoned with the strength of the current which was the result of floods, and which carried me with unusual force towards a watermill which was working. I struggled desperately with the waves. Meanwhile visitors to the baths had noticed the danger in

was and with shouts encouraged me to extreme efforts. I already felt that my end was near and all my former life passed before my mind. But just before the critical moment I made a three metres from the superhuman effort and succeeded, barely out crawled and feet in completely exhausted mill, gaining my

which

I

on to the bank. in Vienna after 1 Looking back over the seven years that spent the picture of a joyless leaving my parental home, I see mainly in inhospitable, unhealthy soil and a domestic childhood

planted milieu of Httle moral value. lettantish at the outset,

My

training as a violinist

mechanical at a

later stage,

was

di-

and finally, just

ended in a pedantic narrowmindedness. Nevertheless, there were signs of a favourable inner development which had remained intact despite the unsatisfrom a simple, rural middlefactory external influences. Coming

when

class class.

it

should have become

artistic,

it

I had been drawn down into the lower urban middle Good Viennese society was virtually unknown to me. Years

home,

58


VIENNA [1883-1890] were to pass

until I

was able to

feel at

home

in cultivated circles.

while I did feel a decided, need to widen my was incapable of the necessary concentration. My personality displayed a remarkable assemblage of mutually contradictory characteristics and talents, whose final development it seemed impossible to foresee. The dualism of feeling and reflection which was to become so characteristic of my artistic personality was already part of my still developing self. The entrance examination for the Paris Conservatoire was to be held in the first few days of October. Towards the middle of September my mother journeyed with me to Vienna, bought me a chest of enormous size in the *rag and bone' market, which was to accommodate my entire possessions, including my music, bought Intellectually,

knowledge,

I

me a second-class ticket to Paris and, with her blessings, sent me out into the

wide world.

59


PARIS

[1890-1!

Aged Seventeen

to

Twenty-three

THE LONGEST railway journey I had

from

so far

was one

No wonder that the thirty-two hours

of five hours to Budapest,

now had

made

I

to spend in the train seemed like eternity. I suffered

travel sickness

and aroused the sympathy of my

travelling

companions. Added to all this I had to smuggle cigarettes over the frontier.

dred Egyptian cigarettes

me by my them into

from a gentleman

and smuggle

violin case during a brief stop at Basle,

France.

At an unwatched moment I simply put the box

under the cushion of my satisfaction

me to take a hunwho would recognize

had asked

my Paris mentor,

Deutsch,

of

my

seat

patron.

and thus carried out the task to the

Towards seven o'clock

I

reached the

1'Est, where Deutsch was waiting for me, welcoming the country cousin with benevolent indulgence. When he caught

Gare de

sight

of my trunk he clapped his hands to his head, and

at first

was

not quite sure how it was to be transported to his home, where I was to put up for the time being. Only after great trouble did he find a cabby who said he was prepared to take the monster. The cab had hardly set off when we heard a passing youngster shout: 'Eh, la malle a Gouffef Deutsch explained that a sensational

murder

case

Gouffe,

who

in a

huge

had quite recently been brought against a certain had murdered his wife and had left her packed away

*

chest in the left-luggage office of a Paris station.

We

drove through the early morning streets, which were peopled by clerks and workers of both sexes hurrying to work.

When Deutsch, who apparently wanted to discover what sort of lad I was, asked me what, at first sight, struck me most about '

Parisianlifejsaidtohisamusementhowastonishedlwas to see that the women gathered up their skirts so

Maurus Deutsch was

a self-made

much higher than in Vienna.

man. Through diligence and

shrewdness he had risen from a small proletarian to a prosperous

60


PARIS [1890-1896]

and respected man, who later was awarded the Legion of Honour and became vice-president of the Austro-Hungarian Chamber of

Commerce. He lived in Rue Meissonnier close to the Pare Monwhere he had a dwelling of seven or eight rooms, for which he paid a rent of 8,000 gold francs, a sum that greatly impressed me. He was a curious mixture of a simple man proud of his obscure origins and a somewhat snobbish upstart. He had set his ambition on smoothing the road for me in Paris, and on showing himself obliging to my father. At the outset, he thus devoted a large part ceaux,

of his time to me, and through

his

many

connections he actually I was able to

succeeded in a short time in establishing me, so that devote myself without difficulty to my studies. First

and foremost,

would be

possible for

Conservatoire.

were accepted,

It

we had to find out on what conditions it me to enter one of the violin classes at the

transpired that in each class only two foreigners as a rule had the already been selected

who

by

professors in the first place. It first

of

all

which

most ardent

classes still

desire

of

all

was therefore necessary to establish had places free for foreigners. The

young

violinists

was

under

to study

Massart, the teacher of Wieniawski, Marsick, Lotto and Kreisler.

Unfortunately, however, he had just reached the age of eighty and retired. After he had heard me he expressed his regret that he could not now take me as a pupil. The other teachers were Dancla,

was

Maurin, Garcin and Sauzay. According to my information only Dancla and Sauzay had free places left. Dancla was already the better

known because of his

went

to

him;

salon pieces and studies, and so

his only free place,

I first

however, had by then been

promised to a little Dutchman named Jacobs, who later acquired a local fame in London as a restaurant fiddler. None the less, Danck invited me to be present at a lesson with his class. Like all violinists of his generation, he was in the habit of accompanying his pupils on a second violin, and I was amazed to see that he held the bow not at the nut, but some four to five inches higher towards the middle, a peculiarity which immediately prejudiced

me

against

his abilities.

Only Sauzay remained now, and with

Mm

everything went

smoothly. A place was vacant for a foreigner in his class, he liked 61


CARL FLESCH playing, and he promised me that if I passed the entrance examination, he would accept me as pupil. Although there were three or four hundred candidates for barely a dozen vacancies, to

my

and that of my parents I was accepted. Eugene Sauzay [1809-1901] was a vigorous old man of eightyone, who with his whole appearance, his manners, and unfor-

my great satisfaction

tunately his violin playing too, almost reached back into the eighteenth century. As a violinist in the opera orchestra, he had

taken part in Paganini's Paris debut; later he had married Baillot's daughter and had regularly played quartets in the salon of Princess Mathilde, the cousin of Napoleon III. A thorough man of the world, he dressed meticulously; even as a man of eighty-four he always wore white gaiters. A fine Stradivarius dating from 1709,

which

later passed into

Thibaud's possession, was his carefully

He was

composer of a collection of studies entitled Etudes harmoniques, which dealt specially with the intonation of intervals and are still regarded as uncommonly useful material. His analyses of classical string quartets, moreover, reveal guarded

treasure.

the

the sensitive and cultivated musician.

He must

influential patrons in the administration, for

have possessed

while Massart was

pensioned off at eighty, and Dancla 'already' at seventy-five, he was kept on at the Conservatoire until 1 892, his eighty-fourth year.

Meanwhile Deutsch had found a pension for me not far from his For a monthly rent of 180 francs I had a room and full board. The lodgers were a very mixed lot. Among them was a Spanish painter, with the secondary occupation of bosom friend to faepatronnei there was also a German-American painter, whom I often watched at work; a young Italian woman who rather set:

own home.

her cap at men tried in vain to entice me into her net wife of a French naval officer who was usually at sea to

my mind)

the wealthy

(I

found the

much more man named Modiano who was a distant relation of papal Count Camondo and had let the fact go to his, ;

a

head, and suffered

from

a touch of megalomania. But I most of a company young Brazilian lawyer by the name of Silva Jardim, one of the chief actors in the Brazilian revolution

enjoyed the

which had just ended with throwing the king, throne,

62

Dom Pedro, off the


PARIS [1890-1896]

One

inestimable advantage of living there spoke German, so that

pension was that nobody had to rely on French. Sup-

my I

daily reading of Ulntransigeant, whose Editor, Rochefort, kept all Paris talking with his leading articles, which were as strong in talent as they were lacking in style, I soon made rapid

ported by

progress in the language. After some months I could make myself easily understood and did not mind the amusement I would cause

when

venturing too far in

my

speech.

was a friend of my youth from Wieselburg, My Louis Pollak; he was of my own age and held the position of secretary to an ex-Viennese lawyer. It was Pollak who introduced me to Montmartre and taught me to love it. He lived in a very French hotel in the Rue des Martyrs off the Boulevard Rochechouart, where he had a room at thirty francs monthly. Here there were students, painters, musicians, clerks, workers, mixed with best friend

come-down

aristocrats

and

their feminine appendages,

who

all

On

lived in a capricious congeniality as a single family. top of it to new fantastic was the me, of the all, there atmosphere, quite

pimps and crooks, fashionable public who were out for amusegarnished with the ment by giving themselves the creeps. An evening spent with my friend in this environment seemed to me the epitome of worldly

outer boulevards with their swarms of

tarts,

usually called for him in the evening at his emin the lower city. slowly climbed the Rue des ployer's place and grocer's. Then at a butcher's stopping on the way

well-being.

I

We

Martyrs,

to Pollak' s room. On a small spirit stove we fried our added the lordly Paris bread and a piece of Brie the king ^f cheeses and had a feast fit for the gods Meanwhile we were

we went tneat,

!

by our friends from the surrounding Bohemia, then we event off to a cafe for a game of billiards. By then it was nine and )'clock, the dance halls had opened, and the bright lights

visited

of the Elysee Montmartre (the Moulin Rouge was too invited us in, to marvel at the latest Cancan of expensive for us) 1 'M Gouhe, a very popular dancer and a virtuoso in grand ecart.

placards

2

She was the subject and inspiration of Toulouse-Lautrec's

Aoulin Rouge with its t the Musee d'Albi

new elliptical technique (1891) 63

:

first

poster for the

see the preliminary sketch


CARL FLESCH

Two

couples danced a kind of quadrille, the 'cavaliers' with

remarkable bodily contortions, the ladies' kicking their legs as high in the air as possible, until as a crowning conclusion La Goulue, with a tremendous swing of her leg, sent the hat of an onlooker flying through the air. During unsuspecting, enchanted my first two years I spent practically every free evening in these surroundings, and regarded the time spent pany in the salon as wasted.

among decorous com-

Meanwhile, I had started my lessons with Sauzay. His teaching was of the most primitive kind, in some respects even far below Griin's. An ancient gentleman, he accompanied us on a second

from his young days Viotti, Rode, Kreutzer, and only ventured as far as Saint-Saens and Max Bruch by way of exception. This accompanying practice is very dangerous musically, for the harmony is necessarily incomplete, and the bass entirely absent, so that the whole can only be regarded as a fiddle in concertos Baillot

somewhat dilettantish makeshift. From the teaching point of view, too, this kind

of instruction

(just like

accompanying one's pupil

on

the piano) is definitely bad, if only because one's attention is diverted from the pupil's performance. The case is not altered by the fact that the violinists of earlier generations evinced a remarkable dexterity in this regard, which we today no longer possess; every thinking and conscientious teacher will readily get over the

good old Sauzay could not impress me at all with what he said or with his playing. On the other hand, he had a fair opinion of the technical facility of my left hand and loss.

In any case,

either

asserted that

he could not teach

respect. Since, unfortunately,

my

me

anything further in

bowing too seemed to

this

satisfy

him, his instruction was confined to the teaching of nuances and an antiquated style of interpretation which to me, a green youngster eagerly looking into the future, seemed rather comic. At bottom, however, I did not feel like laughing at all; on the contrary, I was deeply depressed, for I soon realized that with this

kind of teaching there could be no thought of a renaissance of my development as a violinist, that my urge to go forward could not thus be satisfied. I pondered how I could continue my stay at the Institute

with more

serious studies.

64

Now,

I

had gathered from


PARIS [1890-1896]

of my fellow students that many of them were having additional private lessons with younger and abler teachers. After all, the four violin professors of the Institute had a combined age of some three hundred years. They were respected on account of their past, and one put up with them because one wanted to take part in the contests, but no one had any illusions about the practical value of their instruction. I resolved, then, to take the same road as my colleagues, and began by making exhaustive inquiries as to who was regarded as the best teacher in Paris. The opinion was unanimous for Marsick, and so one day I rang at his certain allusions

door.

A lady, Mme Marsick herself, as I learned later, opened

lessons,

it,

wanted and, when I explained that I wished to have remarked in a business-like tone: *Mais vous savez c'est

asked what

I

vingt francs la le^on !' (But you know it's twenty francs a lesson.) After I had reassured her on this point we fixed a time at which I

could play for the master.

The interview went

tion of both parties, and so, six weeks after had become a private pupil of Marsick's, decisive role in

off to the satisfac-

my arrival in Paris, who was

I

to play a

my development as a violinist.

I came under his tuition, M. P. Marsick was forty-two, a medium-sized man of pleasing [1848-1924] His appealing face framed by a small black beard, his appearance. keen vivid, eyes and his southern vivacity charmed his fellows, of the female sex. He had a youth of privations behind especially him, had been a chorister to begin with and had taken up the violin exceptionally late. Influential patrons had enabled him to had also taken study first with Leonard and later with Massart. He lessons for some months with Joachim. His strength was in his bowing. His right arm was a model of physiological development,

At

the time that

an absolutely perfect instrument, although even in his case the 1 staccato had its flaws. He produced an enchanting tone, capable of extraordinary modulation, and played with great imagination, without falling into mannerconstantly engaging one's interest 'isms.

His

owing

left

hand, however, seemed to kg behind, probably At times it seemed that his intonation was

to his late start.

insecure,

and

his changes

What is meant is

1

of position were not

the typical string staccato

65

in

one

entirely reliable,

bow at a fast pace.


CARL FLESCH performances proved somewhat uneven somewhat younger school colleagues from Liege, Ysaye and Thomson, he was esteemed as a local rather than an international celebrity. But in Paris itself he was without rival, especially as a chamber musician. In his excellent quartet, Eugene Maurice Hayot (of whom more later) 1 played the second violin and Laforge the viola; the latter was the founder of the viola class at the Paris Conservatoire, whence France owes him the finest viola players in the world today. 2 The distinguished Belgian

with the

and

result that his

that, unlike his

'cellist

Loys completed the ensemble.

Marsick's peculiar significance, however, rested on his talent as a teacher. Restless, always dissatisfied with himself and driven by

he was a stimulating influence and his advice took the generous individuality of his pupils fully into account. It was he who taught me to think logically without enhis thirst for perfection,

dangering the

spirit

of the living work of art; and to him

I

owe

the development of what later made me realize that teaching was the noblest of artistic activities. gratitude for all he taught me

My

was not weakened by the circumstance that I could not work up the same admiration for the man as I felt for the artist. As a matter of fact, his attitude towards his best pupils left something to be desired, in that the pride he felt for the excellent results he achieved with them was not untinged by jealousy. For the rest, his came to be a sad fate. Seized with an irresistible attraction for a married woman, he left his family and pupils in the lurch and fled abroad with his mistress. They both wandered aimlessly about for several years, at times in fantastic disguises, plagued by fear of the injured husband's revenge. Some years laterr the woman remorsefully returned to her husband, while Marsick'

age of fifty-five attempted to found a new existence for himself in Paris. About this time he published a highly problemat the

novel system of finger exercises, called Eureka. In the course of the years our relations cooled down, after the following incident* had occurred. atic,

I

was giving a concert in Berlin in 1903 and Marsick announced ,

p. 87.

66


PARIS

one

at the

after so

[1890-1896]

same time. Overjoyed

many

years,

dence. His reception

be allowed to

that I

hastened to

I

call

would be seeing him again on him at his place of resi-

was rather lukewarm, and

listen to

him

at

my request to

occasionally while he practised, he gave me the fantastic answer: 'Ah non, cette fois-ci je garde mes trues pour moi !' (Oh no; this time I keep my tricks to I

myself!)

went away profoundly disillusioned and a little disgusted. After that I met him only once quite by accident in the vestibule of the Paris Opera and exchanged a few words with him. Then came the

World War, and in 1923 Thibaud told me in New York that Marsick had died shortly before in a state of poverty. When, in 1890, Marsick heard me for the first time he at once First

recognized

my

talent

on

finger right into the vibrato, and a habitual

the one hand, but

open wounds of

on the other put

my

his

training: the slow

He also watched arm, taught me the

portato instead of legato.

and improved the functioning of my execution of the various dynamic

right

and by playing over my own expressive needs. I found his interpretative style unusually sympathetic, and it made me aware of possibilities of expression which hitherto had only lain dormant in me. In the distance, he showed me an unsuspected world of feeling, to conquer which I had to perfect my still inadequate technique. I had finally escaped the artistic marasmus into which I had threatened to sink during my last years in Vienna, and I blessed the moment when I had decided to draw the

me

pieces before

shadings,

stimulated

only

sound conclusion from the disappointing circumstances prevailing at the Paris Conservatoire. -

Now, how

can one understand the

fact that despite the

un-

questionably high standard of French violin playing, the instruction at the Conservatoire was entrusted to four patriarchs, not one

of whom could have made any claim to in his prime?

The

not

special distinction

even

For 150 years every French instrumentalist had regarded appointment to 'professeur au conservatoire' as the crown of his artistic and social career. Yet this

activity

was

honorary. In

explanation

is

so badly paid that

my

it

difficult.

could almost be described as

day every teacher received 1,500 gold francs in yearly, exchange for which he had to give 360 lessons^ which 67


CARL FLESCH works out at about four francs per lesson. He was compensated by the moral prestige of belonging to the phalanx of the country's leading teachers, together with the tacit right to charge the highest fee (at that time twenty francs) for private lessons. When a post fell vacant, a game of intrigue started which in France, the land of influence and patronage, was particularly ruthless, and in which the most adroit rather than the worthiest gained the

of this kind

desired end. There

is

no other explanation

for the fact that

Hayot,

for instance, undoubtedly one of the foremost French violinists at the turn of the century, never belonged to the Institute, whereas

the quite mediocre Lefort became Dancla's successor and occupied on twenty-five years. Once a teacher had

this position for close

succeeded in getting on the staffhe clung firmly to his post until he had one foot in the grave. Danck was seventy-five when he was compelled to resign, whereupon he published a brochure in which he ferociously attacked the teaching administration and described his being pensioned off as the greatest outrage of the century. Berthelier, admittedly a pretty capable man, had to go completely blind before he could be moved to hand over to another man.

My

own teacher

Sauzay likewise regarded it as a great injustice when at the age of eighty-four he had to yield his place to Marsick. What overwhelming results a first-class teacher could achieve in such a post was shown by the example of Massart and Marsick; in the course of five years Marsick trained Thibaud, Enesco, and myself.

In yet another respect the organization of the Paris ConservaWhile every conservatory in the world has certain subsidiary subjects which are such toire laid itself open to criticism.

compulsory, harmony, piano, history of music, orchestral and chamber music, in my day only the lower prize-winners (accessits)' were under obligation to attend a weekly ensemble class, which, howas

chamber music with piano. Training in left to the iron necessity which forced r almost every student to earn his bread of an evening in a cafe, in the Variete or the and at best at the Operetta, Sunday concerts. The general education of the average Paris Conservatoire student, too, was of a very low standard. ever, limited itself to orchestral playing

was

68


PARIS [1890-1896]

had quickly and readily grown accustomed to Paris life. Because of the necessity to speak only French both at the Conservatoire and at home, I very quickly began to absorb the

Meanwhile

spirit

I

of the language, while

martre

at the

same time

I

found in Mont-

sufficient opportunities to learn the Paris argot.

My relations

with society were confined chiefly to evenings with Deutsch's family, where, however, as a poor and idealistic musician I felt verylonely. At the same time, he did introduce me to several musical families of good standing, which were a little more to my liking. But Montmartre suited me best of all. Here I was among equals,

among people who did not oppress me with their material superiority. It

was only

away from possible and impossible pretexts; whence

natural, then, that

fashionable society on soon won the reputation all

I

very unreliable fellow. In Sauzay's class I

young

tried to sneak

among my

acquaintances of being a

encountered only one serious

Russian girl from Odessa

rather unattractive, as a talent

enough, already in her

I

first

rival,

a

named Sophie Jaffe; outwardly she was among the elite. Sure

competitive examination in 1892, she

prize singly. In the years following I lost her, until suddenly at Berlin in 1897 she turned up

carried off the

of again and in sight

first

several concerts created a sensation.

But she did not

exploit her success, very quickly disappeared, married, and seemed to have vanished for good. Not till twenty-five years later, during the First World War, did I meet her again after one

of my concerts in Zurich, where she had

fled

from

Russia.

I

have

Although not the most musical of violinists, she was certainly the greatest woman virtuoso of her time: her name should not altogether be lost in oblivion. Apart from her the class consisted only of second-raters, Paris heard nothing of her

youngsters who

since.

equently shortened their lesson time with a game chorus of mothers who would not of billiards in a cafe opposite. fr

A

at any price sat on daughters go alone to the Conservatoire a wooden bench knitting stockings, for the moral reputation of the let their

Institute

was

far

from unobjectionable, and

it

passed as a well-

of the dramatic and singing classes known favourite from among their official were not above selecting an fact that the teachers

69


CARL HJESCH girl pupils,

who

often

owed

their training

of an older friend of means. competitions,

It

was

only to the generosity

also said that prior to the

many members of the jury were not at all unrespon-

sive to the influence

of the prettier female candidates. In the instru-

mental classes, however, the situation was fundamentally

different,

and during my four years at the Conservatoire I knew of no incident which threw any suspicion on the virtue of my feniinine colleagues in the violin or pianoforte classes though admittedly, most of them were rather unattractive. While, before the competitive examinations, there was virtuother classes, someally no opportunity to meet colleagues from

how

or other I did come to know a pupil of the pianist Diemer, and soon struck up a sincere friendship with him. His name was Joseph Thibaud; he came from Bordeaux and was the brother of the violinist Jacques Thibaud. Joseph had the misfortune to be deformed by a harelip, and a defective palate pre-

vented him, moreover, from talking

After a

distinctly.

mere

and as a result of a phenomenal year's study he was unanimously and singly awarded the first performance, at time that he was considered one of the greatest hopes of prize; at the Conservatoire,

the French school.

Two

years later his fiddling brother Jacques trod the Paris pavements, a sprightly, talented boy of fourteen

his brother's. However, gifts, however, we set far below while Joseph ended as a distinguished pianoforte teacher in Bordeaux, Jacques was to remain for forty years the pride of the French violin school.

whose

This period also marked the beginning of my chamber-musical

A

activities.

Lederer,

Hungarian Griin pupil by the name of Dezso a good-looking man of about thirty and a

who was

mediocre

fiddler, invited

me

to

become second

violinist in his

newly-founded quartet, without pay of course. I accepted and in this way came to know a number of quartets of average difficulty.

We gave several concerts in camera, but with the lively support of relations. Since,

leader's, I

soon

however, lost

as the rehearsals in

demanded

all

my

my technique akeady far surpassed the

desire to continue this activity, especially

any an orchestra whose

member

I

soon became

disposable time. For the rest, during the first

70


PARIS [1890-1896] year of

my stay in Paris, I did not trouble myself about artists and I divided my time between my violin studies, reading

concerts.

and diverse amusement. As foreign students could enter the competition only at the end of their second year, I did not bother to wait for the one that took place at the end ofJuly, but travelled three weeks earlier, the summer vacation, to during

my parents,

who were and

as

very pleased with my development both as violinist a man. Haloed with the nimbus of a 'Parisian', I had

gained a considerable increase in esteem

among

the Wiesel-

own age. The contrast between the vast city which had just left and my home town nest gave me much amusement; at the same time I felt that mysterious bonds were fettering me to I a was small-town man by nature, and I have tny birth-place. burgers of my [

remained one

all

my life. The accumulation of a large number of

people in a comparatively restricted space seems unnatural to me, md the contact with nature is, I think, one of the most worth-

while aims in life.

Although

my father knew enough about violin playing fully to

appreciate the extraordinary stimulus I had received in Paris, he bitterly complained about the hardly bearable financial burden

which

my

studies involved. I

promised him therefore to

live, if

on an even more modest scale, and on the other hand to to make some contribution to my keep. attempt possible,

The second

year of my stay in Paris began with my finding with an old woman from the Levant, who lived close to quarters the Conservatoire. She had been a cook in the house of Count

Camondo

in Constantinople,

and

now was

the proprietor of a

restaurant consisting of a single room, where the food was mainly of the kind of oriental dish favoured in North Africa or Turkey. [ soon grew tired of this monotonous fare in which rice in all

manner of preparations played the chief role; and as several colleagues of the Conservatoire urged me to share their life in jolly students' digs I took a modest room in the Hotel du Bresil in the Rue Richer, quite close to the Conservatoire, for the monthly rent of forty francs. Breakfast, consisting of a bottle of white coffee or chocolate and a croissant, was delivered to me at the hotel from a dairy close by and set down outside my door; my 71


CARL FLESCH

Owing to this independence of a member of the great brotherbecame unwittingly hood of the Paris Bohemia, to which I was to belong right through my stay. The hotel was occupied by petty employees and students, including a few musicians. I soon found friends among main meals

I

had in

a restaurant.

all restraint I

them, with

whom

I

spent the mealtimes which, despite their

seemed to us

frugal nature,

like feasts.

of some orchestra. step was to become the member choice fell on the Lamoureux Orchestra, which gave a conin the Cirque d'Ete in the Champs-Elysees every Sunday

The next

My cert

during the winter season. I applied for a position as a first violinist, which, after an audition, I obtained. I now had a regular job,

which consisted every week of three or four morning rehearsals and a Sunday concert. Each of the concerts brought me twentyfive francs, so that I was able to ease my father's burden to the tune of a hundred francs per month. Our almighty ruler, the conductor Charles Lamoureux [1834-1899], was then fiftyseven years old, a thick-set, stout, energetic and hot-tempered gentleman from the south, who had begun as a violinist and had advanced to the position of conductor at the age of thirty-five. Originally he had been a quartet partner of Edouard Colonne, but later the two had become bitter rivals, the conductors of two

competing orchestras which gave concerts at the same time. Colonne's interpretations were known as fiery and slovenly, Lamoureux's

by

as

dry but

the standards of our

precise.

If,

however,

own day we must

we measure the two

regard them both as

mediocre.

The outstanding feature of Lamoureux's personality was his rudeness, a completely uncontrolled and unvarying lack of consideration. He can be cited as a striking example of the fact that the proverbial courtesy of the French is a legend, which owes its origin to the all too frequent resort to the exclamation 'Pardon !' In reality there is no other country in which excremental and

pornographic words are used so readily in common speech as in France. Concerning Lamoureux's churlishness one can at least plead in mitigation that he gave way to it usually as the result oi

annoyance

at a

mistake in the orchestra. But

72

I

learnt

by experience


PARIS that French conductors

[1890-1896]

do not extend the Proclamation of the

Rights of Man of 1789 to orchestral musicians. Things are different in Germany and Austria. In Vienna, during a Philharmonic rehearsal in my student days, Hans Richter was carried so far as to !' to a negligent second violinist who entered a bar too the orchestra committee gave him the choice either of early; to the Lamoureux's apologizing player or of

call 'Ass

resigning. During rehearsals offensive insults followed each other in swift succession, until they ended in a choleric outburst of in which fury, grown-

up men, great artists among them, were scolded like schoolboys. Sometimes one of them would leave the rehearsal in but protest,

as a rule

nobody dared to stir. In the France of those days there could be no talk of any human and friendly relations such as has between Nikisch, Weingartner, Furtwangler, Walter, or Blech and their orchestras. It well be that the surpassing may due to the fact performances of the German orchestras are existed

largely

that for

German players feel not only anxiety aiid at times admiration their conductor, but also human sympathy: because of this

spiritual community they willingly submit to his influence, while the French players see in their chief a tyrant. Whether this state of affairs has observation. But changed of later years has escaped

my

I

do

know from my own experience that at least the distinguished

French conductor Pierre Monteux no longer comes within

this

category. The conditions in

which we worked were likewise most und'Ete was so cold that we frequently had to keep our overcoats on. The stools on which we sat had no backs, and after three or four hours of rehearsal we always favourable.

The Cirque

ached.

As for Lamoureux as a conductor, his lack of technical talent was the first thing to strike one. His beat was awkward, his quite inadequate. He always conducted with his nose buried in the score. As he could not play the piano himself, a

memory

coach, usually his son-in-law and successor Chevillard, or the Dutch solo 'cellist Salmon, had to cram the work into him on the piano. Thus, it was only when he came to the rehearsal that he learnt the work, simultaneously with us; the labour involved was

73


CARL FLESCH almost unbearable. At the performance lie was too closely fettered to the printed notes to achieve the inner freedom that is the essential prerequisite

My

of a

recognition of

great, inspired rendering.

his defects did not,

however, make

me

He possessed a boundless energy in pursuing an enthusiastic Wagnerite of the old guard he was

blind to his virtues. his ends.

As

entrusted with the

first

performance of Lohengrin

at

the Paris

Opera in 1892. French chauvinists tried to frighten him off with anonymous threatening letters, at the same time organizing street disturbances in order to prevent the performance. During those days Lamoureux was even more excited than usual, and once

during our rehearsal he quite unexpectedly pulled a revolver out of his pocket, waved it in the air and exclaimed: 'If I'm attacked they'll find

me

Though

as a

elite, as

ready !' conductor and musician he did not belong to the

an orchestral trainer he was exemplary. In true recogni-

tion of the circumstance that every orchestral musician has a natural disinclination to tune his instrument properly, he did not

mind taking the trouble of having each of his 120 orchestra members pass by him one by one before each concert, in order to check, with a violin in his hand, the tuning of every instrument most

carefully.

Undoubtedly there has never

since been such

an

We

must turn to the great American enexactly tuned orchestra. sembles of our own time to find the quality and number of

Lamoureux had

at his disposal: twenty-four first and second violins, twelve violas, twelve 'cellos, and twenty-four twelve double-basses. The violins were mainly young fellows, but

strings that

were the old Dancla, the Belgian Houflack, an who kter went to pieces; Geloso, one of the in Paris; the South American Rivarde; the then

at the first desks

ideal orchestral leader

best violinists

hope of the violin world, the Dutchman Kossmann, who was for many years orchestral leader and conductor at Essen; Capet, who was to become the world-famous leader of the quartet which bore his name, and many other coming great artists. I myself was placed at the sixth desk. The violas were led the by Belgian van Waffelghem, the 'cellos by the outstanding great

later

Salmon; the woodwind, the prima donnas of the orchestra, 74

whom


PARIS [1890-1896]

even Lamoureux handled with kid gloves, were simply

ideal,

and

so were the horns.

Despite the conductor's unpleasant attitude, our capacity for enthusiasm was inextinguishable. I found his reading of the

Wagner and Brahms excited me to One boiling-point. morning we found a curious work on our Don entitled desks, Juan, whose composer was called Richard Strauss. He was thought to be a son of Johann; nobody knew classics rather

boring, but

him. The rehearsal began; the unaccustomed, baroque-sounding passages made us laugh. But Lamoureux said: 'Gentlemen, don't laugh, this young composer is conductor at Meiningen and will one day be the talk of the musical world.' Any difficult parts we

had to take home with

and in order to force us to study them Lamoureux threatened that at the next rehearsal he would have us,

each violinist play the quick passages alone, as did in fact once happen with the 'Magic Fire' music from the Valkyries which, strictly speaking, is unplayable.

Anyhow, his

bulldozing methods

our ambition to the highest degree, and every one of us endeavoured to give of his best at rehearsals and in concerts.

intensified

A noble trait of Lamoureux's character was his love of art for own

without concern for worldly honour, fame, or of which latter, incidentally, he had no need his wife was money one of the chief shareholders in the *Eau du Dr Pierre', one of the

its

sake,

:

most widely used mouth-washes in the world, and thus extrafor ordinarily wealthy. At that early stage of French enthusiasm Liebestod Wagner there were performances, such as that of the with Amalie Materna, when the conductor, soloist, orchestra and public all shed tears of emotion. It was under Lamoureaux, too, that I came to know and love Brahms' Second and Third Symfor which phonies, as well as all the Schumann Symphonies, classical German The a Lamoureux had predilection. repertoire formed a regular part of our programmes, and Beethoven's Ninth was performed at least once a year. On the other hand, Lamoureux was more or less unmoved by the French school, He Damnation of kept off Cesar Franck, while Berlioz, of whose Faust Cologne appeared to have a monopoly, was represented only by small fragments. A few of Vincent d'Indy's early works, 75


CARL FLESCH 'cello, an occasional piece Chabrier, Massenet, and Charpentier's were all I then came to know of French music.

Boellmann's Symphonic Variations for

by

Chevillard, a

little

Impressions d'ltalie

my

Nevertheless,

during these two

musical horizon widened very considerably student years in the orchestra; I moreover

a highly skilled sightacquired orchestral routine and became reader.

My personal relations with Lamoureux left much to be desired. could not stand his uncouth manners and often threatened to leave the orchestra if he did not change his behaviour towards me.

I

So he kept a

rein

his first violins.

on himself,

One day

singing, however,

woman

I

want to lose me from rehearsal in which Melba was

for he did not

during a

expressed

my

admiration for

this beautiful

few whispered words to my colleague at my desk, murmured between his teeth a few hardly Lamoureux and at which, according to my threat, flattering words to my address I

in a

stood up and without saying a

Now, even

in

less.

seem

word left

view of the bad example I gave,

He

first

pleased

Lamoureux

charged me with

to realize that

nevertheless,

the orchestra for good. this

he was

desertion, but eventually did in the wrong and drew in his horns;

we parted without being reconciled.

Lamoureux' s importance rested on his successful endeavours to put German music of the post-Beethoven era on the French musical map. In addition he tried to counteract the slovenliness of French orchestras of the day by a meticulous, in fact pedantic, orchestral discipline. If Habeneck deserves the credit for acquaint-

with ing the French at the beginning of the nineteenth century Beethoven's Symphonies, including the Ninth, and if Pasdeloup a fearless taught his countrymen to like Wagner, Lamoureux, as and as an and Richard for Brahms Strauss, Wagner, fighter orchestral educator, did a service to the musical culture

country which

To

is

of

his

not to be underestimated.

complete the picture,

I

must mention two other orchestral

The first, which overlapped during my with the end of my appointment with Lamoureux, was that of second and later of first leader in the Concerts d'Harcourt. The Viscount Eugene d'Harcourt [1860-1927], who came from one of activities

stay in Paris.

76


PARIS

[1890-1896]

the oldest and wealthiest of French aristocratic families, an idealist by profession, a musician inclination, had decided to devote

by

fortune not to horses and small concert hall

named

his

women

but to good music. He built a after him, gathered a kind of chamber

orchestra together and organized evening concerts several times a week. His second conductor was the then still unknown Swiss

Gustave Doret. D'Harcourt was no more than a beginner in the of conducting, without any authority over the orchestra; it can be we made fun of him. imagined how to art

cruelly

lack

of interest,

Owing

incidentally, the concerts

soon came to an end, and d'Harcourt was placed by his under family guardianship for his improvidence. The rehearsals were held after those of the '

Lamoureux Orchestra and were usually followed

by a concert, so were days when I spent eight or nine hours on orchestral for the playing. As I really needed all my time for that there

preparation

forthcoming contest at the Conservatoire, as well as Lamoureux's orchestra in the

I

left

d'Harcourt's

spring of 1893.

successor in the former

was the

My

distinguished Venetian violinist

Guarneri.

In the fifth year of residence in Paris months the position of first leader in the

my

I

occupied for some

popular Sunday concerts of the Jardin d'Acclimatation, which were conducted by a former double-bass player named Pfister, and a enjoyed large attendance. Here I first played a large-scale solo work with orchestra, i.e. the _

Godard Concerto, 1 and thus ended my orchestral activities in Paris. violinists whom I had the opportunity to hear during those years can easily be enumerated, for with the exception of the Sunday concerts, there was not really any international

The important

concert

life

in Paris before the First

were content

World War. The

native

one concert every year. There were for the sale of tickets. The artist in "hardly any public places sent to each of his friends or question patrons, at whose house he had made music in the course of the year without remuneration, a artists

to give

number of tickets, which they duly paid for. As concerts tended to be a social and financial :

a result, the Paris affair,

and

really

The Concerto romantique. Benjamin Godard [1849-1895] was a pupil of Reber (composition) and of the famous Vieuxtemps (violin) ; see also p. 97.

77


CARL FLESCH events were the exception. Nowhere else in the world was the nuisance of unpaid, playing so widespread as in Paris. Gabriel Pierne, who was born in 1863, assured me that in his youth it still artistic

went without saying that an artist made no claim to be paid for his performance. Only at the beginning of this century did the big Sunday concerts begin to remunerate their soloists to a modest extent.

The fact is

that the profession

of executant artist is the only

one in which even today the unpaid performance

is still all

too

often taken for granted. For all these reasons Paris at that time had an unfavourable reputation

can

recall

between

the important foreign virtuosos, and in fact I four outstanding violinists who played in Paris only

among

Ondficek. So if I

and 1896: Sarasate, Ysaye, Heermann, and was essentially thrown back on our native artists be edified by good violin playing. Here we had our

1890

wanted to

I

Geloso, Kossmann, then Marsick, for chamber and As music, in 1894 I made the Remy. Hayot the Bohemian of String Quartet, whose appearance acquaintance had a revolutionary effect on all of us. orchestral leaders Rivarde,

But above all I must try to describe Eugene Ysaye [1858-193 1] the most outstanding and individual violinist I have heard in all my life. Ysaye belonged to Vieuxtemps's school, was a member of an orchestra under Bilse in Berlin for some years, and then a professor at the Brussels Conservatoire. He made his world reputation with his Vienna debut as late as 1890, when he was group knew and esteemed Him, which however included musicians of the standing of Cesar Franck, who dedicated his Violin Sonata to him in 1887 and gave it to him as a wedding present. His career was already thirty-two years old. Until then only a small

but comparatively short. I often heard him during the years 1890 to 1914, and so was able to let his performances at various times have their influence on me. He was in his prime brilliant,

until 1910. From then on the tremor in his bowing, from which he had already suffered at times, began to get worse until, when at the age of sixty-two he gave a concert again in Vienna, his (1920)

playing made a catastrophic impression. Already, some years before, he had changed over to a career as conductor in Cincinnati, 78


PARIS [1890-1896]

war he also directed his own orchestra in Brussels. of At the age seventy he became diabetic, whence it became necessary to amputate one of his legs. Unable to play the violin during his last years, he devoted all his energies to composition. He died a poorish man. and

after the

Ysaye's importance as a violinist rested above

all

on

the

originality of his style. Joachim and Sarasate had formed the two poles of the axis around which the world of the violin had turned. The German-Hungarian was serious, expansive, profound; technique and pure sound were to him only a secondary means, often neglected, towards the sacred artistic aim. The elegant Spaniard, on the other hand, displayed a grandeur that was none the less pleasing for being blase; of incredible polish in all matters technical, he was a master of unemotional euphony. In their old age, neither corresponded in the least to the taste of the time, which yearned for a synthesis between technical perfection and

the greatest intensity of expression. In Ysaye, this need found its complete fulfilment. His tone was big and noble, capable of modulation to the highest degree and of responding to his impulsion as a horse to its rider. His vibrato was the spontaneous expres-

sion of his feeling, a whole world away from what had been customary until then: the incidental, thin-flowing quiver 'only on notes' ; his portamentos were novel and entrancing, his espressivo left-hand agility and intonation of Sarasate-like perfection. Inhe adapted his bowing technique to his expressive needs. tuitively,

There was no kind of bowing that did not show tonal perfection as well as musical feeling. His style of interpretation betrayed the so much with the impulsive romantic, who was concerned not as with the spirit that cannot the dead letter, note-values, printed be reproduced graphically. He was a master of the imaginative rubato, an ideal interpreter of Vieuxtemps's music. Although older maintained that there was not a trace of this kind

contemporaries of rubato to be found in Vieuxtemps's playing, an assertion which case cannot be proved today, the fact remains that, for his in

any

violinist

Vieuxcontemporaries, Ysaye's manner of playing

temps's compositions At the apex of this

was absolutely ideal. pyramid of fascinating 79

attributes,

however,


CARL FLESCH was an indefinable aura emanating from this dominating personwithin its charm. The ality and drawing everybody irresistibly Salle Pleyel in Paris, in 1892, of the Cesar the at performance Franck Sonata, which was still unknown to me, the absolute harmony between work and interpreter, will remain as unforgettable as the first performance, at the same time, of Debussy's alone then, a class String Quartet. Ysaye stood quite

towering high above

violinists.

all

by himself, But even ten

contemporary a performance of Tchaikovsky's years later, on the occasion of A minor Trio with Busoni and Becker, which I heard in London,

he was

My

in every respect superior to his partners. leave out impartiality requires me, however, not to

still

consideration the

less

admirable

traits

of

of

this

extraordinary' musical personality. In classical compositions the rubato which had become second nature to him was frequently misplaced. For instance, in the third bar

of the first solo passage in Bach's E major

Concerto, he used to play

:

instead of:

a bizarre procedure at which we youngsters smiled, and which forgave him in view of our blind admiration for him.

we readily Similarly,

in his hands the

Beethoven Concerto suffered an^

imaginative remodelling of the original into a personal experience, which did not leave much of the unadulterated Beethoven spirit. If

we may

define the ideal reproduction as a fusion of the commood evoked by the work in its inter-

poser's intentions with the

Ysaye often did not achieve this final end because in certain works he could not avoid putting his own personality be-4

preter,

fore that of the composer. But when, in race or sentiment, he felt closely akin to the composer, as in the case of Cesar Franck, SaintSaens, Lalo, Debussy, Vieuxtemps, Mendelssohn, or Bruch, the

was incomparable. His contemporaries were never

result

quite clear

Ysaye's relatively early decline as a violinist.

So

I

on

the reasons for

myself believe that

t


PARIS [1890-1896] the cause has to be sought in a lack of stability in his bowing. Inevitably, this induced a fear of tremor, which in turn led neces-

'

sarily to pathological obsessional ideas

and thus to a falsification of main aim was no longer to follow his inner avoid or mask the tremor in his bow; feeling and

his entire style: his

impulse but to

technique had to take second place.

The primary

cause of the

bow is

trembling usually of a technical nature, i.e. physiological; secondarily, it soon becomes a devastating psychical infection, an anxiety state, which then results in an unspontaneous and mannered style. According to my close observation, the fundamental technical cause in Ysaye's case was that he did not use the little finger of his hand at the nut where he right clasped the bow only with three fingers and with an iron-tight grip. He seemed ignorant of the

importance of the little finger as the most active agent in the supination of the forearm at the lower half of the bow. His end as a violinist provided a striking

proof of the absolute need for where the artist is endowed

correct technical foundations even

with genius. :

It was in 1911, after the final rehearsal for a Philharmonic Concert in which Ysaye was to play the Elgar Concerto with Nikisch as conductor, that I clearly realized this point. After the

rehearsal Ysaye, Kreisler and Elman a plentiful lunch we each in turn

came

to

my house,

and

after

played something: Ysaye chose

Vieuxtemps's

D minor Concerto, Elman the first movement of the

.Tchaikovsky Concerto, Kreisler and Elman played the Bach Double Concerto, and I took the major Sonata by Nardini.

D

After

performance Ysaye gave a deep sigh and said: *Ah, si de votre archet !' (Ah, if only I had the tranof your bow!)

my

J'avais la tranquillite quillity

Ysaye devoted himself to quartet playing only occasionally, ^whereas he joined with Raoul Pugno, the extraordinarily musical i

in regular performances of sonatas. In this, as in his solo work, he was above all original and creative, limited only by his

pianist,

personality.

As lis

a teacher Ysaye was the perfect type of stimulating model: influence was chiefly through the perfection of his personal

example, while he did not bother about technical 81

details.

He thus


CARL FLESCH as JoacHm. For young belonged to the same category of teacher artists with a sound technique but still in need of achieving perfect

when they expression they were uncommonly stimulating; artistic for technical the perprerequisites merely had to create formance they failed. Yet even stronger than their influence on individuals was their influence on the general atmosphere of violin playing. For the individual, incidentally, there was the risk absorbed by these surpassing personalities a kind of of

being hypnosis which can

The Joachim

last far

beyond the grave of the hypnotizer. not yet sucof his teacher,

for instance, has pupil, Karl Klingler,

ceeded in getting away from the spiritual fetters 1 which have held him in bond for thirty years. Ysaye used gather

many

disciples

around him in

his

summer

residence,

to

who

looked up to him with idolatrous admiration. In 1907, during his I had the opportunity of getting to longish stay in Amsterdam, know him more closely. One day he turned up quite un-

and asked me to play him Paganini's expectedly in my home Seventeenth Study: he had heard so much about my octave

we dined together several times, and on one me to visit him in the summer. I did

fingering. Thereafter of these occasions he invited

not follow up this invitation, for I had an instinctive fear that close contact with Ysaye might endanger the independence of my while on the other hand my style was already too personality,

for me to feel a need to travel any personal and firmly established felt often other road. But later I sorry that I had let slip this his example he might perhaps have been able opportunity, for by to help

me in getting rid of certain inhibitions and in

strengthen-

of my personality. Most violinists of owe Ysaye an inestimable amount of indirect my generation the exception of the Belgian violinists with stimulation, but ing the

more impulsive

side

Crickboom and Dubois none of his personal

pupils has achieved-

any importance. not yet finally established. Ysaye's position as a composer is nature he is no doubt that possessed an outstanding by In his talent for composition. early days, however, he was much

There too 1

much under

the influence of Cesar Franck

Written in 1933.

82

and Debussy to be

,


PARIS [1890-1896] able to develop a

technique his

may

more

personal

urge to create experienced a

six Sonatas for violin alone,

from the

style. Besides, his

have lacked adequate foundations. In

new

which

technical standpoint,

composing

his last years

spring; the chief result was are uncommonly interesting

though musically not quite

origi-

would appear to be among the most difficult forms of composition, which must be the explanation of the fact that J. S. Bach's example was not followed at all down to 1900, and from then on only with comparatively modest results. Reger and Hindemith alone have created something in this sense that

nal. Solo sonatas

may possibly last beyond our own time.

1

We cannot tell whether

Ysaye's solo Sonatas will survive too. In Ysaye as a man, one found the germ of many contradictions. His racial membership cannot

he was massive and corpulent, was struck above all by his noble, finely cut, slightly feminine profile. A certain brutality was, at the same time, part of his nature, and when he had been drinking heavily he was occasionally capable of physical assault. I remember a case which caused a sensation, in which he and his brother Theo were charged with beating up a tram conductor. They were both sentenced to three weeks' imprisonment, but were subsequently pardoned. Like all great men he was a good colleague, fiill of understanding for personalities different from his own, never malevolent. He loved wine, women and song on the violin. At the age of sixty an American pupil .years he married a second time; his bride was than with whom he lived in himself, thirty-five years younger happy marriage until his death. An amiable Bohemian-like lack of be definitely

established. In old age

in his youth one

practical sense

made him

scatter his earnings

with both hands,

without bothering about the future. In our memory he will always remain a knight of the violin, the last of the greatest virtuosos of K

permanent landmark in the history of our art Apart from Ysaye, Sarasate and Ondricek, among outstanding

an epoch,

a

ing

my

in

endowing

^brilliance. 1

Hugo Heermann

[1844-1935] durin Brussels and Paris and succeeded stay in Paris. He studied

foreign violinists

I

his

heard only

utterly

German

character

with Romance

His tone was definitely more cultivated than that of

This was of course written ten years before Bart6k's solo Sonata (1943)-

G.F.-G


CARL FLESCH

German violinists of the time, for which reason, if for no

the

other,

he occupied an exceptional place among them. He made his Paris debut as a soloist as late as 1893, aged fifty, when he played the Beethoven Concerto with Lamoureux (whose orchestra I had

and created an enormous sensation especially among musicians because of his style, which at that time was quite

left

by

then)

unusual for Paris. This novel quality consisted in his German attitude, his faithfulness to the work, whereas in the Romance

was still customary to place one's personal means of in the foreground in the most brilliant fashion possible. expression Shortly afterwards, in the same concerts, I heard him play the

countries

it

Brahms Concerto, which was almost unknown

in Paris, without

colleagues. Later I twice being able to share the enthusiasm of had the opportunity to hear him, but this was when he was sixtyto two and sixty-eight respectively, so that it is not possible for

my

me

But give a definite opinion on not his did distinctive case any possess playing quality. any his original capacity as a violinist.

in

Fundamentally he was a German violinist who sought to shape his playing rather deliberately on Romance belonged to the respectable medium class.

lines.

As a teacher he

He taught on

the basis

of sound principles, but without that intuitive talent which alone makes it possible to bring the pupil to the highest stage he can attain.

His achievements

as

sixty

were primarily based on did not seem given to him to pass by word of mouth. At the age of

a performer

a strong natural talent, while his knowledge on to others

it

he had the misfortune to be involved in an 'immoral'

with a

affair

young woman student, in all probability quite innocently,

which forced him to leave Frankfurt/Main, where he had lived and worked for almost forty years. Homeless, he attempted in vain to gain a foothold in Chicago, Geneva and Berlin, and landed finally as an old man of seventy in Montreux, and later at*

Meran, where he spent his last years. He was a lovable exponent of a cultivated style of violin playing, but without strong individual character.

Among

the violinists resident in Paris

who made

a

stronger

impression on me, apart from Marsick, were Rivarde, Hayot and Remy. The case of Achille Rivarde [1865-1940] was one of the

84


PARIS [1890-1896]

most remarkable violinists' careers of our time. He was a pupil of Massart, hung around Paris until lie was thirty, then went as a professor to the Royal College of Music in London. I first heard him with the Lamoureux Orchestra in May 1892, where he sat at the second desk. At one concert he played Svendsen's Romance and

from the Raff Suite in a manner which aroused my profoundest enthusiasm. At that time his tone combined the euphony and polish of Sarasate with Ysaye's warmth and directthe Minuet

ness,

while his technical equipment

left

nothing to be desired.

We

youngsters considered him the greatest talent among us and were convinced that before long he would be in the first international ranks. Some years later, then, I did not hesitate to recommend

him most warmly brother of the concerts for

Vienna impresario, Alexander Rose, a In consequence, Rose arranged several in Vienna, which ended in fiasco. But Rivarde to the

violinist.

him

continued to play the part of neglected genius. In 1910, Kreisler,

whose intimate friend he had become, had a similar experience with him as I had had fourteen years earlier. Incidentally, Kreisler had a grotesque fear of Rivarde's judgment and, amusingly enough, actually allowed him to tyrannize over him. As a supreme expert on the instrument, Rivarde was a pitiless, hard and rude critic. He attended every concert Kreisler gave in London and afterwards regularly went to the artist's room as a personified supreme court, with Kreisler humbly awaiting hisj udgment. 'Well, it, Achilla ?' he once asked timidly, whereupon Rivarde replied in front of everybody: 'Tonight you played like a pig/

how was

by the circumno one on the Continent knew, should go unemployed in London while he himself was well on the way to being recognized by the whole musical world as Ysaye's successor. So the good-natured Fritz began a campaign on behalf of his neglected friend, and in fact Apparently Kreisler

felt his

conscience troubled

stance that so distinguished a colleague,

whom

succeeded in obtaining half a dozen important orchestral engagements for him and in getting the Wolff concert agency to under-

But as Kreisler was not of these concerts, he asked me as going look after their mutual friend to Rivarde, who did not know a take the cost of

two

recitals in Berlin.

to be in Berlin at the time

35


CARL FLESCH

word of German. Thus I found the opportunity to spend many hours during one week in Rivarde's company and to study him had been arranged through Kreisler's closely. The concerts which were again a complete wash-out. It was obvious that Rivarde's playing was as fascinating in private as it was disappointing on the concert platform. In such cases, where the fault cannot influence

be attributed to any technical feature, the key to the enigma is usually to be found in the personal sphere. Three things are necessary for a superb artistic performance: first of all an overwhelming inner impulse, in the form of strong feeling and an equally inten-

need for expression; secondly, mastery of the technical resources necessary for expressing one's emotional experience; and thirdly, a frictionless cogwheel-like interplay of these two cosive

ordinated factors, with the result that the will is automatically translated into the deed, the conception into the desired sound.

Now Rivarde was by nature hard and cold;

also

he had with a

embittered

at the grown misanthropic, world's neglect of him. Thus he simply had no proper use for his brilliant technical resources. He lacked the spur to give expression in sound to a strong inner experience. He committed the mistake, moreover, of always seeking the cause of his apparently inexpli-

certain justification

cable failures in the purely technical sphere. He developed into a 'fusspot', who finds something new every day, only to discard it

moving further and further away from the from pure music-making, to end as an incorrigible crank. Nor, despite many an original idea, did he succeed as a teacher in leading his pupils through the thicket of technical training, which is vitally necessary yet inartistic, to pure art. Especially towards the end of his career he exaggerated the cultivation of mechanical exercising beyond all bounds and neglected the ultimate purpose, the cultivation of a repertoire. I myself, however, owe him a great deal, for he showed me the the day after, thus

final goal,

way

to correct faulty vibrati

by suitable gymnastic exercises, a have acknowledged in the first volume of The Art of Violin Playing. 1 So Rivarde's unsuccessful career did at least have

fact

which

I

the favourable effect of stimulating others, a poor consolation for 2 p. 37 of the English edition.

86


PARIS [1890-1896] that curious personality, in which a wealth of ideas, an original talent and the most precious resources were held in check an

by

unfortunate character: a tragic

fate.

Maurice Hayot's [b. 1862] career had a certain resemblance to Rivarde's in that he, too, was denied a great career, though for I regard Hayot as the supreme representative of the of violin playing at the turn of the century. tradition French noble

other reasons.

For I

me he represented in fact the finest type of Romance violinist. first time in May 1894, performing Schu-

heard him for the

D

minor Sonata, and at once realized his importance. At was still playing second fiddle in Marsick's quartet. the name 'Quatuor de Paris', he founded his own under Later, quartet, with Touche, Denayer and Salmon; I heard them frequently in Holland between 1903 and 1905. Hayot was a violinist mann's

that time he

who knew how

to achieve the very strongest impressions

by

deliberately primitive means. Thus, he would preferably play in the first position; disdaining to impress his listeners with compli-

cated choices and changes of position or portamentos, he achieved his effect solely through the purity and nobility of his feeling and

by means of simple but eloquent

technical resources.

I shall

never

of the Mozart Quartets. Despite these did not succeed in shaping his art and he extraordinary qualities, his life into a unity. He was the Bohemian par excellence, raising to the status of law, devoted to the eternal irregularity of conduct feminine in all its forms, a reflection of Baron Hulot from Balzac's forget his interpretations

Cousine Bette. It is obvious that upon this stony ground there could not develop the kind of regular study habits demanded by the career of a great interpreter. In fact, Hayot only very seldom per-

None

formed

as a soloist.

closely,

he remained one of the strongest

the

less,

to

all

who knew him more talents

of the French

violin school in the nineteenth century. There were three Belgian violinists of smaller stature,

gained rights

of

citizenship in Paris.

cultivated, pleasing style

who had

Remy, an exponent of

of the more intimate

a

variety, the most

good Important among them; Armand Parent, teacher without outstanding qualities; and Joseph Debroux, known as an editor of old French violin music. a

87

violinist

and


CARL FLESCH

The average standard of Paris violinists in those days, however, was not particularly high. There was, for example, the mulatto, White, owner of the last violin Stradivarius made, the 'Chant du exotic quality; Edouard a Cygne', whose playing had somewhat Nadaud, the leader of the Conservatoire orchestra who, safety his successor Alphonse first, was never entrusted with solo work; and finally the French of a violinist; Brun, typical 'bourgeois' type Paul Viardot, son of the famous Pauline, and Marcel salon players

Herwegh, son of the German revolutionary of 1848 all average players of no great artistic importance. Apart from Kreisler, the future exponents of the French school were still at their school desks: Boucherit, Sophie Jaffe, Marteau, Capet, Thibaud, Enesco and myself. a first prize in the Concours of Jules Boucherit [b. 1878] won 1892, together with four other violinists, Jaffe and Marteau among them. He was only fifteen years old, and was regarded as one of France's hopes.

He

did not

fulfil

these great expectations, pri-

marily because his uncertain health was not equal to the strains of concert life: because of a weak lung he often had to lay aside his

comparatively young age, he devoted himself exclusively to teaching; and in this capacity he came to occupy the first place in the Paris Conservatoire. His playing was as delicate violin.

Thus,

at a

as his constitution,

tone and technique,

of a somewhat feminine grace, cultivated in full of charm and the lightness of the French:

altogether a very attractive figure.

Henri Marteau [1874-1934], remarkable both for his individua German-French mixture. His ality and for his development, was

mother was

woman, his father French. Marteau spent all backward and forward between these two nations both as an artist and as a man, without ever really knowing where he belonged. He was originally an infant prodigy; I remem-' ber hearing him pky Bruch's G minor Concerto at Vienna under Hans Richter as early as 1887. At that time he was only twelve years old but already was playing with some perfection. Mainly a pupil of Leonard, in 1891 he entered Garcin's class at the Paris Conservatoire, with the open intention of winning the first prize as quickly as possible; which he did after a year. In those days he a Berlin

his life vacillating


PARIS [1890-1896]

was a

red-cheeked youngster, full of vitality, always and friendly good-humoured. He had grown up in favourable material conditions and could afford to dawdle through the world enjoying himself, and meanwhile to perfect his powers as an artist. He began to give very successful concerts in America and Scandinavia. In 1900, at the age of twenty-six, he visited Bucharest, and remained there some weeks. Here I had the opportunity to get to know him better both as a man and as a violinist. A few years kter he married a German and settled in Geneva as teacher at the Confresh,

servatoire. His concert activities grew more and more intensive, and he gave himself with great devotion to the advocacy of Reger, Moor and, rather indiscriminately, of other less important composers. In 1909 he succeeded Wirth at the Berlin Hochschule and married again. At the outbreak of the First World War he played a somewhat equivocal role, which was taken very badly by his French compatriots. Instead of reporting to his regiment, as a French captain on the reserves, during the last days of July, he remained quietly in his country house at and on

August 4 allowed himself to be ties, as a French officer. He was

arrested

by

Lichtenberg the German authori-

set free on parole and allowed to continue teaching at the Hochschule. From then on his compatriots considered him a deserter. But meanwhile his German

colleagues in their turn protested against his remaining in a German teaching post. He received permission to continue teach-

ing at home, and had to give his

soon broke

his

word not to leave Berlin; but he

and was

interned. Set free again after a promise brief period, he returned to Berlin and lived there unmolested, until his wife involved him in an were both espionage case.

They

imprisoned and convicted, and were in a highly dangerous situation. With the armistice, however, came the automatic release of all imprisoned enemy aliens. He left Germany, took Swedish nationality,

later

held various subordinate teaching posts in made a precarious living as a teacher

Leipzig and Dresden, and

relatively minor executant. He died in 1934 at Lichtenfels. In order to judge Marteau one needed to hear him between his twenty-fifth and thirty-fifth years, since he had reached his highest

and

powers by the time he was

thirty.

89

From about

1908, the year

of


CARL FLESCH second marriage, he suffered an uninterrupted decline. At the turn of the century, however, he was quite rightly regarded as one of the finest violinists of his time. Supported by an instrument

his

extraordinary in tinguished

of these

by its

kind

one readily accepted a somewhat slow and slack bowing technique had been polished in Leonard's

qualities

vibrato. His strict

Leonard's Maggini his tone was dispurity, fullness, timbre and modulation. In view its

school; although somewhat heavy, it was physiologically and a completely serviceable medium for his kind of feel-

correct

little

was

extraordinarily wide, sometimes even a too eclectic, but preferable, in any case, to that of those many

ing. His repertoire

colleagues who wander through the concert halls of the old and new worlds with a half-dozen well-proved 'hits'. He was rightly

regarded as an exemplary interpreter of Mozart, and I remember from those times with vivid enjoyment his versions of this master's Violin Concertos, distinguished as they were by simple, noble and pure feeling. His imaginative performances of smaller

genre pieces such

remained in

my

as

Dvorak's Romantic

memory,

Pieces1

have likewise

or of such conventional works as the

Concerto of Theodore Dubois, Ambroise Thomas's successor in the direction of the Paris Conservatoire. A few years later I heard

him again in Berlin and Amsterdam, when he failed

to arouse

me

my previous enthusiasm. In 1908 he gave the first performance of Reger's Violin Concerto. The last time I heard him was in 1910, to

a Saint-Saens' B minor Concerto disappointing that his decline was so After that I preferred interpretation. rapid not to hear him again. None the less I in no wise share the con-

when he played

temptuous judgment that has been pretty generally passed on him 2 during the past twenty years. The dispassionate estimate of a great artistic career has to take account of all the phases through

which it passes. Whoever heard Joachim after 1890, or Ysaye after 1910, cannot give these two giants their full due. In my memory the young Marteau certainly lives as one of the most distinguished violinists of his time. Incidentally, he worked quite intensively as a composer, and a considerable number of works of all produced *0p. 75, 1887.

Written

in the 'thirties.

90


PARIS [1890-1896] kinds, which, however, have given rise to a great variety opinions as to their purely musical value.

My

personal relations with

him

suffered

many

of

vicissitudes.

thought a great deal of him, found his personality most appealing and looked up to him in admiration. But as time with his passed our roles were exchanged, my rise Originally

I

coinciding

In 1908

decline.

we

both

moved

to Berlin; already he had been transferring all the difficult cases among his pupils to me. It became in fact fashionable to study with me, while on the concert

had

passed from protege to rival. Spurred on by he seized on an insignificant pretext in order to break off relations with me. I was sincerely upset, for I still had a weakness for this charmer which had lasted since our student even

platform, too,

I

his wife,

days,

had not proved spotless. Originally of a decent disposition, he succumbed all too easily to insinuations and did not hesitate to trim his sails to the wind: hence, ultimately, his decline. He was much too influenced not abnormally early easily to be restricted in his artistic development. Andreas Moser though

his character

attempted to persuade him to change his bowing technique, and him. The

also subtly to influence his interpretations, to Germanize charming and healthily sensual Frenchman, full

ofjoie de vivre,

was

to transform himself into a stern

and conscientious German 'classic'. But when the Romance artist tries to be classical he usually becomes a bore. Marteau was thrown out of his natural course, disorientated; he had aided and abetted a falsification of his own personality. What, around 1900, had been the characteristic and partly most attractive elements of his style, had largely vanished ten years later. Marteau had never grown alive to the fact that Moser's friendly influence amounted to an attempt on his spiritual

independence.

At the same time, he was by no means lacking in practical sense.

On the contrary,

he was very industrious,

a fluent correspondent,

who did not allow his relations with all the world to grow torpid. One day an American impresario had the idea of having a chamteam perform in the States which consisted of Ysaye, Marteau as viola player, and a pianist. Asked by some Gerardy, how the artists spent their time between one inquisitive person ber music


CARL FLESCH concert and another in those boring American provincial cities, Ysaye replied, 'C'est tres simple: quand nous arrivons dans une ville,

moi je

Marteau

vais boire

de

la biere,

Gerardy va voir

femmes,

les

et

very simple; when we arrive in a Gerardy goes to look at the women, and

ecrit des lettres/ (It's

town I go and drink beer, Marteau writes letters.)

Hans Bassermann and Florizel von no success worth mentioning as a teacher. In this capacity he was untalented and negligent, unable to combine technical instruction with musical and psychological influence. His teaching largely confined itself to playing to and with the pupil. Almost without exception, his students got stuck at the stage of average mediocrity. If, in spite of everything, I cannot help thinking of him with nostalgia, it is above all because the beginning of my rise as an artist dates from our Bucharest days: his stimulating influence during what was for me an Apart from

his pupils

Reuter, Marteau achieved

extremely

critical

period contributed considerably to

my

further

development. In the

Lamoureux Orchestra

I

came

know

to

Lucien Capet

who was

a pupil of Maurin at the Conservatoire. [1873-1928], the a namesake of Louis XVI, Capet came fact that he was Despite

from the

the time he

was

he had to There he got to know a working class girl eight years older than he, and they set up house together. This was when he was twenty years old, and he had to look after the entire family of his girl friend, who to help out with their living expenses also took boarders for the midday meal. Once as we were going home after a rehearsal he invited me Paris proletariat.

By

maintain himself by playing in bistros and

fifteen

cafes.

to try the good plain food in his 'family', and for six months I was Capet's lodger. His 'family' included a number of attractive little milliners, with whom we generally played the fool. We did not know what to do for high spirits. Among other things we

decided that

on three

successive days we would eat horse, ass which of these foods of evil reputation

mule flesh, to

establish

the best. Later

on our friendship underwent a

beat felt

severe

trial,

and was

when he

me in my second competitive examination. But I must have

genuinely drawn to him, for our relations continued as before,

92


PARIS [1890-1896] After

some years he parted from his lady friend; he married twice

subsequently.

He

spent his career in Paris where,

all

too early, he

died.

From the outset, Capet loved quartet playing. The 'Societe des derniers quatuors de Beethoven', which was founded in the 1850*5 by Capet's teacher, Maurin, was later taken over by the FrancoItalian Geloso,

then,

he rose

with Capet

as it

as

second violin. As a quartet player,

were from the

playing second violin with

him

at

ranks.

I

also

remember

often

musical parties. After a few

years he founded his own ensemble which bore his name, and whose members often changed over the years. Unfortunately I only once had the opportunity to hear the quartet in public, which overall impression was thoroughly was at Berlin in 1912. favourable: exact co-ordination, serious interpretation, cultivated

My

However, it seemed to me that the artistic did not afford a homogeneous picture. It of the leader personality fluctuated between touches of 'classical' dryness and an occasional emergence of a somewhat effeminate sweetness. But I admired without reserve the subtlety and tidiness in the solution of bowing problems. In his many extended rehearsals, Capet was of the most was Beethoven, painstaking, inexorable exactitude. His speciality whose quartets he played in complete series, especially in France and Holland. There are some outstanding records of these performances, so that posterity is in a position to gain a true picture of his individuality. As a soloist he did not succeed in making his way. He had to yield to the younger and more individual technical resources.

Thibaud, and soon preferred to devote himself exclusively to his beloved quartet playing. Nor was he a successful teacher. Though he gave many years to this task he did not produce any outstandThe reasons for this failure were of a technical nature. ing pupils.

teacher Maurin the principle of Capet had taken over from his the 'ring' in holding the bow, i.e. a ring-shaped lock of the thumb and middle finger creating a firm axis around which pronation were to develop in a natural manner: a seductive and

supination from the results achieved, theory which, however, judging his work on bowing technique1 In use. no of to be practical appears

La

l

Technique superieure de ratchet, Paris, 1916.

93


CARL FLESCH Capet has described and defended

it

in great detail. This treatise

should really be called 'The Art of Dividing the Bow', since it mainly occupies itself with the even distribution of the notes to be neglects the uneven distribuconsiderations. His editions of

played in a single stroke, though tion necessitated

by dynamic

it

are so pedantically overloaded with complicated is impossible to see the wood for trees. For this

works

classical

marks that

it

reason they are seldom used even in France. Like Klingler, Capet was hypnotically influenced by the old Joachim: as a thirty-year-

old man, he played the wise and dignified patriarch, wore square boots, polished his spectacles ceremoniously and stuck his beard into his vest opening before he began to play. His dry style was deliberate the Romance conception of German classicism. Only

now

and then did he allow his true French nature to break through. If we want to understand the complicated organism that was Capet's mind we must not forget his bent towards derided as a pose, but which others Thibaud has told that once when conviction. genuine respected he visited Capet in the artist's room before a performance of the mysticism, which

many

as

Beethoven Concerto, Capet raised his arms with a defensive gesture and exclaimed: *Ne me derange pas, je suis en communication avec Beethoven !' (Don't disturb me, I am in communicaPretentious though it sounds, I personally !)

tion with Beethoven

cannot find

this

kind of claim so funny

as it

seemed to most

can well understand how Capet felt Thibaud's facetiouspeople out of tune with that concentration of inner experience to be ness :

that

I

must be part and parcel of a public appearance. But what Capet's mysticism, or whatever else one may call it, un-

made

bearable to

me was his endeavour to

as a half-educated proletarian

convert it into literary form; he brewed together a heady bombast

of cliches which could not but appear ludicrous to anyone who loved the clarity of the French language. When all is said, however, Capet still remains one of the most outstanding French violinists

of his time; more particularly, he can claim lasting credit of quartet playing in his native country.

for his popularization

Enesco and Thibaud will be considered exhaustively later in book.

this

94


PARIS [1890-1896] Foreigners had the right to take part in the contests only after two years* study at the Conservatoire. Thus in 1892 I had got so far as to

be able to participate in

Four weeks played was

this

time-honoured

institution.

in a teachers' conference, the piece to be decided upon, which this time was the first solo of earlier,

Vieuxtemps's Fifth Concerto an unfavourable choice for me, it included two long staccato passages, which type of bowing was still my weakest point. The teachers and their pupils hurled since

on the test piece. The teachers provided it with what appeared to them most advantageous fingerings and bowings, and the pupils began an intensive study of all the difficulthemselves zealously

ties involved. The work was played with a string quintet reduction of the accompaniment, and each ckss had its own ensemble, consisting usually of earlier premiers prix. The first violinist had not

only to lead the quintet, regulate the tempi and adapt himself to any vacillations on the part of the soloist, but also occupied a special position of trust. Upon completing the set piece, each candidate had to submit to a test of his sight-reading abilities. *

Now, in order to prevent any wangling', one of the jury members who was also a composer would write a piece of his own for the purpose, which was presented to the assembled jury fifteen minutes before the beginning of the competition. It was traditionally provided

with an accompaniment for a second

violin,

&nd teemed with harmonic and rhythmic traps which made all the greater demands on the presence of mind and composure of the candidate, since the reading test took place in public. The leader of each quintet had to undertake the second-violin accompaniment for his protege, and was previously given the opportunity to look through the piece and even, if necessary, to play through it. Thus

he was able to whisper a few words of advice to the candidate in the brief interval between the two pieces, under the acoustic cover of the more or less vigorous applause: 'Look out! Line four, bar two change of time; line six, bar four minor instead of major/

Up

to a point, this mild fraud was even desired; only, the delinneeded to collect his five senses sufficiently to be able to

|uent jollow the hints which was not always the case. For half an hour Defore the competition began some thirty to forty students,

95


CARL FLESCH separated according to sex, had been interned in two large rooms where, according to the number each had drawn, they had to spend up to eight hours in suspense and anxiety. Behind a screen in a corner everything necessary was provided for those whose anxiety affected their internal organs. The entire horde practised like mad. Everyone attempted to improve the weaker aspects of his

performance

at the last

nerves to keep a clear head.

moment, and you needed strong

Add to all this a summer temperature

which, spiced by odours of all kinds, rose up to over 90?., and one has to ask oneself whether it is necessary to subject young people to a torture which must smother any higher artistic disposition in them, just in order to ensure the anonymity of the test piece for sight-reading.

Again, did the, say, forty competitors really offer so

of interpretation? Not

ferent kinds

simply four,

many

dif-

There always were corresponding to the number of classes; for each at all!

student had to represent, or rather imitate, his teacher's interpretation

on pain of exclusion. There were, however, some

particularly cunning characters who duly danced to the professor's pipe, but revealed their personal style at the contest. I myself had

drawn

whence

was placed immediately before the two stars Jaffe and Marteau. None the less I was unanimously awarded the first of the premier accessits (honourable mentions), a success with which in the circumstances I could be a

bad number,

thirteen,

I

quite satisfied.

Without particular trouble, I had climbed the first step of the ladder which led to the coveted highest distinction, the premier

now face my parents, if not as a conqueror, at least as who was entitled to strive for the highest.

prix. I could a growing artist

At the beginning of my third year at the Conservatoire, Sauzay* was at last pensioned off. Marsick took his place, and so I had the opportunity to have regular instruction from him six times a month, whereas hitherto he had taught me only sporadically. From this time dates my uninterrupted development and maturation. A kind of artistic community arose between us, whicb through both his playing and his comments grew steadily closer, I began to think and to feel independently the pupil was gradually 1

;

96


PARIS [1890-1896]

becoming an

My technical skill rested on sure foundations;

artist.

while the outlines of my individuality emerged more sharply. In the sphere of chamber music with piano I also began to feel at

home,

my premier accessit obliged me to attend the chamber

since

came to know all the pianists and string had received an award in the competition. players Its leader, Benjamin Godard [1849-95] is today almost completely forgotten. Occasionally one hears in some cafe or other the Berceuse from his opera Jocelyn, and is astonished at the freshness and inspiration of this attractive melody. Godard was originally a precocious 'prodigy composer* who in his childhood was regarded music

where

class,

who

like

I

me

coming French Mozart. His themes testify to a singular lightness of invention whose working-out in his development sections, however, is not of the best. He himself used to describe lis composing method in the following lapidary sentence: 1 take i theme and make a sauce around it/ In this respect he was a

as

the

ipiritual

whom, in fact, he greatly among the iron necessities in

descendant of Joachim Raff

esteemed and whose sonatas were

)ur class. Godard's Piano Trio in particular is a characteristic of his individual talent. His was a one-sided melodic gift

sample

>f the highest order,

which only lacked the technical equipment of

Jaint-Saens to bring his nation the greatest credit. As a person, he vas unusually gentle and soft-spoken, amiable, sickly looking. He lied quite young, of tuberculosis.

An important factor for my artistic development was the tir;umstance that I now had an opportunity of familiarizing myself vith Beethoven's,

Schumann's and Saint-Saens* chamber music

We

vith piano as well as with several pretty colleagues. lirted, in so far as their mothers, the teachers and the spirit of the

allowed us to do so, that is, most innocently and romanticto make this classroom Uy, but nevertheless with sufficient gusto us for he most popular place of rendezvous youngsters.

Lines

It

was

ears to

I came to know the young 'cellist Louis whose family was to mean a great deal to me in the

there that

lasselmanns,

come.

flattering

It

included grandpapa Hasselmanns, a former con-

whom

Richard Wagner's autobiography refers in terms in connection with a performance of Tannhauser

ruuctor to

97


CARL FLESCH at Strasbourg at the beginning of the 'sixties. This old gentleman has remained fixed in my memory chiefly because he maintained

he owed

his great age only to the habit of eating an apple before every night retiring. The next generation was represented by the father Hassehnanns, the most famous harpist of his time;

that

he was a handsome giant, whose success with the fair sex in Paris was proverbial. He had been a member of Bilse's orchestra in Berlin at the same time as Thomson and Ysaye. His wife came

from Russia; she was intellectually rather than physically attractive and strikingly short, so that together they made the strangest couple in the world. Two children were born of this marriage: Marguerite, and Louis, who was a pupil of the 'cellist Delsart and

won

the

first

prize at the early age of sixteen, without,

achieving anything extraordinary.

He

however,

married early and against

changed over to conducting, first at the Paris Opera Comique, and then at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, where he was in charge of the French repertoire. Mar-

his father's will, later

guerite, in every respect

more outstanding than her

brother,

and tie piano equally well, and moreover sang I first saw her in Godard's class I When delightfully. immediately under fell the spell of her personality, an impression which friendly intercourse soon came to intensify. played the harp

The Hassehnanns devoted every Monday night after supper to music. Classical string quartets and chamber music with piano were played in more or less polished renderings. Marguerite and I which then was unhackneyed which we put what we did not venture

revelled in the Cesar Franck Sonata,

and

captivating, and into to say to each other. Today's youth will find it hard to understand that although we were deeply devoted to each other, no word

ever disturbed the innocence of our relations. tions

were like an

amitie amoureuse wherein,

Our mutual

rela-

however, the element

of friendship strongly predominated. Marguerite was no doubt still suffering from the effects of an unhappy love affair which had been frustrated by family considerations. An excellent 'cellist oi origin, named Louis Abbiate, who had been Louis's teacher, had developed a deep affection for her, which she returned Italian

But the parents had

refused their consent to this union

98

on

the


PARIS [1890-1896]

ground that two 'cellists in one family would put good relations between its members to an all too severe test. Hence, her mother did not altogether resent my own feelings for her child and encouraged our association in every possible way. However, our mutual attraction was not strong enough to result in union. My feelings for Marguerite were chiefly of a spiritual nature; when

on I realized that a change of environment was necessary for my further artistic development, they did not prompt me to remain permanendy in Paris. A few years after I heard that Martalk of Paris for some time, because she guerite had become the had married a well-known violinist named Tracol, had left him later

on the wedding

night,

and returned

to her father's house.

affection for Gabriel Faure,

presently developed a profound was at least thirty years older than she, and to

She

who

whom, though not

wedded, she was to be a true and self-sacrificing companion until his death. Apart from a few youthful flirtations, felt spiritual Marguerite was the first woman for whom I

legally

sympathy.

du Conservatoire, in Opposite the school was the Cremerie found exponents one which one could take regular meals. Here of all the instruments that were taught at the Conservatoire, as officials and even charlatans with well as writers, painters, petty

modest pretensions. After the meal, the patriarchal proprietress, Madame Lechat, took part in a quiet hand of cards, with coffee as the stakes, while some of us flirted with her daughter, who sat at the cash desk. In length and breadth just like a modern dining-car, the Cremerie was the cosiest haunt I have ever come across. Excessive vitality and youthful high spirits were the spice that made the indifferent food palatable. There were only regular to drop in, we did any time a stranger happened that he did not come again. It was ensure to everything necessary like Ravel, Cortot and here, incidentally, that coming celebrities Bohemian in Paris, while I myself found Thibaud won their guests.

If at

spurs true friends in the Schiedenhelm brothers from Besanson, proLadies too, usually ficient players on the 'cello and the piano. our circle, and I remember singing students, occasionally joined

how

I

once estranged one such dainty nightingale from another

C.F.-H

99


CARL FLESCH in justified displeasure, proceeded to write me an insulting postcard. I demanded satisfaction in the form of a bout of fisticuffs, to take place the following evening. I felt a little

guest

who,

'shaky at the knees' as

I

bravely opened the door of the Cremerie

at the appointed hour, to

was repaid ferred to hook it.

But I

I

for

measure

my strength against my rival's. my courage, since my opponent had pre-

subsequently realized, however, my general physical conmuch to be desired. I decided to take up fencing, and

dition left

for a

month

conscientiously attended a fencing class; but I soon

could detect a stiffening in my right wrist, which thought me to renounce this noble sport. caused I threw eventually in into the French which consists of a boxing myself style, Savate, I

Now

combination of hand and foot

activity, a

rough sport, and a

fearful

weapon of attack and defence. Here I held out for three months, made good progress and felt that I could deal with any man who

me at night. Eventually, however, my wrist me to give up this form of sport, and swimming, again compelled attempted to waylay

mountaineering and cycling have been the only physical exercises to which I have remained faithful.

About Opposite

that time I also

my

hotel

was a

happened to visit a gambling den. where I sometimes had my

small cafe

lunch. Here a dubious cosmopolitan gambling crowd held its sessions. I was introduced to the mysteries of Poker and soon

succumbed to

passion. I remember once playing for twelve hours without a break. This craze lasted almost continuously for

a year. until

I

this

spent every fiee night in the stifling cafe atmosphere, o'clock in the morning. For

we were put outside at two

my

circumstances the play was for far too high stakes; but in the end I came out of it cheaply. One day my fever passed as quickly as it" had come, and ever since I have been immune from this vice.

Roulette and Baccarat bore me, and only games involving calcuor can hold me. Skat, Bridge

lation, such as

Eight weeks before the competitive examination I

moved

to

had to prepare as thoroughly as possible for the forthcoming trial of my strength a difficult task in Paris itself. My prospects were all the better because I had had a Stradivarius Asnieres, for I

100

.

*


PARIS [1890-1896]

of the

my

last

service

known by the name of 'Le Sicilian', placed at Fernand by Halphen, a pupil of Marsick. The test piece

period,

was the first

solo

from

Viotti's

Twenty-ninth Concerto;

lent itself to the display of technical ingredients remained

my

it

hardly

qualities as a violinist, since its

on an eighteenth-century level, and afforded no opportunity whatever for the solution of musical or technical problems of a more complex nature. My chief rival was Lucien Capet, who had already spent five years at the Institute and was regarded as the favourite. It is true that I myself was only competing for the second time, but under Marsick' s direction I had developed surprisingly, so that according to public opinion the first prize would inevitably be shared be-

tween us. I had in At the contest

parents of this prospect, in brilliant form, but received

fact assured I

was

my

only

the second prize, while the undivided first went to Capet. The audience's view was that I was at least Capet's equal, but, as I learned afterwards, the jury wanted to award a

unanimously

special distinction to the Frenchman, who already enjoyed a certain esteem in the musical world, while they deliberately relethe to the second with the justification that gated foreigner place, 'he can wait another year'. I was dumbfounded, and for the half-

hour

that followed the decision

as the greatest

misfortune of

I

regarded

my

that the jury's unjust decision

had

on

since

my artistic development,

my comparative defeat

so happened, however, an extremely beneficial influence life. It

I thus remained another whole year with Marsick, quietly perfecting my execution. Later on, this experience showed me that in no circumstances are we able to

form an objective judgment on the eventual significance for our life of an event which has just occurred. Next morning, I had already calmed down sufficiently to consider

my rank as second best out of thirty-five contestants not

so very disgraceful after all. The prospect of presenting myself to parents as a defeated candidate, however; was intolerable, and I

my

played with the idea of not going home

at all

during the

summer

But I lacked the means to spend all this time in France. In this dilemma I decided to ask my friend and rival Capet for advice. "Nothing simpler,' he commented. 'I have just received an

vacation.

101


CARL FLESCH Limoges. But you can imagine, newly-crowned prize-winner with naive self-assurance, in my present position it is impossible for me to continue

offer to play in the best cafe in

said the 'that

you can have the job any time/ Conditions?' 'Nine francs a day. The concert is from eight to twelve every night. Matinees on Sundays and bank holidays.

along these

lines. If

you

like,

*

Three refreshments per degrading for

me

night.' 'Yes, but don't you think it rather to pursue such an occupation?' 'What of it?

anyone. Besides, it only lasts two months.' I did not take long to think it over and signed the contract put before me. Since my parents would have been heartbroken if they had

you needn't

tell

known

their son

period,

I

told

was going to play them some story about

summer orchestra. For

the

rest, I

in a cafe,

even for a short

a post as a leader in a large

must say

I

found

it

very interest-

ing to learn something different.

The institution of cafe music seems evolution

to be

of specifically French

awaits a historian. In any case the expresorigin. sion 'Paris arrangement' 1 to indicate the reduction of the normal Its

still

few instruments justifies the conclusion that was the home of this musical practice. And unlike other France orchestral scoring to a

nations, the French

though they do

have never regarded this

not,

activity as degrading, a particularly dignified many others have laid the

of course, consider

it

occupation either. Capet, Thibaud and foundations of their solo careers in cafes; nor was this profession entirely unknown to me. As I was one of the few students at the Conservatoire

who had

free evenings I

had often deputized for

colleagues in cafes, variety shows, or operettas, though I was not particularly popular with theatre conductors, because instead of

keeping my eyes on the baton I used to stare at the stage, if the piece or one of the performers aroused my special interest. Even in those days there were outstanding soloists to be heard in some of the cafes. The stimulating influence of music on the consumption of food and drink has long been recognized all over the world, and one often finds, especially in Paris and the big American cities, cafe violinists who could win applause from the most exacting listeners in a concert halL Warner Besetzung,

lit.

Paris instrumentation or scoring.

102


PARIS [1890-1896]

became an industrial or utility musician, and adjusted my whole existence to the job. The 'ensemble* consisted of a Belgian pianist, an elderly second violinist, and a 'cellist who was also active as a traveller in hospital furniture. My efforts were and right from the moderate, extremely partners' For two months, then,

outset

I

I

occupied a special position

consisted of diverse pieces waltzes, as well as solos

of principle,

I

among them. Our programme

overtures, operatic fantasies, popular Since, as a matter

from my own repertoire.

did not look through the piece beforehand, but

played everything by sight, I had to be an efficient sight-reader with a touch of bravado if I did not want to be caught in the traps of unexpected cadenzas or arbitrary passage work. It was here that I acquired a remarkable

sight-reading facility that later astonished many composers. Although there could be no thought of regular studies, this period did not result in any damage to

my

technique; on the contrary, I not only refined, quite inevitably, my power of co-ordination (i.e. the ability to transform visual

impressions as quickly as possible into the corresponding physical movements), but actually further improved my tone production.

For owing to technical superiority, listeners soon concentrated their interest entirely on me, and I was forced to take as At no time much care over playing as over proper solo work.

my

my

allow myself the luxury of taking things comfortably, as one does in the orchestra. So my new activity involved no danger

could to

I

my artistic

development

as distinct

from

my moral balance:

now

experienced the demoralizing influence of a disliked not get up till about midday; immediately after activity. I did of cards in the ca&, then in fine a lunch I I

began quiet game weather went for a swim in the river, spent the time until the o'clock I evening in all kinds of dissipations, until towards eight

went

to

my place of work, where the public was already waiting

me in expectation of the coming musical enjoyment. In France there really are still people who visit this kind of place chiefly on

for

account of the music, but at the same time drink their coffee, read the papers, talk with their friends and even play a noisy game of cards. Our musical offerings were ended towards midnight, but as a rule I did not get to bed before three or four in the morning. .103


CARL FLESCH attitude to-

Nowadays, after many years, I take quite a different wards this kind of musical practice. Then, there was for me only a that of concert performer. Even possible occupation single

no more than a milch cow, which was teaching I still regarded as to provide me with the material means which would allow me later to devote myself exclusively to concert activity. Today I that the occupation of a cafe or restaurant musician of free choice but of bitter necessity. frequently not a matter

know

is

How

had the opportunity to help and advise above all to console them respect, and often

I

my pupils in this

!

returned to Paris at the beginning of October. I became a the Cremerie, and so had a reason to avoid regular guest of friend Deutsch's family evenings. The loss of income I had incurred by resigning from the Lamoureux Orchestra I made up by my intensified teaching activity. Also, prompted by Hasselseveral trio recitals with Louis and a pianist, mann's mother, I I

my

gave

which we disposed of tickets among our acquaintances. Simulto build I taneously, under Marsick's stimulating direction, began

for

virtuoso pieces still up a serious repertoire wherein, however, for the time being. predominated The Hasselmanns' home was still among my favourite social I got to know a young and amusing engagements. There, too, the name of Meyer, with whom I soon became painter

by

friends.

He

proposed that

following year and

set

I

should rent part of his studio

up house with him.

I

made

my

flat

the

decision

dependent on the result of the Conservatoire competition. third contest drew nearer. Gradually the great moment of this The piece chosen was the first solo from Kreutzer's Nineteenth Concerto, a work which was just as unfavourable to my specific talent as the previous year's set piece: for the technical standard of*

the work, written at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was that of, say, the curriculum of the preparatory classes at the Vienna

Conservatoire. If we

remember

that

by

that time the Concertos

of Bruch, Saint-Saens, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Goldmark, Dvorak and Lab were all available, not to mention the classical concertos of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, we find it difficult to understand the mentality of those circles with the eighty-three-year-old 104

-


PARIS [1890-1896]

Ambroise Thomas,

at their head, which ventured to of the younger generation by mummified and extremely one-sided works of mediocre musical value. What a fusty atmosphere for an institution which by virtue of its past and its tradition was entitled to be regarded as the first in the

director,

measure the

abilities

world Given such !

tasks, great talents

advantage, mediocrity establish

and

a

at a

must necessarily be

premium;

at a dis-

differences are difficult to

miscarriage of artistic justice

is

hardly avoidable.

was unanimously awarded first prize; I owed it to some extent to my sight-reading which to the of was of a perfection seldom according opinion experts heard and so indirectly to my two months' training in the cafe at Limoges. But I had to share my award with a Mile Rousillon from Lyons, who made no further impact on the musical world. The chauvinistic jury found it quite intolerable to exclude the French element completely from the highest distinction. Despite the

set

piece,

however,

I

For the French the foreigner is an inferior, exotic animal, who strange to say cannot speak French at all, or at any rate only badly a tolerated guest. Since the end of the 1890'$ no foreigner has been engaged in the Paris symphony orchestras. In the Berlin State

Opera, on the other hand, three Austrian leaders occupied the desks as late as 193 1. And in the Berlin Philharmonic Orches-

first

have always been almost exclusively foreign: Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Danes, Dutchmen, etc. Never

tra the leaders

institution in 1784 has a foreigner taught at the Paris Conservatoire, whereas at the Berlin State Hochschule for Music

since

its

there have been,

among

others, the following foreign professors

since 1900: for pianoforte, the

Hungarian Dohnanyi, the Russian

Kreutzer, the Swiss Lutschg and Fischer, the Dutch Petri, the Austrian Schnabel; for violin, the French Marteau, the Austrians Deman, Wolfsthal and Rostal, I myself (Hungarian) ; while for

twelve years (1920-32) the Austrian Franz Schreker functioned as director. As late as 193 1 the Mendelssohn prize went to two Poles;

between 1929 and 1932 the Molique prize went to a Hungarian, a South American and a Russian. True, the preference for the to the available national foreigners was due to their superiority had to choose authorities the French German artists. But if 105


CARL FLESCH between a foreign Corypheus and a French mediocrity for a vacant post at the Conservatoire, the decision would doubtless be in favour of their fellow countryman. Things have of course changed

Germany, but the

in

distinction to

fact

France,

remains that

down

Germany with

to 1932, in contra-

generosity and broad-

mindedness made quality the criterion in every sphere without regard to nationality, an attitude that was unique in European national history.

Among my rivals I still remember Pierre Monteux [b. 1875] who played the test piece over to me in advance as I was the older and more experienced, and asked my advice. He was awarded a premier accessit and the following year he won tkepremierprix, but and then again to the baton. Today1 he is indubitably regarded as the most outstanding of French conductors, perhaps as the only one to whose performances an interlater transferred to the viola

national yard-stick can be applied. Jacques Thibaud's too, coincided

first

contest,

with my last.

In accordance with a long-established custom the violin makers Bernardel presented me with a pretty good instrument

Gand

&

with the customary dedication, which is inscribed on the ribs in gold lettering. I also had the honour to play the first half of Paganini's

D

major Violin Concerto

at a small

concert

upon the

occasion of the prize-giving; old Ambroise Thomas vigorously objected to the choice of the piece, remarking: 'C'est de la

bad music.) Marsick, who was at least as distinction as I was myself, was eager to present his

mauvaise musique,'

proud of my first

(It's

prize-winning pupil in the best possible condition to the public which used to assemble at the Conservatoire on this

select

occasion. After thorough preparation he obtained from promise to go to bed at ten on the eve of the great day.

day itself I had to

call

a final rehearsal, after

fed

me on light food.

me

the

On the

on him once more in the morning and have which he took me to a good restaurant and After the prize-giving,

artistic silver

medals

designed by Chaplin were presented; their value was enhanced by the fact, confirmed by the cognoscenti, that the state pawnbroking establishment would advance thirty-five francs on one

106


PARIS [1890-1896]

any time. Some days later a notice from the pen of the music critic, Arthur Pougin, appeared in the Menestral, the leading musical weekly; this was really the first serious review of any of bemy performances, and it has remained fixed in my at

memory

cause

its

tenor almost tempted

potential. Pougin,

who must

me

to over-estimate

my

artistic

have been in particularly good in which he exalted my technical

humour, wound up his piece, and musical qualities, with the words: 'Indeed, if the Conservatoire had produced only a few such young artists as Mr Flesch, it

would have

already justified its existence/ If there would have been an end to praise literally,

I

had taken

my

his

strivings for

self-critical faculty was perfection, but fortunately sufficiently to show me the limits of developed ability. All too favourable

my

my

notices can often

do much more harm than unjustly unfavourable

ones. I had happily completed a period of my life was to be of decisive significance for my artistic career, I set out on the homeward journey to my parents, whom I had not seen for two years. The little town had heard of my triumph, the

Conscious that

that

local rag registered the fact

appropriate commentary, and

of local boy makes good' with

my

fellow citizens from

now on

me

with befitting respect. About the same time my greeted brother obtained his doctor's degree, and thus my father had the reassuring certainty that at least

two of

his children faced

an

auspicious future.

After the holidays

I

returned to Paris, for

I

was determined to

career there as a free lance without any ties to an try to start orchestra or teaching institution. the Vienna South railway station I was entrusted, after previous agreement, with a young

my

On

whom

I was to assist to named Adolf Rebner [b. 1876] Marsick's into class. But since no free place was available get here, he entered the viola ckss which had just been started under

violinist

~aforge, in order possibly to acquire the prerogative of transferring to the violin class in the following year; at the same time, he took private lessons from Marsick. But after barely a year he

returned to Vienna and anon went to Frankfurt/Main, where he joined the Hermann quartet as second violinist. Soon after he

107


CARL FLESCH started his

own

quartet.

For

many

years he

was a teacher

at the

Hoch

Conservatoire, during which time he only occasionally and noble tone appeared as a soloist. Rebner had an inspirited

which went

to serve his outstanding interpretative talent.

fact that despite his gifts

The

he did not succeed in reaching the front

rank of his profession would seem to be primarily due, as in Boucherit's case, to poor health and a resultant tendency towards technical nervousness.

remembered

will be

It

painter

that at Hasselmann's I

named Meyer, who had proposed

his lodger. His place

Avenue de

met

that I should

a

young become

was above the outer boulevards, in the which neighbourhood one frequently

Clichy, in

heard the shrieks of prostitutes mishandled by their pimps, or witnessed knife fights between rival gang leaders. Meyer's flat consisted of a

roomy

studio, as well as

two rooms and a kitchen

my domain. The furniture was procured on the instalment system. If the instalments were not paid on time the which were seller

to

had the

be

right either to sue

you

or to

demand

the furniture

back without any compensation for the instalments already paid. Meyer's manner of living suited me. He was a thorough Bohemian, decidedly talented as an artist, and as a man decent, goodnatured and weak. His vice was drink, which destroyed him some years later. He worked only when he couldn't otherwise keep his head above water; but then he sat down resolutely, painted a charming flower still life, sold it to an art dealer at the fixed price

of 150 francs and, top of the world.

as

long as the

money lasted, was once more on

We lived together for about eight months. At

first all went well. Meyer got up just before eleven and, after he had obtained the necessary small change from me, went to make purchases. His first call, needless to say, was at the wine merchant's

had already been fiddling zealously for some long work to prepare lunch. We often had guests whom he brought home from his walks abroad: colleagues,, models and similar jolly company. But one day, on returning from a short concert trip to the Nancy district, I found to my un-

on

the corner.

time

when he

I

set to

whom

pleasant surprise one of these models, with Meyer had fallen in love installed as absence, during seriously regular housewife.

my

108


PARIS [1890-1896]

Jeanne was

thoroughly

attractive,

spoilt

and

but despite her eighteen years she was

entirely uneducated.

Her

life

story,

which

she once volunteered, taught me a thing or two about the depths of the Paris underworld. Meyer, who now had to provide for

one more mouth, had to look about him for regular work, unpleasant though this was to him. It so happened that a battle panorama of enormous size was then being painted, to be set up

Meyer was

for exhibition in the Trocadero.

fortunate, to the

extent ofa daily twenty-five francs, in obtaining work on it for some

two months as a painter of corpses. This caused great jubilation in our community. Jeanne was henceforth to act as cook. But on the very first day it transpired that she had never cooked before, and so an unparalleled culinary martyrdom began for me. The meat especially was always burnt, until I imparted to Jeanne the surprising information that according to experience always let a knob of butter melt in the pan before the meat

my

put into

it.

The

situation

one was

grew more and more unbearable,

although the master of the house came home as often as possible at midday, to undertake the position of kitchen chef himself. On one

of these occasions he brought Paul home with him, a goodnatured colleague of his schooldays whom he had run across at his workplace, and who soon became our regular guest until one

home Meyer found a scrap of paper from told him in plain words that Paul understood in which she Jeanne, he and that she would therefore try to find her than her better did, evening on coming

future happiness at his side.

Meyer took

this

double duplicity

he was no longer the same. In addition financial came along, arrears of rent, returned cheques for

deeply to heart; difficulties

share punctually. furniture, etc. although I always paid As a result of all these setbacks, he lost all desire for Paris

my

informed

me

one morning

that

he was weary of city

intended to go into the country, there to

work

and and Thus I

life

'seriously*.

became the independent possessor of a flat. Things went pretty well to begin with: I had a daily help, a not very attractive look-

woman of the people. Until one day I discovered that of three my dress shirts were missing, and had to dismiss her. Now I was alone, and had to do all the cleaning, shopping, cooking

ing, elderly

109


CARL FLESCH and washing up myself. taste to

on

my

others

A

drop of

wormwood added

a bitter

happy feeling that henceforth I had no longer to rely the necessity to do the washing up after eating. It was

magnificent orchestral performance a dilettante started one of the most beautiful melodic morsels from the

as if after a

to

hum

just heard. However, I consoled myself with the that only three weeks lay between me and the long vacathought tion. So ended this extremely stimulating attempt at alliance with

symphony

latent interest in visual art and laid a painter who brought out the foundations for gradually increasing understanding of this art form, to which I was to owe much pleasure in the future when

my

my

visiting all the galleries accessible to

me

a lasting enrichment.

At the same time I had come to know the very depths of Paris art life, and, what was then the main thing to me, had all in all had a good time. Under the influence of my adventurous milieu

jolly

of my

violin studies

ceeded

at the

had not

suffered at

all;

the regularity I had suc-

besides,

age of twenty-one in standing on

my own feet, able

to forgo support from father. I received an average of ten francs for a lesson, had some supplementary income from provin-

my

and was regarded by my colleagues as a fat bourmust, however, confess that I did not yet take teaching

cial concerts,

geois. I

very seriously. pupils were largely dilettantes or poorly talented professional violinists, and I myself was interested in

My

teaching only as a bread-and-butter job which enabled me to continue my violin studies uninterruptedly. educational principles themselves were still pretty primitive and stereotyped. own

My

My

development

clearly

illustrates

that

even given pronounced

pedagogical gifts, youth and an enthusiasm for teaching hardly ever go together. As a young man one is still too egocentric, all too

preoccupied with one's own joys and sorrows to sink oneself in the mind of a fellow man in need of help and advice. As for child pupils, a twenty-year-old can't

manage them

at all. I recall a six-

year-old girl whom I made practise the dry studies of Sevcik as if she were an adult, until she lost all desire to play the violin and was snatched away from me by a more experienced teacher, who knew how to spice the arid etudes with small pieces. This was a

no


PARIS [1890-1896] valuable experience in elementary teaching, which for too dearly with the loss As a concert artist, too, I

Marsick invited

of one began

pupil. to spread

I

did not pay

my wings. One day

me to take the second violin in Schumann's Piano

Quintet in one of his chamber music recitals, which he organized with Pugno and Hollmann. In the single rehearsal I fell into a

not know the work and was caught by rhythmic pitfall in the scherzo's second trio. That was the only time I had the opportunity to play in an ensemble with these three artistic giants. delicate situation: I did

surprise at the

Raoul Pugno [1852-1914] had an extraordinary career. At the age of eighteen he took part in the Paris Commune, functioned

some weeks as director of the Conservatoire, and upon the suppression of the revolt received a mild prison sentence. The next twenty years he idled away in typical Paris fashion, and at the for

same time scraped together a living as an organist, pianoforte teacher and composer for pantomimes, in which he himself he made his played the piano part. In 1892, at the age of forty,

debut in the Conservatoire concerts with the then highly popular Grieg Piano Concerto, and at once became famous. He never played from memory, had an unusually delicate touch which made a remarkable contrast with the massive build of his body,

and represented the most perfect type of pianist musician. Later, first permanent sonata duo with Ysaye. He died

he formed the

during a concert tour in Russia. Josef Hollmann [1852-1927] was quite a different type of artist.

^He was above

all a virtuoso, the undisputed possessor of the finest tonal quality on his instrument, of which he was the sovereign master. I had never heard Grieg's 'Cello Sonata played in so

fascinating a

Ten

manner

as

by

this last great 'cellist

of the old school.

the scene and achieved a

years later Casals

appeared upon ^complete revolution in the technical and interpretative principles of 'cello playing which, until then, had been of universal validity. Together with the pianist Lemaire and my old friend, the cellist Schiedenhelm, I also gave trio recitals in Rheims, which were well attended. Lemaire, a waggish, diminutive fellow with "he typical cheeky mother wit of a city boy, later changed over to

in


CARL FLESCH the career of a lyrical operatic tenor, and not without success ; I him after fourteen years as des Grieux in Manon at Nice.

heard

my German name, I gave several highly

In Nancy too, despite successful concerts. I there

made

the acquaintance of the oldest member of the Hekking dynasty, the violinist father of the 'cellist Gerard, whom I came to know later at Amsterdam. In addition, I occasionally took part in provincial concerts, where I had the powers as a soloist and to gather opportunity to try out

valuable experience for

my my future

concert career. In Paris itself I

regularly made music every Sunday in the art-loving family of the Viennese stockbroker Spiehnann, where I played with such

men as Marsick, the

distinguished Belgian 'cellist Liegeois,

whom

and the

have already mentioned. At first I Debroux, at the second but as the master of the house himself desk; played enjoyed taking the second violin, he asked me one night whether violinist

I

could play the viola too. Although I had no more than an elementary notion of the alto clef and had never handled a viola

I

agreed, courage inspired by ignorance of the danger, the fear of losing the evening's fee often francs. But by old Hellmesberger had always said that a proper violinist must be

before, as

well

my

I

as

able to play

all

stringed instruments at need, and that he himself his father to take the place of an absent

had once been forced by

double-bass in an orchestra. However,

I

took the initial precaution

of enquiring about my first note's whereabouts on the fingerboard, and decided to preserve its relation to violin notation throughout the entire piece, a venture crowned by approximately a fifty-per-cent success. Since then I have played the viola often,gladly,

and

All

this,

and I have even given several public perinstrument in Berlioz' Harold in Italy.

better too,

formances on

this

however, was no more for

me

than unimportant

skirmishing before the decisive battle. Gradually the thought bemind that it was time I made the attempt t<> gan to be fixed in

my

conquer a place in the concert life of Central Europe's Germanspeaking parts. Quite naturally the city which first came to my mind was Vienna, The chief city of the monarchy was then re-regarded as the centre of the German musical world. True, a figure of the importance of Joachim hardly called it his own, but it 112


PARIS [1890-1896] possess the reputation of being the most appropriate springboard for virtuosos of the grand style. It was here that Sarasate and

Ysaye had begun their international careers. Paderewski had made debut in Vienna and Leschetizky had founded a piano school of supreme importance. At that time Viennese concert life seemed to be the natural fruit of a great artistic tradition, whereas Berlin musical activity was more like a hothouse plant artificially forced to grow by shrewd concert agents. Of course I also wished to show my old Viennese school colleagues and friends what I had made of myself during the past five years. But first of all I had to overcome a considerable obstacle: I was still playing on my old Dutch violin which, admittedly, was not bad in itself, but inadequate as a concert instrument. I hit on the idea of putting my difficulty to my old friend Deutsch, and found him ready to lend me the necessary sum for the purchase of a better instrument. At this period there were three violin dealers in Paris who could be considered for this kind of purchase: the old Silvestre, Gand & Bernardel, and Deroux. I was on particularly good terms with Silvestre. He had taken a liking to me and once even let me watch as he removed the table of the 'Betz' Stradivarius to fit a new bass bar. At Gand & Bernardel's I knew chiefly one of the employees, a man named Albert Caressa, who at the time was mainly concerned with supervising the production of the worldfamous resin; nobody suspected that before long he would take over the firm and for forty years would be the most active and his

successful violin dealer in the world.

After various fruitless

of what proved attempts, one day found a Storioni instrument to be a quite outstanding tone in the shop window of a small violin maker; Storioni was the last famous Italian violin maker. I

Owing

to

its

substitute scroll, the instrument cost only 1,200 owned a it without much hesitation and

now bought in violin with which one could make a good show any but the Thus I had an end worth striving for, a new largest concert halls. to which I devoted myselfwith all my powers. zealous to study, spur Once a man has known the comfort of his own dwelling, he francs. I

cannot bear the thought of returning to the oppressive restraint of an uncivilized hotel room, surrounded by noisy neighbours. As 113


CARL FLESCH the previous year my income had akeady reached an average of 400 francs a month, I thought I would rent on my own account a small fiat of two rooms with offices, and acquire the necessary furniture

on an instalment

plan. In die rue La Bruyere, between I found a flat which seemed suit-

the inner and outer boulevards,

Now

able. only the little detail remained of finding the wherewithal to pay the rent and furniture instalments regularly a matter over which I did not worry for the moment, since I was

high in Marsick's favour. At

his request I had undertaken the of leader in the position accompanying quintet for his class in the competitive examination and, among others, had piloted Thibaud safely past the rocks of the sight-reading test to die haven of the premier accessit. I had also acquired several pupils from Marsick, chiefly such as were not sufficiently talented or rich for him himself. Among them was a young man from Nancy, the son of wellto-do parents, who though he had little talent had taken it into his head to become a violinist. His parents proposed that I should spend the two months of the vacation with them on an au pair still

basis at Paris-Plage (later a

my

popular seaside resort) near Boulogne,

contribution being to teach their son free of charge. I almost

immediately accepted. Like most people, I could not avoid a certain feeling of disillusionment when I first saw the sea. But I soon learned to appreciate the delight of salt water on the skin, and the resulting pleasant relaxation of the body. The place itself offered no distractions

whatever. There was neither casino nor spa orchestra. It was still the typical 'petit trou pas cher' (a cheap little place), the ideal spot"

during the holiday months. The was family only mildly amusing; the son was goodnatured, slovenly and untalented. I had no money in my pocket, but I had a fine room with a view over the sea and I fed plentifully and well. In addition I could study as much as I wished, and thus,

of the French life,

petit bourgeois

too,

the chief purpose of my holiday to prepare myself, unstay molested and in healthy surroundings, for my Vienna debut

was fully achieved. Towards the end of September I returned to my new flat in Paris. My neighbour on the same floor also happened to be a 114


PARIS

[1890-1896]

musician, the organist at a synagogue, and a nimble pianist, with I often made music. He had a friend named Rosen, a

whom

Frenchman despite his German name, a middle-aged musician of elderly and withered visage, who was the first conscious reactionary in the musical sphere with whom I had come into contact. Rosen was composing in the Mozartian style, and if one asked

him 'why he didn't try to keep in step with contemporary developments, he replied with the counter-question whether Mozart was not to be regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time. He considered that absolute beauty must not depend on changes in perfection was everlasting, experiment transitory. Apparently he did not realize that vitality in all and everything that

taste,

rests

much more on

was not yet

1 'becoming' than on 'being', while

able to put this

I myself of artistic highly important principle

development into words. Meanwhile I made preparations for my Vienna concert. I could choose between two concert agents, Albert Guttmann and Alexander Rose. Almost unchallenged, the first-named dominated Vienna's concert world: the most famous artists from Joachim to Patti were all in his hands. But since I myself was not so optimistic as to reckon with an appreciable sale of tickets, I preferred to enter into a contract with the far less known Alexander Rose, the brother of the violinist, on the assumption that an agent's interest in an artist stood in inverse proportion to the amount of work at the agent's disposal. I arranged for two concerts at an interval of some three weeks, of which one was to take place in the Bosendorfer

hall,

the other in the recital

Musikfmmde. The programme of

room of the

my

Geselhchaft der debut consisted of the

D

Saint-Saens' major Paganini Concerto, Bach's Chaconne, I still lacked a smaller various and However, Havanaise, pieces.

small working capital for the cost of the journey, the living the deficit that was certainly to be expected. Once expenses, and the loan of 1,200 good old Deutsch came to my aid: to francs he had already advanced me for the violin, he added a further 800 francs. Within two years incidentally, I had the satisfaction of repaying him everything.

again

1

The well-known German

C.F.-I

antithesis

of Werden and

TI 5

Sein,


CARL FLESCH Next I set about obtaining letters of recommendation to certain prominent persons in Viennese society. The Vicomtesse de Grandval, a society lady who was an amateur composer, and who had shown much interest in me since I had taken part in the performance of one of her works, seemed to for helping I

me a little in this

was introduced

to

me

eminently suitable

Through her good Mathilde Marchesi, who was married direction.

offices

to the

Marchese de Castrone, and who as a singing teacher led the field together with Jean de Reszke. Marchesi, who was to live to be ninety-two, was then already well over seventy and intrigued me because she showed a fantastic resemblance to Frederick the Great.

home

I also met my famous fellow countryman, Tiirr, of the 1848 revolution; he put me to no little embarrassment when he addressed me, an unsuspecting 'Swabian' (as the

In her

a general

called derisively by the Magyars), a tangible result of the Vicomtesse's exertions several impressive letters of recommendation,

German-Hungarians are in Hungarian. I

took

home

As

one to the then musical potentate Eduard Hanslick, and others to the Rumanian ambassador's wife, the Princess Ghika, and several to journalists. This chase after letters of recommendation was still a general above

all

custom, being a remnant from the

first

half of the nineteenth

century. We learn from Spohr's autobiography that if an artist of that period intended to appear in a city he had to go there three or four weeks in advance, in order to call on the notabilities of the

and to give unpaid performances in their homes. Only then could he venture to announce a concert with justified expectation place

of material success. This amalgamation of social and artistic obligations has meanwhile ceased, if only because our concert industry

depends on a rapid, ever-changing succession of performers,

must therefore confine themselves to

who

eating, sleeping, playing

and

travelling, the only variations consisting of changes in the order of these activities. In any case, the value of letters of recommendation

generally over-estimated. The experience of young days has taught me that such letters are the more effective the less 'eminent'

my

is

the people to whom they are addressed. After all, you cannot demand ofLord Rothschild that he should take an interest in all the

116

<


PARIS [1890-1896]

young artists who are recommended to him, while on the other hand the plain citizen regards it as an honour to be in touch with

members of this uncivic profession, and does everything to make the road smooth for them.

in his

power

For the

first time in five years, I was again in Vienna. Most of former of the Conservatoire were playing second my colleagues fiddle in the opera orchestra, while my former school-fellow Lewinger had been for three years a professor at the Conservatoire

Now I was shortly to provide the proof that I had done right in leaving my native land in order to acquaint myself with a different kind of violin culture. I grew more and more tense in Bucharest.

with every day. I regarded my Vienna debut as a turning-point my career, one which was to show whether I was to go the

in

even, comfortable road of mediocrity or the path that leads to the heights of art.

steep,

dangerous

And so the great day arrived. Both my parents had hastened to Vienna from Wieselburg. Old friends, relations and colleagues waited impatiently for the things to come. To put it briefly,

my

concert was a complete success which, because

even had a touch of the

sensational.

was unexpected,

unanimously exand even Griin himdiscovery, self was greatly surprised at the I had achieved. At development one step I had risen to the front rank of the youngest generation of violinists, and I basked in the sun of rny youthful fame. About that same time a young English violinist, Henry Such, had also made his debut in Vienna, though with decidedly less success. Later he became a teacher of the violin in Philadelphia, where I met him again some thirty years later. The most significant experience I had at this time was that I met pressed their pleasure at this

'

The

it

critics

new

Fritz Kreisler [b. 1875] again; thus began a friendship which has over forty years. It will be remembered that I first

now lasted for \

heard him play when he was ten years old. From that time on I have heard him play again and again at pretty regular intervals.

am

thus more intimately acquainted with the development of the this, greatest violinist of the last thirty years, than any other man. I

His father came from Cracow, and later practised as a doctor in Vienna. Fritz himself was Viennese by birth. Originally a pupil of 117


CARL FLESCH Hellmesberger, he left the Vienna Conservatoire at the early age of ten, entered Massart's class in Paris, and won the first prize after

two to

An astonishing infant prodigy,

years.

grow

which

he had the misfortune

up too swiftly, and to enter puberty all too early

an age

momentous for artistic development. At the age of twelve he could already be regarded as a violinist of great stature, but from then until his twenty-fourth year there ensued a vacuum which almost put an end to his entire career. During my is

usually so

concerts in Vienna in 1895 the youngster of twenty appeared to me to be a big, strong, broad-shouldered fellow whose facial

expression

and

showed a lively temperament with a touch of brutality,

who was

amiably superficial and dashing in character. Tc heard him play in the salon of the art-loving CohnHollander family; he rendered a suite by Gound, a young Vienbegin with,

I

nese composer, in a style whose novelty made Shortly afterwards the English violinist Such,

;

me sit up and listen.

whom I have already

mentioned, was to play to the Danish impresario Hansen with a view to a possible engagement. Alexander Ros wanted Kreisler

me also to make use of this opportunity. But we deliberately did not take our instruments with us, so that the whole thing might seem an improvisation. On Such's violin I played the;

and

Paganini Concerto in D, and Kreisler the Adagio Religiose by Thome. It was on this occasion that for the first time I gained some notion of Kreisler 's greatness and his of *

performance

originality:

this

piece of saccharine

life.

Of religious feeling,

was

a 'chant

d'amour

fully seductive sounds,

was one of the strongest impressions in my to be sure, there

was no

trace: rather,

$

it

was an unrestrained orgy of sindepravedly fascinating, whose sole driving

lascif '. It

force appeared to be a sensuality intensified to the point of fren2y^ His art seemed of value to him only in so far as it allowed him to

form of unlimited instinctual expression. To the horror of his ambitious father, he lived in Bohemian fashion from day to day, without end or purpose, as an ardent cafe use

it as

crawler

just another

a specifically Viennese profession, in

narcotic daze so

many

come of a Viennese and not unjustly.

talents

until

whose

pleasantly

have been wrecked. 'Nothing can

he has

left

118

Vienna', so the saying goes,

'


PARIS [1890-1896] living on his father, who despite all his admonitions could not get his son to practise any regular activity-

Kreisler

whatever.

was thus

How deep Kreisler's reputation must have sunk in those

which Rose has confirmed. A violinist Court Opera orchestra, and on his father's insistence Fritz took part in the audition, but without success. He was turned down by the selection committee on the ground that his playing was lacking in sense of rhythm Not until 1898 did he succeed in escaping from the morass. After a short period of preparation he at last brought himself to make his debut in Berlin. And then a career began which in respect of its intensity, duration and material results remains unique in the history ofviolin playing. The question arises, what was the cause of this cleft which days

is

shown by

was wanted

a story

for the

!

divided Kreisler's development into

two

sharply distinguished

periods? For from approximately 1887, the year he left the Paris Conservatoire, down to his d6but in Berlin, a period of twelve years, his art

had in

fact

almost lain fallow. In Vienna he did no

more than take part in other people's concerts, and passed as a talented local celebrity who had all but gone to the bad; he had in fact resigned

himself to ending up as an orchestral player.

How did

world of the day evidently and dehappen to the suggestion of this 'Pied Piper*? to succumb refused cidedly There must have been yet deeper reasons for this inward resistance of musical society than Kreisler's human and artistic lack of selfcontrol, for the qualities which later were to be recognized as the cause of his world success his strangely seductive tone, powerful of rhythmic force and natural musicianship must have been part the youngster who as a violinist was so extraordinary. But even in the years following his Berlin debut his success was by no means uncontested: much lesser spirits, such as Marteau, Thibaud and even Burmester, were far more popular. But time was working for Kreisler. The older he grew, the more he seemed to meet the taste and inner demands of the public, as if the world had needed a

it

that the musical

certain span of time in which to grow accustomed to his style.We are here confronted with one of die most remarkable problems in

the history of our let

art,

which has not yet been properly recognized,

alone solved. This is

my explanation: 119


CARL FLESCH

The

source of what seemed Kreisler's

his later superiority consists in his

initial

having

inferiority

and of

forestalled the taste

of

the time; he already intuitively divined it when the listeners were not yet ready for it. Usually the crowd's need for something new coincides with

its

provision

of reaction against

for instance, in Ysaye's case

by way

Sarasate's smoothness, or in Sarasate's case as

a reaction against Joachim's relative neglect of the purely sensual elements of sound, or in Joachim's case as a reaction against the

debasement of programme building. In all these instances, the coincidence of needs and their fulfilment was so striking that it points to reciprocal effects rather than to a simple succession cause and effect.

3n Kreisler's case the situation was different in so far as at his style

was

violinists

did not yet

of

first

be exaggerated, overwrought, unrhythmic, unmusical even, and so was rejected. The technical reasons for this aesthetic judgment are to be sought first and foremost in his We must not forget that even in 1880 the great special vibrato. felt

to

make use of a proper vibrato but employed a

which the pitch was subjected to only quite imperceptible oscillations. To vibrate on relatively unexpressive notes, not to speak of runs, was regarded as unseemly and inartistic. Basically, quicker passages had to be a certain from distinguished by dryness longer and more expressive notes. Ysaye was the first to make use of a broader vibrato and kind ofBebung,

i.e.

a finger vibrato in

already attempted to give life to passing notes, while Kreisler drew the extreme consequences from this revaluation of vibrato activity;

he not only resorted to a

still

broader and

more intensive

vibrato, but even tried to ennoble faster passages by means of a vibrato which, admittedly, was more latent than manifest. 1 He

himself sees in this replacement of e'fwfe-like dryness by expressive values the source of the response which, as the years passed, he

found in his audiences.

I

agree,

with the reservation that while

this

extension of expressive resources through a continuous vibrate may be regarded as his most important technical attribute, it is ultimately but the inevitable result of his highly individual neec for an increased intensity of expression. In any kind of artistic 1

lit.

'more thought than actually executed.*

120


PARIS [1890-1896]

always the impulse, the expressive need, the inner compulsion which dictates in the first place, and not the technical equipment. Just as a hungry man will always get hold of food, if activity,

it is

need be by

force, so every original artist finds, as a rule

sciously, the necessary technical

means to

still

his

unconhunger.

spiritual

Bohemian period came to an end towards 1902. His period began. The woman whom he loved and married, a

Kreisler's

great

German-American, knew how and to

characteristic sensuality

to guide him, to ennoble his refine the wild

and unbridled

elements in his temperament. Without endangering the seductive of his playing, Kreisler let his style be determined qualities pri-

marily by musical requirements, and thus drew nearer to the purely musical listener without estranging the more primitive lover of violin playing as such. This new attitude, a little more detached, could not degenerate into dry routine, for there remained,

unchanged, the unique beauty of his tone, which breathed out inner feeling as a flower breathes off its scent

The

his

quality of his

tone was unmistakable, incomparable and unequalled. If we force ourselves to

more

examine the

prosaic, professional viewpoint,

violinist Kreisler

we

from

a

again find a great deal

remarkable and highly relevant. In his bowing he deliberwith his contemporaries. Before him, we ately parted company unshakeable had the apparently principle that the whole bow must that

is

be used whenever possible and at all costs a principle whose strict application cannot be right, if only because the technical of gracefulness and delicacy requires as restricted an Kreisler's expenditure of bowing length as possible. In any case,

translation

example shows that grandeur and intensity are by no means tied up with the use of the 'whole bow'. He used the extreme point

He explained this by saying that arm prevented him from using the extreme at the lower end of the bow he was always troubled point, while a fear of damaging one of the corners of the violin. This bow-

just as

seldom as the extreme nut

his rather too short

by

ing

economy was counter-balanced by

pressure which, always slightly

automatically regulated

by

his characteristic

accentuated, was

in

its

bow turn

his extraordinarily intensive vibrato.

In his case, dynamics and shadings were effected 121

much more by


CARL FLESCH varied rationings of the length of stroke than by changes of the point of contact. The veiled mysterioso mezza voce was not so

much his strong point as an uninterrupted intensity of expression, any dead spot in the course of a recital. What a contrast to the elegant superficiality of a Sarasate, by whom Kreisler, alone amongst his contemporaries, did not seem

which did not

tolerate

to be influenced in

any way His bowing technique was supreme whose elan is to be placed side by side !

in characteristic rhythms,

with

his tonal qualities. Sonority

and rhythm are the firm bases on

which towered the edifice of his art. As for his left hand, and vibrato apart, we have to note

certain

defects in his intonation. Kreisler never 'practised' in the ordinary

sense

of the word.

He did not find it necessary to 'warm up' before

he was always ready. 1 Hence his attitude towards preparation was a little frivolous and doubly striking at a time when the technique of some violinists bordered on infallibility. a performance;

seemed that Kreisler under-estimated the

It

note.

As

ability to correct

he frequently neglected to

adjust a sustained, impure he did not believe in regular practice, it often happened

distonations:

that his finger technique defect, to which one grew

was not

altogether spotless; but this

accustomed in time, could not weaken

enjoyment of his playing to any appreciable extent. On the a concert he did not change his usual activities in the slightof day one's

and on the platform he displayed an admirable sang-froid. 'To practise is nothing but a bad habit,' he used to say; and in this, est,

most paradoxes, there is a grain of truth. In purely artistic respects the charm of his interpretations consisted in an uncommon harmony between his individual expresas in

and his very personal resources. Despite the danger of into claptrap by the perfection of his own tone, enticed being Kreisler never betrayed his (and his generation's) musical seriousness, which was partly innate and partly imparted by education. sive will

No matter how pregnant with feeling his portamentos might be,* they were always restrained, never tasteless or calculated to impress the gallery. His rhythmic feeling was incorruptible he did :

1

For a

of Kreisler's attitude to practising and Vanning up' Lochner (Rockliff I95i),pp. 85 ff. [Publisher].

fuller discussion

Fritz Kreisler by Louis P.

122

see


PARIS [1890-1896]

not

sacrifice it to a musically suspicious brilliance. He never raced; he shaped. The Allegro from the Praeludium and Allegro 'by Pugnani', which most violinists play as a perpetuum mobile, he took

at a

pace no

possibility

faster

of

than about

differentiation

damaged. Unlike so

many

J - iao

and

Thus

the

rhythm and the

articulation

remained unof his essential

.

others, Kreisler lost none

of the years, because the most valuable ingredients of his art were drawn from a spiritual rather than a technical source, and in particular from a strong inner impulse, which unconsciously found the manner of most qualities in the course

appropriate to

expression Since his vibrato formed the foundation

of his and is of an intensive the kind, style unusually ravages of time were unable to work any harm. His expressive power remained intact, and he was spared the violinist's arterio-sclerosis, the atrophy of it.

vibrato. last member of the phalanx of leading violinists reprethe second of the nineteenth century (Joachim, &alf senting he also had a determining influence on Sarasate, Ysaye, Kreisler),

As

the

our time's programme-building with his renaissance of the small genre piece. About 1907 he began to publish a series of arrange-

ments of

classical pieces

which soon came to enjoy the

greatest

popularity. Every year, he considerably enriched this collection, until by 1933 there were some fifty pieces with several original

A

definite extension of the repertoire among them. the was result. For us violinists the small-scale genre piece is a necessity to the completion of our programmes, in so far as these

compositions

are not out-and-out

Nevertheless,

chamber music. have certain doubts about

Kreisler's

work

in

which not even the

greatest affection for the artist entitles us to suppress. Above all, as a matter of principle,

this direction,

and man

we

Kreisler not only left unspecified the sources from which he took the pieces, but was sometimes guilty of a mild falsification, as

with the above-mentioned piece by 'Pugnani*, whose name he used as a cloak for his

own

piece happens to represent

composition. Admittedly, this very

one of

his

most impressive

inspira-

tions, and one of which Pugnani, in all probability, would never have been capable himself. But the whole business was far from

123


CARL FLESCH being

strictly

scrupulous

though one need not take

this

mysti-

Newman when Kreisler officially admitted 1 deception in 193 6. Newman was outraged because

fication as did Ernest his graceful

a witty artist had led him by the nose for thirty years. Sometimes Kreisler only took a fragment from the alleged composer and

proceeded to expand

it.

In the case of the 'Beethoven' Rondo, for

instance, only the eight bars

are Beethoven's.

in

which make up the Dvorak's

principal theme Slavonic Rhapsody he

Again whipped up scraps from the Romantic Pieces together with Lieder into a froth whose publication reflects little credit on the principles of the publisher concerned. And what is one to say to the transcription of the slow movement from Dvorak's 'New World'

Symphony, or the profanation of one of Beethoven's most heavenly inspirations, the Cavatina from the Quartet, op. 1302

To

must be added the fact that all these pieces were put a watch in the hand. with together They were intended first and foremost for the gramophone, which meant that the duration was this

limited to not less than three and not

minutes. But on the

positive side

it

more than four and half

must be

said that if

one

is

content to listen to these pieces for the pleasure of it, without bothering about their origin, one must admit that with a large

number of them gift to violinists last thirty

Kreisler has in fact presented a highly valuable violin programmes of the

and has thus made the

years enormously

more pleasurable and entertaining for

the broad mass of listeners than they had been before. There are small pieces such as those 'by' Couperin, Pugnani,

among them

Martini and Francoeur, compositions, which skill and playability.

some

of his admitted original are unequalled in violin literature for taste, as

well

as

Unfortunately, the mania for arrangements that anon attacked everybody (not excluding myself) resulted in a watering down of

programmes which gradually brought the

violin recital into dis-

We lack an artistic and suitable

repute with serious music-lovers. literature of small original works; 1

For a

Newman

at the

same time,

we

cannot

account of Kreisler's point of view and the interchange with Ernest see op. cit. pp. 292 fT. and pp. 295 ff. full

124


PARIS [1890-1896] ask a serious

composer to write genre

pieces for the violin, if all violinists are bound to prefer graceful transcriptions to his productions. The future attraction of our concerts largely depends on the

renewal of our repertoire and the gradual exclusion of effective but light-weight arrangements.

We

ourselves

must encourage com-

posers to cultivate this type of composition by our readiness to play their products. Only when we have again reached the stage

where audiences will attend our concerts above

all

music, only then will the violin recital recover

in order to hear

from

its

catastro-

phic decline. is only partly responsible for this state of he could not foresee that his example would give rise to

Kreisler himself affairs:

of arrangements. Every song, every orchestral piece, movement is only examined with a view to seeing whether it will provide a few bars which can form the framework for a pleasing and lucrative virtuoso piece. The evident propriety of a statement of source, which after all is a prerequisite this tide

every quartet

for judging the arrangement, is pushed aside as ludicrous pedantry, 1 for what is right for a Kreisler is reasonable for a XY. And so

people continue gaily to .knock things together, patch them up and cut them to shape, until a decided boycott on the part of the concert public will bring these violinists back to their senses. When all is said and done, Kreisler has been the most important has fundamentally figure for us violinists since Ysaye's decline; he influenced the development of our art as no other violinist of his time has done. In the history of violin playing he will live not

the art, Dnly as an artist whose genius stimulated and expanded but also as a most valuable symbol of a whole epoch. As a man, anally, despite his

unheard-of

success,

he has always remained

;imple and kind-hearted. My Vienna concert tour ended with a considerable deficit ^rhich, however, was covered by what was left of Deutsch's loan. the venture had been successful; my selArtistically, however,

had increased without degenerating into arrogance. had lived through an amusing time and had come to oiow part of Vienna's society. On the other hand I was glad to

:onfidence Besides, I

1

The name of a well-known contemporary 125

violinist is

here omitted.


CARL FLESCH return to the Paris milieu, to see

my friends again and to tell them

of my triumphs. Thus, towards Christmas, I was once more strolling about the boulevards, without however experiencing the expected satisfaction. For four weeks in Vienna I had known the inner content that comes with a successful debut, had drunk it to the dregs, and had whereas in Paris impressed the public as an up and coming man; I had not got farther than being one of the countless prize-winners

who,

still

to completely unknown to the public, just manage

make

a living by teaching and occasional collaboration in concerts. To this were added two circumstances that depressed me deeply.

come back

me, but conblow to both all was the manner in of worst But and my pocket. my self-respect which Marsick behaved towards me. He had toured in America

Some of my former

pupils did not

tinued under the guidance of my deputies

to

a painful

for several months, to give concerts. Hitherto, in such cases, the the Conservatoire had always had the habit of professors of their best pupils as deputies. But for some reason that appointing

remained unknown to

me

Marsick preferred to entrust

this task

to an older colleague, less close to him professionally. Similarly, his private pupils to a young girl who was quite he was tied by bonds of as a violinist, but to

he handed over

whom

unimportant

tenderness. This double setback worried

me

all

more since it no help what-

the

gave me clearly to understand that 1 could expect teacher. ever from

my

Quite soon, then,

I

began to be short of cash, and

it

was only

mind to turn my^ natural that the idea began to take root in Vienna successes I no longer back on Paris for ever. After

my

found

dignified to by going the

it

my make my way

in the usual petit bourgeois

round of the Paris salons, instead of winning manner my spurs in the concert hall, as was the custom in Central Europe. Maybe I still had the possibility of grafting myself into the musicaJ world of Bohemian Paris, of which the most famous representative at that time was Gustave Charpentier. But inevitably, the of this class had a deterrent effect onirregular manner of living me, since I was rather the bourgeois type of artist. These young people would sit every night on the terrace of the Brasserie 126


PARIS [1890-1896] Pousset where, with the aid of several glasses of absinthe, they translated themselves into the kind of misty mood out of which the Fleurs du mal had raised their poisonously seductive blossoms, and Verlaine had created his magically depraved fantasies. Charpentier himself, France's greatest talent since Bizet, wrote his last work at the age of forty; with the early decline of his creative powers he had to pay very dearly for the superficial pleasures of

the irregular life he led. It

was

special place

monic

very time that Berlin was beginning to take a

at this

among first

concerts,

the world's musical centres.

The

Philhar-

under Billow, and then with Nikisch; the

venerable Joachim Quartet; the Hochschule, which was the nursery of Germany's art of violin playing they all endowed the capital

of Germany with

a special nimbus.

One

heard of young

who

for years had led an obscure existence in Paris and Helsingfors, but became famous at one stroke after their Berlin debut. It was said that in violinists

such

as

Petschnikoff and Burmester,

which offered had to be possibilities content with Bordeaux, Marseilles and Lyons, and in AustroHungary with Prague, Graz, Budapest and Lemberg. In view of

Germany

there

were many hundreds of

societies

of engagements, whereas in France the

artist

I had to vegetate in Paris, the prospect of breaking into the international artistic world was too alluring for me to resist the idea any longer. I decided there-

the constricted circumstances in which

fortune in Berlin the following fore to leave Paris, to try autumn, and to employ the time until then in intensive prepara-

my

tion in

my parents' home.

as the result of inexperience in all things conI had landed myself in a difficult situation. trade violin the cerning The Storioni violin which I had acquired a year before, though its tone was not particularly big, could be regarded as a noble,

my

Meanwhile,

do not remember now what fever possessed me, but one day I was no longer satisfied with the volume of my instrument and I decided to look around the violin shops for one with a bigger tone. At Serdet's I found a Italian instrument which seemed to meet iny wishes. valuable instrument in

supposedly Thoughtlessly, like

all

good

condition.

I

young, inexperienced 127

violinists in

such


CARL FLESCH cases, I

broom.

decided on the spot to exchange my Storioni for the new I did not have to wait long for the bad hangover: what I

had taken

was nothing but

for a 'big' tone

a dark-coloured,

rumbling, dull noise, probably the result of the strong enough. Besides, the instrument was not

wood not being of Italian but of

in brief, a complete disappointment. And to make matters yet worse, I was still in debt for the purchase money of the Storioni. For the benefit of future generations, let me briefly relate

French origin

the further story of this transaction: some years later I exchanged the unfortunate fiddle in Bucharest for an old Viennese instru-

ment, which soon after I sold to a woman pupil for 600 francs though I never received the money. Thus the 1,200 francs were reduced to o francs. Finally the alluring violin phantom vanished in the inane. Neither in marriage nor in the purchase of a violin does love at

first

sight afford

Before

any guarantee of lasting happiness. by way of conclusion to my

my departure school year, to give another concert, with Joseph Thibaud, in the Vienna programme before the kind of Salle Pleyel. I played I

decided,

my

audience customary in Paris, consisting of friends and colleagues,

without making any

special

impression on

anyone,

myself

included.

My Paris friends thkty-four-hour

saw

me

off with genuine regret.

journey home

I

had

During the

sufficient leisure to strike

I had spent in Paris. The had schoolboy developed into a knowledgeable both worldly-wise and highly idealistic. My know-

the balance of the five and half years shy,

solitary

young

artist,

ledge of French, both conversational and literary, was not behind that of a born Frenchman; my accent hardly betrayed the

had formed a special predilection was to retain all my life. I had met people, had gathered experience in life

foreigner. By ardent reading for French literature, which I

many and and

art,

very different

and

felt

I

well equipped for the struggle for existence.

As

a

had succeeded in freeing myself from the consequences inferior elementary education and in opening up a free

violinist I

of

my

road for

my future

development.

My musical

horizon, too,

had

widened considerably through my work under Lamoureux and my intensive practice of chamber music. 128


PARIS [1890-1896] I

had begun, moreover, to take an interest in politics the painof Boulangerism, the Panama scandal, the anarchaffair had propaganda, and the first phase of the :

ful aftermath ists'

Dreyfus

passed kaleidoscopically before

me; they had strengthened

my

inclination towards a moderate socialism

and had contributed towards an increased understanding of world events. As a teacher, too, I had begun to gather experiences by which I was to profit in due course. I had learnt to move in any kind of society, and to feel at home in it. I was mature in every respect, .and felt capable of playing that part in art and life which providence had in preparation for me. No wonder that I was grieved at leaving this wonderful city in which I had experienced so much that was beautiful and new. At the same time, I was absolutely clear about the fact that Paris was not the right place for I

envisaged.

its

I

me to realize the kind of artistic life which

was longing

musical world, into a

to get

more

away from

the narrowness of

spacious, international, artistic

atmosphere, which I hoped to find in Germany. Moved by such conflicting feelings I passed the French frontier, sadly looking back at the hospitable country which I was not to see again for seven years.

129


BERLIN

[1896-1897]

Aged Twenty-three

to

Twenty-four

ARRIVED in my native Wieselburg in a very gloomy mood.

I

I felt as if I

had passed without

transition

from

the airy height of

Mont Blanc into the oppressive atmosphere of a submarine region. There was no denying that I now belonged to a different world and was a stranger to the narrow-minded, petty way of life ot the market town. Besides,

my

dampened down by recent

events.

had been perceptibly Three months previously I had

self-reliance

been victorious, confidently gazing into the future; now I was like a prodigal son who has 'poor in the pouch, sick of heart', been forced by circumstance to give his life a new direction and, until he has succeeded in this, seeks refuge in his parents' house. Also, the longing for the French

way of life which had grown

dear to me, for unconstrained social intercourse, the

manners in the

streets, in short, for

all

that

life

so

and

made the charm of the

French metropolis, gnawed at me to such an extent that I was soon afflicted with a deep depression. Yet fundamentally my life wa3

by no means there is

is

so joyless, since in the

always an upper stratum,

German-Hungarian provinces alive if tiny, which intellectually

interested in other things than the neighbour's kitchen pot,

Bathing in the Danube provided an indispensable

relief

from

the

summer heat of the plain; and every evening the people promenaded until a very late hour along the main street in animated anc^ sometimes tender conversation. Occasionally the monotony of was broken by the visit of a touring theatrical company, and I still remember die unpleasant scene that my interest in everyday

life

the male lead's pretty I

had gone

so far as

caused in my parents' house. Just think,] to dine with the company in the tavern afte^ sister

the performance and to stay out after closing hours1 for as long as 1

i.e.

a small

The 'closing of the gates' at night, after which you had sum if you wanted to get back into your flat.

130

to

pay the

porter

4


BERLIN [1896-1897] fifty

minutes

!

Despite the prestige that

had conferred on me,

I

was

my early artistic successes

considerably under the guardian-

still

my parents. My father continued to supervise my studies, at any rate quantitatively, and my mother was firmly, if unsuccessfully, concerned to improve my tidiness. Even at the age of five-and-twenty I did not dare to smoke in my father's presence, while my mother forced me into pedagogical villeinage in the form of violin instruction, of which my youngest sister was the ship of

victim.

The profound love which, fundamentally,

parents and

was shyly concealed, without any external demonstration, a situation in which a trustful relationship based on mutual understanding could not freely develop. The only member of the family to whom I felt at all close was my oldest sister's husband, Jakob Stadler, who originally had studied art in Munich and who owing to his father's unexpected death had been forced by circumstances to give up painting in order to carry on his father's grain business. He alone could understand from his own experience how the unhappy change in my life was bound to oppress me. Nor would I have been able to stand this psychic burden if I had not had the early prospect of beginfor this ning a new course of life. I was resolved to prepare myself would leave as turning-point in my existence in a manner that I envisaged was a supreme What to chance. as little possible scope children

felt

for each other

performance, a revelation of all the artistic powers slumbering within me. programme was to be the same as the one in

My

D

Vienna: the Chaconne, the Havandse, and Paganini's major Concerto as the main works, together with some smaller pieces. I tried to raise htours a

my

technical level

day with

studies

by occupying myself up

to five

since the

works

of a general kind,

me

my Vienna manner. this in kill to months six had I :oncert. Altogether occusoon I the time to order in Mo wonder, then, that beguile at least which all kinds of odd speculations, pied myself with lad the advantage of stimulating and developing my teaching

themselves were

more than

familiar to

after

alent. It

was already

:haracter

C.F.-K

began to consider my artistic and to become conscious of the

at that stage that I

with impartial

eyes,

3E

3I


CARL FLESCH dangers that threatened my further progress. The original dichotomy of my nature, the conflict between impulsiveness and reflec-

and calculation, made itself felt in my manner of practice. Already study and interpretation were two fundamentally different things for me. Practice meant not

tion, spontaneity

study and

senseless, spirit-killing,

mechanical repetition, but the detection

and elimination of existing inhibitions by means of the most concentrated exercises possible. I realized even then that the origin of an impure note, a clumsy bow stroke, or an unlovely sound was ultimately to be sought in inexpedient movements, in motorial

To reduce these mechanical inhibitions to a minitnum was main purpose which I set myself during my practice, a somewhat meagre programme in view of the unlimited time which I had at my disposal. As there was no question of making music for its own sake, owing to the absence of suitable partners, I was defects.

the

definitely faced

living

work of

with the acute danger of losing contact with the art, and of getting lost in an undergrowth of

technical puzzling and fussing. If I had been exposed for another few months to this musical and human isolation it have

might

my artistic development. However, I was immune against the withering of my emotional life, which is the driving

proved fatal to

force of every kind of artistic activity, because I was able to adapt comrades, and thus to extract, from this myself to the life of

my

primitive milieu,

enough honey

this

for

my

youthful needs. So

I

transitional period without

dangerous passed through damage. In physical respects the healthy, uneventful country life even had a nervous constitupositive influence on my development and

my

tion.

Provided by

my father with the necessary money for my first

end of September 1896, steps, and put up at the Hotel Frederich in the Potsdamerstrasse. With the aid of a map of the city I at once set out on reconnaissance, I

travelled to Berlin towards the

above all, in order to get to

know the Potsdamerplatz, which was

The undertaking went awry, since I held the down and map upside unswervingly moved in the direction of Schoneberg. My feeling for the German capital was one of love at first sight. The flower-bedecked balconies and front gardens, the then the city centre.

132


BERLIN [1896-1897] clean streets, the obliging people, the ozone-drenched, overwhelming autumnal air, in such contrast to the smells of the Paris

from the outset, instilled in me a hopeful and mood. My first visit was to the Wolff Concert Agency, to whom the arrangement of both my concerts had been entrusted. The head of of the firm was Hermann Wolff, a remarkable man whose enterprising spirit could no doubt have proved itself in a much wider streets

all this,

confident

critic, he had soon abandoned of an impresario for Hans von Biilow and Anton Rubinstein, until, in 1881, he founded the concert agency which bore his name. The development of German concert life under his influence during the next fifty years was in no way due to any artistic or social need. It was the outcome ofWolff 's idea of

field too. Originally a

musician and

these activities for that

the politico-economic correspondence between artistic performshouldn't a ances and agricultural or industrial products. virtuoso be 'ordered' and 'despatched' in the same way as wheat

Why

was simply a question of organization; the concertgiving societies had to become accustomed to 'ordering* their artists through a central agency. Supply and demand were to fix the artist's fee just as stocks and shares were priced on the ex-

or steel?

:hange.

It

When it is remembered that until then every distinguished

to have his own impresario, while for lesser-known musicians there were only slender possibilities of being heard out-

irtist

had

permanent place of residence, Wolff's theory must be iescribed as entirely novel. He was, moreover, regarded as a :onnoisseur, whom you could not influence: he knew perfectly ;vell that it meant prejudicing his enterprise if he recommended

;ide their

who failed to live up to expectations. Thus from him almost always entailed the recommendation personal ronclusion of the desked engagement. Finally, his good 'nose' enabled him to sum up beginners accurately; it was only rarely,

indistinguished artists i

hat his preconceptions deceived him. At that time, when there were never more than two nightly

on the average, Wolff had no suspicion that fifteen years ater there would be occasions when as many as fourteen musi;al functions would be given at the same hour. This morbid

roncerts

133


CARL FLESCH of a principle logical in itselfwas only partly due to the natural exertions to get a hearing and favourable reviews in the German capital in order to find paying engagements in the efflorescence

artists'

provinces and thus first of all to cover the deficit inevitably incurred in Berlin. The unhealthy over-cultivation of the capital's concert

life

was, above

promises on the

all,

the result of unfounded and unrealistic

part of the

agents,

who prompted

the inexperi-

enced beginner to waste his or other people's money on independent concerts. To the beginner's shy question, 'After my Berlin concert, will I get well-paid engagements in the provinces ?' the invariable answer was 'Most certainly, if you are successful,'

though the agency knew quite well that the financial utilization of by no means be taken as a rule, but only as

a Berlin success could

a rare exception. After Hermann Wolff's death in 1902 this stimulative policy was raised to a fundamental business principle

of the entire profession:

all

too often, half-trained or feeble talents

were encouraged to give co'ncerts. No wonder that the disparity between the disproportionately high gains of the promoter and the losses of the concert-giver soon brought the whole business into discredit and, about 1931, led to the artists' energetic efforts

from the tutelage of this intermediary trade. When I walked into Hermann Wolff's private office

to escape

that day,

I

found a good-looking man of middle age with beard already grey,

who came to meet me in a friendly, but waiting spirit. On his desk stood the photograph of a lady in decollete with a strip of paper beneath it on which it was announced in bold script that the singer,

Miss X, had neglected to pay the costs of a concert of hers: a salutary warning for the beginner, suggestive of a mediaeval pillory. When I asked him to recommend me a suitable lodging if possible,

he referred

me

to his sister

who

chiefly superintended

the important office of distributing complimentary tickets. She recommended me to her cousin, who had a room to let which I as both the landlady and her daughter stone-deaf I had unrestricted freedom to practise.

immediately took:

were

Among the letters of recommendation with which my Paris and Vienna friends had liberally provided me, the most important was from the then attach^ to the Paris Embassy, Felix von 134


BERLIN [1896-1897] Mueller,* addressed to Joachim. For the

moment

I

contented

myself with sending the letter of recommendation to Joachim with the request that he would honour my concert with his Mueller had also recommended me to Robert von presence. the in Mendelssohn, the famous junior partner banking house. 'Robby' was more active as an amateur 'cellist than as a financier. He was the possessor of a quartet of Stradivarius instruments including, above all, a 'cello which had formerly belonged to the famous Piatti. He had attached himself with idolatrous veneration

whom

to Joachim, he accompanied on most of his concert tours the last visit and during years of the master's life. He returned said

he would be present

my

my concert before my debut sped past. at

The two weeks Technically, I felt was prepared as well as possible; the only thing that caused me some anxiety was my violin, for meanwhile I had been seized I

with such an antipathy against my exchanged, pseudo-Italian instrument from Paris, that I returned remorsefully to my old 'Dutchwoman' which, however, did not satisfy me sufficiently to spur

me

on,

by way of mutual

inspiration, to

my highest expres-

sive capacity.

At the same time as I, my former schoolfellow Max Lewinger had also come to Berlin to try his fortune on the concert platform. While I was completing my training at the Paris Conservatoire, he had already for three years occupied the position of a professor

Royal Conservatoire in Bucharest, and now exchange this monotonous activity for a solo career. shortly before, our former teacher Griin had invited something one Sunday afternoon in the presence of a at the

wished to In Vienna us to play

few musiLewinger chose the first movement of Joachim's 'Hungarian' Concerto, while I rode my hobbyhprse of that time, Paganini's D major Concerto, The chances were not, however, cal friends.

divided equally, for

as a faithful Griin pupil, Lewinger enjoyed *Von Mueller, cafled *le beau Mueller*, was considered one of the most handsome men in Paris. During the First World War he was ambassador to the Hague

and shortly

after committed suicide. As a type, he was the charming, representacultured German diplomat of the pre-1914 era. At the Hague in 1915, he a who had secretary waiting kept brought urgent despatches, because he thought it more important to show me on the piano the beauties of a Mozart sonata I had not known. tive,

Mm

135


CARL FLESCH far zreater

of the master than sympathy on the part

.,

Linger. What if I asked

him

to lend

I,

who had

me ks instrument,

half an hour comrade he quickly agreed and

later I

went

a

good

off with


BERLIN [1896-1897] the

new instrument,

confident that

I

had victory in

my hand. My

a miraculous success

daring feat

proved yet there were three very real things which were responsible for it: my resolute determination to cut the Gordian knot, the fact that I dared to tackle the most important concert in my career with an unknown instrument and, past six months.

finally, the

My

thorough technical preparation of the assumed die proportions

success that evening artistic sensation. Joachim,

of an

his

brought

good wishes

to

me

manifestly surprised, personally in the artists' room. Hermann

me

Wolff, extremely friendly, scented in

a future star, a 'cele-

The violin was

brity'. generally considered to be an Italian one; I had felt completely at home on it, as if I had never pkyed on any other all my life. All the same, the next day I had to hand it back

owner, who himself was to make his debut with it a week and the problem of my violin was once more acute, for my second concert was arranged for only two weeks ahead. But for to

its

later,

the

moment

warming echoes

I

did not give a thought to the matter. I was busily nascent fame, whose myself in the rising sun of I

my

followed in the

Public criticism in those days was is in the age of the gramophone and

press.

much more important than it when everybody can form his own opinion on the value of

radio, a

performance without ever having heard the much time and space at

Also, the critics had so

artist in

the

flesh.

their disposal that

they were able to listen to a concert from the first note to the last, and to review it in detail. The expectation of the first Berlin press opinions about my playing robbed me of my sleep. At five in the morning I could no longer control my impatience and I decided to obtain the Borsenkurier

and the

Vossische Zeitung at the Pots-

damertor newspaper kiosk, where morning papers were sold from six-thirty onward. At six I stood shivering outside the small booth, which concealed

newspapers. But praise

my

fate in the

still

unsorted bundles of

how

which the two

glorious I felt as I read the extravagant stern art judges bestowed upon me! In the

same issues a young pianist beginner was also noticed his name was Ossip Gabrilowitsch. We were both labelled as future stars of the ;

first

Mark Twain's daughter, in Detroit. He a conductor and became the baton

order. Gabrilowitsch later married

changed over

to

137


CARL FLESCH was one of the most sensitive and refined pianists; sidered

it

his

duty to

come

besides,

unobtrusively to the help

he con-

of his

less

fortunate colleagues. He died comparatively young. When during the next few days the other leading papers, too,

gave

me extremely appreciative notices, I could regard my success

A

as complete. week later Lewinger introduced himself to the Berlin public without, however, making any particular impression. The general opinion was that here was an outstanding

of a not very interesting personality. Lewinger did not hesitate to take the consequences: soon after he accepted the post of leader in the Helsingfors Symphony Orchestra.

ability at the service

Meanwhile the date of my second consolidate the success of nearer,

my

which I had to was drawing nearer and

concert, in

debut,

and the unfortunate problem of my violin again began to

me considerable anxiety. I decided I would ask Joachim to help me to borrow one of Mendelssohn's violins. Joachim received me with a certain unapproachable friendliness, without cause

remark that I had the honour of having been same Hungarian province as himself. It appeared that he did not much like to be reminded of his origin (his

my

reacting to born in the

had been a poor Jewish merchant).

father

He

said

he could not

possibly intervene with Mendelssohn, since the violins available there were akeady lent. He reflected for a moment, and requested

me

to wait in his ante-room until he

hour. 1

He

me

had finished

him

his

consulting

maker was the old whose Hochschule August Kessler, workshop opposite in the Potsdamerstrasse. After Joachim had introduced me to him in the most flattering terms and had asked him to help me out then invited

with a violin for

pkce

my

to follow

to the violin

second concert, Kessler did not hesitate to

my disposal for a few weeks. was not always ready to help other Joachim could not confirm this from my own certainly

a suitable instrument at

Rumour had violinists;

I

it

that

experience.

At Saens' initial 1

second concert, in which the main work was Saintminor Concerto, I did not succeed in strengthening my success, despite what was, on the face of it, an overwhelm-

my B

Sprechstunde: the

German term

extends beyond the medical sphere.

138

>


BERLIN [1896-1897] ing success with the audience. Possibly I was not so much in the mood, or maybe the new instrument did not suit me so well; in

any in

was unable to renew the sensational impression of my When next day a review appeared in the Berliner Tageblatt,

case I

debut.

which

this falling off

was emphasized,

I

could no longer close

eyes to the fact of a fortissimo entry with an immediately following decrescendo. Herman Wolff himself, however, did not

my

appear to succumb to this disenchantment. Shortly after, through his own hand-written recommendations, he obtained for me no

fewer than five orchestral engagements with prominent music Budapest, Leipzig, Prague and Strasbourg; of

societies in Halle,

which more later. For the

moment

was

and foremost in everywere my thing connected with violin playing in Berlin. rivals? First and foremost, there were Alexander PetschnikofF, I

interested first

Who

Willy Burmester and Arrigo Serato; at some distance, there followed Felix Berber, Among the older Joachim pupils Karl Halir and Henri Petri were regarded as the most important. Ysaye,

Thibaud and Marteau had not yet made their appearance on the field. Joachim and Sarasate still represented the great school of the second half of the century now coming to its end. Their stars were setting, though their unparalleled prestige did not diminish. Neither Budapest nor Petersburg, neither Hubay nor Auer had yet despatched outstanding exponents of their schools to the international centre of music, and the Hochschule itself had not so far succeeded in producing a young generation of violinists Kreisler,

good enough

Above rising star

all

for the concert platform. others,

of the

Alexander Petschnikoff was regarded as a order. He was born in 1873, studied in

first

Moscow, and led an obscure existence in Paris for several years. Then his luck changed. A Russian aristocrat presented him with m outstanding Stradivarius* and furnished him with letters of recommendation to leading members of Berlin society. He made this instrument was considered to be one of the best-sounding best-preserved violins in existence, until one day during a concert at Kassd PetschnikofF had the rare misfortune to run the stick between the strings on a iharply accentuated upbow stroke in Bach's Chaconne, sending the instrument, tfhich he was probably holding loosely, flying through the air, where it described

*For a long time

md

139


CARL FLESCH his

debut one year before

me

in the Bechstein Hall; a handful

of

people attended, including the Reich Chancellor Prince Hohenlohe. The next day he was famous. The newspapers praised him to the skies; the Berliner Tageblatt, the Chancellor's official organ, him as the greatest violinist of the future. Yet the very next

hailed

year his performance of the Beethoven Concerto in one of the Philharmonic concerts proved a complete flop. It was on that occasion that I myself heard him for the first time, and I shared the general disappointment. His chief merit was his unusually beautiful tone colour, but the tone itself was lacking in volume.

His technical facility, judged from the highest standpoint, was of an average kind, but his style had an undisputed charm of a SlavonicRomance kind. His stance while playing was highly original if unpractical. He thrust his left leg so far forward that he was forced to set no more than the toe of his right foot on the floor and to extend his body's right side in a steep incline backward a

highly inconvenient playing position. In any case it seemed an enigma to me that this estimable, but in no way outstanding, violinist should have succeeded, if only for one season, in con-

quering Berlin: in 1895, public opinion in the German capital placed him above all other violinists. His further career showed gift fate can make to a man by overestimation An artist who at first is not, or not sufficiently, recognized and who must advance step by step, has the full joy of

what a dangerous of

his capacity.

growing, of ascending, of developing ever' further until he finally achieves perfection: he fights and wins. The so-called favourite of fortune, on the other hand, to providence has granted

whom

faced with the incomparably greater task of on his dizzy height. The weight of Petschnihimself maintaining koff 's name, and of his sudden, overwhelming success exercised painless success,

its

is

power only for

a

few years. With the arrival of Ysaye,

and Marteau, PetschnikofFs fame ended just

as

Kreisler

abruptly as

it

had

a wide arc before it landed at his feet. Several serious cracks testified to the violence of his misdirected energy. Incidentally my own Dutch fiddle was once the victim of a similar misadventure: my oldest brother was turning over for me and, with a swinging movement of the hand, sent my instrument flying through, the air into the far corner of the room.

140


BERLIN [1896-1897] begun. Later he held only subordinate teaching posts and, no older than forty, virtually ceased to play a part in international concert life.

The chief exponent of German violin playing was Willy Burmester [b. 1869], who had many sensational successes in Berlin round about 1894 with Paganini programmes in the Cesar Thomson manner. Although he had originally been taught by Joachim, he considered that he had only himself to thank for his abilities. The unprejudiced observer must pass a decidedly unfavourable judgment on the violinist Burmester. On the credit

playing only showed a certain fluency, which however superficial and inexact, and a strong rhythmic sense, at rimes

side, his

was

exaggerated and distorted.

The

of his defects calls for far more space. What, one could learn from Joachim, the feeling for a musically logical declamation, he lacked completely. His style was distinctly unmusical, arbitrary, inconsistent and unbeautiful; his tone was cold, his bowing angular and mixed with scraping noises. In later years, moreover, he pkyed intolerably out of tune. And yet for some twenty years he remained a declared favourite of the German and Austrian public 'the Raphael among violinists', as one imaginative critic called him: what a testimony to the poverty of German critical standards at the time By almost every other country he was flatly rejected. Whenever the question of the German public's artistic understanding was discussed between French and German violinists, the inexplicability of Burmester's

above

specification

all,

!

was always

the chief French argument against Germany. yet something must have been responsible for his effect on the great mass of concert-goers. It was no doubt the quality of his success

And

not particularly attractive, yet characteristic and well-defined personality. He was a living witness to the unhappy truth that an inferior personality

at ality

Le

all.

is

of greater value to an artist than no person-

Of proverbial

was of perfect

build,

fat to

it.

arrogance, witty, vain and unabashed,

and

his

sinewy face had not one scrap of stiff elegance of his appear-

The somewhat

unnecessary ance, the natural unmusicality of his

of whose absolute and exclusive rightness he always seemed completely convinced all 141

style,


CARL FLESCH created a hotchpotch of mutually contradictory characteriswhich, taken together and despite their inferiority, presented the picture of a very definite individuality. In addition he was the

this tics

first violinist

who, long before

Kreisler,

made

the 'small pieces',

the musical confectionery, fit for the concert hall. After he had scraped his way through the first part of his programme, say the 'Kreutzer' Sonata or a concerto (Spohr, Bruch, or Mendelssohn),

he proceeded to offer the 'Burmester pieces' in the form of scraps of graceful melodies, drawn from all kinds of classical chamber music, torn out of their context, and scantily glued together with the aid of a hack pianist. Each piece demanded the attention of the

audience for no those

more than

who had come

a minute or two, with the result that

for entertainment rather than edification

could take an incredible quantity of this product. They alone were responsible for the success of his concerts, at which one met almost exclusively people

who were

missing

from more

serious

events.

Even before he was fifty, however, his playing capacity was seriously on the wane. After the First World War he still attempted to go on concert tours overseas. He first went to Japan, but had the misfortune on the voyage to become involved in a wrestling match with a sailor whom he had challenged, trusting

own exceptionally well-trained body. He received a pretty severe beating, had to spend a considerable time in hospital and could not carry out the projected concerts in Japan. He then in his

decided to try his fortune in the United States, but suffered a fearful failure. After that one heard of him but rarely. He died in 1933

i*1

near-poverty.

figure without

He was

artistic

an adventurer, an odd and original

ambition, passionately devoted to the He did not feel any need to bring new

material things of life. works before the public.

Max

Sonatas, op. 42* to him, but

Reger dedicated his four solo he never took the trouble to study,

1 Hesch writes *op, 44' which, however, consists of piano pieces. He no doubt means op. 42 (see also p. 237). I have not retouched the rest of the sentence, although it may not be altogether correct. Burmester seems to have replied to the dedication with a letter of profound appreciation, and to have examined the work in detail, without finding any technical fault with it. He must, moreover, have given Reger a copy of the music with his comments, for Adalbert Lindner,

142

1


BERLIN [1896-1897] let

alone perform them.

Nor did he feel any urge to

play chamber

music or even to teach. Of the intrinsic qualities which make up artist he did not possess a single one. Posterity will pass

the true

on him the harsh judgment

that

he was of no

significance

ever to the development of violin playing. year before my debut the eighteen-year-old

A

Italian,

what-

Arrigo

had made his, with much success. People were surprised to hear again an Italian violinist of importance. Sivori and Bazzini had departed from the scene many years since, and the Italians had produced no successor worthy of them. For the art of pretty Teresina Tua was not of sufficient stature to form a link in the great line of Italian violin development. But even with Serato, Serato,

could only be said with reservations. Originally an appealing daredevilry was the chief feature of his personality, supported by musipleasant tonal qualities, an average technique and a healthy cal sense. But he shared with Petschnikoff and Burmester the misthis

fortune oflacking any notable possibilities of development, and like

them he passed his prime as a violinist before he reached the age of thirty.

When

Italy entered the First

World War he

left

Berlin,

where he had spent over twenty years, and settled in Italy, where he was often to be heard on the radio. Good-looking, charming and amiable, he was for long regarded as the official exponent or violin playing in his native country.

At

die time of

my Berlin concerts,

three concerts with orchestra, in

Felix Berber [b. 1871] gave carried through the

which he

then sensational undertaking of performing nine violin concertos in three evenings. Berber, who died before he was sixty, was one

of his time. Utterly original, he played and great devotion. His technique was remarkrough (ungepjiegf), and his musicality, especially in he convincing. The fact that nevertheless

of the strongest

with genuine able if a

little

talents

fire

quartet playing, highly did not succeed in playing a leading role in international concert life is

due first and foremost to

certain features

of his character.

He

one single passage of double stoppings Reger's biographer, remembers 'only ' which Burmester had marked "very difficult" (Max Reger, Stuttgart, 1922, p. However, Flesch knew Reger, and there may be more in Hesch's account 188).

than has so far met the eye.

143


CARL FLESCH was uncontrollably impulsive, a virtuoso at giving offence to his fellows. In the course of his life he held no less than nine posts, each of which he quitted after a row. His lack of consideration for his colleagues was proverbial. Once asked why he never attended other violinists' concerts, he replied: 'Out of regard for my

mood;

for if a violinist plays badly

I

get thoroughly annoyed;

and if he plays well I get even more annoyed/ Berber's immoderation and lack of self-control as a man was no doubt responsible too for the absence of any harmonious development in him as an artist. None the less I regard him as the most interesting personality among German violinists of his generation. Anton Witek [b. 1872], who was then leader of the Philharmonic Orchestra, occupied a peculiar position. He was a German Bohemian of the Prague school. He was an outstanding violinist and musician, admittedly without much individuality, but head and shoulders above the Berlin average. He was always ready to take the place of a missing soloist at the shortest notice and without rehearsal, a task from which, as a rule, he emerged most honourably. He was, incidentally, the first violinist who, forced by excessive perspiration, resorted to the still despised steel E string. Rose and he were regarded as the best living orchestral leaders.

Later

on he migrated

to

Boston and

after the First

"World

War

shuttling backward and forward between America and Europe. He died in America in 1933, poor and neglected an undeserved fate for this highly meritorious and versa-

led a restless

tile violinist,

life

life,

who

from 1894 to

played a distinguished part in Berlin's musical

1910.

Berlin's concert life

still

centred

on

the recitals

of the Joachim

Quartet, in which the old master celebrated the mass of what is for me the most sublime musical form, the string quartet not always with unobjectionable technique and tone, but with indes-

power and an Olympian As these series were sold out by subscription,

tructible spiritual freshness, constructive

freedom of delivery.

Joachim always arranged a semi-public rehearsal for his pupils and less prosperous friends on the morning of a concert, to which he invited me on several occasions. The unforgettable impressions that I carried away for all the rest of my life I have 144


BERLIN already described in

The woman settled in

[1896-1897]

my characterization ofJoachim's personality.

violinist

Wilma Norman-Neruda, 1 who had

England, played wholly in Joachim's

spirit,

and was

certainly the leading female exponent of his school. I heard her play three Beethoven Sonatas in partnership with Mme. Gernsheim. She seemed to have inherited much of her master's expressiveness, and although I could not hear a truly personal note, her

playing

left

an extraordinarily profound impression on me.

Among the violinists who had settled in Berlin, the GermanBohemians, Karel Halif, Anton Witek, Florian Zajic [b. 1853] and Gabriele Wietrowetz, were in the front rank. Halif, Joachim's second violin, belonged undoubtedly to the upper middle ckss of and violinists, trio recitals in Zajic too, who

chiefly organized Heinrich Griinfeld, enjoyed good repute. Gabriele Wietrowetz [b. 1866] was an extraordinary and original talent which, however, never came to full fruition,

association

owing

with the

'cellist

to the one-sidedness

of her

technical training

and her lack

of psychological balance.

As for all the others who bustled around the concert platform, none of them impressed me in the least. Neither the academic drily

Emmanuel Wirth with his wrist mania, 2 nor the charlatanish Waldemar Meyer, nor the many one-day lilies who had come from the Hochschule could make me forget Paris, the city of Marsick, Hayot, Rivarde, Geloso, Capet, JafFe and Marteau, Most of all I was annoyed by the disregard of pure sound, the

unconcern with which these people, scratched and scraped and thrashed as

as

a matter

of course,

if musical intentions in

themselves were sufficient for a violinist to renounce spotless

was owing to the disregard of this basic of principle craftsmanship that despite the multitude of great and highly promising talents then at the Hochschule, not one of them succeeded in taking a place among the great violinists of our time. In spite of their indubitable inferiority to the foreign artists who realization in sound. It

1 Wilma (Wilhemina) Neruda, Lady Halle,was a Moravian violinist [ 1 839-191 1 ] who studied with Jansa. She first appeared in London in 1849. In 1864 she married

the Swedish composer Ludvig Norman; became the second wife of Charles Halle". *Seepp. 3 1 and 34.

in 1888, three years after his death, she

145


CARL FLESCH gave concerts in Berlin, everything that had any connection with was charged with a self-conceit that won it the

the Hochschule

nickname of the High and Mighty School (Hochmutsschule), and which could not but seem downright grotesque to an outsider. The concept of 'Joachim Pupil' seemed to be crowned with a nimbus, despite the obvious inadequacy of those who bore the title.* A rare collection of violinistic cripples gathered in the

shadow of the for

great man; many of them had early on been ruined the torture of Wirth's wrist exercises. This conceited

life

by whose fiasco became obvious during the following decades, fawned on the susceptible master in oriental fashion, sought to obtain for themselves the juiciest posts at the Hochschule, and to cling to them like leeches until the legal age of retirement, to the elite,

detriment of the students training there. In the field of composi-

around Joachim was consciously reactionary. The Cesar Franck Sonata, which today seems so tame, was briefly described as filth, while the compositions of the Hochschule tion too, the clique

professors Friedrich Kiel, Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Ernst F. K. RudorfF and Robert Kahn were declared to be, with Brahms, the only kind of true modern art. The Joachim clique watched

anxiously to ensure, moreover, that no alien element should get a hold in the musical circles of Berlin society. In the Mendelssohn

house the Joachim cult sometimes took on the nature of idol worship and was extended to people whose only merit was that they had once been taught by the master,

While

more or less successfully.

find myself compelled to distinguish sharply between the venerable personality of a Joachim and the unhealthy influence I

must on the other hand make it clear that I pernever had to suffer under the then prevailing state of sonally affairs. The master himself seemed to have the best of opinions of his

satellites, I

concerning my qualities as a violinist and did not hesitate to express himself accordingly on suitable public occasions. Even the pedantic Wirth once condescended to express to me his admiration of playing, though with the reservation that I habitually took

my

semitones

much

*'My name's the pianist

too closely, thus often conflicting with the equal

Schulze, a Joachim pupil,' a youngster once introduced himself to Eisner at a party. 'Don't let that worry you', came the answer.

Bruno

146


BERLIN [1896-1897]

temperament of the piano, a criticism which very probably was I also was a great favourite with the students at the Hochschule; with a few of them I even struck up a superficial friendship. The were majority happy young people; they were great fun and showed their mettle at the billiard table in the correct at that time.

Cafe Austria opposite the Hochschule.

It

was only when

in Berlin after Joachim's death that, as a teacher,

horror

how many

I

settled

I

with

realized

epoch had left behind as testimony to its inadequacy, and that even the outstanding talents among them had not succeeded in raising themselves above a violinistic ruins this

certain average level. In fact, the pernicious influence of this continues to make itself felt period today : there still are extremely

few purely German youngsters of real

calibre.

the greatest impression on me apart from Joachim was Artur Nikisch. He was born only seven miles from Wieselburg. His father was an under-clerk in a sugar re-

The musician who made

me

finery. Nikisch had always shown a certain friendly feeling for as a close fellow countryman and, with amazing amnesia, he re-

peated the same anecdote for twenty years whenever we happened to make music together: 'You are from Wieselburg?* he began in his

broad Swabian-Magyar

joke.

When I was

a

dialect, 'that

young man

reminds

me

Hellmesberger and the 'cellist had a number of small provincial engagements. Now burg there was a lawyer by the name of Bokay,*

engaged us for a

trio recital in the Rossi inn.

in the afternoon; there

of a good

often played trios with "Pepi" also Karl Lasner, I at the piano. I

were

still

two hours

Well,

We

in Wiesel-

who

once

we drove

to the concert,

out

and

so

we sat down in the parlour and had something to eat. Suddenly we heard a tremendous row going on in the main street Pepi ran to the window and shouted: "Come and look, boys, here comes the audience/' Lasner and

I

ran to the

window and saw about

a

with a frightful noise.

hundred cattle coming along the street Well, you can guess how we laughed!' I myself smiled rather in local pride. forcedly every time he told the story, a little hurt my *Bokay discovered that a girl working as a servant in his house had an extrathe ordinary vocal talent; she was Katharina Klafsky [1855-96], who became father still remembered how she had to carry drinking famous Wagner singer. water in great buckets up to the first floor.

My

C.F.-L


CARL FLESCH Nikisch had succeeded Hans von Biilow

as

conductor of the

Philharmonic concerts twelve months before my Berlin debut. To me he was a revelation. From the time of my work under

Lamoureux, I was still used to the type of unimaginative stickwagger who, strictly according to the compass, beat f time in the four cardinal points. Now for the first time I saw a musician

who,

in the air impressionistically, described

not simply the bare

dynamic and agogical the indefinable mysterious feeling that .lies between the notes; his beat was utterly personal and original. With

metrical structure, but

nuances

as

well

above

all

the

as

Nikisch began a new era of the art of conducting. I could not judge whether he continued what Bulow had prepared, for I had

never heard Biilow conduct. In any itself seemed

thought out,

case, Nikisch's

technique

unprecedented and completely individual, in no wise but experienced, felt an instinctive expression of his

personality. He was the first conductor to beat in advance, i.e. to give the note value a fraction of a second early, a style that was later adopted, and somewhat exaggerated, by Furtwangler. Born in a part of Hungary that was racially very mixed, he combined German musicality with Hungarian fire and Slavonic morbidezza (delicacy). From this rare mixture came an integral whole that left the impression on the hearer of something absolutely unique of its kind, especially when the work in question was in harmony with his individuality. In intellectual respects one would say he was somewhat primitive. He read little or nothing,

was fond of cards, women and company the most perfect type of a musician of genius from the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy. His ambitions were chiefly musical and social. Irreproachable performances and good company to follow gave him more satisfaction than external honours and lucrative guestconducting outside his regular circle of activities. Of the moderns of his day, and Wagner apart, Tchaikovsky and Bruckner were closest to his heart. The 'Pathetique' was particularly to his mind, and despite his many performances of the work the dark Weltschmerz of the finale continued to move him to tears. His appearance, too, completely accorded with the character of his art. His well-built, medium-sized figure was crowned with a long face

148


BERLIN [1896-1897]

which was framed by a pointed beard, and whose expression centred on the strange and weary melancholy of the eyes. His personality, as that of every interpreter of strong direct appeal, contained a fair dose of femininity, which with his otherwise thoroughly masculine bearing formed an attractive whole. When studying a new work, he could perhaps be accused of depending too much on his instinct and his innate for interpretation

facility

and execution. It was common knowledge that he often cut the pages of a new score as late as the first rehearsal. The fact was that he had a special talent for skilful I improvisation. regularly attended the Philharmonic concerts in those days, and as a former

orchestral player his

I

never tired of both watching the variety of

means of manual

expression,

and

listening to the intensity

of

his renderings.

At

the time, Brahms' First

Symphony was

still

regarded as a

wild, heaven-storming, heterogeneous and problematic work, Tchaikovsky's 'Pathetique' as the most audacious expression of the

Slavonic character, while over Strauss's symphonic

poems or

Mahler's symphonies (of which, incidentally, one only dared to play selected movements) audiences sometimes expressed their different opinions by coming to blows. And over all this commotion the good Nikisch hovered like a reconciling spirit, outwardly spick and span, apparently a little blase, but inwardly full of youthful fire and an overpowering capacity for enthusiasm. The orchestra went with him through thick and thin, and submitted willingly to the influence of his personality, since the orchestral musicians regarded him as one of themselves; they felt that he really belonged to them, that at the bottom of his heart he remained a simple orchestral musician, whom only a kind, but just, fate had placed at their head. As a former violinist he understood the practical side of orchestral playing down to the last detail, and his criticism never took the form of those aesthetic

or metaphysical considerations detested by orchestral musicians; every one of his remarks started out first and foremost from a practical mistake;

this eliminated,

the desired aesthetic result

would come of itself. As he never indulged in hot air or general twaddle, always mentioned what was necessary and never the 149


CARL FLESCH superfluous, his rehearsals

were of a comforting

brevity, a circum-

made him even more popular with the orchestra there to is which the orchestral musician is more responsive. nothing stance that

know Nikisch in 1897, on the occasion of one of luncheons which, down to about 1930, regularly took

I first

those

:

came

to

place at Wolff's after the public rehearsals of the Philharmonic Orchestra. At the request of Hermann Wolff, I played the first

movement of Goldmark's

Violin Concerto. Apparently the host have Nikisch's opinion as to whether I was suitable as a for one of his concerts in the forthcoming season. But

wanted soloist

to

turned my back on the German capital more came of it. Exacdy ten years were many years, nothing to pass before I was to make my debut under Nikisch in the Berlin since, shortly afterwards, I

for

Philharmonic concerts.

And fiom

then

down

to his untimely

death in 1924 1 played with him about a dozen times in Berlin and

performing, among other works, Dohnanyi's and Weingartner's Concertos and Suk's Fantasy for violin and orchestra. As a thorough expert on the violin he was an uncommonly Leipzig,

first

sensitive, adaptable

mity always had

and considerate accompanist, whose proxiand calming effect on the soloist.

a comforting

Like Ysaye in his own field, Nikisch was the last consummate exponent of the romantic era, in which the financial exploitation

of artistic

ability

had not yet become the main aim, more or

avowed, of concert-giving, where

artistic satisfaction

could

less still

be a compensation for a financial loss. His early death left a painful gap in European musical life. The memory of this lovable and outstanding

artist

has remained alive

among

all

who were close to

him as men and musicians. Nikisch's rival in the favour of the Berlin public was Felix I did not to know at that time. Weingartner, get

whom

Only

seven years later did I have the opportunity to come into artistic contact with him. I remember him as an exceptionally handsome

man, well-proportioned sculpture. In his art too

in his figure

and

he aimed at clean

features like a

Greek

formal balance, and a firm rhythmic foundation; he rejected excess of any kind. His beat was far more conventional and old-fashioned than Nikisch's.

What was

lines,

remarkable, however, was the difference in

150

-'


BERLIN [1896-1897] quality first

between

movement

one of the

Moscow in

performances. While his interpretation of the of Beethoven's Fifth in Amsterdam in 1903 was his

greatest re-creations I have ever heard, his 'Eroica' at like a feeble, average performance 1910 seemed to

me

of a provincial conductor. The effect left by his interpretations depended above all on whether he found it possible to compel the .orchestra to surrender

its

will entirely to him.

Thus

his art rested

on psychic foundations, whereas his pure craftsmanship, baton technique and in rehearsing the orchestra, was on a comparatively primitive level. His state of mind was decisive for the achievement or failure of his intentions, since purely technically he was unable to produce, up to a point, a substitute for any missing inspiration. The great tragedy of his life consisted

primarily

both in

his

in the unsatisfied need to be creative, a great composer. In this

respect Weingartner regarded himself all his life as an unrecognized genius, whereas in reality he was no more than a clever eclectic, composing what was, fundamentally, the better kind of

At later stages, I had Kapellmeistermusik (lit. 'conductor's music'). Violin in his the opportunity of playing Concerto, two of public his Sonatas, the Sextet and a String Quartet. When he himself he always succeeded, by his participated in these performances of force and suggestion, in giving the fascinating amiability effect that was impression that the music had great significance, an when another to reduced interpreter sat naught immediately

at the piano.

He was

his

own

manager, and a very clever one

too.

Tormented by

his frustrated

longing for great success as a

his sphere of composer, he spent a restless life, frequently changing often. more almost and Decidedly egocentric, marrying activity, he judged the world in general and his fellows in particular that they showed in his according to the degree of interest creations. In his later life he took charge of a much-attended school for conductors in Basle. He was the last survivor of the group of conductors around the turn of the century, which had

great

with Hans Richter. In Wolff's house I also met Siegfried Ochs, who in his capacity conductor of the Philharmonic Choir was the unchallenged

started

as


CARL FIESCH lord of the world of choral singing. a la

gimen Under his

Lamoureux

He

maintained a

and was notorious for

strict re-

his rudeness.

direction the Philharmonic Choir achieved unsurpassed

bloom. As orchestral conductor, on the other hand, he was pretty moderate; it seemed incomprehensible that this man, who could carry choral singers with him to supreme performances, artistic

turned into a flop alone. Later

when

confronted with orchestral instruments

Ochs was forced by circumstances

ing post for choral singing at the Hochschule,

to take

up a teachwhich he held till

he reached the age limit. Ochs was notorious for his stinging tongue, and woe to anyone he disliked. When he was asked for the address of Luise Wolff, the owner of the concert agency, who was staying in Venice, he replied: 'Of course, canaille grande! He retained his youthful ardour until his old age. Berlin's musical life

between 1890 and 1920 can hardly be imagined without him. Meanwhile, the success of my Berlin concerts, with Hermann Wolff's ensuing recommendations, had helped me to a number of engagements which were to enable me to consolidate my reputaI embarked on the above-mentioned concerts in Halle,

tion.

Leipzig, Budapest, Prague and Strasbourg. In Budapest I played under Hans Richter for the first and only time in life.

my Origina horn player, to whom Wagner had entrusted the transcript of the score of The Mastersingers, this disciple of the master ally

of intellectually primitive, eminently whom the Austro-Hungarian monhad in always produced archy astonishing numbers. He too had been born in the West-Hungarian German musicians' corner, i.e. at Raab (Gyor) a supremely competent conductor of the old, belonged to the noble

class

natural musicians of genius

solid school.

While I was occupied with preparations for a concert in Budapest I received a telegram from the Wolff concert agency asking whether I was prepared to play the Beethoven Concerto in a week's time at a Philharmonic concert under Franz Schalk in the

Prague German Theatre. True, I had studied the work with Marsick at the Paris Conservatoire, but my awe of this concerto of concertos had so far been

thought of performing

it

much

too profound for

in public.

152

However,

vile

me

to

have

mammon

in


BERLIN [1896-1897] the

form of a fee of 400 marks, which seemed extremely necessary

for the replenishment of seriously depleted resources, towith the of youthful frivolity three-and-twenty years, gether

my

my

prompted me

to accept the offer out of hand and to attempt to work the up to scratch within eight days. To this end I had bring an accompanist come every day to rooms, and swotted with

my

gloomy

resolution, playing

it

on the day of the concert with

the

courage of desperation. Fourteen years later, Schalk assured me that he had retained a highly pleasant memory of it, but all the

same

it

from an expert that was not an organically mature one but a *com-

surely could not have been concealed

the interpretation

mand' performance.

met Jeno Hubay [1858-1937]. Incontestably, Magyar German, whose original name was Eugen Huber,

In Budapest this

I also

was of great

significance for the development of violin playing in for it is only since his appointment at the Budapest

Hungary,

Academy

that

one can speak of a

His individuality

Hungarian school. of a mixture of German, renounced the soloist's career

specifically

as a violinist consisted

Belgian and Magyar elements. He while still young, in order to devote himself exclusively to composition, quartet playing and teaching. I heard him only once in

He gave me the impression of a noble with outstanding technical and musical qualities. Like Auer in Petersburg, he had the good fortune to have an extraordinary fine lot of students at his disposal. One can safely say that 1896, as a quartet player.

violinist

even today the Conservatoires in Budapest or Petersburg (Leninall others, have no untalented students grad) or Moscow, unlike whatever, while the number of pronounced talents 1

ably high.

is

incompar-

A very fine preparatory teacher by the name of Studer

worked under Hubay

for

many

years,

and

as a rule

he passed on

the students completely matured in technical respects; therefore, with most so-called Hubay pupils of the last twenty years, it is to decide to which of the two teachers they owe really impossible their education.

What

is

certain

is

that the

young Hungarian

student of our day almost always has an excellently developed Written

in 1933

left

but as recent Flesch Competitions and other events tend to

indicate, the observation

may

still

retain part

153

of its

validity.


CARL FLESCH hand, a natural feeling for tonal beauty and great ardour behind it all, while on the debit side we usually have to record too slow and

broad a vibrato, habitual portato bowing and a certain lack of

dynamic differentiation. Also, the fact that as interpreters the good violinists of the Budapest school resemble each other to a remarkable extent, seems to indicate that

Hubay

did not regard the pre-

servation and development of a pupil's individuality as the teacher's supreme law. Thus it came about that while this school

has produced a great number of good players, not a single outstanding personality has emerged from it after Vecsey, Szigeti and

Telmanyi. As a composer Hubay became well known not only with his several salon pieces, but above all through his Csdrdds Scenes and his arrangements of Hungarian folk songs and dances, of which the cleverly written Hejre Kati has even acquired world fame. In his violin concertos he deliberately remained faithful to

Vieuxtemps' harmony and melodic structure. The symphonic development of the modern violin concerto, which Max Bruch initiated and Brahms brought to a climax, passed Hubay by without leaving a trace. In the last years of his life he waged a subterranean, but all the more bitter, struggle for leadership in

Hungary's musical

Dohnanyi. Even

at

with the younger and far more gifted the age of seventy-five he was unwilling to

life

hand over It is

the conducting of the Academy to a younger man. true that in view of their artistic importance, the

engage-

ments which came

my way through Wolff's mediation could be

regarded as an unusual honour for a young debutant, but neither their number nor the money they brought me could be considered satisfactory.

By way of compensation, I amused myself in Berlin's

lively society

and was a welcome guest in many homes in which, made music. On one such occasion, in some salon

at times, I also

or other

(I

don't

remember which),

I

improvised the

first

Berlin

performance of the Cesar Franck Sonata with a sorrowful-looking and somewhat deformed young pianist by the name of Hans Pfitzner, whom I had never seen before. In the Cafe Austria, chief haunt, there was lively company after concerts: one met acquaintances, discussed artistic and social problems, or played billiards or ,

my

chess. In this

way!cametoknowBusoniandOttokarNovacek,for 154


BERLIN [1896-1897] they devoted themselves to the royal

The

game there almost every day. part that Ferruccio Busoni [1866-1924] played in the

musical development of his age is not yet clear. True, everybody and the agreed that by virtue of the versatility of his

is

musicality

high moral earnestness with which he followed his musical mission he was, in any case, one of the most venerable figures of his time. In his threefold capacity as a pianist, composer and writer, he decisively influenced the development of contemporary musical life. But it still seems impossible to pass an objective judgment

on the

lasting value

belong, like

Franz

whose titanic whose genius

will

of

his compositions.

Liszt, to is

To

me, he seemed to

the class of those Promethean natures

inhibited

earthbound

their

by

abilities,

and

destined to stimulate other people rather than to perfect their own creative selves. As a pianist, too, he went his own is

way. Despising purely sensuous sound he shaped

his interpretations

an expressive medium, to his formal needs in according as

mighty planes, architectonically. As a teacher he formed, with Joachim and Ysaye, a constellation of three stars who, despite, or perhaps just because of their towering personalities, exerted an unhealthy influence on the students entrusted to them. His pupils inevitably came under the charm of his fascinating influence, renouncing their own personalities and identifying themselves with his, under a kind of hypnosis. Artists like Artur Schnabel or myself, who sought to preserve their individuality intact, therefore avoided coming within his magic circle. As a matter of

Busoni taught without remuneration a principle that honest teacher would gladly make his own, if he were not every compelled by our social order to provide for himself and his

principle,

family with his own labour. In following the highly ethical rule to give artistic advice without selling it, Busoni apparently forgot the stern necessities of life. it

did not occur to

him

Near is

my shirt, but nearer is my skin:

that every

providing for his family.

The

man has above all word about

the duty of

perhaps the of the late musical nineteenth and figure early twentieth strangest centuries, has not yet been spoken. final

Today Busoni's chess partner and Novacek [1866-1900], is almost entirely 155

this,

exact coeval,

Ottokar

forgotten. Originally he


CAUL ELESCH violinist, and came from a numerous family of musicians. It a cruel irony of fate that tins extraordinarily gifted man is now mentioned only in connection with an effective genre piece for violin, the Perpetuum Mobile. At the time he was regarded as one

was a

is

of the most daring innovators among the young generation, and I still remember the storm of indignation that his Piano Concerto when it was played by Busoni in the Philharmonic provoked concerts. It is likely that he had the stuff for a really great composer in him, but fate gave his talent no time to mature. He died at the age of thirty-four in the United States, where he had been forced to earn his bread as viola player in the Brodsky Quartet. 1 For the time being, my concert activities in Berlin had come to an

end with

my two recitals. I lacked the means to arrange my own risk, and I did not yet feel ready to

further concerts at

play in the Philharmonic concerts. Only once during that winter did I have another opportunity to perform in Berlin, as a stop-gap in the first concert

of the later famous

Italian singer,

Camilla Landi.

fulfilling my few foreign and in occasionally playing obligations private concerts. Although not exacdy satisfied then, I lived comfortably in the enjoyment of the reputation which, as it were, I had acquired on account, and I allowed myself to be carried along on the waves of Berlin society life, leaving the immediate future to providence. In my spare time I was a zealous visitor to the workshops of the Berlin violin and made friends with the two most important, makers, special Hermann Hammig and Ernst Kessler. Hammig came from an old Markneukirchen family of instrument makers who had moved to Leipzig. He was an amiable man, always ready to help a young

For the

artist

rest, I

who

contented myself with

needed

a violin; his

only weakness was that he placed

alcoholic delights above all else. Thirty years later he fell stairs when tipsy and died of his injuries. He was justly

down-

regarded

as

the leading connoisseur of violins amongst his professional colleagues; he played quite acceptably himself and his sensitivity to

sound was highly developed, for which reason fiddlers preferred and sound-post to him.

to entrust the adjustment of the bridge

*A year before his

death,

he retired from

of Hi-health. I 56

all

professional appointments because


BERLIN [1896-1897]

demanded 'hot* prices for his violins, but one was of obtaining an unobjectionable instrument from him. His colleague, Kessler, on the other hand, often managed to mistake a Gagliano for a Stradivarius, as when he sold a 'cello to Robert von Mendelssohn. From then on Joachim went over to Hammig, and remained faithful to him for the rest of his life. Around 1896 it It is

true that he

sure

was

possible to acquire a first-class Strad or Guarneri for to 25,000 30,000 marks. Bergonzis of high quality cost 15,000 still

marks, Montagnanas 8,000, Guadagninis 3,000 to 4,000, Gaglianos about 1,000 marks, while fine old German or Dutch instruments

were

to be

200 to 400 marks. activity brought with it a lively interest in the conditions prevailing in the field of Berlin music criticism. From my life in

bought

at

My

Paris I

was

still

having to serve

accustomed to think of concert notices as often as an occasion for cheap puns, as in the case of

Gauthiers-Villars who each week reviewed the Sunday (Willy), concerts in the.B:/z0 de Paris, tinder the 'L'Ouvreuse du

Cirque

d'Ete'. Incidentally,

pseudonym commendatory notices

in the biggest

newspaper were paid for according to a fixed scale. In the Berlin press, on the other hand, music criticism was to some extent in the hands of experienced professionals, who usually

Paris daily

took great trouble to offer factual (if dry) criticism. Admittedly the critic of the Berliner Tageblatt, Neumann, the successor to the highly esteemed Heinrich Ehrlich, enjoyed no particularly high regard, and the cutting Wilhelm Tappert of the Kleine Journal had to admit in legal proceedings that he growled only if no sausage had been supplied to him previously. But there still were *old'

Urban and

Max

Julius

young Max Marschalk of the Vossische Zeitung, 2 Loewengard of the Berliner Bdrsen-Zeitttng, Otto 1

the

3 Lessmann, the Wagner advocate of the Allgemeine Musikzeitung, the reactionary but thoroughly honest Krebs4 oftheLokalanzeiger, 1

Also a prolific composer. Also a conductor, theorist, teacher and composer. 8 AIso a pianist, teacher and composer. Since 1 88 1 he was the proprietor of the Allgemeine Musikzeitung which he edited until 1907. 4 Karl Krebs, the musicologist and historian who wrote, successively, for the Vossische Zeitung, the Modeme Kunst and the Tag. I cannot find any record of his work for theLokalanzeiger, but that does not necessarily imply faulty recollection on Hesch's part. 2

157


CARL FLESCH and many others whose judgments were held in high regard by the professional musicians. Sensational at the time was an affair between a critic and an artist which today is almost completely pianist Georg Liebling, who was an expert at rather than at the keyboard, had managed, through advertising his connections with the Berliner Tageblatt, to arrange for pros-

forgotten.

The

pectuses in which his successes were described in glowing words to be distributed with each copy of that paper. In his own paper, the critic Loewengard described this advertisement, which was

not yet

common in Europe

Whereupon

in those days, as unfair competition. Liebling gave him a box on the ear in some beer hall

and, in the subsequent court case, was given fourteen days, while the Berlin critics decided to boycott

emigrated. Berlin stay

My

him

henceforth, until he

would have given me much more

pleasure if I

had not been plagued occasionally with longing for my beloved For six years I had experienced the fascinating influences of French life, I had drunk from the source of the country's literature, had enjoyed the subtleties of its social intercourse, had observed Paris.

through French glasses I had been well on the way becoming wholly and completely French. Not until many years later did I come to understand and learn to love Germany; political events

:

to

for the time being

reading French. Early on in 1897

I

1

sought every opportunity of speaking and

also

began

to feel artistically dissatisfied.

I

had

the vague feeling that my development as a violinist had come to a standstill, and that in my latest performances there was even a certain retrogression to be noted. The inner tension that the of two Berlin concerts had brought about, the

success

my

strong

psychological impulse, which had then spurred

me on to the best

possible performances, had vanished, while on the other hand I lacked any opportunity to play chamber music, to get to know new works in my special sphere, and to remain in living contact

with new music in general. The perpetual study of the same works began to bore me; my playing lost its strong drive, its youthful freshness, its great line; I began to fuss about petty technical and tonal details.

The lack of any inner necessity for my work, too, the 158


BERLIN [1896-1897] absence of a regular employment, increased my restlessness beyond the point that must be considered normal for an artist, and aroused

me gloomy

in

thoughts about

my

present condition

and the

There was no mistaking a stagnation in my artistic progress; the climax of the development which had begun seven years previously with my departure from Vienna, seemed

immediate

future.

not only to have been achieved, but even to have given way to a decline which extended equally to my qualities as a violinist and to

As

my mental vitality.

Hungarian province

me

less alluring.

for the prospect of returning to end of the season, nothing

at the

Was

this

my native seemed to I had

annual return to a milieu which

outgrown to continue for ever? I had the vague feeling that, if there were a compulsion of some kind to a regular activity appropriate to my capacities, which would prevent me from revolving around a

new

my own personality,

a starting-point

might be found for

ascent.

For the first time I began to

realize that, as a matter

of character,

inclined towards productive, regular work in the civic sense of the word, and that I disliked the Bohemian manner of working

I

mood

took one. Tolstoi had just laid down the principle that the mental worker too needed to have at least an auxiliary manual occupation, if only in order to but occasionally,

as the

always precarious in the case of an from the self-tormenting preoccupation with

restore his inner balance artist

by

diversion

I received a ego. In this critical mental frame of mind soil. fruitful brother Gyula which fell on letter from

his

own

My

my

former teacher Maxintsak advised the post

left

me through him

to apply for

vacant by Lewinger at the Bucharest Conservatoire,

on a solid basis. friends, my agent, seemed absurd that I should interrupt my auspicious concert career after a mere six months, just to place myself in the yoke of a teaching post, and

above

all

in order to put

To my

in the Balkans too

and

!

my

material existence

especially to

it

They did not suspect that inside me everything

was seething and boiling, that I was yearning to get away from the lotus-eating life of the Berlin dinners and amusements into the barsher air of a responsible and regular activity. I did not hesitate with the director of the Bucharest long before I got in touch 159


CARL FLESCH

We

Conservatoire. agreed that a test performance should first be held at the end of March in one of his orchestral concerts, where I

D

major Concerto and the Bach with Chaconne. My parents agreed my plan to secure myself an assured existence: my Berlin experiment had brought me much honour but little cash, and I was deep in debt to my father. I

would play

the Paganini

my move a logically necessary consequence of inner development, a means of climbing again into the clear

myself considered

my

heights of art. I critical point in

was

sure in

my own mind that I had

reached that

where its future was finally to be decided, that I needed peace to overcome the dangerous crisis whose germs were already King within me. My instinct of artistic find myself again in self-preservation told me that I would never but of a restless the only in the solitude of a agitation metropolis,

my

artistic life

remote corner of the earth. Nevertheless,

I

did not regard

my Berlin days as wasted;

on the

was alive to the fact that despite their negative final contrary, result they formed an important link in the chain of my artistic evolution. I had escaped from the national straitness of the musical world of Paris into the fresh air of a truly international concert world which, geographically the centre of Europe, radiated into the neighbouring countries so that they became a natural market for its works and interpreters. I had gained insight into the contemporary state of violin playing, and especially German violin playing, which seemed on the decline it seemed to lack the solid technical foundations to which I had been accustomed from Paris. The unconstrained forms of social intercourse, the existence of an artistic bohemia to which even world-famous artists were not ashamed to belong, the cosy, frowsty atmosphere in which all who had anything whatever to do with the practice of art passed their lives and activities all this made me regard the past months as but I

:

maybe permanent, stay in the German Moved by these feelings, I joyously and hopefully entered

an upbeat to a longer, capital.

the train

which was

to carry

me

manian capital.

160

in thirty-six hours to the

Ru-


BUCHAREST

[1897-1902] to

Aged Twenty-four

MY TRANSFER

Twenty-nine

marked the beginning of a that was of decisive importance for my human and artistic period after an development. As, exhausting journey, I approached the city,

I

to Bucharest

was at first unpleasantly affected by the

the suburbs; they resembled the dwellings

style

of the houses in

of some wild

tribe

and

authorities

had

not bothered to make the same prudent arrangements on

my

sometimes looked

like

wigwams. The Rumanian

of the Austrian Emperor, which had taken place shortly before. Then they had racked their brains to think of ways of ensuring that the Emperor, who was visiting arrival as

during the

Bucharest for the

visit

first

time, should not get an unfavourable

opinion of Rumania's architectural sive to pull

down

daring to replace

culture. It

seemed too expen-

the dilapidated huts and build

them by theatrical properties, and

new ones,

too

so they simply

decided to send, for half an hour before arrival, a second train

along a parallel track to the Emperor's so that the exalted guest would be unable to see the compromising barracks. Bucharest

resembled a Hungarian provincial town of average size transplated to the orient At any time of the day, a noisy, gesticuitself still

lating

crowd swarmed along

the

main

street,

the Calea Victorea,

gathered outside the Cafe Capsa, which was the rendezvous of fashionable society, and shamelessly ogled the passing ladies, whose elegance recalled their Parisian sisters. The boulevards were

sample card of the different classes of the Rumanian population- A dandy with monocle, dressed in the latest Paris fashion, like a

rubbed shoulders with a peasant in picturesque national costume, Greek Orthodox priests with long beards and hair like a woman's

mingled with orthodox Jews with sidelocks. In between, were ladies of the monde and demi-monde as well as gipsies

there

and

typical city rabble. It all

gave 161

me

the impression of a strange


CARL FLESCH

new

a superficially white-washed, but at part of the world, with culture. still rather primitive

bottom

My who

first call

was on

my

future superior,

Eduard Wachmann,

the triple position of director of the Conservatoire, conductor of the symphony concerts and conductor of the church filled

choir of the Metropolie, the leading Greco-Catholic church.

He

had reached an advanced age, a goodnatured, sluggish musician of average ability and without any Vienna Conservaenergy. He and a former colleague from the

was of German

origin,

toire, the 'cellist

Demeter Dinico,

set

the tone in the musical

life

of the capital. Dinico derived from an old race of gypsy musicians, and was an extraordinarily gifted player of brilliant and virtuoso music; but since his departure from the Vienna Conservatoire in 1889 (the year of

my own

deteriorated in his art,

which was

owing

characteristic

The reception he gave

departure too), he had perceptibly to a propensity to let things slide,

of Bucharest's half-oriental

style

of life.

me was

ambiguous. Although he put himself out to give me a friendly welcome with a feline flexibility, I had the impression that he feared a restriction of his influence. On

hand he must have thought it desirable that the interwhich Max Lewinger's departure had produced should be regnum ended by the permanent engagement of an artist of at least equal standing, for Dinico had long been playing with the idea of forming a permanent string quartet, a plan in which Queen Elisabeth herself took a lively interest. True, of recent years another young violinist, named Richard Hartzer, had attempted to replace Lewinger, but he was not regarded as suitable, owing to his the other

admittedly competent, but impersonal style. Dinico himself seemed to prefer to wait for the result of my first appearance before he decided for or against me. After a rehearsal, the concert that was my audition took place one Sunday afternoon in the Atheneuni, a large, semi-circular concert hall, in the presence of the Queen. By no means on top of * my form and, owing to the unusual surroundings, highly nervous, I

did not succeed in

In the the

making

a clear-cut, favourable impression.

D major Paganini Concerto many runs went awry, and in

Chaconne I was even overtaken by a 162

failure

of memory, in the

*


The young Enesco


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] some seven or eight variations sank into oblivion. did have the presence of mind or should I call it Afterwards, ? to maintain that I had made this cut impudence deliberately and that it was the latest thing in Central but the musicians in Europe, the audience were hardly taken in this excuse. Some of course of which I

the reviews

were

Hartzer clique,

by poor some even negative, and the Dinicoemboldened by this course of events, began indifferent,

openly to take up a hostile attitude towards me.

Some

friends

whom I had acquired from the very beginning, and who believed in me despite my poor debut, revealed to me the web of intrigue in whose meshes my opponents hoped to frustrate my appoint ment. For the time being, until the

summer

I

had only been engaged

vacation.

The

final

for a

few months, was

three-year contract

to be concluded

some time

in the spring, leaving

an interval

which

intended to

to prevent mines laid by the

permanent

my

rivals

settlement in Bucharest.

The

utilize

necessary to resort to countermines; friends, and to find support among

I

had to try

them

intrigues. Fortunately old Wachmann, had the decisive say in the matter, was

my

enemy made it to win influential

against

my

opponents*

who as my future director

absolutely on my side: he and overlooked my qualities my defects. A very influential and musical lady of society, moreover, Constance Cantacuzfene, had taken a fancy to me. This plain but keen-witted and cultivated

valued

woman was

the youngest of six daughters, all married to leading statesmen. She thus belonged to a highly important family. In her

salon,

lovers

good music was played regularly once a week for the music of Bucharest society; she herself played the piano on these

occasions. She stopped at nothing and had even ventured a performance of Beethoven's Choral Fantasy in her home, with the aid of a chorus assembled from society ladies and of a double string quartet. From the beginning we were drawn to each other

by our Sonata,

common liking for the still unhackneyed Cesar Franck which we had to play again and again at the request of

our listeners. In ful. I felt

this

milieu

that if need be

I

my fluent French was particularly use-

could count on the active support of the

entire circle.

C.F.-M

163


CARL FLESCH herself who

was the court of first instance else, and her apartments were the focus of all real and alleged musical interests. Here three or four times a week chamber music of every kind was performed, interspersed with instrumental or vocal solos. Her private secretary, Edgar dalTOrso, and the 'cellist Dinico were, as it were, the producers of these programmes. It was an unwritten law that visiting soloists from abroad had to But

it

was the Queen

in musical matters; she loved music

more than anything

of their art in the palace, while the regular give demonstrations to domestic executants. The music performances were entrusted

was made in a large room, in which

a small

organ built into the

wall testified to the Queen's preference for this regal instrument. raised platform was overshadowed by a miniature gallery, in which usually a rosary of young ladies rejoiced the eyes. At the foot of the platform was a sofa on which the Queen lay in white

The

flowing garments, drawing the guests into conversation at big were more intimate she was receptions; when the proceedings

armed with

a

the forelock quartet, she

notebook and

if,

muse by of a Beethoven Dall'Orso, who at one

pencil, in order to seize the

enticed hither

by

the noble sounds

condescended to reveal herself.

time had been a pupil of Marsick, induced his royal mistress to me, and this was the beginning of a five and half years*

invite

relationship, in the course

know and

get to

Queen

of which

understand

Elisabeth

I

had ample opportunities to

this fascinating personality.

of Rumania came of a small German ruling young girl she had

dynasty, the Princes zu Wied, Even as a ardently played the piano and she liked to

tell

how

her father

on her eighteenth birthday with a court concert given by Rubinstein 1 and Wieniawski. Soon after she had given her

a surprise

married the Hohenzollern Carol of the Sigmaringer line, who in 1866 had ascended the princely throne of Rumania and in 1881

took the tide of King. Their marriage was unhappy. The King was shrewd, cold and calculating, the Queen enthusiastic for everything beautiful and good, without understanding of cruel reality. ^.e.

Carol was only interested in

Anton Rubinstein

greatest pianists

politics

[1830-94], a considerable

of all times.

164

and hated

art,

while

composer and one of the


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] Elisabeth, apart from their joint national obligations, occupied herself exclusively with poetry, music and painting. The

King

maintained his prestige with the frequently rather disrespectful Rumanian politicians by surrounding himself with a nimbus of inaccessibility,

the

and always kept

who

Queen,

how to flatter her. Also, she

his

subjects at a distance, unlike

received everybody unsuspectingly

was rather a

spendthrift,

who knew

which caused the economical

The allowance provided for her personal requirements amounted to a mere sixty thousand marks per annum. Her only daughter died at a tender age, and she never recovered from the loss. Disillusioned with her King

to

keep her very

short.

marriage, she sought to find outlet for her motherly instincts in friendships with congenial younger people. In the course of the years she was drawn to four deceived people, all of

whom

bitterly

of all these was her literary collaborator, Mite Kremnitz, wife of the King's physician and daughter of the famous German von who also wrote a biography of her royal Bardeleben, surgeon friend. One reads it with mixed feelings, since from the sweetsour nature of her for her portrayal one can tell that Mite's her. First

feelings

were unfavourably influenced by the atmosphere of intrigue that surrounded the royal palace. In the middle of the 'eighties court society had split into two parties, the one for the Kong and the other for the Queen, and a bitter feud was waged between them. mistress

About

this

Vacarescu,

time there was a lady-in-waiting named Helena especially intimate with the Queen and

who was

who became

the centre of a large-scale intrigue that even played a part in high European politics- It was a question of nothing less than an evasion of the fundamental Rumanian state law

which forbade the marriage of the ruling monarch with a Rumanian. The heir to the throne, Ferdinand, a nephew of the King, was to marry Vacarescu, despite all prohibitions. The poor

Queen was entangled

in the obscure machinations

of the court

towards whose success even

kid

under contribution. The

and

matters

all

spiritualistic seances had to be result was a European scandal,

but developed into a revolution; the situation was only 165


CARL FLESCH saved by Vacarescu's timely departure from the country. Later she lived as an esteemed authoress in Paris. The Queen's private the name of Scheffer, who secretary and favourite, a Frenchman by was who and in the had settled regarded as spiritus rector country of the entire French-inspired conspiracy, was likewise put across

the frontier.

He

took revenge by the publication of a perfidious

which caused a great sensation. The was made responsible for all the trouble, though unhappy Queen a she had been only complaisant instrument in the hands of cunning political tricksters. Her relations with the King and his party novel, entitled Misere royale,

grew

intolerable.

She had to leave Rumania for some years, and

wandered, half exiled, about Europe. In an attack of hysteria she escaped into illness and maintained she was paralysed and con-

Her sufferings disappeared as swiftly as they had come, and when I came to know her ten years later there was

fined to a bathchair.

nothing left to outward view of all her troubles. What did remain was her need to have someone around her on whom she could be-

stow her repressed feminine and motherly feelings by

way of

sublimation.

Her choice was the Edgar dalTQrso already mentioned, a young Rumanian of Italian origin, the perfect example of a talented, versatile, but superficial dilettante.

He

played the

violin acceptably, had a baritone voice of good timbre, took part successfully in fencing tournaments, and had studied literature and

philosophy in Paris. Before very long he had won just as effective an influence over the Queen as his predecessor of unhappy

memory. Impudent and presumptuous, he soon began

to tyran-

nize over his royal mistress, who did all he asked. Once an exchange of views arose between the Queen and myself over the

programmes of our quartet matinees. I took the view that three complete string quartets would be too exhausting for the Rumanian public and that a group of smaller and more pleasing quartet fragments would be advisable as a relaxation between a programme's two massive cornerstones. Dall'Orso w as on my side, and when the queen, somewhat irritated, remarked that she could r

not understand

why

full-scale quartets

one

he, unlike herself, could after another,

166

not stand three

he replied quite unabashed,


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] Parce que je suis normal P [Because I'm normal !] I had Rumania when he had to surrender his position, for reasons unknown to me. He went back to Paris where, embittered and 'Parbleu

!

left

with

disillusioned

carry

on

life,

He

his studies.

had nibbled

he returned to died shortly

beloved Sorbonne to

his

after, before he was

everything and digested nothing

at

fifty.

He

a genius of

superficiality.

While the Queen was drawn

irresistibly to art in all its forms, a writer. 1 She did not really know very much about music, as was shown her by predilection for Bungert's

she was, above

insipid

and

all,

sickly stuff:

he

set

many of

her poems to music. 2

Ultimately, music was only a stimulant towards her poetic ends: while we played a Beethoven quartet she gave herself over to her poetic inspirations, moved by the beauty usually the fruit was committed to paper

of the composition; immediately in the form of a poem. People disagreed about the degree of her poetic talent. own was that she doubtless had a sense of the My impression sublime which, however, to her lack of owing any kind of selfcriticism, was marred by a tendency towards and exaggeration

formlessness.

An

emotional character such

as hers

needed an in-

exorable and incorruptible judge who could have exposed mercilessly the defects in her frivolous attitude towards form as well as her tendency to But as her friends and coun-

among

verbosity.

hardly one was master of written German, the court society had to take the poetical value of the royal verses on trust. sellors

The

usual result

the credulous

was

Queen

of her audience

a loathsome, platitudinous toadyism, took for good coin. I was really the

who would have

which

only one been in the position to express a

on an adequate knowledge of the language of aU the superlatives such as admirI refrained from expressing a critical judgable, divine, sublime, ment which no doubt would have been taken as an intolerable presumption on the part of a musician in her majesty's service.

judicious opinion based

and

its literature.

But

in face

*Her pen-name was Carmen Sylva. August Bungert [1846-1915] was a Wagnerian composer who would have liked to build a special theatre & la Bayreuth for the production of his tetralogy* Die homerische Welt ('The Homeric World*). His orchestral works include a symphony with the title Zeppelins erstegrosse Fahrt ('Zeppelin's First Long Flight*),

167


CARL FLESCH

Thus

I

held

my

a task

thoughts

peace and contented myself with thinking my which I found all the easier since it often hap-

pened that when the Queen read her poems, usually with the ink still wet, the sound of her voice impressed me so much that I did not take in the sense of the words she had uttered. Even in her old age, the silvery, bright timbre of her girlish voice aroused in the listener's mind visions of a fabulously pure, dematerialized, better resist. The magic of her essenand eminently human femininity, together with all her lovable virtues and weaknesses, made her presence an unforgettable ex-

world, whose charm no one could tial

perience for

Despite

Queen

left

who knew her well.

all

my

admiration for her,

being very fond of me.

was

stiff"

as are

my personal relations with the She respected me without myself kept my feelings to myself, and

something to be desired. I

and conventional.

common

Polite, conventional

compliments such and so cold and unfeeling, even when the

in such a milieu

were

alien to

my nature,

she must have thought me emotional content of my playing seemed to give the He to her impression. For the rest, her judgment of music and musicians was

was hardly capable of distinguishing good from bad, and was equally enthusiastic over dall'Orso's fiddling as over the artistry of a Sarasate. After a year then, slowly but steadily, I uncertain; she

began to

lose

my

illusions

about

life

and work

My

at the

Rumanian

best began royal court. original pride in always giving of to wane, and in the end I regarded myself only as a court official

my

responsible for the musical part of the afternoon-tea gatherings. The recitals in the royal castle gave me the opportunity to meet

many important figures, such as Earl Roberts of Kandahar, Baron Aerenthal who, ten years later, prepared die way for the

break-up of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy with his foolhardy Balkan all policy, and the free and easy Kiderlen-Wachter who, against

society conventions, kept a common household with his lady friend in the German embassy building. such occasions neither the King nor the Crown Prince Ferdinand ever showed himself, and the Crown Princess Marie but

On

appeared

beautiful,

young and full ofjoie de vivre

rarely. Exceptionally

as she was, she felt

the tutelage of the aging royal couple like a singing bird

168

under

whose


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] wings Lave been clipped. In her memoirs she openly expresses her antipathy for the Queen, whom she regarded as an eccentric,

who occupied herself far too much with music. She herself preferred visual art and was utterly unmusical. I was

tedious idealist

greatly astonished, therefore, when one day she asked me to play quartet in her apartments, and added: *I have had a new floor of

a

majolica

laid in

tiles

music sounds in

it.'

some

six years old,

while

we made

my

boudoir and

I

The later King Carol

would ft,

like to hear

who was

how

then a child

used to play noiselessly with his tin soldiers Once between two quartets a discussion

music.

whether Mozart or Beethoven was the greater com'And you, Carol/ the Queen asked him, 'what music do

arose as to poser.

you like most?' 'Military music, Grandmama!' After my somewhat unsatisfactory introduction in the concert hall I decided to give a recital, which turned out to be so successful that my unfavourable critics were compelled to revise their judgments, while

Wachmann

could safely venture to propose to the

ministry that I should be engaged as professor at the servatoire for several years. As Dinico and Hartzer

ready to accept the inevitable

But

I

could count on

Royal Conseemed also

my contract being

was

a sudden hitch, of the and industrious existence which prospects peaceful was bound up with my settling in Bucharest were very nearly shattered. One day in a cafe a German operetta conductor was introduced to me who had just arrived with his company to make a tour of Rumania. Among other things, we talked about musical

signed immediately.

and

at this stage, there

all

conditions in Rumania, and inevitably entered into comparisons between Berlin and Bucharest, Some weeks later one of the

Rumanian dailies printed

a report interlarded with insulting comand my address, pointing out that the Berlin Signals had a mean and published wounding article on the musical life of Bucharest from the pen of this same conductor. Various esteemed

ments to

Rumanian musicians had been mentioned by name and and noodles, while

described

only musician of in was out for Bucharest, importance singled exceptional mention. as nonentities

From

there

it

was only one

I

myself, as the

step to the assertion that

inspired the article. Dinico, deeply offended,

169

I

had

summoned a meeting


CARL FLESCH of the

which the strongest possible protest was made engagement. Despite my oral and written denials, the

professors,

against

my

at

newspaper campaign against me continued merrily. Dinico declared that he was not prepared to make music with me; he ignored me assiduously and hoped to make things impossible for

me by

this

kind of passive

resistance.

But

as

Constance Canta-

cuzene declared that she was more ready to renounce Dinico's collaboration than mine, and dalFOrte also induced the Queen to

my side, Dinico soon saw that he had lost the game. A recon-

take

between us ensued, after I had once more declared in so many words that I had not had any hand in the creation of the incriminating report. The very next day Dinico officially invited ciliation

me

to found a string quartet with him, in order to lay the

foundation-stone for the cultivation of chamber music in nia.

Ruma-

Now

contract,

nothing more stood in the way of concluding my and so, in the summer of 1897, 1 bound myself for three

years for the remuneration

French gold franc; in return at the Conservatoire.

holidays

I

had

of 4,800 I

Lei, a Lei

being equal to the

to give six violin lessons a week for summer, Christmas and Easter

was

Allowing do nine months* teaching per annum.

officially to

But when one took into account a month for the religious holidays, which are particularly numerous in Greco-Catholic countries, and for the patriotic holidays, I had to give no more than two hundred lessons a year at the outside, which meant roughly twenty marks per lesson

an unusually large fee for the

had every reason, then, to be satisfied with the material aspect of my new position, and for the first time in my life I felt secure and carefree as a bourgeois with an assured income, which time.

1

would henceforth allow me the ideal of

about

the luxury of working exclusively for

without any worry was to be expected, moreover, that I my total income by private lessons and artistic perfection,

daily bread. It be able to triple

my

would

human and

concerts and thus even to save three.

and

all this

at the

age of twenty-

Now my first care was to clear my debt to Deutsch and to

And by opening a bank account I also got the proud of feeling having become a capitalist. The students at the Conservatoire, however, were a very poor

my

father.

170


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] of Rumanians, Jews and gypsies, of whom the were two last-named decidedly superior to the lords of the country; for the number of talented genuine Rumanians was still very low in relation to the population. At that rime an Enesco was lot.

They

consisted

only the exception that proved the rule. This people, originally a colony which, in the course of the centuries, had become

Roman

mixed with every

possible race that

had dwelt

close

by or passed

through the country, totally lacked any artistic tradition on which alone the foundations of a musical culture could have been built. nevertheless, the

If,

Rumanians can boast of possessing the most of the European south-east, Hungary alone

charming folk music

excepted, this development seems to be due to the piquant mixture of Turkish, Slavonic and Magyar rhythms and melismata. In

any case, the Rumanian gypsies quickly captivated me, and

I

could

not hear enough of these barbarian, exotic, yearning melodies and dances.

were recruited chiefly from children or of good society, who had no intention of becoming professional violinists; none of them had any outstanding talent. They spoke French, more rarely German, never Rumanian, which in the houses of the upper classes was used only for talking to servants. This neglect of the native tongue, which in our race*conscious age must seem doubly strange if not characterless, naturally applied even more strongly to the foreigners living in the country, and so it is not to be wondered at that in these cir-

My

private pupils

young women

cumstances,

my

I

myself felt no inclination to learn Rumanian, despite

position as a state official. In the

Conservatoire

I

used a gibber-

with a few strong Rumanian oaths as basic means of communication with bad linguists. For the rest, life at the Conservatoire ish

was pretty informal. Nobody bothered to check whether I did in fact put in the agreed number of six lessons a week, but my sense of duty was strong enough to resist the temptation to shorten the period of instruction. My social intercourse was confined to young colleagues of my a age and families usually of Austrian origin. I had my meals in restaurant together with a few colleagues, and then went off to a cafe to play chess or tabla, a board

171

game

called Trictrac* or


CARL FLESCH *PufP elsewhere, to which I sacrificed many a private lesson I could have been giving. On Sundays I sometimes made music at the house of the bank director Walter Dickin, a Germanwife had the art of spreading comfort Englishman, whose amiable all around her and making her guests feel perfectly at home. A characterized the home of another distinctly musical atmosphere bank director named Jules Goldschmidt; here every Monday to listen to chamevening the elite of the foreign colony gathered these however, someof were, ber music. The pleasures evenings the of what marred by the fact that some parts were played by dilettantes,

rimes put

technical slips and tonal insufficiencies somefacial muscles to a hard test, especially in solo

whose

my

was still so powerful delight in music itself, however, passages. such overlooked I that and fresh imperfections; but every readily

My

on me, and quartets became performance thus depended entirely violin solos with three accompanying instruments. Since, moreover, in the string quartet which Dinico and I had founded the were also very inferior, I soon got used to the dominatinner parts

to such an extent that in later ing role which was forced on me, I had the with when I associated partners of equal standing, years,

of difficulty in getting out of the habit of solo execution. At Goldschmidt's, 1 also became thoroughly familiar with part of the older chamber music with keyboard; a former colleague of greatest

the Vienna Conservatoire took the piano part. At the beginning of my residence in Bucharest several

rooms

I

that proved to harbour an extraordinary

had rented number of

cockroaches, which sometimes at night quite unceremoniously ran over my face. However, at Dickin's house I met four young

bank officials who came from influential financial circles and wanted to make a thorough study of banking and finance in the a High School of the Balkans, We swiftly struck up friendship, same from the and as we were all suffering frightful living conditions

we decided to set up a common house in

a small villa after

summer vacation. For almost two years we continued this kind of communal life very happily; it gave us the illusion of the

having our

With

own comfortable home.

the

coming of

the

summer 172

vacation

I

was able to

flee


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] from the tropical heat of Bucharest and present myself to my and friends in Wieselburg in the dignified capacity of a parents

newly-made

professor.

With

the inner security that is always I felt an increased joy in life.

coupled with material independence

The world,

transfigured in the glory of

seemed created to bring years, fruition. The only dark spot was

all

my

my three-and-twenty hopes and wishes to anxiety about my artistic

my

The

concentrated effort that had produced the success of my Berlin debut had been followed by an spectacular decline whose source seemed enigmatic. One thing, equally sharp

development.

was

clear: my characteristic duality of and the conresultant and artistic feeling psychic on ideas the which the of weeds flicts provided ground parasitic the healthy development of my art. undermining freely, grew For what is really the ideal picture of a musical interpretation, as it presents itself to the searching mind? In brief, conscious,

certainly,

absolutely

thought and

functional study results in perfect technical preparation which, in its turn, should create the feeling of certainty and security that enables the artist to concentrate, freely and almost unconsciously, on the work he has to interpret. If a performer comes to a stand-

in his development, or suffers complete shipwreck, the fault always in the non-fulfilment of one of these two basic condi-

still is

tions: either the lack

of

technical certainty inhibits the carefree

his feeling; or else his feeling does not succeed, in forgetting the technique despite the best possible preparation,

expression of

and in soaring over the earthly mist of the craftsman's skill. In this formula can be found the solution to most of the dramas of arrested development, however enigmatic and complicated they own state was indeed more complex in that both seem.

may

My

elements, the technical and the emotional,

were present to an

at the adequate degree without, however, dominating alternately of performances were followed by right moments. The finest

others in

which

my

a certain coldness appeared to fetter playing. on to the platform

During that critical period, I always walked with a feeling of definite reluctance; in fact,

from 1897 to 1901, a few of with the exception unimportant appearances in other I did not perform as a soloist at all I confined people's concerts, 173


CARL FLESCH

which allowed me to myself chiefly to chamber-musical activities, brood over my soloist's worries in the quiet of my study. And thus of self-tormenting, I had gradually slid into the muddy channel one day believing I had found the to throw it away the next day as a philosopher's stone, only common pebble. The seemingly grotesque and exaggerated picture I have sketched out of the maniacal, brooding violinist in

hypochondriac

of

fussiness,

my Art

Vol.

II

own

personality at that stage.

of Violin Playing I

is

a faithful reflection

suffered inexpressibly

of

my

under the

constant pressure of my unsuccessful and ever-changing experiments. The nagging dissatisfaction and inner unrest which was the result

which

of this

vacillation

soon brought about a neurotic condition of my will to overcome. Only a

called for all the strength

gradual but fundamental change in

my

emotional

life

was

to

hitherto unsuspected powers within me, before whose intensity the spectre of petty hair-splitting vanished for ever.

awaken

From

the outset

I

was aware

that the Bucharest

atmosphere development that were not to be underestimated. For beside the fatalistic outlook of the Orient, where idleness is an aim in life, there was the danger of slipping concealed hindrances to

my

artistic

away from Central-European culture. The visit of a foreign artist, then, always offered me a welcome opportunity to keep in touch with the rest of Europe. I have already spoken of the beneficial influence of the youthful Marteau, who looked full of hope to the future, and whose playing was to me like a breath of fresh air in

an overheated and

stifling

room.

To him

I

owe above

all

my

acquaintance with Mozart's Violin Concertos. Sarasate and Ondricek too renewed, if to a weaker degree, the favourable

childhood. impressions they both had made on me in other hand, Kubelik and Huberman were new to me.

my

On the

Jan Kubelik [1880-1940] was then the most important factor in the attempted renaissance of Paganini's style. Wilhelmj had started, Thomson continued it; and even in our days it has not

been fully overcome. Without possessing any real artistic justineo-Paganini-ism can yet arouse pleasure in the

fication, this

listener interested in violin

perfect solution

technique as pure artistry offers the of technical problems, a kind of refined gymnas-

174


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] and juggler's

tics

art.

At

this

time (1900) Kubelik

fulfilled the

necessary requirements in the highest measure. His technique was not so much absolutely reliable and beautiful in sound,

though of a minute precision. It was he who really brought the slow practice of runs into fashion. His strength consisted in lefthand pizzicatos and harmonics of every kind the sign of brilliant as

Paganini-like acrobatics. His tone production, a little stiff in itself, did not lack a certain astringent and chaste grandeur, but from his as a whole one could gather that his teacher, Sevcik, regarded musical requirements as far below the need for a spotless technique. But again, this was com-

performances

shortcoming

the freshness and carefree of the twenty-yearspirit all all in so that he was an and for his time even old, extraordinary

pensated

by

phenomenon. Outwardly he was the picturesque as a man he was simple, and serious he left all industrious; kindly, publicity to his impresario, who looked after it very thoroughly. The arrival of Kubelik on the scene could be regarded as an event inasmuch as the tendency towards technical integrity and the aversion to slovenly bogus techniques received an impetus through him whose beneficial effect can still be felt today. I too learned from him to apprea

singular

Czechoslovakian 'platform' type. But

of slow study, the importance of rhythmic preopposed to pseudo-brilliant racing, the necessity for a kind of automatism which, however, must confine itself to the technical aspect of the artistic execution. In musical respects, ciate the benefit

cision as

however, his arrival signified a retreat as against the noble spirituality of a Joachim or Ysaye, a regression to the remote past when violin playing

and

circus art

belonged together.

During Kubelik's stay of several weeks in Rumania there developed between the world-famous artist and myself, the bardly-known Bucharest violin teacher, a friendship which, though superficial, was based on mutual sympathy. But it did not

any closer relations in the future. Not until five years later meet him again, in Amsterdam. As the years passed the phenomenon of Kubelik became the :ase of Kubelik. He was one of those unfortunate artists who

lead to

did

I

ire

already in, or even past, their prime at a time

when others are


CARL FLESCH at the

there

beginning of their development. Even before he was thirty clear indications of a decline. The astringency of his

were

tone developed into dryness, the absolute reliability of his technique began to break down, his chastity turned into coldness, and the unpolished quality of his execution, which had been attributed to his youth, proved to be a lack of musical culture. He to

be markedly

materially for the sufficient to make

successful

less

began however, suffering the power of his name was still

moment, since him a draw. But

without,

the faffing curve

of his execu-

tion continued without interruption, and people have vainly racked their brains over the cause of this collapse. own

My

opinion can be put as follows originally Kubelik was a talent of the highest calibre which, driven by an intense urge to perfection, drew extreme consequences from the technical principles of his :

teacher Sevcik with their merits

and

defects.

The

precision

technical preparations was virtually unprecedented, but coupled with: (i) a defective practising hygiene, by which

of his was

it I

mean

tendency to exaggeratedly long, slow and mechanical studies, of resulting in an atrophy of elemental feeling; (2) a a

disregard purely musical thought in favour of a perfect but lifeless, soulless mechanization of the playing movements. Technically Kubelik was fully developed at the age of twenty;

he could then have retrieved what, musically, he had neglected under Sevcik. An exclusive concentration on all kinds of chamber music for some years would have thawed out his powers of interpretation which had been frozen fast by his stupifying exercises. It

was

a

major tragedy

that

he did not succeed in escaping from

the blind alley in which he found himself. It was in Bucharest, too, that I first met and heard Bronislaw

Huberman

whose

[1882-1947] about

agreement. While most of the

stature there is sharp dis-

violinists

of

his

own

generation

have adopted a negative attitude towards him, he is highly esteemed by a number of his younger colleagues as well as by the general public. If one wants to understand his style, one has to bear in

mind above

took lessons a pupil

until

all

that

he was

he

ten,

of Michalowicz and

is

basically self-trained, for

and irregular ones

at that.

also, occasionally,

176

he only

Originally

of Marsick and


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] 1 Joachim, he soon followed his own intuition, sharply defined as his personality was at an early stage. After his sensational success

at Adelina Patti's farewell concert in Vienna on January 12, 1895, he entered a period of triumphs which lasted, approximately, until the age of puberty. His development then seems to have gone through a crisis which was only resolved after a decade, to give way to a renewed ascent. Ever since, he has been playing uninterruptedly all over the world.

Two

factors are decisive if we

wish to judge a

violinist objec-

grounding and his particular personality. Huberman's technique, though sound, has always betrayed the fact that he left school too early. His technical basis is that of the tively: his technical

bow in the old manner, employs a pure without participation of the wrist, and intonates finger vibrato 1890*5.

He

holds the

semitones pianoforte-like, according to equal temperament a circumstance which becomes particularly and unpleasantly striking in his unaccompanied Bach. In tonal respects, too, he follows

much as he sacrifices smoothand evenness of tone production, which in our time is an

the tradition of his childhood in as ness

absolute necessity, to extravagant characterization; in other words, 'scrapes' or 'whispers'. His bowings again, excellent as

he either

in themselves, leave much to be desired from the of view. Unreserved praise, on the other hand, is due and passage work, the precision and verve of which meet the most fastidious requirements.

they

may be

tonal point to his runs

Musically, too, his style gives occasion for serious criticism. his own devices at an all too early stage shows in his frequent neglect of elementary rules of articulation,

The fact that he was left to

form of wrong accents. Above all, however, it is the over-emphasis he lays upon his own personality as distinct from the work of art, that characterizes both his good and his bad especially in the

performances. His personality excitable, passionate

and

is

self-willed, sensitive,

self-assured. It

nervous and

does not tolerate contra-

and demands subordination, even of the music. In this way, extraordinary results can be achieved if composition and interpreter are in natural harmony with each other, whereas otherwise diction

a

He studied with Joachim for eight months in Berlin in 177

1892.


CARL FLESCH the tone of the work to the pitch or disagreement with his interpretaego. Agreement tions depends chiefly on the degree of sympathy or antipathy

Huberman always of his

tries to adjust

own

which the individual tradictions. Side

listener feels for a personality so full

side

by

with

extreme drive for perfection, will, there his

own

result in

is this,

at times,

his acute intelligence

and

his iron

downright amusing over-estimation of

which, in favourable circumstances,

self

of con-

his serious artistic intentions, his

may

yet again

an extraordinary power of artistic conviction, to whose

hypnotic suggestion the receptive listener submits unresisting. The strength of his personality, then, is undeniable, like it or not. Its

influence

on the younger

generation, however,

would seem

to

be unfavourable: young people tend towards self-glorification at the expense of the music, and Huberman's successes are likely to confirm them in their attitudes.

Huberman cannot be placed in any school or line of development. In the history of violin-playing he will survive as the most remarkable representative of unbridled individualism, a fascinat1 ing outsider.

The Rumanian Georges Enesco [1881-1955] towered above his musical compatriots like a solitary rock in a sea of mediocrity. I had already made his casual acquaintance at Marsick's in Paris, where he had landed

after

completing his studies

at

the Vienna

Conservatoire. Enesco represented the most perfect type ofversatile musician. It is impossible to say which of his gifts deserves to be

regarded

as the greatest, since his qualities as

composer, conducwere about equally outstanding. Howtwo main professions, that of composer and of violinist,

tor, violinist

ever, in his

and

pianist

he did not achieve

all that his precocious genius promised. The Second Violin Sonata which he wrote in 1899 is among the strongest contemporary works of this kind. Its emotional content and its technique are on the same high level, and both

melodically seems to us novel, unhackneyed and captivating. At the time he was regarded as the coming man not simply of Rumania but of the musical world altogether, as a link

and harmonically

it

still

between the German (Brahms) and French (Franck-Debussy) 1

See Appendix I for further discussion on Huberman.

178


Enesco, Thibaud and Flesch playing a Vivaldi Triple Concerto at a rehearsal for the concert in memory of their teacher, M. P. Marsick, in 1933 (see p. 179)

Donald Tovey,

Julius

Rontgen and Pablo

Casals,

with Adela and Jelly d'Arragni (1911)


Artur Sdmabel (about 1935)


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] traditions at

filled

an expectation which, he does not seem to have fulleast in so far as I know his later works. His violin

a similar history. Originally playing had

highly

it

seemed to display a

combination of gypsy daredevilry and cultivated based on an extraordinary talent for the instrument. But

attractive

artistry,

in later years a strange cleavage seemed to develop between these two qualities, in so far as both his playing and his programmes alternated between a capricious and shallow virtuoso attitude on

the one hand and a deliberately dry and scholastic pseudo-classicism on the other. In those days he was unable to weld together the individual elements of his artistic character. Personally, too, he was often very difficult to understand. It was as though an inner rift York had prevented the full development of his capacities. In

New

I

heard

him play

the

last

movement of Beethoven's Violin Con-

tempo of J..48 instead of the generally accepted J69, which for a musician of his rank was an inexplicable blunder. In May 1933, on the occasion of the unveiling of a memorial tablet on the house where his and my teacher, Marsick, was born, the little town ofJupille near Liege organized a concert in which Thibaud, Enesco and I took part. We played a Vivaldi certo at the

triple

concerto together, and each individually one of Marsick's I was assigned a nocturne, which in its structure,

small pieces.

mood and even key was so like Schumann's Serenade that I had the them. Enesco and Thi-

in avoiding confusing greatest difficulty little pieces. The concert similar baud played

was to take place in we went back to the afternoon, and after the morning our hotel. There Enesco suddenly declared that he would not have rehearsal

dinner with after

us,

he simply must

'practise'.

Sure enough, shortly

we heard him zealously doing finger exercises

(for

which he

had not the least use in the concert itself) for an hour on end, while Thibaud and I together with some friends set no bounds to our appetites.

I

only recall

this incident,

unimportant in

itself, as

an

and obscure elements in the character example of the incalculable old could, at of this artist, who when he was fifty years great

times

still

behave

like a

nervous student.

When he

to his innate nature, as in Ravel's Tzigane,

supreme performances. C.F.-N

I

gave free rein he was able to achieve

was strengthened in 179

my

opinion by the


CARL FLESCH his playing impression that

made on me

in Paris in 1935. After a

he had devoted to the composition of pause of two years, which as far more mature, balanced, and me struck he an opera, before. than Through certain peculiarities in perfect technically his

uncommon

mechanics he achieved

expressive effects. His

the strings at an acute angle, which resulted in a fingers touched kind of smooth, velvety tone without any admixture of metallic colour. In order naturally to achieve this position of the fingers,

however, he had to turn his left elbow excessively outward. His him into tendency towards mystical expression often seduced over-refined, hardly audible pianissimos; and he easily neglected the difference between strong and weak beats. What gave his was his habit of starting playing a pronounced personal quality expressive,

sustained notes a

pitch and then

to raise

them

few vibrations below to their correct level

their

proper

by way of his

vibrato. This device gave his expression a strange,

somewhat

lascivious tinge;

it

has, incidentally,

ambiguous, been coarsened by

and today can actually be regarded as a characteristic of light music. Despite my reservadistinguishing tion, however, his playing on that occasion enchanted me from

professional jazz players,

beginning to end. His feeling was genuine, deep and alive, his technical basis solid, his mixture of thought and emotion well balanced, and I

came to the conclusion that he was one of the most

attractive artistic

characters

of our time.

In middle age, Enesco devoted himself to teaching for several

months every year. He held violin courses in Paris for advanced students, in which he accompanied them on the piano without touching the violin himself a kind of 'coaching' which of itself to interpretation. I regard this sort necessity had to confine of instruction as not only useless, but even harmful, since it technical from the spiritual (for don't false nuances separates the often have technical origins?) and endangers the independence and inviolability of the student's personality by forcing a way of feeling upon him that is foreign to his nature. Besides, a violinist as excellent as Enesco had the duty to try and be a living

example too.

the smaller fry who gave concerts in Bucharest I recall the two infant especially prodigies Steffi Geyer and Max

Among

180


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] Steffi, who later became the wife of the Swiss and impresario Schulthess, was then a dainty teenager composer who could already fiddle quite well, though without displaying much personality. Her much too broad vibrato pointed unmistakably to the Hubay school. She later developed into a sound violinist, without fulfilling the promise of her childhood. Max

Wolfstal. Little

Wolfstal (whose talent did not survive the years of adolescence) came from the Polish musical family of the same name, of which the

most outstanding representative was

who also

my own

pupil, Joseph,

died early.

pleasure I remember the pianist Alfred Griinfeld [1852embodiment of Vienna. His playing was saturated with the 1924], Viennese charm, beautiful in tone, graceful and utterly musical;

With

but his technique was a little on the weak side, with the exception of some dubious specialities such as the notorious 'Griinfeld octaves*. It was only after a concert, when he sat down again at the piano in an intimate circle, with a tumbler of champagne in front of him, that he revealed himself in his performance of

Viennese waltzes

One of was

my

as a great artist in the smaller forms. the finest memories of residence in Bucharest

my

with the Bohemian String Quartet had first heard in Paris in 1894. Its appear-

closer acquaintance

[1892-1925],

which

I

ance marked a turning point in the history of quartet playing. Hitherto, one had been accustomed to see in quartet ensembles

dominating leader, as was the case above all in are not in the position today to judge has been variously asserted, Jean Becker [1833-1884]

chiefly a foil for the

the Joachim Quartet.

whether,

as

We

head of the Florentine String Quartet [1866-1880] did in fact effect a change in this respect. In any case, Joachim himself still had to show very great indulgence towards the performance of his partners. Now suddenly at the beginning of the 'nineties, at the

four musicians from Prague, three of them quite young, appeared on the concert platform and, completely equal in quality, fiddled

and technical miraculously, with unheard-of intensity, freshness perfection: Karel

Hoffmann [1872-1936] an outstanding

leader;

in tone quality Josef Suk [1874-1935], the great composer, Nedbal Oskar the to leader; [1874-1930], the giant of the superior

181


CARL FLESCH viola,

and Hanus Wihan

the ideal of a quartet

The

changed.

[b. 1855],

'cellist.

1

The

the ruling spirit of the whole, usual roles seemed to be ex-

was a magnificent

first violinist

interpreter, but

nevertheless tonally the weakest of the four; the occasional solo violinist Suk proved a serious competition passages of the second

And when Nedbal

for him.

took the lead

Smetana's First String Quartet (From

was hearing

my

at the

Life),

beginning of one thought one

real viola playing for the first time,

while

Wihan

of Czech musicality both

united in himself the best qualities musician and as instrumentalist. One

no longer regarded

as

the

occasional passages in which the other instruments came to the fore as a disagreeable necessity, as was the case with the Joachim

Quartet, nor had one to wait anxiously for the return of the first violin after often painful interludes; here for the first time one

heard ensemble playing by four congenial individualities

who

were on the same technical level. The steadily rising development of quartet playing in our own day can be traced back to this revolutionary phenomenon. The 'Capet', 'Flonzaley', 'Lener', 'Kolisch', 'Brussels', *Pro Arte', and 'Guarneri' Quartets would be unthinkable without the electrifying example of the 'Bohemians'. By comparison with the Joachim or Rose Quartet however, the life of the Bohemian Quartet was of short duration. First Nedbal (accompanied by the leader's wife) broke away, then Wihan died; at a relatively early stage, Hoffmann's bowing revealed a serious lack of steadiness; and after a long wait, Suk was at last recognized as the most valuable composer of his native land. Thus this rare ensemble came to a partly unharmonious end, and only the its

memory remains ineffaceable for all those who knew it in

prime.

myself had also become an ardent quartet player at this time. The founding of a permanent quartet ensemble, which Dinico had I

the help of the Queen,

took

palpable shape with inspired, soon as early as the winter season of 1897-8

and

first series

of quartets, but not without a

name which

the child

was

to bear.

My

we embarked on

bitter

our

struggle over the

proposal to

call it the

Preceded by Otto Berger in the first year of the Quartet's existence. Like the other three, Berger was a pupil of Wihan. He resigned because of ill health,

182


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] Flesch or the Flesch-Dinico quartet was turned down, wliile I as leader could not accept the title 'Dinico-Flesch'. Finally we agreed

names of all the four players on the programme and But as Dinico attended to the business side of the and stamped the admission tickets with his name by way

to put the

leave

it

at that.

concerts

of check, the cunning gypsy effortlessly achieved his end of getting

name

'Dinico Concerts' generally accepted. Our programmes included the better known works of Beethoven's first period, 1 as the

well as quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Dvorak, though we did not yet venture on Brahms. Encouraged by the Queen's interest, Bucharest society showed great interest in our undertaking. But the performances 'cellist

was not

were not on

while his brother, the second

The

was played by

viola

a very high level; the talented

sufficiently reliable either technically or musically,

a

violinist,

was decidedly

inferior.

German named Loebel who, with

a

good average musical education, was able to meet all technical requirements too; but at times he eagerly resorted to the bottle before concerts. Thus the entire responsibility for the execution rested

on

my

shoulders.

I

had

to lead the

ensemble and hold

it

had to shine at every moment in the absence of another and willynilly I had to make the best of it by playing solo planet; to the accompaniment of three instruments. As we also had to together ;

I

chief activity make music for the Queen several days a week, in Bucharest, teaching apart, was quartet playing. Though musical horizon was form as a soloist suffered in consequence,

my

my

my

considerably enlarged, and I was moreover forced to get away from self-tormenting ruminations about problems of technique or expression. The close contact with the purest form of musical me out of the nervous restactivity was the best means of helping lessness that marked this stagnant period in my development as a violinist. And so I have retained good memories of my Bucharest and despite my aversion quartet activities despite their inadequacy to the

'cellist.

first publication, the new edition of Kreutzer's eighteen Studies, in circumstances which did not lack studies in Paris I had made the a tragi-comic touch. During

This period also saw

my

my

183


CARL FLESCH acquaintance of a sculptor who played the violin and who proposed that he should do a bust of me in exchange for a few violin lessons.

While rummaging about in his

studio

I

found under a pile

of old music the original edition of the eighteen Kreutzer studies, which were quite unknown to me. My pupil readily made me a present of them, and after they years under my hands during my

own

new

this

of

had

lain

unnoticed for several

music, they happened to

first visit

to Berlin,

and

it

come

occurred to

into my me that a

might be useful. By questioning my colleagues I established that none of them knew tie work, and I proceeded to get in touch with a publishing firm, whose director declared himself ready to publish my edition provided that no other new edition was in circulation. In my presence every possible reference book was consulted, and no trace of the work was found. There was nothing to stand in the

edition

way of our

soon

valuable collection

concluding a contract. Engraving was to start as the proofs were to be sent to me at Bucharest.

as possible;

several months later, before I returned the proofs to Berlin, showed my 'discovery' proudly to an older colleague at the Conservatoire, who drily remarked, 'But these studies were published twenty years ago by Schradieck', an assertion which proved correct on reference to a catalogue. The embarrassing part of the business was my foreword which now could not be suppressed, and in which I had expounded to the world of violinists the

Now,

I

'discovery'. It was, however, the publisher who to his researches had blame: chiefly obviously not been thorough enough. For the rest, the unintentional fraud does not

significance

of my

was

seem to have been discovered. Admittedly as possible, a strict silence

about

my

I

have preserved,

My favourable financial position soon enabled me to acquiring a valuable Italian instrument. choice fell on a splendidly preserved,

which

as far

first editorial child.

For the

think of

moment my

but brittle-sounding

bought for some 4,600 marks. But as it did not satisfy me I soon sold it at a small loss and experimented with chance purchases of instruments of doubtful past, at a correspondGofriller,

I

ingly low price; with most of them I grew disenchanted after a few hours. At last I found that the wife of a diplomat, a woman

184


BUCHAREST [1897-1902]

who had

been a pupil of Vieuxtemps, had a violin which had belonged to her teacher, labelled 'Joseph Guarnerius filius Andrae, though it was a genuine Guadagnini. I acquired it for 4,500 marks. After some minor repairs it proved to be a violin of first-rate tone,

and

I

played on

it

Stradivarius. Later

exclusively for seven years, until I bought it passed into the possession of the violinist

my

Robert Pollak.

To

the Gofiiller violin already mentioned I owe a remarkable experience. I bought it back in 1912, frequently lent it to outit a second time to Alma Moodie, whose possession it remained. I was thus able to follow the tonal

standing pupils, and finally sold in

development of the instrument for over forty years. When I bought it in 1898 it was outwardly quite untouched, stiff in tone, sluggish in response

had only one

desire

and incapable of tone modulation, so that I to get rid of it as soon as possible. Today,

after forty years' intensive use

by excellent artists, the instrument, small format, can take its place beside any relatively despite first-rate Italian instrument. This confirms me in the conviction its

development of a violin largely depends not only on whether it is played at all, but also on who plays it. We know that that the

dilettante scrapings can completely ruin the finest of instruments within a few years; whereas cultivated sound production sets up

and pure vibrations in the wood and thus promotes its of response and vibration. power Beside our quartet evenings there were also six orchestral concerts, which were conducted by the Conservatoire director, Wachmann. As leader I was in charge of a horde of violinists who had not the slightest respect for the old gentleman; he for his part lacked the courage to maintain his position. During rehearsals he did not let us off a single repeat, and one day this drove us to regular

kind of coup

we

agreed to ignore every had happened. The conrepeat and play straight on as if nothing heart apparently old for the came off, greybeard's worthy spiracy resort to a

d'etat,

in that

sank into his boots in face of the unanimous determination of the

desk colband; shaking his head, he bowed to the inevitable. who was reconciled rival Richard former was Hartzer, my league

My

with

his fate

and

also

with me.

We became more friendly, not so

185


CARL FLESCH

much in our art as in chess, the tabla game, and above all in cycling. He was said to be the child of a well-known violinist of the 'seventies, and a certain Baron, who soon vanished from the scene and

left

the mother

the

went

mother

to care for the child.

to France

and

left

Soon afterwards

the child behind with her

at the Budapest Conservatoire, then with parents. Richard studied Griin in Vienna, and in due course began a modest concert one day he received a letter from his father activity. Suddenly

in Sofia, a

who had

newspaper

chanced to come across his son's

When

criticism.

their relationship

beyond

father,

then in Bucharest, where

all

I

had been

in

estab-

went to live with met him in 1897. When I

doubt, Richard

lished

name

first

his left

Rumania in 1902 he followed me to Berlin and later to Hamburg, where he married a wealthy Dutch woman, but lived a quite undistinguished existence as an

artist.

From our

Bucharest days,

he had retained a certain attachment to me, which however was curiously mixed with envy and jealousy. After the First World

War

induced

I

him

to settle in Berlin,

where he worked

as

my

and soon became one of the most preparatory sought-after violin teachers in the capital. He was an outstanding craftsman, conscientious and hardworking, but incapable of deassistant teacher

veloping the students' ability to stand on their own feet and to teach them all that for which technical skill is but a prerequisite. Later

I

me

took him with

where he spent three years

to the Curtis Institute at Philadelphia, as preparatory tutor in unusually

my

now our relations worsened: he began dependence on me unnecessary and an

favourable conditions. But to consider his artistic injustice.

wards in

His bad

humour vented

my instructions,

Amsterdam in

itself in

insubordination to-

and I was forced to part with him.

He died

1939.

Meanwhile, the three-year contract which I had signed in 1897 was drawing to its close, and I had to consider whether to extend it or to look about me for other possibilities of existence. Just at that time a minister hostile to

Hungary was

to a renewal of

in office,

and he was

opposed my appointment. Prudence counselled to look for another position betimes in order to be prepared against any eventuality. Just about then the post of orchestral

me

186


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] Vienna Court Opera fell vacant, and I quickly decided to apply for it by way of reinsurance. An invitation from the director, Gustav Mahler, brought me one day to the opera house, where Arnold Rose, who for his part would have been leader at the

me

next to him at the first desk, received me in He gave me a friendly explanation of the demands that Mahler, who did not know much about violin technique, used to make during auditions. He attached the greatest very glad to see

the director's office.

significance to the steadiest possible bowing in sustained notes and therefore considered the beginning of the third act of Siegfried1 as

bowing technique of an orchestral violinist. old Rose did not hesitate to cheat a little; he showed me

a touchstone for the

Good

the passage in question beforehand. Mahler came in a little later; he first asked me to play a Mozart adagio, and then all unprepared as I was set the Siegfried passage in front of me. But as

my

bow glided over the

strings

with the phlegmatic calm of a world-

weary philosopher, he seemed greatly pleased, wanted to nail me down to the post of leader at once, and accompanied me himself to the administration building, where I was informed of the

The uncanny suddenness, however, with which the matter had developed went rather against my grain; for the question of my remaining in Bucharest financial conditions attached to the post.

was not yet

my

artistic

settled,

while

I felt at

the same time that the time for

had not yet come. Thus advanced from promised to make my decision known to

resurrection

candidate to courted,

I

the proper quarters as soon as possible. Shortly after, however, I contract at Bucharest for a further three years, and did extend

my

removal to Vienna the question of to strengthen was calculated episode

my

fell

my

to the ground.

The

self-confidence con-

to the worst I could siderably, for it showed that if the worst came orchestral haven of find refuge in the sure leadership. For the rest,

Mahler seemed

to

me highly neurotic. An embarrassing tic made

him frequently swing his right leg forward like a marionette, even when he was standing at ease. An angel and devil in one, he was 2

undoubted

regarded by the orchestra as a tyrant, despite his ^esch means the beginning of Act IE, scene 3. 2 Not by its outstanding members, such as Rose' or the 'cellists Buxbaum and Franz Schmidt; see also p. 344.

187

Friedrich


CARL FLESCH to the greater glory of art. He was the kind of fine-nerved artist who reacts to a wrong note as if

idealism;

it

it

was

certainly

were a box on the

all

ear.

Only time

composer. At the turn of the century

will

show

his stature as a

my development as a violinist began

more hopeful phase. Through the example of Marteau and Kubelik my playing had been favourably influenced as reand my emotional life, too, gards both expression and technique, had undergone a change which was to free unused and inhibited powers and place them at the service of my art. The deep connection between music and the endless gradations of erotic feeling

to enter a

is

indisputable, if

by

'erotic'

one understands not simply sensual

love but the aggregate of all emotions which not only attach in the relations with people to each other but also find expression

God and nature,

Down

to

my

as a

yearning for the unattainable in every form.

twenty-fifth year

my

erotic feelings

had wavered

between the extremes of idealistic selflessness and earthbound love.

Not long

after

my

installation at Bucharest, relations

veloped between myself and a married than

I,

in

whom,

for the first time,

1

had de-

woman some years

loved the

older

human being

too,

and who succeeded to some extent in melting the ice which had so far separated my instincts from my spiritual self. in 1899, 1 met a young woman during a railwho was to make the most powerful impression on

Some time later,

way journey

my emotional

development during the next few

me

sight of her touched strings within before. I passed the brief journey as

carried

away her

picture in

my heart.

years.

The

first

had never sounded though in a dream, and I The winter passed without that

It was only at a Conservatoire recital, which her younger brother participated, that we met again. I was introduced to her mother, who invited me to call on them. My visit followed the next Sunday, and from that moment I was

our seeing each other again.

in

hopelessly in love. The summer vacation

was close at hand, and I only rarely found the opportunity to see Anna. She seemed the embodiment of all the ideals which I regarded as the essence of the eternal feminine. She had just passed the years of flapper dom, was of average 188

size,


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] with a natural elegance, more than a mere beauty, full of intangible charm, attractive and unapproachable at once. She loved art in all its forms, played the violin a little, had also tried her hand at painting and could recite French poetry with all the slim,

enthusiasm of her youth. All that that

was to

I

had dreamed of the

woman

command my future seemed to be miraculously united

in her person. Filled with

hope and content with a definite aim before me, I went home for the vacation, where a mournful surprise awaited me. My mother was suspected of cancer, and had to be immediately operated upon. Eighteen months later she died, only fiftytwo years old. With her passed a woman whose entire existence had unselfishly been devoted to her husband and to the education of her children.

autumn I returned to Bucharest, and to Anna. My love was chaste and unsensual; no impure thought disturbed the tenderness of our relations. I was allowed to spend every Sunday afternoon in her company, when her mother was "at home*. The time from one Sunday to the next seemed grey and boring, for In the

for her

on weekdays we could certs or in the street.

see each other only 'accidentally' at con-

When my yearning

grew unbearable

I

did

not disdain to promenade, like a high school lad, beneath her window. An agreed motif from the Nibelungen, which I whistled

with

virtuosity,

would

call

her to the window, where

rejoice in the sight of her for a

few

I

could

seconds. She appeared to re-

feelings, though I could hardly avoid noticing that ciprocate hers were far more temperate and intellectual than mine, a reaction which I attributed to the natural modesty of a young

my

woman

of the time. In this state of uncertainty, I felt an all the need to clarify our respective positions and to It was one fine a decision. spring morning that I told bring about her my love and asked her whether she would be my wife. Her

more

irresistible

was indefinite and reluctant, and I had to conclude that hers was not a sufficiently strong attachment to justify a bond for

reply life.

Deeply hurt, I withdrew without a word. After the shattering impression of this unexpected development I was overtaken by an 189


CARL FLESCH apathetic resignation. I resolved to forget the fickle girl and to devote myself with increased enthusiasm to art. I had not yet had time to put this noble resolution into practice when some

my

hours later,

me

I

received a desperate letter from her elder

sister, telling

Anna had been thrown

into a deep depression; she was reproaching herself bitterly for having lost me for ever, and wanted to take her life. Would I forgive her thoughtless words, that

which she then on

bitterly rued.

Next day we talked

it

over and from

we

regarded ourselves as engaged. This shaky beginning of our relation was to remain characteristic of its further course.

A

young Rumanian

painter

was

swayed to and fro between us ing what was going on inside

my

rival,

and Anna's

inclinations

for years without her really herself,

while

I

know-

remained unswerv-

ingly constant to her. Only for a brief time did there was complete harmony between us, as

it

seem

as

though though we were destined for each other. My conviction that we belonged to each other was as firm as a rock, and when a year later I left Bucharest for good it was primarily in order to attempt to win a position

abroad worthy of my future wife. During these years of separation, however, I was frequently overtaken by a renewed uncertainty as to the sincerity of her feelings, since the tone of her letters

bride.

hardly showed the affection which I wished to find in my Yet when we saw each other again in Vienna, before I took

up my post in Amsterdam, she seemed once again, to be dominated by true feeling. And as now it appeared that my position in Amsterdam offered me the possibility of setting up my own house

on

securer foundations, our plans for the future form in our letters.

began to take

definite

In anxious expectation, hopeful and fearful at once, I set out to Bucharest at Easter 1903, with the intention of

on the journey officially

asking Anna's parents for her hand. But

which

I

soon

realized

meantime a change of

feeling had occurred in her, she cloaked with the excuse that she still needed a little

that in the

time before she could be quite sure of herself and

Now

from

make

a final

my eyes. Her problematic character, her inconstancy, her lack of inner fibre, and above all the weakness of her feeling for me all this was at last horribly decision.

the scales

fell

190


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] obvious to me. Outwardly calm, but inwardly deeply wounded, I declared that I finally renounced all claim to her. Now the only

need was to accomplish this withdrawal with the least possible for all Bucharest had known the object of my journey. publicity,

To

all decorum, I therefore remained in the city for a few time this with and succeeded, during superhuman selfdays, the truth from in friends. restraint, my keeping Only when, many years later, I saw Anna again, did I discover

observe

the true reason for her hesitation at the time:

my rival, the young

had threatened her that the day she painter already mentioned, was betrothed to me he would shoot himself on her doorstep.

Her and

refusal to

marry

me

had therefore saved one man

his life,

another his happiness.

Nevertheless, the immediate effect on my emotional development was tragic, and it was years before I succeeded in recovering from the severe shock I had suffered. Yet the revolution that had occurred within me had set new strings vibrating. I had matured, become a man. From that time dates my rise as an artist. It was in November 1901 that I first set foot on English soil.

had encouraged me the year before to both thought I was too good for Buchtry my luck there. They arest and that London was precisely the right place for my dual teacher. In those days the journey from capacity as a soloist and Bucharest to London took some sixty-four hours. On the day of Kubelik and

his impresario

my arrival there was a fog, the worst London had known for ten years.

Blind and dumb, for

I

could not then speak English,

I

was

overcome the same morning by a fearful depression, which left in particular. Both my cursing God, the world, and England success. At that time I moderate a had moreover, concerts, only

me

did not

know

conquest of the

that

two

artistic

qualities

are absolutely essential to the

world in England

patience and persever-

successes are unusually rare with British audiences,

ance. Lightning while slow but constant hammering of a name into their consciousness makes them esteem and later love an artist, to whom for die first time in my life, they will then remain loyal. Here, too, of the over-estimation artist's the importance of newspaper I read the very moderate As to me. obvious criticism became

191


CARL FLESCH reviews of

concert I was overcome by a feeling of on suicidal Not I that had lost faith in despair bordering thoughts. it was of the myself; rather, thought my acquaintances and col-

my

first

leagues, the 'whatever will they say?', which at first made defeat as regard

my

me my mood passed as swiftly

damaged

prestige,

an irreparable disgrace. as it had come, and I

However, this quickly came to judge the London interlude according to its worth, as one of those unsuccessful experiments with which

true

every

artist's

career abounds, without their influencing the big line of

development unfavourably. It was only thirty years later, had already come to regard my concert career as closed, that I was to work in England as both soloist and teacher.

his

after I

At

the turn of the century portance in artistic regard.

London was

An

artist

still

of secondary im-

played there

'to

make

money' the people themselves were regarded as unmusical From own personal experience I can say that this is certainly no ;

my

longer correct. After the First changes in the distribution of capitals

of the world, and

World War

there

were many

among the .various time of writing (1935) London

artistic life

at the

must be regarded in every respect as the centre of the world of music. Yet even in the early years of this century the fame of a Wilhelmj or a Sauret induced many violinists to study in London. Soon after my visit to London I heard Sauret

minor Concerto in Berlin. with old-fashioned resources,

as a violinist

definitely

on

[1852-1920] play

A

Vieuxtemps's

the

down

grade. In

any

case,

remember him who was already however, he was reI

as the

only outstanding purely French violinist of the third of the nineteenth century. He did not perform his

garded

last

military

service in the 1870 Franco-Russian war,

was

treated as a deserter,

and not allowed to set foot in France again. Judging by his studies, he must certainly have possessed a stupendous technique in the days of his prime. But since Ysaye's arrival the demands that were

made of violin

playing especially in matters of sound and sonohad grown enormously. The elegance and blase smoothness of a Sarasate or of the violinists he influenced no satisfied

rity

longer

the listeners; they

a

la

demanded

full-blooded, intense interpretations For that matter, I believe that the development of Ysaye.

192


BUCHAREST [1897-1902] England was influenced less by Wilhelmj and Sauret than by Wessely and later by Rivarde. Hans Wessely one of Griin's pupils, spent many years in England as [1862-1926], a teacher, and trained many violinists of the middle rank. As a soloist he could be regarded as a typical exponent of the Griin school, with a solid left-haiid technique despite his primitive bowing technique, and a strong expressive need that was inhibited by his slow vibrato. Because of the indifferent result of my London concerts I soon gave up the thought of settling there. Experts on English musical life had assured me that it took at least three years to secure a sure foundation for the material existence of a young artist in London, and that was too long for me to wait, since, after all, I wished to get married as quickly as possible. So I just spent a few enjoyable weeks in London before returning to Bucharest by way of Wieselburg. In any case this London interlude had again made me realize that in the semi-oriental atmosphere of the Balkans it was

violin playing in

impossible to achieve either progress as an artist or the material conditions necessary to an untroubled domestic life. This conintention to abandon Rumaviction strengthened me in

my

my

possible and again to try my strength in Berlin season. I applied to the Rumanian authorities the next very during for release from the last year of my contractual obligations, and

nian post as soon

as

departure I request was granted, though with regret. On of and the title was awarded an order Royal Rumanian Chamber

my

my

Virtuoso, a distinction which at the time represented to me the farewell audience with the height of worldly honour. Of

my

Queen,

who received me in the palace gardens,

ber that while

I

wandered under shady

I

mainly remem-

trees beside

Her

Majesty,

who was in a bath chair, an intolerable itch on my back made me almost forget the courtly manners that I had acquired during the back home I found that a cockchafer, I past five years. When got as I was, had been crawling for hours as desperate probably just over my bare skin.

Two months later I left Bucharest, after residing there for more than five years, broken only by the summer vacations. The parting was not easy, for aside from the bonds of love that held me to the 193


CARL FLESCH spot, I left

behind quite a number of sincere

friends,

with

whom I

had shared joys of all kinds as well as sorrows. I instinctively felt that this storm and stress period of my twenties, during which, all material cares dismissed, I had lived chiefly for my artistic and personal development, would in retrospect become the happiest time of my life. I was even disposed to regard the less happy such as my relations with aspects of my activities in Bucharest, all was it with Dinico, past and would not return. I indulgence: was about to begin a new period in my life. It is true that my teaching activities had left little trace in Rumanian musical life, since, apart from the fact that my pupils were uninteresting, I had still been too preoccupied with my own development to be able to muster the necessary neutral detachments for dealing with personalities different from my own. But as a violinist I had succeeded, after a period of hard and nerve-racking work, in finding myself again and in establishing a preliminary balance between intellect and impulse. Now I had to test the change in the psychological foundations of my work and try to win a place in the concert life of central Europe. felt I

194


BERLIN

[1902-1903]

Aged Twenty-nine

WHEN,

in the

autumn of

absence of five years,

musical

life.

1902,

1

to

Thirty

returned to Berlin after an

noticed no fundamental changes in its Nikisch continued to be the celebrated conductor of I

the Philharmonic Concerts, while "Weingartner

was in charge

of the Court Orchestra (Konigliche Kapelk). The weekly average of concerts, to be sure, had risen from about fourteen to twice that

number Joachim was violin classes

of the Hochschule, where the were in the same hands as six years before. As yet, still

director

was no sign of a young generation of noteworthy violinists who owed their training to the Hochschule. At the same time, the influx of foreign artists had considerably improved the general there

standard of violin playing.

During my absence, Ysaye, had risen as the new stars who, their personalities

who had been,

Kreisler,

Marteau and Thibaud

for a to stamp generation, were the art of violin playing. Of the violinists move were, in the public ear at the time of

on

as it

my

to Bucharest, Petschnikoff had fallen several degrees in the esti-

mate of audiences, while Burmester was no longer taken seriously by the musical section of the public. Serato, too, had meanwhile been reduced to the top rank of respectable second-class

fiddlers.

Halif rarely appeared as a soloist any longer, and the members of the older guard, such as Petri, Hess and Eldering, had all become

and stayed away from Berlin. on the other hand, had reached the zenith of his Ysaye,

orchestral leaders

inimit-

able art; he was followed by Kreisler, the Pied Piper, who had meanwhile married and whose wife kept him to a regular mode

of living. Marteau, beginning to concentrate on the interpretation of new music, created for himself an unassailable position in that even though his purely instrumental accomplishments were far below those of Ysaye or Kreisler.

field,

C.F.-O

195


CARL FLESCH in 1901, creating Jacques Thibaud had turned up in Berlin

a

from the

outset as the long-awaited exponent of the French type of violin playing. He was born in 1880 at Bordeaux, the son of a violin teacher. As early as 1893, in Marsick's

justified sensation

class,

style

he aroused general interest in view of his already personal of interpretation which was coupled with a pronounced

whole approach gave rise to the hope that an interval of almost a century, France would at last produce another great French violinist. For such players as Artot, Beriot,

technical talent. His ,

after

Ysaye, though commonly considered French, were mostly of Flemish origin and After the Big Three, Rode, really belonged to the Belgian school.

Leonard, Massart, Marsick,

Thomson and

Kreutzer and Baillot, France had produced only mediocrities, with the exception of Sauret, who had been expatriated measured :

France was no against international violin playing standards, longer in the running.

When I won

the

first

prize in 1894,

little

Thibaud was one of the competitors. To the amazement of all who knew him, he flopped one more striking proof of the unreliable

judgments that tend to be pronounced

at such a

levy in

He won

the third prize at the next concourse, and it was mass. only in the subsequent year that, at last, he gained the highest

award. the

I lost

sight

of him during the following six years, though me at Bucharest that he had scored a

rumour reached

with his violin solo in the Prelude to SaintLe Deluge, when leading the orchestra of the Colonne

sensational success

Saens'

Concerts.

At twenty-two, Thibaud was the youngest violinist of great Huberman, his junior by two years, was just passing a transitional through phase during which he was unproductive and avoided international concert life. Thibaud had not artistically far but only fulfilled, surpassed the promise of his boyhood. Above stature; for

all, it

was

listener

his

by

its

tone which, though not big in itself, fascinated the sweet and seductive colour, literally unheard-of at

the time. For better or worse, moreover, he introduced into

modern violin playing a flat initial intonation of the more sustained and expressive notes, which he then levelled up. For him, at any rate, this device seemed to be an organic necessity, a means 196


BERLIN [1902-1903] of expression which was essential to his utterly individual It is always an artist's character that provides the master an understanding of his everything.

art.

style.

key to To the young Thibaud, women were

However unconsciously,

his art as well as his

thoughts

and actions were dominated by the eternal feminine. His playing was imbued with his yearning for sensual pleasure, with an unchastity that was all the more seductive for its refinement. What a difference from the ideals pursued by Joachim and even by Ysaye in their youth! However, times change manners. Thibaud's violin playing expressed the spirit of the turning century, of the Jin de

siecle.

In addition to his bewitching tone, his left-hand

technique was sufficiently accomplished to do justice to the exigencies of the repertoire (when he was on form), and his right hand, too, showed a high degree of mastery, both in its diverse bowings and in its modulations of tone. His attack was sharp without being scratchy, and the bow adhered to the string without preventing vibration through undue pressure. The music of Lalo, Saint-Saens, Chausson and Franck suited his style best. Even his outward appearance, slim and distinguished, expressed the smooth and tasteful elegance which the French nee-classicists1 showed in their approach to composition. At the time, he struck us all as the exponent of a hitherto unknown style of violin playing which was as new in its resources as it was individual and characteristic in

its

ultimate

artistic

aim, viz. an eroticism that

remained unadulterated even though he ennobled it. You could not compare him to any other violinist, and public opinion had already placed him in the ranks of the very greatest; he even

seemed to be considered heir presumptive to Ysaye.

On

me, he

made the profoundest impression in Lalo's F minor Concerto, a work with which I was ill acquainted and whose first and second leaders who have grown up on the anti-romantic neo-classicism of Strawinsky and Hindemith may think that Flesch gets his terms wrong, but in point of fact the term 'neo-classicism' got itself wrong in the first place, applied as it was to music of late-nineteenth-century composers which showed a varying degree of interest in the methods of ckssical and pre-classical masters. This nineteenthcontemcentury 'neo-classicism' is not to be regarded as the forerunner of the was the porary variety: the forerunner of twentieth-century neo-classicism anti-romantic Busoni [1866-1924]. Cf. his Essence of Music and other Papers (trans.

Rosamond Ley),

RocklifT, 1957, pp. 19

('Young Classicism')

197

ff.

[Publisher].


CARL FLESCH

movements

are, to

my mind, far superior to the same composer's

hackneyed Symphonic Espagnole. Thibaud was happy like a child when

we met

He had and prided recently married, enjoyed himself on the Strad he had newly acquired from my former teacher Sauzay. With his natural charm went an unusual talent for he had a masterly story-telling. A typical imaginative Frenchman, again.

financial independence,

way of

adorning

trivial

delighted his audiences

events

with

his

with droll trimmings,

southern

vitality.

During

and

recent

he had learnt a great deal from his intimate friend Ysaye, while his individual and characteristic style had emerged unharmed. I acknowledged his artistic superiority without envy; we were very fond of each other and have remained so over the years.

years,

At

the

smoothly

same time,

development did not proceed as had hoped. When I heard him at Amsterwas disappointed by his interpretation of

his further

as his friends

dam two years later, I the Mendelssohn Concerto, nor did he repair this impression on later occasions. The unforgettable Berlin concert I heard has remained in

be equalled in should this have been the case ?

my memory as a unique event, never to

Why

his

subsequent performances. try to give a detached answer to the question. The external circumstances of Thibaud's career were exceptionally favourable since, for thirty-five years, there was no rival I

shall

to fear in his special field: apart

from

himself, France did not

produce a single great fiddler during that period. Thus, when a French violinist was wanted for the performance of French works, fall back on Thibaud, whether performance made a return visit desirable. Now, though one has no right to demand from an artist that he be at his best all the time like clockwork, one may expect him to maintain a minimal standard of and not to let the number of performance,

concert promoters were obliged to

or not his

latest

exceed that of his wholly satisfying interpretations. For apart from its attendant artistic disappointments, such a Disproportion is most inconvenient for the executant himself, his inferior efforts

since the good performances may take place at Timbuktu, and the bad ones in Berlin and London. In fact, Thibaud met with this kind of bad luck so often in his career that his reputation was

198


BERLIN [1902-1903]

bound

to suffer considerably in the long run. In addition, there

was the rigid immutability of his artistic attitude which, at the age of fifty and beyond, still made him regard the erotic side of mental life as the centre of musical experience. Not that I think that emotion should take second place in an ageing artist, but it must be a different kind of emotion, more spiritualized and sublimated.

Old men giving themselves youthful

airs are

comic figures, on the stage as in life. The deeper causes of Thibaud's technical

amongst the stock

unreliability are

not

difficult to

grasp. Unlike, say, Heifetz's, his initial training was not sufficiently versatile and thorough to absolve him from regular

study at later stages. Throughout his career, Thibaud was as passionately fond of playing the violin as he was disinclined to devote himself to its systematic study. At the same time, his general technical equipment was not comprehensive enough to render him impervious to unfortunate accidents. His art was in fact

rooted in his innate

solid technical ability.

talent, rather

He

than in the acquisition of a

lacked the manual routine which will

on days of physical or mental He depended upon being in good form, whereas a step into the breach

indisposition.

with of proficiency will be able to keep a fair level of performance by his craftsmanship, even on days of failing inspiration. Throughout all these years, Thibaud's repertoire centred on the Symphonic Espagnole by Lalo, the E flat major Concerto of Mozart, the Havanaise by Saint-Saens, and the Cesar Franck Sonata. But the development of a violinist is intimately connected with the enlargement of his repertoire and the resultant widening of his horizon. If he always occupies himself with the same violinist

a certain surplus

emotion will turn into stony routine, and while is a necessary component of safe execuroutine sins tion, spiritual against nature by making a habit of feeling. Thibaud seems to have been aware of his unstable ability, for in the course of the years he made repeated attempts towards material, his

purely technical routine

improvements. Thus, at Berlin in 1931, 1 found him surer of himself technically than eight years previously. Perhaps the harsh criticism that I am forced to mete out to my drastic

friend

Thibaud

in the interest

of impartiality is 199

chiefly

due to the


CARL FLESCH exaggerated hopes I had had for him when he was twenty. After many then regarded him as the greatest violinist of his genera-

all,

tion. Eventually,

however, he seemed to come to a halt

at,

or

only just inside, the border of supremacy. In the history of violin playing, he will survive, in the first place, as the greatest really

of the early twentieth century. [He died in 1953.] had myself put on a concert and a recital, the former in the Beethoven Saal, the latter in the Singakademie. In newly-opened 1 concert with orchestra, I played the Concerto by Dubois my in Bucharest) as well (which I had come to know through Marteau as the Beethoven and while Concertos, my recital with Paganini with the A minor offered usual the fiddler's piano programme, Concerto of Vieuxtemps as piece de resistance. For these performances, Hammig had put at my disposal a wonderful violin of French

violinist

I

Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, the so-called 'd'Egville', which later came into the possession of Friedrich Wilhelm, the music-loving Hohenzollern prince. It was generally thought that I was developing with much promise. Press notices were good, partly even enthusiastic, and I had every reason to be satisfied with my success,

even though you could not describe it as sensational. I had meanwhile passed on to Eugen Stern's concert agency, for I thought that a small agent would better promote my interests than the big international firm of Hermann Wolff, which claimed a kind of monopoly of concert organization both in Ger-

many and

even, at times, abroad. Stern was the prototype of the vain, self-important concert agent in whose view the success of a

concert was never due to the performance of the artist but, above to the skill of the organizer. All engagements had to go

all,

through his hands, and he always knew how to justify the commission due. When you had a direct invitation from a musical society you had to request its secretary to conclude the contract with the agent, whereupon you could be certain to receive, within

a

few

days, a letter

from Stern with this kind of opening sentence:

Theodore Dubois [1837-1924] took

the Prix de Rome at the Paris Conservaand succeeded Saint-Saens as organist at the Madeleine in 1877. Nine years later he became director of the Conservatoire, a post he held, again, for nine years. Curiously enough, the Violin Concerto is among the least known of his numerous compositions which include four operas and two oratorios. ^

toire in 1861

200


BERLIN [1902-1903] 'After prolonged endeavours extending over several months, I have at last succeeded, to great satisfaction, in securing you an

my

engagement at X.'

The only benefit arising from this connection was my meeting came to like with the piano virtuoso Leopold Godowsky. each other and formed a sonata duo: in the course of the winter,

We

we gave several recitals at Bremen and Hanover that were crowned with considerable Before the

success.

First

of the master

World War, Godowsky

class at

succession to Busoni.

in 1938.

[b.

the Vienna Conservatoire died,

[He

1870] took charge from 1908-14, in

an American citizen, in New York

He had been director of the

Chicago Conservatoire.]

He

was perhaps the only pianist since Liszt who succeeded in directing piano technique on to hitherto uncharted territory. He was one of those virtuosos

concert

hall.

who

make

only

their

mark

chievous colleague once

said.

The

room, not in the two yards,' a mis-

in a

'Godowsky' aura extends for just s

fact that his playing did

not

have any magnetic effect upon his audiences seemed to be due to his technical preoccupations, which resulted in an excessive degree of mechanization and thus inhibited the free play of his imagination.

His closer professional colleagues held him in far higher rest of the public, which tended to remain un-

esteem than the

aware of the subtleties of his style. On one occasion, I saw Theodor crowd Leschetizky, Josef Hofmann and Wladimir von Pachmann round him in the profoundest admiration while he played one of

Chopin arrangements, whose difficulties seemed welhiigh inconceivable even to these sovereign exponents of the instrument. As a writer of music, he was less of a composer than what one

his

might

call a

1 'combinator', in which capacity he

showed genius

to a relatively inferior activity. His original compositions lacked inner compulsion while at the limit of intellectual calculation. In the same time if this superlative

may be applied

very reaching order to apply his talent, Godowsky always needed an external 2 fulcrum: he very rarely invented his own themes. But his X

I

am

retaining Hesch's

German neologism,

Kombinator.

Hesch Here describes a characteristic symptom of a musical culture's ktest can be at least a partial virtue is shown by such stages. That Godowsky's failing 2

~eative characters

as

Max Reger's. 201


CARL FLESCH arrangements of Chopin and Bach are veritable masterpieces in that they solve the most intricate problems and exhaust multiple technical possibilities which, to be sure, are mathematical kind despite the unquestionable finished result. For the rest, he

was

of

somewhat

a

euphony of the

said to be an excellent teacher

matters technical, which seems hardly surprising in view of his creative talent for musical mechanics. Nevertheless, he re-

in

all

garded teaching

as a

mere source of income. The

great

and un-

flagging passion of his life was to 'combine' music for the piano. Godowsky's Berlin home used to be the centre of a sociable

On Sunday nights he kept open house, when was welcome. everyone Music-making and conversation prooften indeed gressed freely, simultaneously. Everybody who was crowd of musicians.

scraping a bow across strings or thumping a piano met together in this in the best sense Bohemian circle, for everyone was fond

of the kind-hearted and benevolent

host.

Wladimir von Pachmann [1848-1933], never

when passing through Berlin. Pachmann was as a

failed to

turn up

Inimitable in Chopin's small pieces,

and charlatan, just odd into an asset. He liked to

a curious mixture of artist

man to turn his

enough eccentricity intrigue audiences by clowning on the platform. In fact many only attended his concerts in order to be entertained by the nonsense he used

to utter, while attentive observers avowed that the partimoments he chose to address his listeners were always just when his memory was about to fail. He took great pleasure,

cular

moreover, in humiliating

his

younger colleagues.

young Schnabel was introduced to him,

pretended not to be able to catch his name: after

he

at last

repeated thrice, the well-known flutist.'

remembered:

When

the

of all had been

for example, he first

'Yes,

it

of course, Schnabel,

With Busoni, Godowsky was not on the best of terms. Once, when Godowsky played at the house of his friend Landecker, president of the Philharmonic Society (Philharmonic), Busoni, who was sitting next door, asked his host very loudly 'Where did :

you

get hold of that lovely pianola?' Then there was Busoni's riddle: What is the difference between Godowsky and a pianola ? Answer :

Godowsky

can play ten times

as fast as a

202

pianola but, to

make up


BERLIN [1902-1903] with ten times as much feeling as Godowsky. was a frequent guest at Godowsky's when he Leschetkky, too, stayed in Berlin. He was then at the top of his fame as a teacher: for

it,

a pianola plays

Paderewsky, Schnabel, Friedman, Gabrilowitsch, Mark Hamburg and many others bore witness to the quality of his teaching methods. Apparently, however, he did not always appraise when both Mark Hamburg and Schnabel

his pupils correctly:

studied with him, he thought

most of the former and

least

of the

latter.

The house of Max Friedlander (the 'Schubert Friedlander', as they called him in order to distinguish him from his many namesakes)

was likewise

a

meeting-place of musical and literary

Berlin. 1 Originally intended for a commercial career, the host had turned to singing at an early stage and subsequently took up musicology. He came to be regarded as an authority on the history

More of a philologist than a musician, he was whole hive of bees; at the same time he was invariably in excellent humour an amiable epicurean. He was fond of illustrating his lectures with musical examples, which he sang with what was left of his voice; undoubtedly, he thus made musicology accessible to a wider public, even though he tended to of the German

lied.

industrious as a

water It

down his scientific information in the process.

was

at Friedlander's house, too, that I

made the acquaintance

of young Georg Schunemann, later the director of the State Hochschule, with whom I was to form a sincere friendship. Friedlander himself had just refused the position as first music critic on the Berliner Tageblatt, recommending in his place Dr Leopold Schmidt, his friend and pupil. Schmidt subsequently held the post for about twenty-five years, exerting a powerful influence upon Berlin's musical life. His importance, however, derived

wide circulation rather than from any personal Old Lessmann continued to edit the Allgemeine Musikqualities. read by concert promoters. It was in zeitung, which was widely

from the

paper's

men Paul Bekker, Georg journal that the up-and-coming Schiinemann and Paul Schwers won their spurs (though no more

this

1

Max

Friedlander [1852-1934] taught at Berlin and Harvard University and by Schubert and Schumann, Gluck's odes, and German folksongs.

edited songs

He

wrote books on the

lied

and on Brahms* songs.

20J


CARL FLESCH than

these).

Max

Marschalk of the

ciated for his frank

and

Vossische Zeitung

factual, if rather dry,

was appre-

approach.

The somewhat reactionary Krebs, the thorough theorist Klatte and the naturally gifted Paul Ertel completed the ranks of music critics who had to decide the fate of performers. The philologian Adolf Weissmann as yet played a subordinate role and in the monthly journal Die Musik

Berliner Tageblatt,

on the it was

Dr Wilhelm Altmann who reviewed violin playing. Although he described me as 'the king of violinists', thus considerably contributing to

my

subsequent popularity,

I

am

deny him an outstanding position among

objectively bound to the critics. One has to

acknowledge, on the other hand, his considerable achievements as a widely active statistical and bibliographical scholar, in which capacity he undoubtedly collected valuable material for the researches of future musical historians.

my agent Stern did not seem able to secure me a sufficient I had to turn to my own friends in order to satisfy need for Thus I used my music-making. Since

number of provincial engagements,

to play with a lawyer, Dr Felix Landau, an efficient amateur who possessed a small but excellent collection of musical instruments. It

sounds like a fairy-tale from past and musical days that for

many

years,

My

Dr Landau had

a daily violin lesson

from

a.m. before setting out for his office. free nights I used to spend in the old Berlin

pupil at

a Joachim

8

wine-room

(Weinstube) of the Frederich Hotel in the Potsdamerstrasse, where I came to enjoy the pleasures of that specifically German institution, a Stammtisch}- It

whom

I

had known

was

since

one Jacques Weintraub days at the Vienna Conservatoire, tavern a relic from past centuries,

a colleague,

my

who had introduced me to this

when the Berlin suburbs began at the Potsdamer Tor and people made Sunday trips to Charlottenburg or Schoneberg. Although the proprietor, 'old Kriiger', hailed from Breslau, he had come to represent the prototype of the Berlin gift of the gab. The number of his sayings was legion. One evening, when the problem of antisemitism was raised at the Stammtisch, old Kriiger, too, was *A

table reserved for regular guests

usually a

circle.

2O4

crowd of friends or an

artistic


BERLIN [1902-1903] asked for his opinion. 'I am an antisernite', our host declared to the astonishment of all, since his inn was chiefly frequented by Jews. Asked for his reasons, he replied, 'The Jews don't drink enough for my liking/ He was the only person allowed to ap-

proach Adolf Menzel, the painter,

when

most ancient of

this

regulars dozing in his corner. One day, an embarrassing incident disturbed our convivial harsat

mony. Poor old Weintraub, whose financial situation was steadily deteriorating, was taken under the wing of the Kriiger family and put in matrimonial touch with an elderly widow of means. "With aplomb and subtle virtuosity, Weintraub played the part of the

whose great before him. In due course, he had induced his fair

significant artist, as yet insufficiently recognized,

future

was

still

lady to place 12,000 marks at his disposal in order for him to redeem the fiddle he had pawned in Paris. Enquiries made meanwhile by some ill-disposed relatives of the bride-to-be, however, revealed the whole

affair as a rather tall story

and Weintraub

an undistinguished and idling musician. The engagement was dissolved, but Weintraub was allowed to keep his violin as com-

as

pensation for missing the chance of maintenance in perpetuity.

When I surveyed my second effort to gain a footing in Berlin, had again failed, despite many a pleasing or It seemed that my time had not yet come; I find of had to some sort fixed besides, employment before I could think of marrying. True, for the moment I had no financial worries a sum of several thousand marks, which I had saved at Bucharest, as well as occasional concert fees, kept me afloat. But

told myself that I encouraging event. I

:

was not far off when my savings would be exhausted, became absolutely necessary to look out for a job as a teacher or orchestral leader, which would enable me to set up the time

whence

it

house.

At about this

time, the post of leader at the Leipzig

Gewandhaus

vacant owing to the departure of Berber, and immediately I decided to apply for it, after presenting myself to the Leipzig

fell

own. The Gewandhaus still had the repupublic in a recital of tation of being the leading German musical society, and the post of

my

leader to this venerable institution appeared to

205

most

violinists as


CARL FLESCH the crowning achievement of their careers, despite the heavy demands that would be made on their services in the concert hall,

many well-known names and many parties among the intrigants i.e.

were opera house and church. There

the aspirants, social devotees of each candidate, but also the daily successful recital, for instance,

among

not only the press.

Upon my uncommonly

a Leipzig's foremost newspaper printed devastating notice, which, that far from achieving tendentious so was however, transparently its

aim,

it

resulted in

my enjoying a certain popularity in Leipzig.

There were powers

at

work behind

the scenes, then,

who were

discomfited at the thought of my Leipzig candidature. At the audition, I played the opening movements of Beethoven's Con-

and String Quartet, op. 59, no. 2. It was young Wollgandt, however, Nikisch's future son-in-law, who emerged victorious. certo

After the event, Nikisch explained to

me that the sole reason why

was the jury's belief that I would make a better soloist, and would be a pity if my individuality were allowed to wither in an orchestral post. Wollgandt was an efficient violinist and chamber-musician, and just the right man for an orchestra. As a soloist, he was not conspicuously active. He was known perpetuI

failed

that

it

change his instrument, to sell, buy and swop it the ideal customer for the international violin trade, always dissatisfied and in search of something better. Ultimately, this kind of mentality ally to

will always be found to be rooted in an over-estimation of the sheer timbre of Italian violins on the one hand, and in an under-

estimation of one's

own tonal flaws on the

other.

Thus the

instru-

bridge or sound-post, are held for every unsatisfactory result, technical or tonal. responsible Much money is wasted in this way and, at the same time, the

ment, or certain parts of it, such

as

prevented from perfecting his technique. Other competitors who failed included Carl Wendling and

player

is

Alexander Sebald. Wendling,

later the director

of the Stuttgart

Conservatoire (Landeskonservatorium), was one of the most prepossessing men as well as one of the most outstanding artists of the Joachim school, the shortcomings of which he did not

fail to

he consistently tried to overcome them by adopting more expedient and suitable methods. The fiddler recognize; in

fact,

206


BERLIN [1902-1903] Sebald had originally played the principal viola at the Gewandhaus, but had always wanted to become a violin virtuoso. He could claim the distinction of having been the first violinist to perform, in three successive recitals, Bach's six unaccompanied Sonatas and

with Paganini's twenty-four Caprices added for good measure. Always ready to be impressed by the mere magnitude of such an undertaking, whatever the quality of its execution, the Partitas,

stamped Sebald overnight as one of the greatest living In actual fact, however, he possessed no more than a inexact and ill-sounding. This pseudo-technique, ill-grounded, kind of mass reproduction must needs result in inferior interpretations, since the quantity of the stuff to be mastered becomes too great for an appreciable quality of detail. In view of his critics

violinists.

startling

with the

Sebald was presently engaged by the most prominent concert societies. Anon, however, the critics' overvaluation was exposed and, as he sank swiftly as he had success

press,

emerged,

back into the sea of mediocrity. He where he became a violin teacher.

later

moved on

to Chicago,

When my Leipzig plans had come to naught, I asked myself whether the moment had not come to reconsider my Viennese project, which I had rejected two years previously. The post of leader at the Vienna

Opera had remained vacant, and the thought place with Rose in Vienna's concert life seemed by unattractive. What made me doubtful, however, was the fact that lacking all experience of opera, I should have had to lead a body of musicians to which many of my old colleagues belonged, some of them still as second violinists. Naturally they of sharing no means

first

could be relied upon not to miss any opportunity of 'tripping me a prospect which was up' hardly alluring, especially under

Gustav Mahler's conductorship. I therefore proposed to the management of the Vienna Court Opera that I should be engaged as orchestral leader as from March i, 1903, but given leave of absence with

full

pay

until

September

i.

This would enable

me

to acquire the necessary routine for so responsible a post, for I should undertake to play, in the meantime, as a guest in sundryorchestras.

My

offer was,

however, turned down; the Court

Opera's treasury, could not apparently understand

207

why

I

should


CARL FLESCH

work which,

be paid for

So

benefit the institution.

moment

for the

at

any

scheme, too, had

this

rate,

would not

failed.

In the early spring of 1903, however, my prospects took a better: no fewer than three different plans

sudden turn for the

emerged, each holding promise of an existence free of care. The conductor Fritz Steinbach [b. 1855] until then at Meinin1 gen, was about to succeed old Wiifiner in Cologne, and I applied for the post of leader to the Cologne Municipal Orchestra (Kolner Stadtisches Orchester), which fell vacant at the same time. Steinbach

informed me, however, that he had appointed Bram Eldering, his former Meiningen leader, who was now teaching at Amsterdam, to lead the

Cologne band.

He

suggested that instead

I

should

apply for the post vacant at Meiningen. Since, however, he knew only by repute, he invited me to participate as leader in the

me

musical festival to be given at Meiningen upon the occasion of his departure, and there to take the opportunity of playing to him.

Quite apart from the fact that his proposal offered me very favourable prospects, I wanted to gain some personal experience of the inner workings of a then,

I

found myself

Orchestra.

At

German

orchestra.

For the next few days,

desk of the Meiningen Court played the opening movement of the

at the first

a rehearsal,

I

Beethoven Concerto to Steinbach' s great satisfaction, and after the festival was over I was a long-term officially invited to sign contract, according to

which

I

was to devote

six

months per year

to orchestral and chamber-musical duties, less a six weeks' leave for recital purposes. The proposed salary of 3,000 marks was a relatively high payment in view of my light duties. On the other hand, the small town of Meiningen did not offer any tempting

prospects to a young artist of ambition. It was a provincial centre which, thanks to the active musical and theatrical interests of its

duke, had gained an importance neither justiby the town's geographical position nor by its other institu-

artistically inclined

fied

Wiillner [1832-1902], pianist, conductor and composer, had likewise been Billow's successor: from 1869 till 1877 he was conductor of the Court Opera at Munich. His works include masses, motets, a Stabat Mater and a Miserere, Psalm CXXV for chorus and orchestra, as well as several other choral works with and without orchestra, a cantata for voice and orchestra, chamber music, piano pieces and duets, songs, etc.

208


BERLIN [1902-1903]

The orchestra itself, however, had attained a considerable standard under Steinbach. As a kind of prima donna, Richard Miihlfeld1 reigned supreme in it the famous clarinettist who had tions.

inspired Brahms to write his Clarinet Quintet and his two Clarinet Sonatas. Steinbach' s predecessors had been Hans von Billow and

Richard Strauss: a glorious past which was only once revived Max brief tenure. during Reger's

At

the beginning of the century, Fritz Steinbach

to be the only great

German conductor;

was thought

for Nikisch, Mottl,

Weingartner, Muck, Richter and Mahler

all hailed from various As a conductor, Steinbach Austro-Hungarian empire. contradictory personality. Heavy-handed in his beat, onesided in the choice of his repertoire, he yet was an important figure because, through his enthusiasm, he succeeded in bringing the works of Brahms to the masses; in the best sense of the word, he popularized what had at first seemed such dry, intractable music. He was also the first who, by of refined and

parts of the was a

way

dynamics of the works of Bach and Handel. Irascible and rude, he could be called a German edition of Lamoureux whom, however, he far surpassed as a musician and conductor. As a of his manual awkconsequence agogics, achieved 'effective' interpretations

wardness and his musical limitations, his development had, however, come more or less to a stop, and during his work at Cologne he was to extend his orbit only through his advocacy of Reger's music. At that time, the subtler art of Walter and Furtwangler had already begun to make itself felt in both the opera In June 1914, Steinbach suddenly fell from the heights where his good fortune had placed him. girl student accused him of misuse of his directorial powers and he was

house and the concert

hall.

A

obliged to resign. This most celebrated of all German conductors of his time died a few years later, in 1916, forsaken by most of his

and ignored. was still undecided whether

friends, alone

While

I

to follow the call to

Meiningen, a new project emerged which was not to be lightly turned down. The director of one of the most important German 1

Originally a violinist, Miihlfeld was self-educated as a clarinettist. 1896, he played the principal clarinet at the Bayreuth Festival.

i 8 56-1 907.

From 1884 till

209


CARL FLESCH conservatoires

made

discreet enquiries as to the possibility

joining the staff of his institute with a view to its

assuming that there I

direction.

were

The

snag about

my

gradually

scheme was, however,

it. While would not have dreamt of

certain matrimonial strings attached to

did not dislike the girl in question,

my

abandoning

this

my

of

Rumanian

fiancee

I

(whom,

at that time, I

still

had hopes of marrying) for the sake of material gain; but I had to admit that it was a pity to let slip this apparently unique opportunity to establish myself in Berlin. At that point, an event occurred significance for

my future.

which was to be of the greatest In the house of a 'cello-playing doctor,

had frequently played quartets with a young violinist, Julius Rontgen jun., known as 'Lula'. A pupil ofJoachim's, he came of a well-known family of Leipzig musicians his grandfather had been leader at the Gewandhaus, while his father was highly esteemed as one of Holland's leading musicians. One evening when I spoke to my colleagues of my indecision about the Meiningen project Lula, on the spur of the moment, said, 'Why not apply for I

;

Eldering's Amsterdam position, since he is going to Cologne with Steinbach?' Although I did not know Holland at all, Lda's

two of us immedion and hours later I found it, ately began forty-eight myself on the way to Amsterdam for my audition. I stayed with Lula's father, who later was to become one of my dearest friends. I gave my audition on the evening of my arrival, playing solos and seemed

idea

so eminently reasonable that the

to act

quartets.

sion

and

My I

performance obviously made a favourable impres-

had reason

to

few days in order while at the same time for a

various board meetings.

I stayed in Amsterdam the place and its people, engagement was being discussed at

hope

for the best.

to get to

my

The

know

three best

Dutch

violinists,

Koss-

mann (originally from Essen) and the two Amsterdamers, Zimmermann and Timner, had applied for the same post; hence a chauvinism had

its say, too. Nevertheless, I emerged triumand was able to leave Amsterdam with a three-year conphant tract in my I was to receive a fixed pocket. salary of 3,600 guilders, for which I would have to give twenty lessons the per week, and organize six recitals of chamber music

little

during

210


BERLIN [1902-1903] found the necessary energy, I would be able to triple my income by way of concerts and private lessons. winter season.

The overtime

If,

however,

did not

and healthy, I was thirty, strong future activities in strange but all the

worry me:

enterprising and eager.

more

I

My

promised a most stimulating life, all, the realization of my

interesting surroundings

the unfolding of new vistas and, above

matrimonial plans. interlude, then,

I

A

six

weeks

after the

unhappy Leipzig returned to Berlin a well-established 'Dutch'

my

professor, settled until I had to take father, a lonely

mere

affairs there,

up

and decided to spend the time

my position

man now,

at

in

my usual way

with

my

Wieselburg.

Looking back at what had passed since I had left Bucharest, I had every reason to be satisfied with the course of events. During

my

six

months' stay

at Berlin,

I

had

successfully reappeared as

had strengthened my standing in the musical life of Central Europe and laid the foundations of a solid material existence soloist,

which would enable me, on the secure

basis

of

my

to solo work. position, to devote myself increasingly

C.F.-P

211

permanent


AMSTERDAM Aged Thirty

to

[1903-1908]

Thirty-jive

HAVING spent the summer months with my father and,

at the

same time, prepared myself thoroughly for the forthcoming winter campaign, I left for Amsterdam at the end of August. The of my arrival coincided with the Queen's birthday: and that day

I

evening struck

me

was able to watch Dutch in the

in vain did

had

I

first

street life at its gayest.

search for the fashionably dressed person, such as

been accustomed to see in Bucharest.

thinks sense

towards the entirely directed

I

The average Dutchman

more of cleanliness than of sartorial

is

What

the inelegant look of the crowd: place was

chic,

and

his aesthetic

adornment of his home. For

the foreigner in Holland, it will always be a curious experience to the house of a proceed straight from the neglected streets into

where inherited and acquired art treasures, elsewhere only found in museums, bear witness to the centuries-old culture of the country.

Dutch

citizen,

At the beginning of the century, Dutch musical life was already dominated by the Concertgebouw. Founded by Willem Kes, the orchestra had been placed under the direction of Willem Mengelberg in 1895. In 1878, Julius Rontgen had settled in Amsterdam, until in 1886 he succeeded teaching the piano to begin with,

Johannes Verhulst as director of the Society for the Promotion of Music. This organization had existed for centuries. It served both educational and propaganda purposes and comprised a great

number of music to

cope with the

schools;

classical

its

well-trained chorus enabled

choral repertory.

With the appearance of

the youthful Mengelberg, Rontgen's position as conductor

become

increasingly

difficult.

it

Not only had he no

had

great talent

and conciliatory over large bodies of men.

for baton technique; fundamentally, his benign

was averse to ruling ruthlessly In the long run, then, a conflict was inevitable. Public and character

212

press


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] comparisons between the two conductors turned

all

too decidedly

to Rontgen's disadvantage and, by 1889, lie was forced to relinquish his position by the pressure of a public opinion that was

only very lukewarmly opposed by the board of the Society. Henceforth, Mengelberg was to control the two greatest concert organizations in the country, while Rontgen's activities were once chiefly confined to the piano. When, five years later, I

more

turned up in Amsterdam, Rontgen's wounded self-respect had not yet recovered, and two hostile camps had meanwhile emerged: the Rontgen party could not forgive the Mengelbergians the defeat of its protege, even though Rontgen's more sensible adherents would, of musical necessity, admit Mengel-

new position, I landed berg's superiority as a conductor. In best to steer a willynilly in this hornets' nest, and had to try

my

my

course between the warring factions, without offending either from the outset. Rontgen was my colleague at the Conservatoire

and

a

chamber-musical collaborator;

my job really had its root in

on the other on hand, depended primarily Mengelberg. Personally I was, from the start, far more attracted to Rontgen, in whose house I was soon to feel very much at home. In my whole life, Julius Rontgen [1855-1932] was the musician to whom I became most closely attached. In the course of the centuries, his family had migrated to and fro between Holland and Germany. His great-grandfather, a famous cabinet-maker, had his friendship.

My

future as a soloist in Holland,

lived in Neuwied, while his father Engelbert, born in Holland, had sat for many years next to David1 at the first desk of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. Julius himself was born in more than fifty years and Leipzig, but worked in Amsterdam for was made up of the character His Dutch citizenship. re-adopted In of nationalities. traits both most lovable appearance, he reminded one strongly of the type of German professor popularized by the humorous journal Fliegende Blatter stocky and corpulent, 1

Ferdinand David [1810-73], the Spohr pupil

who was

one of the

greatest

twenty-six, Mendelssohn brought him to Leipzig and made him leader of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and his advisory role in the creation of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto was similar to that of violin teachers

of all

times.

When he was

Joachim in the creation of the Brahms Concerto.

213


CARL FLESCH

The

short-sighted and absent-minded, droll and engaging.

bitter

experience of Mengelberg's rivalry had not diminished his characteristic kindness and enthusiasm. One felt irresistibly attracted to him,

and

all

who met him wanted

to be friends

with

him. Throughout his life, a genuinely touching friendship bound him to Grieg, and even the bristly Brahms could not resist his magnetic

attraction. "With Casals, too,

he was on intimate terms,

and musicians of all countries Joachim, Tovey, Percy Grainger, and many others found him a congenial friend. He seemed to emanate a world of goodness and charity which charmed all who approached him. He had retained the impulsiveness and ingenuousness of a child, and his optimism remained imperturbable even in the direst straits. But it was only through his relation to contemporary music that one learnt fully to appreciate his personality. His early creative gifts had aroused the highest hopes in Leipzig ;

he was in fact considered the successor of Mendelssohn. k soon became apparent, however, that he did not possess the necessary originality of invention. His creations lacked an at the time,

individual note: they

were honest enough in expression and

thoroughly craftsmanlike, but they remained characterless. In the course of his long life, he all too easily succumbed to the influence

of stronger creative scores

personalities. In chronological order, his revealed the traces of Brahms, Grieg, Cesar Franck,

Debussy, Reger, and even Strawinsky. His fertility, however, seemed unlimited. In his last period alone, he wrote annually dozens of symphonies, as well as a number of string quartets,

chamber music with piano, concertante works for piano, violin, and all these 'cello, and operas purely from a joy in composing, without any prospect of ever hearing the greater part of them in

them in print. Of lasting are his significance, however, settings of Dutch folk songs and folk dances which he saved from oblivion and presented to our public performance, let alone seeing

age in a

modern

guise that

was

at the

same time,

stylistically

true.

Most touching was artistic

which he acknowwherever he found it. He was significance the selflessness with

ledged genuine only eighteen years older than

I,

but from the outset

214

I felt as if I


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] had found

in

him

a second father.

The only cloud darkening our

relationship was the objective frankness with which I judged his compositions, and which remained unaffected by my feelings of personal friendship. So far as creative talent was concerned, I was much more interested in Dirk Schafer. No doubt Rontgen was hurt by my critical attitude towards his music, but such was the integrity of his character that he never resented frankness. In

my

his

valued, above aU, his ability to give himself unreservedly to a work's emotional content. His technique, on the other hand, was not flawless when judged by the highest

piano playing

what

standards;

manner,

his

i.e.

I

found particularly irritating was his arpeggio execution of chords and the I

'Leipzig'

delaying of thematic notes in the right hand. I have known few pianists, however, who would steep themselves so in the emotions completely

of a work, commune with its creator and forget the world. Through this gift of utter empathy he sometimes achieved highly penetrative interpretations denied to other pianists whose technique far outshone his own. For almost twenty years, we de-

voted ourselves,

and

later

to

to the wider chamber-musical combinations, exclusive sonata playing: as musical twins, we first

Our recitals only came to a gradual and when, with his increasing age, the differences in our technical equipment became all too noticeable, while at the same time Artur Schnabel aroused in me the need for technical as well as musical perfection, which Rontgen's technique was no longer able to satisfy. But we have remained lifelong friends. travelled

all

over Holland.

natural end

Shortly

before

I first

met him, he had married for

the father of six sons, of

the second time.

He was

whom five devoted themselves to music:

two violinists, two

'cellists and one pianist. The patriarchal family of the Rontgen home came to hold a strong fascination for me, increased by the congenial feelings I had for my host. On Sundays, we often made excursions on wheels, for we were both eager devotees of 'cycling. On these occasions, Rontgen always wore a cut-away whose tails, flying in the wind, formed a horizontal elongation of his person and lent his silhouette such a touch of the fantastic that 'Rontgen on his bike* soon counted among the popular sights in the streets of the capital. He remained a good

life

215


CARL FLESCH

German all his life, accent that, in

my

speaking Dutch with so pronounced a German I early days in Amsterdam, used to declare to

everybody's delight that

I

when

understood Dutch only

it

was

spoken by Rontgen. the beginning of September, I was officially introduced to new duties by the director, Daniel de Lange. predecessor, Bram Eldering, personally presented my new pupils to me. It did

At

My

my

me long to find out that my inheritance contained, two exceptions, no valuable material. Eldering, 1 who was

not take

with

born

in Groningen (Holland) in 1865, was to make an excellent name for himself in Cologne where, in 1903, he became professor at the Hochschule, especially as the teacher of Adolf Busch. Even

though

the sanguine cross-breed of the Rhinelanders shows, on the average, far more talent for the violin than do the stolid and

pure-blooded north Germans, one must nevertheless concede Eldering a specific gift for teaching, which was aided by his wide outlook

as a violinist

elements.

What

whose

style

distinguished

combined Belgian and German

him from

all

other violin teachers,

however, was his pronounced personal regard for his pupils, whom he approached primarily as a friend rather than a professor at times even to the detriment of their actual studies. In the class which he handed over to me, the catastrophic consequences of his kind heart and his inability to say 'no' were distinctly noticeable. There were one-eyed and deaf people, dwarfs, fiddlers with crippled hands and, above all, ungifted students. Eldering's kindness or should one call it weakness? had prevented him from delivering the salutary truth about themselves. de Boer, seemed to

Bram Mendes and Willem

above the average; subsequently, the

latter

Only two

me

pupils, to be talented

did in fact take a dis-

was only at a later stage of my activities at Amsterdam that I came to teach two further excellent Dutch violinists, Sam Swaap and J. LeidensdorfF; and in the later course of although, my appointment, I was to have a few more gifted Dutchmen as students, there is no denying the tinguished place in Swiss musical

life. It

!Hubay pupil at Brussels and Joachim pupil at Berlin. Viola player in the Hubay-Popper Quartet [1887-8], leader of the Berlin Philharmonic [1891-4], leader of the Meiningen Court Orchestra (1895-9), and leader of the Gurzenich String Quartet.

2l6

.


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] fact that generally speaking, exceptional talents for the violin are

a rarity is

among the Dutch. Their average talent, on the other hand,

above that of other countries. Thus

players that

Dutch

above

all as

orchestral

instrumentalists are highly thought

of all over

it is

the world.

From

the outset, then, I had to resign myself to teaching what and unsuitable material. was, by large, Owing to Eldering's jovial with his there was, moreover, no discipline to speak of. pupils way I put a stop to this state of affairs on my very first day: when,

merry tune, one of the star pupils entered the classremarked dryly, 'You must have mistaken the door. It is

whistling a

room,

I

the violin that tated to

is

taught here, not the

show the door

flute.'

In

fact, I

never hesi-

to impertinent students and, as a result,

my my

authority increased in no uncertain measure. At the start students viewed me with a mixture of fear and respect, but gradually they began to like me. What impressed them most was that I was always able to play them, without preparation and from memory, the current violin repertoire of studies and concert In the first years, beside my violin lessons, I had to teach pieces. chamber music with and without piano, and it was my pleasure to discover the talent of little Willem Andriessen, who was to become one of his country's most representative pianists. I had a very full time-table: my mornings were devoted to my own study

or to private lessons,

my afternoons largely to the

Conservatoire,

and my evenings to quartet rehearsals. Thus there were days when I made music for up to ten hours at a stretch. The Conservatoire was housed in a plain-looking building in the Nieuwen Achtergracht, one of the many small canals where Amsterdam's typical smells could be experienced at first hand. Furnished most primitively, the institute contained only a few classrooms, and a great many lessons had to take place at the Music School, a kind of preparatory institution. It needed an

effort

of the imagination to

realize

that Messchaert1

or

Johannes Messchaert [1857-1922] was one of the greatest concert baritones of he was famed as an interpreter of songs (with Julius Rontgen as his accompanist), and his Christus in the St. Matthew Passion is said to have remained unequalled. In 1914, Franziska Martienssen wrote a German book upon his his day;

methods.

217


CARL FLESCH

Noor dewier1 had been teacliing here, that it was here

that the great

originated under J. MosseL director Daniel de Lange, originally a 'cellist, later the the conductor of a famous a cappella choir, presided with paternal

Dutch school of 'cello playing had

Our

benevolence over an

institute

whose

staff far

surpassed

him

artis-

with dignity and Sporting a white imperial, overflowing was a past master at persuading bad pupils in the Finals to take up another profession, and at formulating the final 2

tically.

unction, he

so that the good name of the institute report of a mediocre student would not suffer. Thus 'Having studied at this institute for five :

has gone far towards being able to perform to a small years, Mr X

with some considerable prospect of success.' These final examinations, by the way, were free and easy events. They circle

time of the cherry harvest, and eating the sweet from a large pot under the table, concealed by the folds of

occurred fruit

at the

the table-cloth, helped us endure the tedium of the examination formed a little republic which recognized the director's

rites.

We

authority only conditionally; thus we retained the right to select our colleagues ourselves. All instrumental students had to learn a

second subject a practice pointing to the versatility of musical education in past times, which has, in our own day, again

wind

as

become

topical

owing

to the requirements

of light orchestras and

dance bands.

Among my colleagues, it was the 'cellist Isaac after

Rontgen,

I felt

most

closely attracted,

Mossel to

above

all

whom, we

because

played chamber music together. Mossel may be regarded as the founder of a specifically Dutch school of 'cello playing, the Dutch counterpart, as it were, of that great Belgian 'cello teacher, Edouard Jacobs [1851-1925]. His energy was boundless, enabling him to teach, if necessary, from eight in the morning to ten at night. Throughout the years, he succeeded in turning out a con1868, the

Dutch soprano

Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius

was

a pupil

him, a member of the a cappella choir mentioned by Flesch in the next paragraph. She was equally famous as an oratorio singer and as a

of Messchaert and,

like

teacher.

*Member of a famous Dutch family of musicians, Daniel de Lange [1841-1918] himself formed the ensemble of eminent solo singers to which Flesch here draws attention, and which created a sensation with its Albert Hall concerts during the Music and Inventions Exhibition of 1885.

218


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] number of excellent 'cellists, most of whom not only far surpassed the average but came close to the ranks of the very siderable

I greatest. Since did not personally experience his teaching

methods,

have to content myself with surmises about his talent as an educator. Though an excellent musician and a gifted 'cellist himself, he passionately and conscientiously engrossed himself above

I

in his teaching. He did not merely pass on his instrumental knowledge to his pupils he sometimes crammed it down their all

He knew how

them a highly musical, if not from which very atmosphere, they eventually emerged fully armed for the artist's struggle for existence. He would perhaps have been an outstanding soloist too, if only he had found time for regular study, and had not been ruled by his curious comthroats.

to create for

ethical,

mercial instinct. All goods, mobile or immobile, material or concert engagements, spiritual, were objects of trade to him

... He possessed to a a the of inner restlessness high degree busybody, the giddy need for activity of a commercial traveller in musical articles. Naturally, 'cellos and violins were the trading objects closest to his heart. Italian instruments, fountain pens, cigars.

Transactions were ascribed to

him which were

often disarming

in their drollery. His pupil Smith in Rotterdam, for example, owned a Grancino 'cello, his pupil Brown in Amsterdam a

Gagliano. Mossel persuaded each that his instrument was useless, but praised the Gagliano to Smith and the Grancino to Brown. The respective instruments were duly examined and approved by their prospective purchasers who, of course, knew nothing of each

and upon the completion of the two deals an appropriate commission found its way into Mossel's pocket. Everybody concerned was satisfied until, one day, the two mutual customers happened to run into each other at a party, discussed their instruments, and gradually discovered the truth. Such side-lines was a good-natured fellow, ever ready to apart, however, Mossel his pupils, sound and safe as a quartet player, to father a help, other,

always unruffled, and a good entertainer. After a three years' collaboration, however, I separated from him, because I could no I wished longer bear the inartistic streak in his character; besides, to devote myself exclusively to

my

219

sonata duo with Rontgen.


CARL FLESCH

The two men were, moreover,

so different that

I

had

difficulty in

continually alternating between them. Upon the dissolution of our quartet, our personal relations weakened too. I came to see little

of him, and after

my removal to Germany I lost sight of him

He died, after an eventful life, at a relatively early age, a markedly beneficial leaving the memory of a man who exerted altogether.

influence *

Of my

on the development of 'cello-playing closer colleagues at that time,

I

in Holland.

need only mention the

of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. During my five years in Amsterdam, I knew no fewer than five of them Zimmermann, Spoor, Timner, Phal and Fielder. successive leaders

interruption, Louis Zimmermann held his a for almost thirty-five years. He had rounded, somewhat position

With one minor

effeminate (weichlich) tone and over-indulged in portamentos,

but

as

witted.

an orchestral musician he was experienced and quickHe was the first interpreter of the violin solo in Richard

Strauss's

Bin HeUenleben. Andre Spoor, a one-time prodigy, had

gradually lost his ability to perform in public a failing which surprising as he used to improvise with astounding skill offstage. Christian Timner, the most original and talented of

was the more

the five, seemed to spring, in appearance, from a genre painting of Ostaade. Early on, he had had the misfortune to over-strain the

middle finger of his

left

in his career.

hand, and consequently was considerably

He was quarrelsome, rough and rude,

hampered we got on well together and

but

sometimes gave him technical

I

advice.

His successor, the Frenchman Louis Phal, was to fall in the** he was a typically French violinist with a highly accomplished technique. Mentally, however, he was somewhat unbalanced. He took pleasure in hatching out the queerest of First World War;

schemes, which often brought him into conflict with the police. Living in ground-floor lodgings in a narrow street traversed by the tramway, he would practise target-shooting in his room at with the window wide night, open and the light full on. This drew

such a crowd of spectators to his

unable to proceed.

Or he

window

that the tramcars

were

invented, together with a friend, a sort

'

of 'stop-the-thief game in some busy street. One would race 220

after


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] the other until both of them were taken to a police station, where they would fall into each other's arms, exclaiming tearfully, 'Ah, cher ami, what joy to see you again!' Since, beside these escapades, he had frequent rows with Mengelberg, he was given notice at the end of the season whereupon he began to meditate an effective exit. Before the last concert in which he took part, and which included the first three movements of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, he invited me to observe closely how he would give Mengelberg a little something by which to remember him. And sure enough, throughout the concert he practised a well-planned an imperturbable passive resistance, unswervingly playing piano at the extreme point of the bow, even in the most powerful fortissimo passages. In this way, he drove poor old Mengelberg

into a positive frenzy; the more the conductor's ever more exaggerated gestures tried to force him to submit, the slyer and more

clown-like became Phal's wide-eyed glances, 'You one,'

they seemed to

if I don't

play the

say, 'sawing the

game

air

He

later

my

little

!'

Phal's successor, the Viennese Heinrich Fiedler, lent violinist.

see,

won't get you anywhere

took over

my

class at

was an

excel-

the Conservatoire,

but became mentally deranged soon after and was interned in an Austrian asylum. From the violinistic point of view, these colleagues did not offer

me much stimulus, and intellectually they were rather on the

social intercourse never rose above the primitive side, so that our bonhomie of an occasional pint or two. I had, however, formed a

floser association with Sylvain Noach, the second violinist of was to become leader in Boston, St Louis and Los quartet. He With Hofmeester, our viola player, I was likewise on

my

Angeles.

friendly terms;

But all my life, I from other departments;

peter.

he was an excellent trumhave preferred to mix with colleagues

by way of a

side-line,

for to me there is nothing more boring than unending shop-talk, the ruminations over past musical meals to be devoted to during a precious hour of leisure which ought I associated that relaxation. Thus it came about closely with the

and composer Dirk Schafer [1873-1931]. He had comConservatoire together with pleted his course at the Cologne pianist

221


CARL FLESCH the two Dutchmen sat down Mengelberg. At the farewell dinner, variations on some theme four-hand and at the piano improvised recounted Schafer, 'Mengelberg, who or other. 'Little by little/ to monopolize the keyboard, played the bass, began extreme top, until in the end I was altogether pushing me to the excluded: what had begun as a four-hand improvisation finished And he concluded bitterly, 'A symbol up as a brilliant piano solo.' his former Sure of our respective careers.' enough, Schafer loathed which hatred this was poisoned school-mate all his life, and it petty at the outset

his career

own

talents.

Dutch

some extent from developing his excluded himself from that sphere of

and prevented him

He

musical

purposely

life

to

which was connected with the Concertgeto piano and chamber confining himself

bouw and Mengelberg;

Mengelberg would have begrudged him his place in the sun; at times even, the famous conductor may have felt ashamed when he compared the public recognition accorded to himself on the one hand and Schafer on the other. In fairness to Mengelberg it must also be said that he tried again and music

recitals.

Not

that

to approach Schafer who, howagain, albeit unsuccessfully, and struck the pose ever, indulged in the pleasures of self-torment

of a victim even at^a time when he was duly appreciated and admired by his compatriots. He could not, after all, blame Mengelberg for anything bat circumstances depend

his better fortune.

to a great extent

on

But

one's favourable

certain character traits

which, although they may not count among one's more valuable one's career, and attributes, determine the outward course of these Schafer never possessed. Honest, frank and upright, he was obstinate and unsociable, avoiding fashionable society as a matter

of principle; he felt at home only in an intimate circle of close friends and kindred spirits. In vain did I try to widen his horizons. to whom I introduced him, received him with open Rontgen,

no discernible reason, Schafer never returned. had but few disciples, for he was surly, cross-grained and, But his friends knew that perhaps from shyness, unapproachable. arms, and yet, for

He

rough exterior. In 1904, he moved from The Hague to Amsterdam and tried to gain a foothold at the Conservatoire. But his appointment came to a noble, sensitive heart beat beneath his

222


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] his 'bad reputation' which sprang from his of habit Busoni-like staring after every pretty girl on his evening walks. This set-back only confirmed his delusions of being per-

naught owing to

secuted by the whole of humanity, with Mengelberg in the lead. Thus he kept apart from his colleagues, and I, who was his neighbour, was the only musician with whom he was friendly. With his old mother, whom he adored, he led the life of a typical Dutch Philistine. He was generous enough, however, to understand my loyalty to my pianist, Rontgen, and with a heavy heart he gave up

hope of ever playing with me in public. In 1905, he surprised me with the dedication of two violin sonatas which are among the best of their kind. 1 But even his genuine friendship did not prevent him from quarrelling with me for the most trifling of reasons as with so many of his friends. Before I moved to Berlin, I tried to show him the silliness of his behaviour in a letter, and did succeed in making him see reason. Thereafter, we remained good friends, although we met but rarely. Not before he had reached the age of forty did Schafer blossom

.in fact

giving a historical cycle of eleven recitals which impressed with both the construction of their programmes and their execution (and which he said had been inspired by my

out as a

own

pianist.

By

of five recitals a few years before) he sucone in in ceeded, moving up into the front ranks of contemstep, in and convincing his compatriots that there was porary pianists, historical cycle

another great Dutch interpreter beside Mengelberg. From then on, until his death in 1931, he held that place in the hearts of his his countryfolk which was his due by virtue of his talents and character. I consider Dirk Schafer the most outstanding Dutch

musician of his time even though he did not altogether as a

composer. If he

early promise instead of vegetating at

had

lived

fulfil his

somewhere abroad

home, the abundance of his natural gifts would have ripened and born fruit. The Dutch atmosphere does

not in

itself stimulate a healthy artistic development except perso rich with which Holland's in landscape provides painting, haps 1

Withhis

Suite pastorale, Javaansche Rhapsodie for orchestra, his String Quartet,

Piano Quintet and piano works, his Violin Sonatas have meanwhile established themselves

among his major compositions. 223


CARL FLESCH a

gamut of models. For

of the country are a

on each

the musician, however, the artistic cliques mental obstacle. Friend and foe tread

definite

other's toes, pettiness reigns supreme,

and the home-

grown product the order of the day. Depressive moods seem to be 'in the air', maybe owing to the fact that the country lies below is

sea level;

and the

resident foreigner

is

soon affected by the pre-

vailing mental climate. Stimulants are needed to raise one's hence the kopje kojfie which every Dutchman drinks midspirits

morning, or the Barrel (brandy) which many imbibe at about six in the evening. Schafer's creative energy, too, was sapped by a lack of stimulation, by the narrow outlook to which he con-

accommodated himself, and by his envy of Mengelberg on which he squandered a great part of his energies. He would sciously

certainly have had the mettle to join the long-interrupted procession of Dutch musicians of universal standing, had he only been

able to establish contact with the

world in which he

lived.

As

it

was, however, he remained a highly gifted eccentric with a touch of genius, a hypochondriac with a heart of gold, a little man of the greatest talent. All in

one

whom we

could

he was nevertheless a lovable character, spare from Dutch musical history of the

all, ill

early twentieth century.

Beside this

commanding

figure, all the other

Dutch

pianists,

with the exception of Rontgen, had to content themselves with minor roles. There was Johann Wysman, a Busoni pupil

who

Amsterdam Conservatoire and enjoyed some an accompanist; when he appeared as a soloist, however, he had to pay dearly for his ambition. Three days before the concert, he was already more dead than alive, with all his bodily functions disorganized. He rivalled Mossel with his talent for finding all sorts of opportunities for giving concerts, and even taught at the

reputation as

out-Mosseled him with the following stratagem. He persuaded Busoni to provide him with an effusive recommendation to a firm of Paris piano manufacturers, Gaveau, who were still in the habit

of paying, American fashion, for the use of their instruments in Gaveau agreed to pay Wysman one hundred Dutch

concerts.

guilders for each concert in

pianos.

With

which he would play one of their by this basic honorarium,

the security offered

224


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908]

Wysman was able to

engage

his

own artists and accompany them

for nothing; for the sake of appearances, he played a little piano solo somewhere in the programme. Thus, everybody concerned

profited except M. Gaveau who, to be sure, was wondering why he received so few orders from Holland, despite the great number of concert programmes Wysman sent him as evidence of his activities. When, however, he heard Wysman one day in a concert of his own in Paris, it dawned upon the owner of the firm that

he had

fallen victim to a testimonial

had

often

from an obliging Busoni, and

system came

to an abrupt end. practical Altogether, I occasion to observe that the nose for business of this old

Wysman's

trading nation readily pressed itself in the combining of art with my own part, I have always refused to take part in such combinations of music and merchandise, if because

commerce. For

only

one's

power of artistic concentration must inevitably

suffer

under

the weight of business cares, and because the intrinsic value of work always meant more to me than the reward I received for

my it.

made my highly successful bow to the public chamber-musician. The final judgment of the experts, how-

In the autumn, I as a

ever,

was reserved

until

my debut as a soloist with the Concertge-

bouw Orchestra, which was to take place in the new year. But one morning, the Concertgebouw asked me quite unexpectedly whether I would consider playing with the orchestra a mere three days later in Arnhem and Amsterdam. The female singer who had been engaged for these concerts had flopped in Haarlem the day before, and my appearance was to save the situation. I declared

myself willing, put Concertos by Bach (E major) and Paganini on the programme, and had a sensational success in both towns.

was something altogether new for the Dutch to call their a young violinist of apparently international standing. To I seemed far too for the teaching position that was my them, good main occupation, and they had the gratifying sensation that in me they had found a bargain. I had suddenly become the fashion, requests for provincial concerts and private lessons flowed in, and it looked as if my Amsterdam concert would be the beginning of It

own

a

new

chapter in

present of a

my

career.

trip to Paris

At

Christmas,

I

made myself

which had left seven years ago, I

225

the

thirsting


CARL FLESCH for

new successes. When, on the night of my arrival,

boulevards, beloved of old, the distance

I

I strolled

could not help feeling well

the

satisfied at

had meanwhile travelled. At the same time, I had the of walking the streets as a double; I was the same, and

I

eerie feeling

yet quite a different person from the youth who, thirteen years before, had first walked the pavements of Paris. return to Amsterdam at the beginning of the new Upon

my

year, I could not but notice that there was something wrong with the Concertgebouw. During the intervals of our quartet rehearsals, my three partners held conferences which disclosed that a strong anti-Mengelberg movement was afoot among the members of the orchestra. The moving spirit was Wilhelm Hutschenruyter,

the orchestra's administrative director and a former horn player. been a close friend of Mengelberg's, but of late the two

He had

and open enmity had developed. Mossel, too, sided against Mengelberg whose position, therefore, seemed seriously shaken. Today, 1 when the Dutch revere Mengelberg as a demi-

had

clashed,

it seems hardly credible that thirty years ago large sections of the public, not to speak of the overwhelming majority of Dutch musicians, had considered Mengelberg an inferior conductor:

god,

tempera mutantur. Though the battle of opinion raged to and fro, the Concertgebouw's executive committee, the most influential body, stood

At that point, the opposing party resolved blow which would clearly demonstrate

firmly by Mengelberg. to

strike

a

decisive

Mengelberg's inadequacy. Hutschenruyter engaged Weingartner for a Beethoven festival in which all the nine symphonies were to

be performed. Mengelberg, however, succeeded in drawing the sting out of the attack: not only did he refrain from actively opposing the project, but he actually invited Weingartner to live in his

own house, and proceeded to

attend the Beethoven cycle in what seemed a highly interested listener. Howemboldened by the extraordinary success of the concerts,

the capacity of ever,

the majority of the orchestra threatened to go on strike if Mengelwere not dismissed; whereupon the committee countered berg

with the threat that the existing orchestra would be dissolved and 1

About

1937,

226


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] a

new body

formed. As always in such

cases,

the orchestral

players beat a retreat and unconditionally surrendered. They were restored to grace after the ringleaders had been given immediate

above

notice

all

Hutschenruyter, Mossel and Spoor. Mengel-

berg emerged the undisputed victor in this struggle for power; thereafter, his path to the summit was clear.

The son of German

parents,

Willem Mengelberg was born

in

Utrecht in 1871; he received his musical education at Cologne Conservatoire. By both birth and education, then, he was really German. His father, a wood-worker from the Rhineland, had

among

carved,

other things, parts of the doors of Cologne

Cathedral. Mengelberg started as a pianist with a talent far above the average. Yet this small, agile man seemed cut out for the career

he

fell

of

a conductor. His features

down

changed for the worse

after

a staircase and seriously injured his face, but his

movements remained

precise

and

clear, his

technique exemplary.

and

autocratic, he had always felt called upon to dominate crowds of people a Napoleon of the baton, as effusive admirers were fond of describing him. Nor, with his strict Roman

Self-willed

Catholic upbringing, did he lack the gift for diplomacy in tricky administrative situations.

Add

to these qualities his exceptionally

as well as his energy and pernot surprising that he reached the top of his .profession chiefly by means of his innate talents. At the same time, he had a distinct gift for making converts, for assembling a

comprehensive musical knowledge

fectionist idealism,

and it

is

community that would go through fire and water for him, exalting him above all others and revering him as a unique phenomenon. After

my first appearance with Mengelberg in

in the course

of

thirty years,

all

1903, I played, kinds of music under him, in

Holland, Germany and America above all the Beethoven and Brahms Concertos. I think I knew him reaEy well, both artistically

and personally. We always were on the very best of terms with each other. I was familiar with, and gladly suffered, his idiosyncrasies and weaknesses, for I felt attracted to him despite our different characters; nor was he on his part sparing of expressions of sympathy for my personality. He might have become the very C.F.-Q,

227


CARL FLESCH if his artistic virtues had been rounded off greatest of conductors, a little more of that selfless, poetic, dreamy feeling and sensiby bility

which Jean

Paul's romanticism symbolizes

by the

'blue

flower' that escapes the casual glance and blossoms only for its own sake, without an external purpose. But he always had himself lost himself. Clamorous brilliance and unmuch more to his taste than inward, intiwere yielding rhythm mate feeling. It was this shortcoming, which one could sense but not prove, that was perhaps the only weak spot in his artistic make-up. As a man, however, he left a great deal more to be desired. He was too egocentric, uninterested in anything that was

under control, never

not immediately connected with

his art or his career

apart, that

and understanding of antiques, especially glassis, fault as an orchestral trainer was his painting (eglomise). His volubility during rehearsals. Once, when working with the Colonne Orchestra of Paris, he stopped as early as four bars after

from

his love

the beginning of Beethoven's 'Pastoral' for a quarter of an hour, to explain to the

Symphony and

set out,

sleepy musicians the manner of poetic images taken still

idea of the pastoral, pointing to all he had from pastoral poetry of the eighteenth century. finished, one of the players asked him drily, 'Pardon Monsieur,

When

ou piano?' With soloists he would rehearse, for or preferably not at all. the last fifteen minutes unwillingly, est-ce

que

c'est forte

and

he would

'You don't need

it,

the fact that

not the individual musician's

it is

I

certainly don't,'

ignoring but the har-

say,

ability,

monious interplay between soloist and conductor fons et origo of their common music-making.

that

is

the

Mengelberg was an expert on the technique of wind instruments, but as a typical pianist, he never showed much understanding of bowing. When in 1920, on the occasion of the great Mahler Festival that was given to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mengelberg' s conductorship at the ConcertgeI played at the second desk in his honour, I was

bouw,

very

surprised to hear that he asked the first violins always to stay at the point of the bow in piano passages, even in the most expressive cantilenas: he was apparently unaware that a rich piano tone

which

is

supposed to

'carry'

can well stand the use of the whole 228


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] bow,

if the point

of contact between

bow and string

is

shifted to

the proximity of the fingerboard. During one of these rehearsals,

which lasted two and a quarter hours, I amused myself by timing, watch in hand, the extent of Mengelberg's oratory. On balance, he talked for one and a half hours and made music for threeIf he nevertheless succeeded in making his orchestra quarters. one of the finest in the world and in developing it into a body of sound with a character of its own, it was only because unlimited rehearsals were at his disposal. Apart from his activities in Holland, he also regularly directed the

Museum Concerts in Frankfurt,

the Philharmonic Concerts in

New York and the London Symphony and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras in London. When, in 1930, Toscanini took over the 1

New York, the role that Mengelberg had played for ten years in the training of this orchestra was in the studiously ignored; this prompted me to a public protest was Vossische Berlin compensated, however, Ztitung. Mengelberg by the veneration of his countrymen which, in recent years, had in fact grown into an idolatry that hardly seemed justified by merits even as outstanding as bis; for however perfect an interit is, after all, never more than the recreation of a work, Philharmonic Concerts in

pretation,

something inevitably subordinate to creation itself. of Mengelberg' s great service to music was the popularization

and Mahler. The latter was particularly close to his heart; there was a time when he actually placed him above Beethoven. His New York appointment became, at times, a severe test of Strauss

tired of him and years, public and critics hostile atmosphere was intensified by This unjustly. the derogatory way in which he spoke about such colleagues as Toscanini or Furtwangler, his critical pronouncements spreading like wildfire through the village that was musical New York.

his nerves. After a

treated

few

him

Indeed, throughout his life, Mengelberg showed no appreciation of the achievements of other conductors. He was not, of course, alone among his colleagues in his rejection of uncongenial musical

He

1

started his regular

New York

seasons in 1921,

National Symphony Orchestra which on his Philharmonic Orchestra in the following year.

229

initiative

first

conducting the

was united with the

.


CARL FLESCH

The mentality of conductors is a dark, abysmal chapter awaits a historian. Conducting tends to spoil the charac-

characters.

that

still

ter.

When

which

all is said and done, it is the only musical activity in dash of charlatanism is not only harmless, but positively

a

where lies the border between legitimate, spontaneous exhibitionism and an all too conscious pose? Whatever the answer, Mengelberg must be regarded, in spite of every-

But

necessary.

then,

thing, as a towering figure in his sphere. He raised the orchestral standards (die orchestrale Kultur) both of his institute and, in effect, of the whole country to a level that before had been attained only

by some old-established societies abroad. And perhaps the somewhat exaggerated cult that his countrymen made of him did after all exert, indirectly,

a favourable influence

upon the

social status

entire musical profession in Holland. Even when time, the eternal leveller, had done its job of reducing his importance to the right proportions, enough of it will remain to secure Mengelberg a

of the

leading position among the conductors ofour time. [He died 1951.] Apart from the Concertgebouw Orchestra, there was The

Hague's newly organized Residence Orchestra, directed by Henry Viotta [1848-1933], an early Wagnerian and the founder

of the Dutch Wagner Society. 1 He was a conductor of only average gifts. The young Peter van Anrooy [b. 1879], under (in 1884)

whose

direction

flourish,

Utrecht,

was

(1917-35)

at the

time

the Residentie

still

Orchestra was to

a violin teacher in

Arnhem and Groningen

also

had

their

Amsterdam.

own

concert

orchestras, so that in this small country there were no less than five of them, all contributing to the public's musical education

without being hampered by the demands of opera an extraordinary state of affairs when one considers that in Germany for

were then only two important orchestras which devoted themselves to concerts, i.e. the Berlin Philharexclusively monic and the Kaim Orchestra in Munich. instance, there

The Concertgebouw

aside, Amsterdam's concert life consisted mainly of chamber music recitals given by Rontgen and myself, and of concerts by visiting soloists from abroad, most of whom I 1 Since give with

Wagnervereeniging was a private society, Viotta the first performance of Parsifal outside

this it

was in

Bayreuth (1905).

230

a position to

s


AMSTERDAM knew from

Berlin. The audiences at our recitals were the llite of Amsterdam's musical connoisseurs, many of them personal friends and followers of Rontgen, the sight of whom offered us the

agreeable illusion of playing within a larger family quasi-social character of these evenings resulted in

circle.

my

The

introduc-

numerous families. The milieu, though highly cultured, seemed stiff and formal to me, who had been used to the more uninhibited conviviality of Berlin. I was astonished, for example, when the cabman who took me to my first diner was instructed by tion to

our host's servant to

though impolite,

At first,

too, I

call for

me at half past ten:

a time-honoured,

Dutch custom. found the sound of the Dutch language repellent.

know then that correct Dutch as spoken on the stage or in educated circles sounds much less guttural than the dialect of the people, and it took me many years to accustom myself to the I

did not

sound of the language. Nevertheless,

Dutch quickly and thoroughly,

I

should have liked to learn

for in contrast to the

Ruma-

nians, the Netherlanders rightly insist on the foreigner's knowing the language of the country. When, however, I wanted to insert

an advertisement in a daily paper, which said that a young foreigner looked for a lady teacher of Dutch, it was refused on the grounds of 'indecent wording'. After that experience, I resigned myself to learning the language by way of reading and conversation, and at length I succeeded to a modest extent.

To

only real satisfaction lay in the exercise of my profession. Social life struck me as a bore, and the horizon of the young people I met seemed limited. Occasional concerts

begin with,

my

me to stand the monotony of the Dutch way of From that period dates my first acquaintance with BadenBaden, a town to which I felt strongly attracted from the outset, abroad helped

life.

-and where, in

fact, I

was to

settle

twenty-five years

later.

Ger-

many's more important concert organizations were not then accessible to me. I had to be content with appearing in the smaller towns, sometimes even in a mixed bill. In Holland, on the other hand, I had conquered the ground in one swoop by my exceeddiverse succession, ingly fortunate debut with Mengelberg. In I

played quartets,

trios

and

sonatas,

231

gave violin

recitals,

and


CARL FLESCH performed concertos with orchestra; indeed, I was well on the way to a position equal to that of any international celebrity.

Whenever

I

am

'How do you

asked the usual question,

find

answer with a perto the express proportion of connoisseurs centage which attempts contained in each such heterogeneous mass. Vincent d'Indy

Dutch, English, or American audiences?',

estimated their average

number

I

in France to

be about three per

slightly higher. The Dutch may Germany, a intricate somewhat compound. By *a good public represents

hundred; in

be

it

audience', an artist means, in the

first

place, a

crowd

that

is

recep-

succumbs to mass suggestion, whatever the actual musical standard of its members. But an audience may be very cultured musically and yet be 'bad', namely tive, easily roused,

which

unresistingly

and fault-finding. I think the degree of real musical education of a town's concert-goers depends on the intensity with

frosty, critical

which they cultivate chamber music in their own homes. The somewhat monotonous mode of life of the Dutch, their love of frequent music-making within the in family, especially provincial towns where public entertainments are a rarity. I myself have known music-loving Dutchmen who domesticity,

made

encourages

their children,

one

which would enable them

after another, learn the

to

form

instruments

a string quartet later on.

Thus,

the percentage of understanding music-lovers is usually higher among provincial audiences than in a big-town public which, in

any

case, includes a fair

number of snobs

for

whom a

concert

is

just another social event where, above all, one has to be seen. Perhaps the chief difference between audiences in Holland and is that the Dutch are ever ready to greet somewith enthusiasm, true to the proverb, 'new brooms

in other countries

thing

new

sweep

clean.' In

difficult to

Holland, it is as easy to achieve success as it is maintain it. For my part, during the thirty-five years

of

my

the

monuments of a

regular concert appearances in Holland, I took special pleasure in playing in the smaller towns. By day, I used to visit centuries-old architectural culture; by night, to whose festive frame of mind indicated that played people these 'musical offerings' were to them a special occasion, not to be and lightly forgotten. again, there were even concerts I

Now

232


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] in the large

room of a

village inn,

where

a paraffin lamp, sus-

pended from the middle of the ceiling, would form a strange contrast to the evening dress of the landed gentry from the neigh-

bourhood who made up the audience. Creatures of habit that they are, the

Dutch

will not

go without

customary evening kopje Thee even during a concert, for which purpose their programmes are divided into two parts by a their

half-hour interval. Once, in a recital at Hengelo, when I, too, fell in with this pleasant custom, the waiter serving me could not

immediately change the proffered guilder. The recital was to continue with the 'Kreutzer' Sonata. I had already poised my bow

above the

strings

when I heard a voice from the rear of the room:

'Mijnheer Mijnheer !' I stopped short and lo and behold, it was the honest waiter who, to the greatest amusement of the audience, proceeded to climb the platform and count out my change !

on to the lid of the piano.

Newspaper better

criticism in

Holland was, on the whole, neither

nor worse than elsewhere. Amongst

its

practitioners

you

and even

dilettantes. could find performers, composers, theorists, There were critics benevolent and malevolent, dry and eccentric; there were those who wrote for the sake of their subject, and those

merely wanted to be read. My own experience has taught me, however, that the standard of newspaper criticism would not improve if the job were left to us artists: we should have to be too

who

tactful,

me

too considerate.

him

to deputize for

artist

My director Daniel de Lange once asked as critic

whose performance

I

had

of an evening paper. The first was Willy Burmester.

to review

My honest opinion of him had always been an unfavourable one; him a harmful influence in every respect. But could I about an older colleague in public? Certainly not. Besides, readers would have doubted my own objectivity in the matter. The second case was that of a sonata recital given by Ysaye

I

considered

write

this

and Pugno which,

in spite

of their outstanding performance,

left

room for critical comment. But would it not have been tactless for

me to try and teach these two leading artists their business Thus I ?

moral cowardice can be due to modesty based came on thorough technical knowledge, in which dilemma you will not to realize that

233


CARL FLESCH even be able to clothe your embarrassment in ready-made cliches. Most of the countless blunders in newspaper notices are caused

by an inadequate knowledge of musical literature and of compos-

On

one occasion, for instance, Busoni played Beethoven's G major Concerto with the original cadenzas which, the Berlin critic Leopold Schmidt ascribed to Busoni and duly tore to ing

styles.

shreds.

The next

day, Schmidt

was

called to the telephone.

To his

question, 'Who's speaking?', a sepulchral voice replied, 'This is Ludwig van Beethoven.' 'My dear Schmidt,' it continued, 'it is not very kind of you to tear my cadenzas to pieces. However,

next time I'm born,

I

promise

I'll

try harder.'

Whereupon Busoni

put down the receiver. I

remember another tragi-comic

critical

A Dutch

lapse

which was

music

critic, kind grotesqueness. and high-minded as a man, but better versed in literature than in music, imbibed his professional wisdom chiefly from works of reference. For many years he had written for the Nieuwe Rotter-

perhaps unique in

its

dam* sche Courant, until he exchanged this post for that of critic on the Amsterdamer Handelsblad. Now, it so happened that two Casals

coincided with his move from paper to paper: the first on December 31, he had to review for Rotterdam, the recital, second, on January i, for Amsterdam. In Rotterdam, the main item on Casals' programme had been Bach's C minor Suite, in Amsterdam the G major. Fate would have it, however, that recitals

'cellist, persuaded Casals to repeat the C minor Suite in Amsterdam. Next morning, the poor reviewer opened his activities in the Handelsblad with a high-falutin comparison between the sombrely tragic key of C minor and the bright and serene G

Mossel, the

major, and proceeded to enlarge

upon

.,

the resultant differences in

between corresponding movements of the two suites. In the concert halls of Amsterdam, I met many old acquaintances, the Bohemian String Quartet, the Rose Quartet, Ysaye, Marteau, Thibaud, Serato, etc. It was there, too, that I came to character

1

know, and to like, Eugene Hayot and his Quartet, Johannes 1 Messchaert, Aaltje Noordewier, and Julia Gulp. Weingartner's mezzo

[b. 1880],

career during the Fkst

celebrated as a lieder singer.

World War.

234

She relinquished her

'


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] of Beethoven's

Fifth has remained a summit among of orchestral my experiences performances; whereas he was unable to convince me of the artistic necessity and inevitability of his chamber-musical compositions though in the course of a short concert tour, I succumbed to the charm of his lovable

interpretation all

personality.

The

artist,

however,

who made

the strongest

pression on me during sojourn in Holland was to inaugurate a new era of 'cello playing. Pablo Casals was not when I first

my

was

Casals,

im-

who

heard him; with yet thirty the excellent pianist Harold Bauer, he gave a sonata recital in

Amsterdam. Two years later, I gave several trio recitals with him and Rontgen. Soon afterwards, he founded a permanent trio with Cortot and Thibaud, while I formed one with Schnabel and Gerardy, who was later succeeded by Hugo Becker. Thus, to my regret, our Dutch trio recitals remained the only occasions on which we made music together.

Casals'

revolutionary influence on the development of 'cello is above all due to the fact that his playing technique permits him to play on this and weighty unwieldy instrument as on a violin. 1 Despite his small hand, he renounced all dubious glissandos

which

served merely to surmount long distances in comfort, not to realize any expressive need. No more of the usual

whining

effeminacy in cantilenas, complete with intolerable noises during those runs (not to speak of double stoppings) which every listener fears; no more babies' howls in high positions. Here, for the first time,

was

uncompromising 'cello playing, a noble, masculine style in both cantilena passages and accompaniments requiring technical brilliance (im technischen Beiwerk). Added to this was his gift for concentration which, supported as it was by a perfect technique and a tone that glowed with refined sensuousness, enabled him to the last out of a theme's emotional conwring

tent. Casals

may

drop be regarded not only

as

the most outstanding

^lesch is referring to the so-called 'Casals fingerings* which produce successive notes violin-wise, i.e. with adjoining fingers, as opposed to the hitherto usual omission of the second fingers in scale passages in all but the highest positions. Casals made these fingerings part of his teaching too: see Diran Alexanian (trans. Frederick Fairbanks), Theoretical and Practical Treatise of the Violoncello, Paris, 1922. ( Compiled in complete accord with Pablo Casals.')

235


CARL FLESCH artist

among 'cellists, but also as a great reformer of 'cello playing.

1

At

a later stage, his instrument failed to absorb all his musical Since I did not witness him energies, and he turned to conducting.

in this role, I never

found out whether the to the truth.

colleagues corresponded Viennese orchestral musician

sarcastic

Rumour

has

remarks of his it

that

when

a

was asked, before a concert under sure I don't what the latter was to conduct, he replied, know what Casals is going to conduct. We are going to play

Tm

Casals,

2 the "Pastoral" Symphony.' In any case, there are many who consider Casals not only the greatest 'cellist of our time, but

modern performers. altogether the greatest artist amongst Amsterdam existence, then, The circumstances of

were of the the Dutch had goodwill gained satisfactory. Professionally, people in the shortest time; as a result of my growing reputation my income was secure; and I was resident in the capital which offered ample stimuli of every type, even though its culture was

my I

rooted more in the past than in the present. Nevertheless, not happy. The disappointing outcome of my relation with

had left an unhealed wound. while aim. social life

I felt

lonely,

I

was

Anna

without a really worth-

Central European in me did not take easily to a hemmed in by conventions. Dutch hospitality is a

The

it knows nothing of improvisaof 'keeping an open house'. As for contacts with young people of both sexes, an innocent flirtation with a young girl was

matter of strictly observed hours; tion,

permitted only as a prelude

the shorter the better

to engage-

ment and marriage, and even a friendly companionship without ulterior motives was thought compromising. The young men into whose company I was thrown belonged without exception to well-to-do,

respectable,

middle-class families,

narrowness of living conditions in Holland had

but the left its

stifling

mark on

them too, had deprived them of that broad, cosmopolitan outlook which had become a need for me. My work done, I used to meet some of these young people before dinner at a reading club, Museum, and killed an hour in conversation that was

the Lees

1 In many ways, Casals and Flesch are, in fact, corresponding figures in the evolution of the modern violin family's technique. 8 Casals was not the only conductor about whom this rumour was circulated.

236


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] all.

Except for Dirk Schafer,

whose general

musicians

I

knew none among

cultivation

the younger

would have made their had no im-

closer acquaintance rewarding. In everything that

mediate bearing upon the practice of my

art, I

thus led a pretty

miserable existence.

Throughout nated

me

tried to

however, depressions have never domiseems that, unconsciously, I have always

my life,

for long;

it

compensate for such moods by intensifying my activities. I began to be drawn more and more to

At the present juncture,

the idea of the unadulterated violin recital. I anticipated that the true music lover would, in the long run, only be attracted by violin recitals whose programmes were designed to appeal to

more than

his mere interest in exalted acrobatics and a perfect technique. Hitherto, it had not been the custom in Amsterdam for resident violinists to fill an entire evening's bill, nor did intention to colleagues fail to warn me when I told them of

my

my

planned three programmes, each of

break with

this tradition. I

which was

to be devoted to a specific style and era

classical,

romantic-virtuoso, and contemporary. For accompanist, I chose

Louis Schnitzler, an agile and versatile Rotterdam pianist whose musicality and sensitivity to tone and colour made him an appropriate collaborator.

expectations.

The

The

success

pessimistic

of

my

enterprise surpassed

all

predictions were disproved, and

I

Amsterdam musical had dared to perform what

considerably rose in the esteem of both the

world and not least myself. I was then still considered the wellnigh unplayable great fugue from Bach's solo Partita in C major, together with the preceding of the then thirtyadagio, and to give the first performance year-old stood to I

had

Max

1 Reger' s solo Sonata, op. 42 , no.

great credit with public to admit to myself that

my

my

and

press.

i,

a deed that

None

the

less,

programmes did not yet

of violin give a coherent account of the historical development literature during the last two centuries. Gradually, however, my Editor's surmise, arrived at upon consultation with the Reger authority Donald Mitchell. Both Flesch's text and the original printed programme translated overleaf read 'op. 44, no.

i',

but op. 44 comprises ten instructional pieces for piano.

"The four solo Sonatas, op. 42, were written in 1900-1. There are another seven solo violin Sonatas, op. 91, which Reger wrote in 1906.

237


CARL FLESCH ideas

began to

clear

and

crystallize

around

a

firm centre, enabling

me to do justice to my intentions. By the beginning of the summer holidays

I

was resolved to give, in the following winter, five which would demonstrate, in chronologi-

violin recitals in Berlin

development of the violin repertoire, so far as the inevitable lack of an accompanying orchestra would allow. This cal order, the

was the

entire cycle: FIRST RECITAL

Italian

Composers of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

La Folia La Komanesca

Arcangelo Corelli 1653-1713 Folksong 1680

Minuet and Gavotte

Francesco

Aria

M.

Veracini 1685-1750

Pietro Locatelli 1693-1764 Giuseppe Tartini 1692-1770

Sonata No. 6

Francesco Geminiani 1666-1762

Sidliano Allegro

Lorenzo Somis I685 1

Sonata

Pietro Nardini 1722-1793

Gaetano Pugnani 1731-1798 Federigo Fiorillo 1753-1824 Antonio Lolli 1730-1802

Largo and Allegro Etude No. 28 Allegro

SECOND RECITAL German and French Composers of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries Biber 1644-1704

Largo

Heinrich J.

Passacaglia

Heinrich J. F. Biber 1644-1704 J. S.

Allegro

Adagio ma non

tanto

J. S.

Sonata No. 6

G.

Sonata No. 5; Adagio Fugue from the Fifth Sonata for Solo Violin Bourrle the Divertimento

No.

i

Solo Violin

J.

J.

Religioso and Cantabile

^esch seems

F.

Bach 1685-1750 Bach 1685-1750

Handel 1685-1759

Bach 1685-1750 Bach 1685-1750 Telemann 1681-1767

J. S. J. S.

G. P.

Minuet from

Duo for

F.

K. Stamitz 1717-1761 K. Stamitz 1717-1761 F. W. Rust 1739-1796

to indicate the year of birth of Lorenzo, the brother of Giovanni Somis [1686-1763]. I have been unable to discover where he found this date; so far as my knowledge goes, the years of Lorenzo's birth and death are Battista

uncertain.

238


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] Presto

ma non

Franz Benda 1709-1786

troppo

Saraband

Jacques Aubert 1678-1753 Jacques Aubert 1678-1753 Francois Francoeur 1698-1787

Gigue Aria

La

Mondonville J. J. Mondonville J. J. Mondonville Jean Marie Leclair

chasse

J. J.

Aria Musette

Saraband and Tambourin

1711-1772 1711-1772 1711-1772 1687-1764

THIRD RECITAL

From]. B.

Viotti to

Concerto No. 19: first movement

H. W. Ernst B. Viotti 1753-1824 A. Mozart 1756-1791 L. v. Beethoven 1770-1827 J.

W.

Adagio from the Concerto No. 3 Romance, Op. 40 Concerto No.

7, Op. 38: second and third movements

Children's Song (

Romance from Bunte Reihe', Op. 30 Minuet (Etude) from Op. 53 for solo violin

La Basque

(Etude) from

Spohr 1784-1859

F.

David 1810-1873 David 1810-1873

F.

D. Alard 1815-1888

Op. 17 Ch. de Beriot 1802-1870 Ch. de Beriot 1802-1870 Ch. de Beriot 1802-1870

for solo violin

Etude No. 9 Octave Study (Etude) Fantasy on a Theme from Rossini's 'Moses', on the

L.

G string

N. Pagardni 1782-1840 H.

Concerto, Op. 23

W. Ernst

1814-1865

FOURTH RECITAL From Vieuxtemps

until

Our Time H. Vieuxtemps 1820-1881

Op. 43 Berceuse, Op. 16 Suite,

G. Faure 1845 [-1924] B. Godard 1849-1895

Canzonettafrom Op. 53 Havanaise, Op. 83

C. Saint-Saens 1835 [-1921

]

Joachim 1 8 3 1 [-1907 ] Bnich 1838 [-1920] Max Prisoner the Song of ax Bruch 1838 [-1920 ] Dance and 79 Op. from Song Cesar Cui 1835 [-1918 ] Cavatinafrom Op. 25 Antonin Dvorak 1841-1904 Mazurka, Op. 49 'Faust' H. Wieniawski 183 5-1880 Fantasy on Motifsfrom Gounod's Variations

J.

M

239


CARL FLESCH FIFTH RECITAL

Contemporary Composers

C. Sinding 1856 [-1941 ] Pauljuon 1872 [-1940] Tor Aulin 1866 [-1914] E. Bossi 1861 [-1925 ]

Suite

Op.

Berceuse,

28,

No. 3 No. i

Toccata, Op. 15, Romance from Op.

90,,

No.

i

Rhapsodie Piemontese, Op. 26 Three Simple Melodies (Drei Weisen),

Op. 18:

(Mailiedchen) ,

Little

Sonata for solo

May

Round Dance

Dusk (Wenn's dunkelt) Rondo scherzando, Op. 16 violin,

L. Sinigaglia 1868 [-1944] schlichte

Song

(Reigen),

Max Schillings 1868 [-1933 E. Jacques-Dalcroze 1865 [-1950

Op. 42* No.

Max

i

la

Reger 1873 [-1916] 1 844 [-1908 ]

P. de Sarasate

Malaguenajrom 'Spanish Dances', Vol.1 Scene de

]

]

Csdrda, No. 3

].

Hubay 1858-1937

The idea of a historical cycle of programmes for a solo instrument was originally Anton Rubinstein's who, about 1885, had arranged a

series

of such concerts in various

capitals as a close to

was concerned, however, the idea was entirely new, and owing to the disposition and variety of my programmes, if for no other reason, the announcement of the cycle made a great stir among my professional colleagues. The five recitals took place within the span of six weeks, with nine days between successive evenings. In these intervals, I had to return to my normal routine work in Amsterdam, prehis career as pianist.

So

far as the violin

paring myself for the next recital in my leisure hours. Today I cannot understand how I had sufficient mental energy to master

such a task without interrupting

chamber musician,

upon my

abilities,

a task that

my

made

and demands super-human

activities as a

truly

teacher

my memory and my mental flexibility.

It

was,

no fewer than seventy works, all, which and small-scale, largecomprised a great variety of styles extending over two centuries. But it seems that considerable if latent reserves of stamina were always at my disposal and could after

x

a matter of undertaking

See footnote on p. 142.

240


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] be called on

at decisive

moments,

as

was again shown

fifteen

when I drafted and completed my Art of Violin Playing. was thirty-two when I thus succeeded in winning the unani-

years later, I

mous and

enthusiastic approval

Joachim did not

fail

to attend

of public and press. Even Joseph one of the recitals; and he con-

me afterwards.

gratulated

Nor was there a lack of amusing incidents, two of which I /critic !

still

An

jtemember.

and had

unsuccessful violinist, Akos Laszlo had become a specialized in reviewing violin recitals and concerts

for the Allgemeine Musikzeitung. Alone amongst his colleagues, he reviewed concerts in great and unfavourable detail. What

my

dissatisfied

him was

was to be said against my of my programmes was utterly

that while nothing

actual playing, the arrangement

was known as a somewhat doubtful immediately suspected some ulterior motive which, sure enough, was presently revealed. After my second concert, he requested a private interview, during which he explained to me that my enterprise had a great future, that it might in fact be welcomed in all the capitals of the world ifand here he disclosed his cloven hoof the performances were combined with spoken historical expositions whose composition and delivery

unscientific. Since Liszlo

character,

would

I

him politely, but firmly, that I make do without his co-operation and that it was

best be left to him. I told

should have to

my intention

to continue as a 'soloist'.

The second case was of a different nature. Among the violinists who tried to come into closer contact with me was a teacher, Eberhardt, of whom it was generally said that he had been good player in his younger days, although I never met anyone -who had actually heard him. He was a charming and good-

Goby

a

looking teacher,

man in his fifties who spoke and wrote highly of me, As a he was one of those undauntable cranks who give them-

over to some fantastic system, swear by it for a while, and proceed to exchange it for another panacea, no less transient. I

selves

my youth, had been teaching for almost twenty could be regarded as fairly experienced for my age, with and years on the subject. I was already teaching according ideas own my ite theory of what were to become my Basic Studies^ though I

myself, despite

241


CARL FLESCH

Now

the elder Eberwas not yet thinking of their publication. out hardt, in the presence of his son Siegfried, contrived to of me the principles of simplified practising founded on the facts of physical movement, which I have meanwhile described in the Basic Studies. surprise when, a year later, I great was

worm

How my my ideas about left-hand technique printed word for word

found

one of Eberhardt's 'epoch-making' works, together with a footnote which pointed to the remarkable identity of his own. I have never worried about such principles and mine! However,

in

which, incidentally, came to show a striking increase after the publication of my Art of Violin Playing] I have always con-

cribs

no more than the caretaker of certain ideas which mature until they prove of wider communal benefit. The enormous demands which the planning and execution of my historical cycle made on my concentration and will-power had forced me to neglect everything that was not immediately connected with it. At last, however, I was to regain the composure which had been somewhat shattered ever since my sidered myself as

Bucharest disappointment.

The

desire to possess a

home came

and assumed concrete shape in the spring of became engaged to a young Dutch girl, Berta

strongly to the fore

when

1906,

I

*

On

her father's side, my bride came of oldwhich had provided Holland with some of her most notable lawyers and civil servants; while on her mother's side, she descended from an English family of merchants who had immigrated two generations before. I had the feeling (which the future was to confirm) that I was standing on the threshold of a new period of promise, and was completely happy. I was married at the beginning of the summer holidays, and my wife and I spentl our honeymoon in Paris, Jersey and by the Rhine. At the start of

Josephus-Jitta. established family

the school year,

we

of Amsterdam.

My

established ourselves in the musicians' quarter like a bad dream,

bachelor days lay behind

me

and through my marriage I met a large circle of people who, while they had nothing to do with music, were highly cultured in other respects. I came to know at last the good things of Dutch family life, the comfortable atmosphere of a home of one's own, the joy

of no longer being a

guest.

242

And my

greatest

hopes were

1

.


Leopold Auer


The author about 1914000 of the few

pictures attempting to

show him

as

an

'artist'


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] fulfilled in the birth

of a

child: one of a large family myself, I had were the ultimate always purpose of a marriage. As a consequence of the peculiar position of the artist in Dutch society, our friends and acquaintances were, in the main, restricted to music-lovers from the well-to-do middle class. While my wife would have had no objection to enlarging our circle with artistic personalities, it went against the grain of the Dutch to mix the felt that

children

social classes. In Holland, the artist ally in society,

however highly

marrying me, for instance, people to have committed a

is still

accepted only condition-

work may be esteemed. In wife was considered by some

his

my

mesalliance. If

we had

tried, then, to

smuggle some artists into our midst, the heterogeneous elements would not have blended at all. I regretted this fact all the more since I should have liked to draw two writers into my circle: one was Hermann Heyermans, the most important of Dutch dramatists, who was not socially acceptable because he had married his former mistress

making her the heroine of a supposedly its day, had created a great stir; the of the most outstanding novelists one Querido,

after

salacious novel which, in

other was Isidor

of his time, and an exponent of a kind of romantic naturalism; admittedly bombastic, verbose and prolix, he yet was touched by genius. Only in the smallest circle could one enjoy the company of these literary talents, a degrading limitation which did not fail to escape their notice.

Through

this lack

of fresh

intellectual air,

Holland had always been oppressed by heavy boredom, for which one was only in part compensated by an social events in

exquisite cuisine.

The sole social exception amongst my acquaintances was the Haarlem publisher J. L. (Jan) Tadema, at first my pupil, who became and remained one of my best friends. A Frisian by birth and a nephew of the well-known painter Alma Tadema, he was unique among his compatriots in preferring the company of artists to any other. What attracted me to him in the first place were neither any outstanding intellectual gifts nor his artistic understanding, but an inborn benevolence and kindness for which, in the course of the years, many needy artists were to

prove profoundly C.F.-R

grateful.

When 243

I first

knew him, he

suffered


CARL FLESCH attacks of depression; I succeeded in easing this tendency the prescription of weekly chamber music evenings, a medicine

from

by which he has taken ever

since.

For more than thirty years,

regularly played quartets with him several times a year. model amateur that all artists wish to have as a friend.

I

He

have is

the

still playing the Guadagnini violin I had acquired eight in Bucharest, an instrument that sounded well but before years was at times unreliable because the wood was not sufficiently

was

I

thick. I

had been persuaded to hand it over for repairs to a maker who had an unfortunate mania for

Diisseldorf violin

that 'lining' instruments,

By

this process,

many

is,

strengthening the

a valuable instrument

wood by insertions. was

spoiled, includ-

ing my Guadagnini, which returned from his workshop unmanageably rough in tone. It was natural, then, that I was seized

by the longing of every violinist to possess a Stradivarius. I considered two instruments, a Strad from 1722, named 'St. Lorenzo', with an inscription in black varnish, which belonged to the Paris firm of Caressa, and one from 1725, called 'Brancaccio', the property of Hammig, a firm in Berlin. After comparing the instruments for months I decided on the 'Brancaccio', which I acquired in 1907 for 43,000 marks.

I

played

this violin

without

interruption until 1931, and to it I owe some of the artistic reputation I gained from thirty-third year onwards.

my

In the

summer of 1907,

my my

father

and Joseph Joachim died in

father for the last time three months quick succession. I saw before his death. The awareness of approaching death which could be read in his face, the farewell which, as the doctor knew,

would be final, shook me to

the core.

He died happy in the know-

he had smoothed the future path of his children at no personal cost. The death ofJoseph Joachim was the occasion

ledge that little

of my writing an appreciation of his achievements in a periodical, Musik my first literary effort. In it I already that suggested

Joachim would survive more as a reformer of programmes and of the ethics of violin playing than as a teacher and founder of an important school. Shortly before,

had celebrated

Viennese teacher, Griin, birthday; I took part in a festive best-known pupils. At the subsequent ban-

his seventieth

concert given by his

244

my


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908] Goldmark which

quet, which Griin's pupils in his

virtues

attended,

I

made

a speech on behalf of former teacher's main

pointed out my emotional and technical integrity, which he also I

handed on to his disciples. I had the impression that my praises were thought scant for such an event. I was never able to suppress opinions, to sham enthusiasm or flatter. In the winter that followed my series of historically conceived

my true

I was, so to speak, knighted as a 'first-class* violinist I was deemed Wolff: concert agent worthy to take part as by my soloist in one of the Berlin Philharmonic concerts directed by

violin recitals,

My

Nikisch.

proved

a

appearance in so formidable an environment complete success, despite an enfeebling attack of first

influenza.

The

final,

public rehearsal of a Philharmonic concert, which

used to take place at midday on the day preceding, was justly dreaded by all artists as a trial of strength in the most uncomfort-

my own case, moreover, the day prerehearsal the happened to be the Emperor's birthday, and ceding and hooting of cars kept me awake till the crowds the noise of the

able of circumstances. In

time in early morning. For the first

my life,

I fell

a victim to that

well-known and dread fit of performer's nerves that brings out all one's feelings of inferiority. At five in the morning, I decided to call off the concert on the grounds of indisposition. With the coming of dawn, however, the spectres dissolved; by nine I was at work, and at noon I stepped on to the platform in a reasonably

composed frame of mind. On this occasion, I realized time in what an unnatural manner the artist tends to overrate for the

first

the difficulty of his task before his appearance, only to smile afterwards at his private ghosts as they are dispelled by the crowd until the next ordeal. applause of the

Not long after this engagement I met Max Reger, whose works

had begun to play as early as 1904. A lady, a pianist, engaged us for a Reger recital in Utrecht, in the course of which I was to play 1 with the composer his Suite im alien Stil and one of his solo Sonatas. The jovial man, with the chest of a gorilla, seemed to like

I

*Suite in the

before this

Old

Style, op. 93,

composed

recital.

245

in 1906,

i.e.

probably

less

than a year


CARL FLESCH he called

some my playing very well indeed. At the rehearsal, red wine, which he consumed in considerable quantities from a tumbler. When the promoter of the concert, who had partnered

him in his

Variations for

two

1

pianos,

for

asked for 'something nice'

he wrote the following flattering dedication: 'To of the excellent red wine which I drank at Miss X's/

for her album,

the

memory

a little mannered in his dynamics, favouring almost inaudible pianissimos, perhaps by way of the gentlest,

As

a pianist,

he was

2 Our relationship, which began so protest against his corpulence. not deepen across the years. Reger was suscepauspiciously, did whence he was surrounded by a host of parasites tible to

flattery,

who

pressed

him

for the dedication

of works which they were

I had much sympathy with Reger's style incapable of performing. and, above all, championed the solo Sonatas, of which he com3 I did not find him posed about a dozen. As a man, however, I remained content with impressive enough to seek his company;

as a composer. Two years being in the closest touch with Reger Concerto was given in Violin of his first the later, performance

Berlin

4 by Henri Marteau, who

invited

me

to dine with.

Reger

after the concert. Before it, the composer saw me in the hall, came forward and said, "I am most eager that you should play my con-

certo

of course, only if you

from the piano

many a detail,

I

like it/ I

followed the performance

though had to admit the beauty of was honestly shocked by what seemed to me the score and,

I

When, subsequently, I heard it played by Busch, it left me with a much more positive impression. After the Marteau

monstrous form.

this great master rather impolite than appear by shamming insincere, and preferred to disappear without taking leave of him. I know that Reger was deeply hurt by behaviour, and perhaps

concert, however,

I

had not the heart to deceive

enthusiasm.

even more by

I

would

my my silence. But he was far too noble a character to

and Fugue on a Theme of Beethoven', op. 86, composed 1904. Donald Mitchell, an authority on Reger, informs me that 'Reger's touch was famous for its sensitivity.' 3 Eleven, to be precise: op. 42 (four) and op. 91 (seven). *The first performance of the Violin Concerto (op. 101, composed 1908) took place at the Leipzig Gewandhaus on October 13, 1908, with Marteau in the solo the first in Berlin, perhaps? or part. Either Flesch means another performance he has got the town wrong. 11

a

Variations

Opinioris vary.

246


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908]

me

a grudge. When, some years later, I played with him at 1 Meiningen, he said quite simply: sorry that you don't play

bear

Tm

my concerto/

replied, 'Couldn't you cut it a little?' 'No, that's impossible, though I've thought a great deal about it. The work is, and will remain, a monster.' 'But a beautiful one/ said I, I

by

way of farewell. At

heart noble and refined, Reger had a curious weakness for coarse jokes which, in the eyes of many, made him seem

morally and puns was no more than an inevitable compensation for his ceaseless musicomathematical preoccupations. Never, not even in his sleep, did inferior. In reality, his love for anecdotes

Reger's brain cease to function. By the way, we may remind ourselves that Mozart, too, was fond of silly indecent jokes.

Much more

serious

was Reger's passion

for alcohol,

which

brought him to the grave at the age of forty-three. He really needed the strong hand of a friend to teach him to respect his natural gifts and protect

him from

panions whose amusement was

irresponsible drinking comto get him drunk before and after

concerts.

For me, the peculiar quality of Reger's creative

gift lies

not so

much in the cadential ambiguities of his harmony and the exploraof modulatory possibilities, as in the mosaic-like composition of his themes and the strangely archaic colouring of his melodies, which is at times reminiscent of the medieval gothic style. The tion

short-windedness of his themes demands a special kind of interpretation, i.e. frequent caesuraeand, generally, agogical differentiations, if the music's architectonic build-up

is

to be revealed.

With

This must have been the Meiningen Festival of 1913, when Flesch played the Beethoven Concerto. Incidentally, in the bill for all the soloists that took part in it, he topped the list with 500 marks. In this connection, two of Reger's letters to Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen are of relevant interest. On April 23, 1912, he writes, apropos of his demands for a concert: 'Five (nine) soloists would be 1

for once, for 500 required Prof. Flesch who, for my sake, would probably play, marks, and who is nowadays regarded as the best interpreter of Beethoven's Violin * Concerto. (Reger's italics). Six days later: 'Now, as for soloists' fees, Prof. Carl Flesch, for instance, who is today regarded as the best interpreter of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, has agreed to come and play for 500 marks. (Flesch normally gets 800 marks.) I would humbly ask your Highness graciously to soloists I can get more cheaply!' (Reger's italics). approve this fee! All the other See Max Reger: Briefwechsel mit Herzog Georg II. von Sachsen-Meiningen t edited by Hedwig and E. H. Mueller von Asow, Weimar, 1949 the translations are mine. :

.

.

;

247


CARL PLESCH all

my admiration for Reger,

I

cannot deny that he was an over-

seduced by productive composer who,

his technical virtuosity,

often lacked the necessary self-control and self-criticismqualities to the highest degree. which Beethoven and Brahms

When, on

have akeady

I

artists'

myself to

I

listened from played one of his solo Sonatas, Reger I had for a little felt I and room, permitted uneasy, several additions in the shape of 'filling-in' parts, in order

mentioned, the

possessed the occasion of the Dutch concert

make

certain modulations implied in the

homophonic

line

To my question whether he had resented fully comprehensible. these liberties, he replied: 'But it was much better than the Brahms have said in such a case Reger, original P What would as opposed to Beethoven, I consider a composer who may be a very small minority of listeners, by an elite appreciated by only with a very definite cultural and racial background. Outside Germany, he is not really understood, and even in the German!

it is only the select few who admire him. He become a popular composer, even if, as I hope, there

speaking countries, will never

should be a Reger revival.

Of my remember

concerts abroad in the period under review, I well Zurich debut, which took place in extraordinary

my

circumstances. In those days, the composer Emanuel Moor was the fashion among virtuosos. He had written a violin concerto

Ysaye swore by was often to be found. In reality, however, he was a purveyor of claptrap, a manufacturer of pleasant themes dished out with a thin sauce of

each, for Ysaye, Marteau, Thibaud and myself. him, and in orchestral concerts, too, his name

developments of which one's palate soon wearied the Joachim Raff of the twentieth century. Now, for a subscription concert in Zurich, Ysaye had suggested the Violin Concerto which Moor

him, a choice which did not meet with the Volkmar Andrae, who wanted the conductor approval of the Beethoven Concerto. There ensued a lively exchange of telegrams which culminated in Ysaye' s cancelling his contract two days

had dedicated

to

before the concert. In his plight, Andrae followed the advice of his

my former quartet pupil,

principal 'cellist, Engelbert Rontgen jun., to engage me in place of Ysaye, though

248

I

was completely un-


AMSTERDAM [1903-1908]

known

in Switzerland.

On

the day of the concert, the audience

when

they heard of the alteration; but they calmed down and gave me an ovation, thereby flattering themselves that they had discovered me.

protested

The

of mental stimulus in Holland, combined with

lack

my

growing reputation abroad, gave me the idea (which appealed to my wife too) of moving to Germany. Since my marriage, my development as violinist had proceeded apace; I felt my wings growing. The narrowness of Holland's artistic canals could no longer contain my desire for a less cramped environment, and in 1908 we decided to live in Berlin. Nevertheless, on looking back over the past five years, I had every reason to thank the breeze of chance that had blown me to Amsterdam. Cured of a hopeless passion, I had found contentment there in a happy family life, in whose relaxed atmosphere my artistic gifts developed most favourably. I had come to love the country and its people, and I

hoped to to spend

my friends often again, even though I did not wish my life in surroundings so tranquil. At the beginning

see all

of the summer vacation,

I left hospitable

heart.

249

Holland with a grateful


BERLIN Aged

IN THE autumn Berlin

Thirty-jive

of 1908,

for good, as

I

[1908-1913]

I settled

to

Forty

with

my wife

and child in

the past eleven years, thought. During

I

had

almost always held some appointment; now, my own master, rid of external ties, I looked jforward to following my own talents inclinations. In

and

Germany

as

view of

well as the

my

steadily

growing reputation in

name I had made for myself in Holland,

I

was able to rely on a sufficient quota of concerts; students, too, soon emerged in plenty, and my life, free of financial cares, folround of work and social intercourse. lowed a pleasant

my

During

absence, the musical life

of the

capital

had con-

make Marteau, his career, the successor of Joachim. Indeed, of height Moser always needed an oak to which he, modest ivy, could tinued undisturbed. Andreas Moser had decided to

then

at the

Perhaps the primary cause of Marteau's decline, which set in shortly, lay in Moser's attempt to force his protege's developcling.

ment

to adopt a

was done in

its

to Marteau's at least half-French style, resulting at first

dilution,

Next

German, Joachim-like character; thus violence

and

later in its destruction,

to Marteau, Karl Klingler

Hochschule.

worked

An Alsatian by birth, he had,

at

as a teacher at the

the beginning of the

a ofJoachim and had occasionally been called century, been pupil in to play in his master's quartet. After Joachim's death, he founded his own quartet and soon succeeded in attracting the '

orphaned Joachim community about him. Klingler no doubt technical and musical talent which, however, did possessed great

and shortcomings of his training. His bowing technique was still dominated by the fallacious theory of the lowered upper arm and the loose' wrist, not

fully mature,

owing

to the peculiarities

not to speak of the unpleasant swells during his portamentos. His interpretative power, on the other hand, was considerable, and he 250


BERLIN [1908-1913] even inherited some of the holy

though

to the detriment

fire of his unforgettable master of his own personality. He stood, as

were, posthumously hypnotized by Joachim that

is

to say.

He

shaped

a revered tradition than

it

by the old Joachim,

his music more under the compulsion of with independent, personal imagination.

This influence, while possibly unconscious, was so deep that there was about him, even in his young days, something of the detach-

ment and equanimity of an old man. listening to his quartet because

reminded

me

I

myself always enjoyed

many an

interpretative point

ofJoachim, even though in technique and tone the

ensemble was

far surpassed by the 'Parisians', the 'Bohemians', the Capet and most modern quartets. As a teacher, Klingler achieved nothing, although he was at the Hochschule for more than thirty years. I do not know of a single

whose accomplishments are above the average. He seems to have had neither the talent nor the inclination for prac-

pupil of his

otherwise he would not have avoided arranging the customary pupils' recitals for his class at the Hochschule. But he is the author of a small thesis, The Fundamentals of Violin Technique? which, despite various factual errors and an inditical teaching,

is worth reading for its painstaking observation of movements involved in violin playing.

gestible style,

the

Of other violinists

of Joachim's school, I must mention Alfred musician and respectable player; and excellent an Wittenberg, one of Gustav Havemann, Joachim's last pupils, who started his career outside Berlin as an orchestral leader. About the remainder itself, the chronicler had better keep had emerged during my however, figures, absence Vecsey, Elman and Zimbalist. Franz von Vecsey [b. 1893], who died after an operation in 193 5, at the early age of forty-two, excited intense interest in Berlin as a Joachim seemed to take a particular liking to him and

of the old regime silent.

in Berlin

Three new

ten-year-old.

course of his comprehensively promoted the boy. The further aroused as a he had the not did however, career, hopes justify l Die Grundlagen der Geigentechnik, Leipzig, 1921. For details of Klingler's contribution, the German edition of Hesch's Art of Violin Playing, vol. I, should be consulted.

251


CARL FLESCH

He was seventeen when I heard him for the first time, and I was somewhat disappointed. Purely as a violinist, to be sure, he made a spotless impression: his tone production was brilliant,

prodigy.

movements were correct, and his technical ability altogether was of a high order. But his playing did not seem to contain much it was primitive and undistinguished musically. He seemed a pupil

his

:

of unusual talent with

all

the necessary spiritual potentialities

which, however, were destined to remain latent. He had been removed from the supervision of his teacher at too early an age, and his musical

and

ethical education

was

left

to chance

to the

life. The outcome was an impoverishment of which prevented his full artistic development. His

of concert

vagaries

his personality

years were wrapped in mystery. He rarely appeared on the concert platform, and it was not known quite how he spent his time. Thus the later part of his career stood in violent contrast to

last

appearance in the musical world. Of important works, he played, so far as I know, only the Sibelius Concerto, which the composer dedicated to him.

his meteor-like

new

In the persons of Mischa Elman and Efiem Zimbalist, there appeared for the first time in the limelight of Central-European concert

life

representatives

of Leopold Auer's school, whose

sovereign exponent was to be Jascha Heifetz. The Auer school has indeed exerted a lasting influence on the development of modern violin playing.

Leopold Auer [1845-1930] had led an eventful life. I met him in 1910, in Petersburg, and renewed our acquaintance in

first

1924, in

New York. We

discovered that in the 1 850*3, my greatgrandfather had been his divinity teacher at Veszprem in Hungary. In 1928, he succeeded me at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. At

he was a charming, jovial, lively old man whom circumhad obliged to work hard to the end of his life. As a violin-

that time stances ist,

his chief virtues are said to

his elegance.

He had

have been

his clean

technique and

resided for as long as forty-eight years in

Petersburg before the musical world became aware of his import-

When trying to give an impartial and thorough of the latter, one must not forget that in the Russian judgment Auer had the best possible choice of ghetto, pupils at his disposal, ance

as a teacher.

252


BERLIN [1908-1913]

At the Berlin Hochschule, for instance, of forty students sitting for the entrance examination about four are above average, whereas in Petersburg the proportion is 90-95 per cent. Russia's violin students, moreover, have always exclusively congregated in Petersburg, while in Germany they are scattered in at least

half a dozen towns.

And

in any case,

the purely technical

preparation for violin playing has always reached a very high standard in Russia. Those 'in the know', therefore, will not be surprised to hear Elman or Heifetz admit in confidence that he to Auer fully trained and, after a very brief term of study

came ,

devoted to learning a number of standard works, embarked on a great career. But by all this I do not mean to question Auer's

importance

as a teacher.

There

is

no smoke without

fire,

and the

biggest talent can be utterly ruined by a bad teacher. Before deafness rendered him incapable of teaching, Auer placed the greatest stress on everything violinistic, e.g., purity of intonation and tone,

of technical execution, and taste. Through the fiery force personality, he was able to inspire his pupils and wrest top results from them. The typical Auer pupil, even if not of the neatness

of his

always evinces a high standard in matters specifically violinisIn this respect, the Auer school has substantially advanced vio-

elite,

tic.

and

lin playing

successfully halted the technical excesses

of the

Sevclk method.

good pupils which interested me above a and mellowness not easily to roundness possess be found elsewhere. From the outset, I was convinced that the It was

all: it

the tone of Auer's

seemed to

phenomenon must rest in some inconspicuous pecuof bowing or of the actual holding of the bow, and shortly

cause of the liarity

^before the First World

War I did in fact succeed in establishing by

exact observation that Russian violinists place the index finger about one centimetre higher on the stick (wrist-wards) than is

customary in the Franco-Belgian school. I presently adopted this way of holding the bow and described it in detail, as 'the Russian manner', in the first volume of my Art of Violin Playing* * But why is it that the musically fastidious listener senses a lack of *pp. 51

flf.

See also p. 68 and illustrations 19, ipa and 21

volume.

253

at the

end of the same


CARL FLESCH real musical content in these superb executions, that Auer pupils leave the musician cold while throwing the violinist into raptures ? I

believe that for

Auer

violin playing

came

first,

while musical

Technique and and tone were his main concerns; rhythm, agogics dynamics took second place. The typical Auer pupil values sensuous sonority and

considerations were of subordinate

an attractive smoothness of tone

significance.

much more

highly than the dif-

ference between strong and weak beats and the shaping of musical ideas as such. This is the failing of the school, one which results in

performances that seem

artistically

brilliant technical resources. If Auer

unbalanced despite

had attached

as

all

the

much import- ,

musical education as to the perfection of every have been the greatest teacher violin of technique, he might aspect

ance to a

strict

of all times.

of a series of great violin1891] was the first of the Auer school throughout the world. ists to spread the fame In appearance, he does not at all correspond to the popular ideal of a virtuoso an ideal, to be sure, which had already been shaken Mischa Elman

[b.

Elman

,

and inconspicuous; his by It is with his uncharacteristic. and features are ordinary playing that he has to conquer listeners every time anew. His tone proCasals'

bald head.

duction above fluence,

all,

an Italian

overflowing

as it is

with a sensuous melli-

bel canto in oriental dress,

stuns the listener. His intonation,

enhances the charm of his tone.

of his hand,

short

is

which is

impresses and at times further^

as clear as a bell,

Owing to the unfavourable shape

technique is limited, though conscientious study has enabled him to meet the demands of the repertoire, his left-hand

except perhaps the challenge of certain Paganini specialities. But bowing technique satisfies the most exacting requirements, %.

his

and variety of bowings. regard to both spotless tone production

As

for

temperament and

feeling,

Elman

is

never dull for a

moment. He is like a little volcano, ever bubbling and boiling. But these ideal resources are not always put to an end worthy of their own value. Elman's style rubs against the grain of many musicians, some of whom even consider him unmusical. This, of course, is nonsense; so close a union with music as Elman reveals is unthinkable without an extraordinary understanding of all 254


BERLIN [1908-1913] matters musical. In reality,

the Auerian emphasis on the purely violinistic element that offends the musician. First and foreit

most,

is

sixteen,

is

Elman's rhythmic or declamatory accents which

have made wide Elman's

it

circles

regard

him

as a

he was

mere

virtuoso.

A

career has been chequered. world celebrity at at to look on while Kreisler obliged, twenty-five,

artistic

slowly but surely ousted

him from

the favour of the American

public; simultaneously there grew up in Heifetz a formidable rival and ten years later little Menuhin emerged, conquering the hearts

of both worlds. Yet

all the time Elman must have felt that from other merits, he possessed an inner power of conwhich many others lacked. After his thirtieth year, he

quite aside

viction

turned for a time to quartet playing where, in spite of a typical soloist's attitude, he proved capable of outstanding achievements.

Elman's influence on his generation has been multifarious.

On

showed German violinists, through living works of art, how dry was their hitherto customary *Hochschule' style of tone production, while on the other hand his indifference to correct accents and his rhythmic unruliness would seem to have had a harmful effect. But when all is said and done, one would not the one hand, his tone

gladly miss this artistic figure in fact, it is hardly possible to imagine our art without him. Wherever his eventual development may lead him, the first fifteen years of his work have made a lasting impres;

Elman one of the most honoured of contemporary violin playing. places in the history At about the same time as Elman, the eighteen-year-old Efrem Zimbalist [b. 1889] appeared in Berlin. Although both come sion that will secure Mischa

from the same milieu, Zimbalist, at least superficially, is much more a man of the world. As a violinist, however, Ehnan is no doubt far superior to Zimbahst. When he was a young man, Zimbahst too possessed the brilliant equipment of the Auer school, but his playing offered no evidence of a significant personality. When I heard him in later years, his vibrato seemed to have become slower and broader. I must confess that he interested me least of the best Auer pupils, but there are many in America who

more highly of him. Perhaps hear him on his off-days. think

255

it

has been

my misfortune to


CARL FLESCH It was not difficult for me to settle once more as a married man and paterfamilias in Berlin, where formerly I had lived the more a bachelor. Soon after my arrival, I met the irregular life of

well-known banker Franz von Mendelssohn; a friendship last till his death. Franz, an developed between us that was to who did a great deal, always in outstanding and charitable man had been passionately devoted needier his for brethren, secret, since the days of Joachim. He played ever to playing quartet

second violin,

knew

all

the quartets intimately,

was musical

and showed great presence of mind. Unfortunately, however, he was incapable of vibrato whence his tone, despite his magnificent Stradivarius, had the dryness of a beginner's. Over the years, I made music with him on many hundred occasions and came to like him deeply. With a single exception, his musical gift

was not passed on

to his children. This exception

was

Lilly, a

charming young girl who later became my pupil and attained a fair degree of proficiency in spite of her inherited vibrato difficulties. At twenty, she married the German-Polish violinist and

composer Emil Bohnke, a highly gifted musician and an excellent man. Not long after their marriage, both were the victims of a car accident. I

could now afford the luxury of undertaking only such engage-

ments

as I enjoyed,

and not payment a long time and in

and of selecting my pupils according to talent was to adhere to subsequently for

a principle I

far less propitious circumstances. I satisfied

my

love of quartet playing by making music with some younger musicians on a fixed evening every week. Listeners were excluded, and by way of a crowning conclusion, a claret-cup was served

which I had prepared. 1 did not consider forming a quartet of my own: I was all too conscious of the difficulties in the path of such a venture.

I

had, however, played at various private musical

with Artur Schnabel, and was highly attracted by his whole approach to music. As he was not willing to share the gatherings

of a joint recital, I engaged him for a sonata proan agreed fee. After the extraordinary success of our gramme first appearance, he no longer hesitated to form a regular duo with me. A year later we founded a trio with Jean Gerardy. When, at financial risk at

256

'


BERLIN

[1908-1913]

the beginning of the war, the latter was compelled to leave Germany, his place was taken by Hugo Becker. In 1921, Carl

Friedberg took over from Schnabel, and subsequently I played with Schnabel only occasionally. 1 But for fifteen years we were in the closest artistic and personal contact, appearing together in public perhaps four or five hundred times. Artur Schnabel was born in 1882, at Bielitz, in a corner of Galicia where musical talent had always flourished. His background was very simple. But already as a boy he came to Leschetidsiy, whose displeasure he immediately aroused by his precocity and his independent views on music. The possessor of natural manual with unusual dexterity, coupled musicality, Schnabel could

safely

neglect mechanical exercises and develop his technique solely by way of practical music-making. This tendency was further a trend towards contemplation and indeed idleshunned any occupation that was outer prompted

strengthened ness;

he

by

by

necessity rather than stressed that his

an inner need. In

later years,

Schnabel often

contempt for any kind of virtuoso display sprang from an inner conviction; but he not have exclusively simply

may

enough in his young days to acquire that surplus techwhich alone can guarantee a complete solution of nique purely artistic problems. Thus, partly from conviction and partly from necessity, he tended more and more towards a kind of piano ^playing born entirely out of the spirit of music, in which the technical resources have no separate existence but are only made practised

available as required. I established a regular

When

duo with Schnabel he was,

though only twenty-six years old, already a dignified family man, who was conscious of his position in the world of music. At the age of twenty-three, he had married the contralto Therese Behr, an artist of uncommon appeal, who, even after the all too early loss of her full vocal resources, commanded great respect as an completion of his studies in Vienna, Schnabel, age of sixteen, had come to Berlin where, as the

interpreter. After the at the early

sspoiled darling

lf

of the well-to-do bourgeoisie, he led a bohemian

*In. 1930, he played Beethoven's Triple Concerto with a Courtauld-Sargent concert at Queen's Hall.

257

him and Piatigorsky

at


CARL FLESCH tours. He soon formed, a shortinterrupted by small concert lived trio with Alfred Wittenberg and Anton Hekking, and sub-

life,

the one with Jean G6rardy and myself, which sequently founded favour of the musical public. In those quickly won the uncontested

concert days, Schnabel's

confined mainly to chamber

work was

music and accompanying his wife's song recitals; as a soloist he orchestra. As yet he thought neither of comusually played with the occasional solo of recitals; he seemed satisfied with posing nor the between work a groups of his performance of larger piano wife's lieder recitals.

At times we were on tour

for

weeks on end,

in sleeping-cars. We would reach preferably travelling by night,

our destination early in the day and spend the morning attending Schnabel to the upkeep of his wardto our most urgent needs I went to robe, I to that of my technique. If, just before midday his

room

to take

him

for a walk,

I

found him

usually

in his

with the meticulous ordering of his clothes and pyjamas, busy linen. One day, I could not refrain from remarking 'Artur, you do nothing but put your things really idle away your life; you answered fatalistically, *it is a he 'I hotels/ in know/ straight

heritage

from

During the

my father who First

spent half his

life

in coffee-houses/

World War, when Schnabel was approaching

change came over him, the intrinsic seemed inexplicable. The urge to compose, which had seemed extinct since his boyhood, revived with extraordinary

his thirty-fifth year, a great

causes of which

intensity.

The

young Viennese salon composer leapt Brahms and Reger, Franck and stages of

erstwhile

across the intervening

of Strawinsky, Hindemith and Debussy, to join the company seemed to lack organic conwhich a development Schoenberg tinuity

living

were

and inner

and

necessity.

a rejection

With

of certain

really inappropriate

it

came

a

heightened delight in he had held, which"

ascetic ideals

to his youth. Also,

he

now wanted

to

back on pure chamber music. and turned give solo recitals to sympathize with the extreme left; with Politically, he began his

the endless, fruitless debates during our journeys he exasperated

the nationalistic

on

a

Hugo Becker to boiling point In

Nocturne for

Quintet; then

voice, he wrote

came

his first

1918, following major work, a Piano

a Sonata for solo violin,

258

piano pieces and


.

to

dm

Bre

,-"'

VV,

.'

Photograph given to the author by Thomas Edison:

see p. 291


Artur Schnabel,

Hugo Becker and

Carl Flesch during one of their recital tours,

191?

Gregor Piatigorsky, Carl Flesch and Carl Friedberg

at

Baden-Baden

(1930)


BERLIN [1908-1913] several String Quartets.

He

also succeeded in establishing himself

England and America, and entered into contracts with gramophone companies, the material results of which ensured him a in

carefree existence.

The personal and artistic contradictions of Schnabers life made him a riddle to most of his contemporaries. According to their

own

outlook, or their experience of him, people loved or hated Schnabel but never understood him. In a less pronounced personality, the contradictions of his character would have cancelled

With him, however, they freely existed side by come into action at need. As a pianist, he confined himself

out one another. side, to

exclusively to the well-tried classical repertoire; as a composer, on the other hand, he pursued the most devious, uncharted paths. He was fond of asserting that true art was its own reward, yet a

moment later would defend his high concert fees like a lioness her cub.

Simply for the love of music, he could

discuss questions of or for hours on end, yet not be interpretation pedagogic problems interested to teach a gifted but student. impecunious

Lacking formal education, he had acquired a pretty compreby means of diligent reading, quick intelligence, good memory and a pronounced gift for dialectics. He had a

hensive culture,

veritable passion for discussion in every form and on any subject; but what interested him was not so much the clarification of a

as

problem

fine-drawn

argumentation,

the

intricacies

of

reasoning, the crossing of swords. He loved contradiction, since it gave him the opportunity to busy himself dialectically, and he

was capable of dissembling his true opinion simply for the satisfaction of refuting his opponent's view which, more often than not, really coincided with his

Nor was

own.

co-operation with him always easy; he was too fully convinced of his own views to admit those of another. Yet his judgments were never allowed to petrify. On the contrary, his artistic

artistic

views always depended on

his

ever-changing inner

experiences. He had 'adagio* and 'presto' years, leaning, throughout a concert season, towards either slow or fast tempos. The

constant flux of his opinions, actions and emotions capricious and unreliable C.F.-S

since

one could never 259

made him seem

fortell

whether

(as


CARL FLESCH in a Punch-and-Judy show) the good or the evil principle, the angel or the devil, would pop up; he himself, incidentally, was

aware

of,

and

suffered under, the contradictions in his

make-up.

Schnabel's greatness as a pianist rested on the fact that his specific talent achieved a perfect synthesis of music and piano playing,

of feeling and technique, of intention and

realization,

such

as

no

other pianist obtained, although he suffered under certain technical difficulties such as defective speed control in quick passages. But these were of no consequence compared with the over-

whelming impact of his playing when his personal attitude was in harmony with a composition. To be sure, the dualism peculiar to him also entered his art, in the form of a battle between natural between heart and brain, sensibility and artificial casuistry; a duel in which, however, with the passage of time, natural feeling

gained the upper hand. Thus, he was capable of evoking impres-

whose grandeur at times recalled the memory ofJoachim. can be brief about Schnabel the composer: I have never been

sions I

able to understand the inner motivation of his composing. His change from the conventional to the modern atonal style was too inorganic. In doing so he not only passed by an important musical period, but failed to assimilate the technical development that had era. Thus I incline to the view that his was equipment simply inadequate for the great creative he set himself, and that here again, his musico-dialectical

occurred during that technical tasks

talent strove to replace a proper technical foundation. In the third a Sonata for year of his rebirth as a composer, he dedicated to

me

solo violin

whose performance took almost an hour. 1 Conceived

in touching ignorance of the nature of violin technique, the at first seemed to pose insoluble problems. After prolonged I

work study,

succeeded in penetrating the bizarre world of Schnabers imagi-

nation, and to grow accustomed to this strange mixture of talent and impotence, of originality and unnaturalness. Ten years later, however, when I took the work up again in a lonely hour, it seemed unbearable, and I could not bring my selfto play it to the end.

Considerably shaken, I stood before the ruins of an emotional world which, under the spell of friendship, I once had thought to under-

^ee

also p. 322.

260


BERLIN [1908-1913] >tand.

This personal experience makes me fear the worst for the last1

ing quality of Schnabel's compositions. Posterity will have tojudge. As a teacher, too, Schnabel believed in the subjection of tech-

nique to the spirit. Remembering his own development, he was an enemy of independent technical exercises. In maintaining that

technique should in every instance spring from the artist's expressive need, he sought to elevate his individual attitude to the status

He forgot that educational principles must to suit the average, not outstanding talents who usually

of a universal postulate. be

made

find their

own way. The basis

of any musical interpretation must

be the correct rendering of the text. If this basis

is

unreliable, there

danger of collapse. The essence of dilettantism much in a lack of high artistic intentions as in the is

consists

not so

fragility

of the

technical scaffolding. Schnabel left it to his pupils to acquire their technical equipment for themselves, and to know how to use it.

While strictly heeding the printed text, his teaching proceeded from the spirit of a work and consisted, in the main, in an attempt to influence the student artistically and intellectually. By virtue of the originality and subtlety of his thought, he was to a high degree

the capable of stimulating the pupil, of awakening and developing individuality, obstacles.

always provided that there were no technical

He was

not, therefore, a teacher in the strict

meaning of

the term, but rather a supreme stimulator. In that capacity he put me, too, greatly in his debt. As, curiously enough, he knew nothing of the violin and its technical requirements, his observations were to transalways of a purely musical nature, and it was left to me them into terms of violin playing. His teaching successes, then, always depended on the solidity of a student's technique,

late

which would enable him

to accept

and work over

his teacher's

SchnabeFs stirring influence suggestions. In such exceptional cases, would considerably widen a student's horizon, and the master's living example would work In the course of the years,

wonders.

were marked by many

my personal relations with Schnabel

vicissitudes. I freely

acknowledged

his

ln fairness to Schnabel, it ought perhaps to be mentioned that while his comhave not, meanwhile, increased in popularity, there is an increasing positions * number of competent musicians who hold them in high esteem. x

26l


CARL FLESCH unparalleled artistic

gifts,

his

his conspontaneous musicianship

and his wonderful ability to suming urge towards expression ensemble was that, coming from realize it. The secret of our perfect

we met in the middle. His art sprang from the opposite directions, consciousness, whereas unconscious and strove towards of consciousness and musical efforts were born in the bright light in the mysteries of the unconscious. sought to lose themselves

my

Our collaboration thus held much attraction

for either party.

We

more even had to make

rehearsals satisfied us far

stimulated each other, and our to be sure, I than our concerts. From the outset, character, to be conciliatory allowance for partner's tyrannical with his argumentatrveness, we in minor matters; otherwise, as he was, he have never started making music. Witty

my

would

knew how

me when he felt that he was in the wrong. when he insisted on a Artur,' I once remarked

to disarm

'But look here,

declared that a decrescendo even wrote it into was the only possible nuance at this point; you evidence In surprise, he looked at this incontrovertible part!' little a dejectedly, of his changeableness, and eventually remarked, older!' does one 'Oh well, get with his gift for

crescendo, 'only a fortnight ago

you

my

But what of

these foibles

by comparison

a phrase and this by last drop of expression from extracting the for the comhis wellnigh pedantic respect purely artistic means; and uncompromising written directions; his unconditional poser's

Beethoven or Brahms, immersion in a work of art. When, in over him, his mama Schubert or Schumann, the holy spirit came dissection vanished in a for unfruitful quibbling and destructive

In that

make way for the purest, indestructible sentiment. him to reach heights that were hardly blissful state, it was given to one forgave him the ever scaled by others; in such Sabbath hours, on week-days, cast a harshness, the artificiality, the pose that,

trice, to

him. There emashadow over the genuine and imperishable in both good and for nated from his personality a magnetic power, its even the reluctant at least temporarily under evil, that spell.

brought

He certainly remains one

of our time.

of the most remarkable musicians

1

"Flesch died,

of course, before Schnabel.

262


BERLIN [1908-1913]

Although I myself have not always been free from ambivalence towards him, I would not for anything have missed the influence that Schnabel has exerted on my artistic development. He was more than an episode in my life, he was an experience at once satisfying and disappointing, noble and base, exalting and disenchanting

During

a true reflection

the

first five

summer months

at

of his contradictory personality. of our stay in Germany, we years spent the

Rindbach, near Ebensee, in the Austrian

Salzkammergut. A small but select artists' colony had gradually assembled there, centring around Schnabel and swam myself. in the and our Traunsee, time in chamber music, daily passed card playing and rambles. The social centres were the hospitable homes of Franz von Mendelssohn, and of the

We

art-loving family

Grumbacher, whose mistress, Jeanette, nee de Jong, was considered one of the best Grumsopranos of her day. The

jovial bacher, a factory director and amateur 'cellist, had passionately embraced the study of old Italian violin varnish; the

though

information gathered in that ledge of German wines.

He

not quite equal his knowwas a crony of the equally epicurean field did

and together with him had invented a novel kind of 'quick service' for punch-drinking parties. pipe starting from the punch-bowl was laid all round the table, and each guest had a that had to be to the tap only opened dispense precious juice fresh violinist Halif ,

A

from the

much

source. The pleasures of the table, however, proved too for those two; their girth increased rapidly, and they died,

barely fifty years old, one shortly after the other. In the neighlived Julia Gulp, then at the zenith of her career, a

bourhood

woman and a fascinating mezzo soprano. About this time I made my debut as a writer on theory. For a number of years, I had employed for my own use a simplified method of 'playing myself in', exercises that had the purpose of charming

lubricating, as it were, all the joints used in violin playing. One day, a pupil remarked that I had no right to keep this idea to .myself.

not a that x

Thus, the

little

on

Ursttidien1

enriching, as a

came into

being, and I prided myself Hungarian, the German language by

word. Though some considerable time has passed

The German tide of the

Basic Studies (Peters Edition

263

No.

4340).

since the


CARL FLESCH publication of the little treatise, to have become obsolete.

tlie

underlying idea does not seem

My publisher, Franz Ries, had originally been a violinist and a pupil of Vieuxtemps, but had had to change over to the publishing business in consequence of a hand complaint. The descendant of a respected dynasty of musicians

Beethoven, he was

known by

who had the

been closely linked with nickname of 'Suite-Ries'. He

had composed some half-dozen

suites, played chiefly by Sarasate; a consalon pleasant, ingratiating pieces of value which enjoyed siderable vogue in their day. Their composer, a charming and

vivacious man,

who

number of valuable Stradivarius'

house

when

lived violins,

till

he was almost ninety,

and an Allongee.

I

Ries' son Robert, a

house, took over

its

owned

among them the well-known

a

'Ries

remained with

worthy

this publishing scion of that patrician

direction.

In the following year, I prepared with Schnabel a new edition of the selection of Mozart Violin Sonatas published by Peters. Our

was not always a pure joy. Schnabel would not dream of adapting himself to the peculiarities of violin playing and notation. With a stubbornness worthy of a better cause he insisted on the most trifling nuance provided it convinced him for five minutes and I was often compelled to use a different notation from his. These occasional inconsistencies mar an edition which might otherwise be considered exemplary for concert use. As two young musicians, Max Baldner. and Richard Heber, were guests in the Mendelssohn household, it was possible to play quartets at any hour of the day or night. Dry days were usually set collaboration

aside for excursions.

In those days, Ysaye and Kreisler were the foremost violinists in Berlin's musical life. Thibaud had not been able to follow

up and Vecsey seemed caught in an unproductive phase. But Elman had attained the height of his

his first success,

transitional

while the prodigy Jascha Heifetz was yet to appear on the platform shortly before the First World War. Szigeti, Kulenart,

kampf and Telmanyi were still developing. Recently, however, a unknown German violinist named Adolf Busch had emerged who had rekindled the hopes for a revival of German

hitherto

264

,


BERLIN [1908-1913] violin playing. After all, thirty years had now passed since its most distinguished representative, Wilhelmj, had laid down his bow. Adolf Busch [1891-1952] is above all a character, a

with

whom purely instrumental considerations are

personality,

secondary.

He

of Bram Eldering, whose style was a mixture of Dutch, and German elements, and his own technical equipment Belgian marks a decided progress in German violin playing, although it could not compare, in tone particularly production, with the French and Russian schools. His tone is not flexible enough: freshness and openness of predominate at the is

a pupil

expense gentleness extraordinary results he does occasionally achieve with his tone, especially in chamber music, must be attributed to his strong inner vision which temporarily overcomes his outer defects; of course, this will process only operate satisfactorily when he is more than usually in the mood. Busch does not possess a beautiful tone as such; he needs the divine afflatus to

and

restraint.

achieve

it.

The

How much

are even able to tune leads to routine

easier

up with

is life

for fiddlers like Kreisler

feeling

and emotional

!

Yet

this

who

very

facility easily inertia, since the 'beautiful tone as

such'

is apt to simulate feeling where in reality there is none. Thus, there are many fiddlers whose tone is vastly superior to Busch's, but few whose personality as a whole is as significant as his. I

myself prefer Busch the chamber musician to Busch the soloist, since in that role he can give himself over to his sentiment unencumbered by technical worries, and the flame that pure

in

him

even

will hide, or

efface,

many

a tonal defect.

glows

But

as a

he often gives way to excessively fast tempos, presumably owing to a lack of self-control His best solo performance is in the soloist

Violin Concerto

by

Max

know him too little as

Reger, whose close friend he was.

I

composer to be able to judge him; in the educational field, he must be considered more of a suggestive influence than a real teacher. By and large, he is the greatest purely German violinist of his age, a thoroughly sympathetic figure in a

every respect.

Together with Auer's leading pupils, there arrived in Berlin an Alexander Schmuller, who was musically

older Russian violinist

265


CARL FLESCH and

intellectually far

above

his

younger compatriots, though he

could not compete with them on the technical level. In 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the war, I recommended him to the

Amsterdam

Conservatoire.

He could not,

however, immediately

take up his position since, as a Russian subject, he was interned for some time in Germany. In order to keep his job open, I deputized for

him until he was released four weeks later. Soon after, he made

his

debut

at the

Concertgebouw with

surprising success; however,

my Dutchmen well enough last.

One of

I

knew

the

sensational and, to

me, 'new-broom theory' of

to realize that this success could

not

the earliest interpreters of Reger, Schmuller had,

of contemporary music. He was an extraordinarily adroit linguist, and a very master of conversation witty without being malicious, critical

above

all,

a

a great understanding

gifted writer,

He was,

in fact, too versatile to respond wholeheartedly to the tyrannical demands the violin makes on its more ambitious devotees. In 1933, Schmuller died suddenly, to the

without carping.

grief of the many friends he had made in Holland. His memory has remained alive there, because of his uncommonly captivating

and appealing

personality, rather than his playing and teaching. In a relatively short time, Schnabel and I had succeeded in becoming a decisive factor in German chamber music. As a sonata

duo we were unrivalled; not only for our achievements, but also because no other musicians of distinction were devoting themselves primarily to this branch of music. Less satisfactory was our trio

with Jean Gerardy [1877-1929]. A native of Belgium, he was age of twenty regarded as one of the best living 'cellists, an'

at the

opinion endorsed even by so strict a judge as Hugo Becker. When, in 1902, 1 heard him for the first time, I was frankly enthusiastic about this artist whose tone, technique, and delivery

seemed equally

perfect,

and whose very appearance was pre-

possessing. Like so many instrumentalists, he reached the zenith of his art before his thirtieth year; indeed, he had passed it when, in 1909, we began to make music together. Certainly, his cantilena was still of a seductive mellowness, but his was no

technique

longer quite insecure.

reliable,

and

chamber musician he was highly be on the alert in our trio, for he often

as a

We always had to

266

,


BERLIN [1908-1913]

no reason whatever, and only found it again difficulty. As a man, he had an inoffensive amiabi-

lost his place for

with great not without a touch of melancholy. He apparently suffered from an awareness of his artistic decline. Like Hugo Becker, he

lity,

had been automatically relegated to the second rank by the ascent of Casals. At the outbreak of the war he left Germany, and later on I had only casual encounters with him. Schnabel and I were never able to get on an intimate footing with him, but we appre-

him as a man and, to a certain extent, also as an artist. He died at a relatively early age. At the Hochschule, the more important teachers of the violin

ciated

were Marteau and Willy Hess, with taking

Klingler,

Moser and Markees

more passive roles.

Willy Hess [1859-1939], whose successor I was to become in 1928, had taken over from Halir in 1910. He was lively and enerin his late seventies he felt too getic to an advanced age, and even a was inactive. to be He passionate and inexhaustible teacher, young with solid, if obsolete, principles and a profound musicality; but his pupils complained that he was fond of playing in unison with them. I heard him only once as a soloist, in 1911, when he played in the Hungarian Style at a Philharmonic Concert under Nikisch, and when it was borne in on me how cruel our profession is to those who are not its sovereign masters.

Joachim's Concerto

Hess hurried wildly in all difficult cadenza at times even rolled three bars into passages, and in the one. This was his last appearance as a soloist, and afterwards he and the 'cellist Dechert. only played trios with Georg Schumann talents who had been ruined by the He was one of the

Overcome with

nerves,

great and the imprecise finger technique 1 school. the Joachim

wrong bowing

technique of

other Joachim pupil of the or rather, did not older generation, Henri Petri [1856-1914] meet him; for although (or perhaps because) I played the Beethoone season with the Dresden Court ven Concerto thrice

Outside Berlin,

I

met only one

during

me. Orchestra, whose leader he was, he studiously avoided greeting at the R.A.M., where he succeeded Sauret. the finest violins of J. B. Guadagnini. of one played

iprom 1903-4 he taught

267

He


CARL FUBSCH It is said that

he was a good

colleague he certainly wasn't.

but

his best

Petri.

young days; a good He wrote some well-made studies, 1

violinist in his

opus seems to have been

his son, the pianist

Egon

2

3

Griinfeld continued colleagues, Heinrich to hold the office of a musical jester. Countless are the anecdotes

Amongst our

'cellist

were invented by, or ascribed to, him. He was a harmless, the bad impression of a good-natured man who would dispel misfired passage by a well-turned joke. When, at the age of his farewell concert in Berlin, he wrote asking for he

that

gave seventy, collaboration in these words: 'Please do

my

honour of taking part

in

my

in his capacity as strictly insisted,

he

six inches in front

and honoured

as a

me

the penultimate

farewell concert.' In his trio recitals

But

promoter, on sitting some in spite of all, he was liked

of his partners. symbol of musical Berlin.

Much more important for the musical life of the capital was the not so much as a performer, Belgian 'cellist Marix Loewensohn; above all as a promoter of though he was an excellent player, but unusual with chamber music recitals programmes. I remember, for instance, a Cesar Franck recital with Ysaye, and a Faure recital with the composer and myself. As time went on, however, and while money, rehearsal time, and good artists grew scarcer, the number of recitals increased, their standard of performance went down. Eventually, an end came to this remarkable enterhad brought the people of Berlin a knowledge of prise which various composers previously unknown in Germany. Loewensohn himself had to leave Germany at the beginning of the First lived partly in Amsterdam and partly in Brusas an esteemed member of the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

World War, and sels,

My life in the years before the war, with its agreeable division between concerts and teaching, still left me some little leisure in which I pursued, first and foremost, my love for collecting books. other violin pieces and songs. He moreover edited the Concertos of Spohr, Bach and Mozart, David's Hohe Schule, and the Studies of Rode, Kreutzer

and

Viotti.

2

Perhaps

remembered

his other 'opus',

the lieder singer Helga (soprano), ought to be

in this context.

^Brother of Alfred Griinfeld [1852-1924], the pianist and composer.

268


BERLIN [1908-1913]

Amsterdam

had become interested in the illustrated ench romantics of the first half of the last century, and I now

[ready in

I

^gan to cultivate other fields as well, without, however, restrictg myself to a particular sphere. Apart from myself, there were

who chiefly who was all attracted above editions; Serato, by 1 who in on Quixote editions; Galston, delighted luxury editions; id Schnabel, who had a preference for the first editions of the ur bibliophiles

>llected

Berlin musicians: Busoni,

among

Dante

erman romantics. Ours was certainly not the proverbial illiteracy "

musical performers, even though collecting and reading are always the same thing. I myself continued to collect books

>t

my interest in the portraits of violinists :>main, closer to my profession. itil

My tie

or

close connection

me

took

with Schnabel resulted in

no contact with other

pianists.

to another

my

having

Schnabel suffered no gods

too, regarded our partnership as sacred. It was until after the war, when his whole attitude began to change

side him, and >t

I,

he conceived

of chamber music,

began to play above all, ith other pianists, such ith Friedberg; later with Gabrilowitsch, Josef Hofinann, and imond. Leonid Kreutzer had come to Germany fiom Russia together ith Schmuller, and had founded with him a sonata duo which as devoted in the main to the propagation of Reger's works, id

a dislike

that I

as Kreutzer, Eisner, Petri and,

reutzer,

who left Germany in 193 3 and later worked alternatively

Japan and California, did not succeed in attaining the position had hoped for, despite his outstanding qualities as a pianist and

>

usician.

n mar

His example shows how sometimes a single deficiency wide variety of excellent qualities: he lacked naive

a

the simple joy of living. He was a professional grumbler, ssatisfied with others and himself. At bottom, he was a good

slight,

though over-sensitive to the point of hysteria. Through ho ult of mine, he always seemed to a greater or lesser degree ffended', and so I never came to know him intimately. He was and conducL excellent, deeply musical and thoughtful teacher llow,

or,

1

a respectable composer and, above

Scepp. 270

f.

269

all,

a superb pianist.


CARL FLESCH was on much closer terms of friendship. A native of Vienna, he had been a pupil of Robert Fischhof there, which fact he regretted all his life. He received an honourable mention at the Rubinstein Concours in Paris, in 1905. Time was

With Bruno

when many But

so far,

realization,

Eisner

I

he

him

a greater hope than Artur Schnabel. has failed to find a balance between intention and

considered

between

feeling

and technique.

By

nature he

is

of his techvolcanically impulsive; but out of an over-awareness nical problems he developed inferiority feelings which not only inhibited the full deployment of his emotional qualities, but led

him into ceaseless experiments and neglect of essentials. As a human being Eisner is simple and modest. One

is

bound

him. During almost twenty years in Berlin we made it a habit to go for frequent walks together. At about six in the to love

we would

drop into the Romanisches Cafe, join the over by the painter Slevogt, and engage in regulars presided serious and light talk with Orlik, Mopp, Bruno Cassirer and evening,

others. Eisner's wife, a compatriot

many

good reputation constitution and is

of Schnabel's, has a

He

himself has a strong twelve years younger than I; thus he still has

as a

singing teacher.

every chance of reaching his goal and seeing his struggles crowned success he deserves. Another important pianist who attracted me more closely as a human being than as an artist was Gottfried Galston [b. 1879].

by the

name was

and he came from the Leschetyoung man, was considered Schnabel's superior. With the support of the coal magnate Eduard Arnhold, in 1909, he gave a series of five piano recitals 1 in several European His real

Galizenstein,

izky school. He, too, as a

capitals.

forty

Subsequently, during the war, he extended this series to lie programmes of which were tantamount to an

recitals,

encyclopaedia of piano music. But here again, it proved true that 'qui trop embrasse mal entreint'. Mass production must needs lead to superficiality; there

is

no time

for thorough preparation, and

performances tend to become somewhat slapdash in character, details

being neglected for the sake of the 'grand conception'.

x For these he published a Studienbuch explaining the to Brahms.

270

Not

development from Bach


BERLIN [1908-1913] have the five chronologically arranged violin recitals of 1905 remained a single attempt on my own part, too. It is only when such a venture belongs to the past that one becomes aware for nothing

of the dangers one has escaped, the shallows one has navigated with more good fortune than foresight. Galston was for years in straitened circumstances until, in 1926, he reached the secure haven of a permanent if subordinate position in St. Louis. Like Kreutzer, he belonged to the class of 'singing pianists' who, by humming the melodic line, essay to augment their expressive possibilities or of give themselves the cheap illusion of sustaining the brittle tone the pianoforte. It was always a torment for me to play chamber music with imitators of animal voices and to have to bear a

subordinate part in the form of a cat's miaow or a baby's whimworst offenders in this respect are the conducper. No doubt the tors. flat,

Even Toscanini whines the leading a habit

a part, at times

semitone

which, particularly in broadcasts, considerably

affects

the impact of his performances. Furtwangler mews and spits, while most of the others are content to bark on the accents.

Among

fiddlers

weakness

is

frequent. Their often irregular breathing or gasping, an inhibi-

and

more

'cellists

tion less audible, but scarcely

Among

these noises are

less

conductors, Nikisch

less

disturbing. still

reigned supreme. In 1910,

however, had played the Brahms Concerto in Liibeck with a young conductor by the name of Wilhelm Furtwangler [1886the impression that he was 'the coming 1954], and had formed man'. This was the first position Furtwangler held, the first time he accompanied a soloist, and only the second concert in his life. From that day dated a friendship which has survived all vicisI

situdes.

In the course of a conversation about conducting in general, I made no secret of my opinion that this profession like no other offered opportunities for false representation. Asked to substan'I have never I tiate apparently monstrous statement, replied were to put me now in front held a baton in hand, but if

my

my

you

*of a trained orchestra to direct the

singers

Overture,

I

Tannhauser or The Master-

should appear to do

way of appropriate

my job quite well and,

by

as stick-wagglings, impress the large public

271


CARL FLESCH Well now, an activity which one being a competent conductor. the knowledge can, at a pinch, exercise without actually having for it, must have a great deal of bluff about it. This is not required whole fraternity; I know there are great artists is no profession which among you. But on the other hand, there an impostor could enter more easily.' To this formulation of my had to agree with a laugh. seeming paradox, Furtw angler

to

condemn

the

of mind, rehearsing technique Apart from musicality, presence the individuality of an makes what and personal magnetism, the all eminent conductor is above predominance of one characof his colteristic trait which raises him above the rank and file

"

case of Nikisch, it was the Slav-German blend of leagues. In the with a touch of melancholy, while Steinbach had an sensitivity

brutal directness. Weingartner was uncomplicated and somewhat

distinguished

by

his classical poise,

Mengelberg by

his authorita-

tive rhythm, and Walter by his sensitive passivity, and Toscanini shows an incorruptible honesty and fidelity to the text and an

animation that spurns every extraneous effect. Furtwangler, a kind of sublimated sensuousness, according again, is driven by

words of St. Paul: 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding moment in his brass, or a tinkling cymbal.' There is no dead and rejoices. While music-making; it all lives, loves, suffers Toscanini sees the work of art through the prism of his personality, reveals his personality through the medium of the to the

.

Furtwangler

determined by two different characters. Furtwangler's pursuit of immediate acoustic satisfac-^ tion, his Don-Juan-like emotional restlessness, his striving after

two

work

different

attitudes

continual renewal of feeling, result in the listener being excited moved by his conducting. Yet in spite of his fifty

rather than

consider his development far from being closed. He will with a probably reach the zenith of his powers simultaneously 1

years,

1

certain erotic appeasement, attaining serenity with tl\e transmuof earthly into heavenly love. Furtwangler is nearest to

my

tation

heart

of all conductors. He

glorification, that 1

is

hallmark

quite free of megalomania of his caste; his genuine

Written 1936.

272

and

self-

modesty

;


BERLIN [1908-1913] manifests itself at times, even in the

Above

all,

the true

his

artist.

form of an inner

uncertainty. the child-like naivete that always distinguishes He is a simple, natural human being with a human is

and vices, and not the usual, tedious pseudoNapoleonic type of time-beater, lording it over a hundred musical being's virtues

slaves,

or convinced in his innermost heart that Beethoven

wrote the Ninth for his sake alone. Furtwangler is honest through and through; he may well become the greatest conductor Ger-

many has ever produced. Ernst

Kunwald

[b.

1868], a Viennese,

was

at that

time the

permanent conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra, in so far as it was not under Nikisch's direction. A fine musician, well versed in score-reading

and time-saving

and sight-playing, with a good stick technique rehearsal routine, he yet did not succeed in gain-

ing a place in the foremost rank of conductors. He probably lacked personal magnetism, an attribute which defies analysis

and whose presence or absence can only be sensed, not demonstrated. This failing came to poison the life of this ambitious and self-assured man. Only once in his life did fortune smile on him, when, after a boring matinee of the Philharmonic Orchestra at Scheveningen before a few sleepy holiday visitors, an elderly lady as an emissary of the Cincinnati Symphony and Orchestra, engaged Kunwald on the spot at a salary of 20,000 dollars with six months' annual leave. In 1917, however, the Americans interned him for the duration of the war because of his provocative pro-German sympathies. He was one of the ablest and in this capacity his self-assurance pianists among conductors, was disarming. In Konigsberg, where he worked as conductor after the war, he said to me in so many words after one of our trio

introduced herself

recitals:

"You played the Adagio of Beethoven's op. 97 to per-

Your performance agreed as closely with though I had coached you in the work.'

fection.

^s

my

intentions

Yet another conductor deserves mention, not so much on the his unusual personstrength of his musical achievements as for 1 horn a Fried Oskar player, he had Originally [b. I87I]. Ility to conducting. Though he knew how to advanced gradually 1

A Humperdinck pupil and reputable composer. 273


CARL FLESCH the mental equilibrium impress people, he seemed to lack entirely

He let life buffet him hither and whole world, and was altogether a thither, had originality and temhe musician, disagreeable skill. real technical Apart from his early perament, but lacked in the conadvocacy of Mahler, he has left no noticeable traces so necessary in our profession.

was

temporary

As

war with fellow. As a at

scene.

the

1

my teaching, the promotion of impecunious talents my idealism; besides, it gave me pleasure to put even the

for

satisfied

to advance them gifted up a rung on the professional ladder, from orchestral fiddlers to leaders or even to soloists. It was not

less

in

my nature

as

advertisements of

to foster prodigies

my

and to use such hothouse plants

teaching capacities.

Like a zealous

doctor, had always been stimulated by difficulties and apparently insoluble problems, and mediocre talents seemed to me to have I

even greater claim on my support than the outstanding ones. Truth to tell, during my pre-war Berlin years I taught only three pupils

who seemed destined for a

solo career

Wolfstal, Gittelson

and Melsa.

when I took over his training. and let him play a few times him sixteen, but thought it wiser to put him into an orchestra for the

Josef Wolfstal was ten years old

When

he was

in public,

I

released

time being in order to widen his musical horizon. In quick succession, he sat at the first desk in Bremen, Stockholm and Berlin,

and became a teacher twenty-six, but died

at the Berlin

Hochschule

at the early

from the

after-effects

at thirty-one

"

age of

of

in-

He was already considered one of the finest violinists of^ Germany; his bowing particularly was near absolute perfection. Yet even granted a normal span of life, he would hardly have succeeded in reaching the highest flight, for apart from the fact that his playing contained no characteristic personal note, his human qualities did not equal his gifts as a violinist, and in the highest realms of art it is, after all, the man himself, and not the fluenza.

clever instrumentalist,

A 2

who

disappointment of

has the last word.

a different

kind was the development of

There are many, including Paul Bekker, Paul Stefan and Hugo Riemann, strongly disagree with Flesch's unfavourable estimate.

who would

274


BERLIN [1908-1913] Frank Gittelson, a young American from Philadelphia who was my pupil for three years. Not only I but many others, among them Nikisch and Godowsky, regarded him as a possible successor

by Walter Damrosch to play the Bach E major Concerto, which was quite unsuitable for an American debut and which, to make matters worse, he did not know too well, he suffered a sensational failure which caused a grave depression, to Ysaye. Forced

paralysed his will-power, and for years gave him a distaste for the concert platform. After the First World War, in which he was a radio officer, he

became chief teacher

Peabody Institute of the most talented violinist (not excepting Spalding) that America has so far produced, and that he was only prevented by a combination of adverse circumstances, by extreme bad luck, from taking the place he deserved in the musical life of America. Lastly, there was Melsa, whose name was a clever abbreviation of his original name of Mehlsack. He began as a pupil of Barmas, who was a slightly megalomaniac Joachim pupil, not ungifted as a

Baltimore.

Few Americans

great success,

he

is

Melsa made

his debut in unable to he was but subsequently

teacher, but insignificant as a fiddler.

London with

at the

realize that

hold his ground. 'three stars', I chiefly taught violinists of over to Marteau's pupils, too, began to come respectable average. me in such numbers that, with a view to maintaining my good

Apart from these

relations

unless presently refused to teach them to This me. them recommended precautionary

with Marteau,

I

he explicitly measure did not prevent his dissolving our friendship shortly after at his second wife's instigation and on some trivial pretext. My career as a soloist was at its most intense about 1910-12,

when I was not greatly hampered either by theoretical work or by the

demands of teaching. Free of material cares, I was

able to afford

development my goal in life. I had passed Although my fame as a soloist was of recent date my supreme test as late as 1907, at the age of thirty-three, in the Nikisch concerts I had in a short time become accepted in Ger-

the luxury of considering

as the leading German violinist. For the strange career has been that I, the German-Hungarian,

many and abroad thing about C.F.-T

my

my

artistic


CARL FLESCH trained in the Franco-Belgian school, and therefore a decided all life regarded opponent of the current German school, was

my

as

a violinist of purely

made by

Rivarde,

German feeling. Perhaps certain suggestions

on the occasion of his

me

stay in Berlin, helped

was concerned. to improve my tone production, For the extremely unfavourable elementary training I had received in my youth had left me with a life-long tendency to as far as

vibrato

vibrate too slowly; an obstacle that cost me much time and labour most important first performances during that to overcome. the Suk were Fantasy for violin and orchestra, op. 24, and

My

period

Emanuel Moor's Violin Concerto. Suk, 1 the second violinist of the Bohemian String Quartet, wrote his highly significant work at the

approximate age of twenty-six. Thematically of charming it is remarkable, above all, for its successful com-

national colour,

bination of variation

form and

classical

concerto form.

It

opened up new ways of writing for the violin which, unfortunately, have not been pursued by Suk's successors. Executants, too, have tended to avoid the work so that I have had a virtual monopoly of its performance all my life. Suk, a charming man, cultured violinist and composer of genius, remains in the memory of most of his non-Czech contemporaries as the fellow at the second desk of the 'Bohemians'. In his life-time he was often praised but Httle performed, since his chief works were too substantial for ordinary concert routine. In a few decades' time,

when the insignificant and

the transient have sunk to the bottom of the river, he

Emanuel Moor Raff-Godard

be one

may

rediscovered, perhaps together with Reger, and recognized of the greatest in the first third of the twentieth century.

as

will scarcely enjoy the same fate. He is in the the 'dazzlers', the inventors of easy-going,

class,

ingratiating themes surrounded, like a meagre table-d'hote dish, by attractive but tasteless aspics and jellies which are meant to distract attention from the poverty of the cooking. Moor was

then the height of fashion; Ysaye quarrelled with the Zurich Concert Society because they would not let him play the Concerto which Moor had dedicated to him. To this day, one car read in the .

visitors'

book of the Basle Concert Society the

182.

276

follow-


BERLIN [1908-1913] ing entry from the year 1907: 'Bach, Beethoven, Moor, voili plus

signed Pablo

grands',

Mengelberg and Rontgen

My own

esteem. in

him in disproportionate him was but transitory. In 1906,

also held

enthusiasm for

to write a concerto for me. He would me at eight in the morning in order to play me

Amsterdam, he began

often a

les

But Marteau, Thibaud,

Casals.

come

theme

to see

'fresh

from the wood'

that

had occurred to him during

the night; then he would sit on the edge of my bed and continue to compose, in other words, and busy himself with

concocting preparing the above-mentioned garnish. He did not devote himself to composition until the age of forty, but once started, he

evinced a rabbit-like fecundity and a dreaded, ruthless and importunate business sense.

He was

a restless, inventive spirit

whose

chief satisfaction was continual bodily and mental motion. In his later years, he occupied himself also with the invention of new .

devices in the construction of violins and pianos, again with negative results. In Berlin in 1907, I gave the first and last per-

formance of the Violin Concerto he wrote for me. Like everything else from his pen, it charms with the Hungarian tinge of its grateful themes and repels by their skpdash, padded development.

Notwithstanding

my

my

intensive

work

main occupation was sonata and

as a soloist

trio playing. I

and

teacher,

never played

string quartets in German concert halls, except for a short period in 1909 when I stood in for Hali? during his last illness; an

instructive experience which showed sufficient were the technical resources

me and

once again

how

in-

how

extravagant the music-making. In

of contemporary German was my partnership with Schnabel who, as I said was still simple and unspoilt, easily satisfied with modest

spiritual

claims

contrast, there

before,

financial results, but

demanding

in

all

artistic

questions.

The

gramophone was canned music for him then, and he refused to play chamber music in large halls. Over wily businessmen amongst in short, it artists he would amusingly pour the acid of his scorn seemed as if his uncompromising attitude would secure him, in of his own, next to Busoni's. I liked for he was entertaining and taught me the with him, travelling ethical respects, too, a niche

277


CARL FLESCH card-game of skat which sometimes absorbed us for days on end on our journeys. We arranged Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert cycles,

prestige that the

little

&

Flesch enjoyed such wide son of a friend of mine who happened to see

and the firm of Schnabel

some shop-window, found fault with my remarking that my first name was not Carl, but

signed portrait in

my

signature,

Schnabel. For the

rest,

my

contacts with professional colleagues

were in general confined to visitors from abroad. Outside Germany, I played mainly in Holland and the Austro-Hungarian empire, less in other European countries; yet even before the war, there was not one European country in which I had not appeared, except for Spain and some Balkan states. In Paris, I had the satisfaction of achieving a sensational success with the Brahms Concerto, with Chevillard conducting the Lamoureux Orcheswhich, twenty years before, I had sat at the sixth desk of the first violins. In London, too, I laid the foundation of my standing tra in

England with two orchestral concerts in which

in

concertos and the

I

played six

I

undertook

Suk Fantasy. 1

In the course of a concert tour in Russia which

together with Weingartner, I met Siloti, Glazunov and Auer. The Liszt pupil Alexander Siloti [1863-1945] was the conductor of the great Philharmonic Concerts in Petersburg. Through his wife, he

;

had

excellent connections in society, but he was not taken quite 2 seriously as a conductor. He has remained in memory chiefly through his mania for using, like Reger and Muck, indecent

my

expressions

and playing the boor. During the revolution he

abroad and eventually

settled in

New York

as a

fled '

piano teacher,

developing as a side-line an extensive practice as an arranger and Vemodeller' of classical works. 3 Alexander Glazunov I met on the occasion of a concert of Weingartner 's compositions at the Conservatoire, in which I played his two Sonatas. Originally a talent of the first rank, Glazunov would have achieved much more had he 1

Fkst performance in England. Sir Henry

1938) year.

Flesch one of

calls

The

2

violinists

who

other one, curiously enough, was

pupils (op. 8

two

cit.,

"Wood (My Life of Music, London, ^created a sensation in London' that SevcHk, who gave a concert with his

p. 253).

Though very much so as a pianist and teacher.

He had

taken up

this activity

long before he went to America.

278


BERLIN [1908-1913] not become

a periodic alcoholic. Several times a year, lie

'fell ill'

some weeks, only to emerge again from his drinking bouts as if nothing had happened, reappearing in public and his for

pursuing

profession quite normally until the next time. Many years later, a man knocked at door in Baden-Baden; he was wearing a

my

sports cap

who had

and looked

like a

travelling artisan.

It

was Glazunov,

decided to emigrate after years under the

Communist

regime. The kindly man with the naive, child-like mind was by then a physical wreck, unwieldy, hardly capable of walking or rising unaided from his seat in the car. But he was to live the life of a wanderer for another seven years.

In Helsingfors, I was deeply impressed by the Finnish musicians' with them after the capacity for holding their drink when I

supped

concert. Perhaps it is the climate of the country which permits its inhabitants to imbibe, without fear of delirium tremens, much

amounts of strong drink than a Central-European could and still reach a ripe old as is shown age, by Sibelius, and Cajanus Schneevoigt. greater

tolerate,

With my physical and artistic powers in their

hemmed

in

by the

prime,

I

began to

confines of the old continent and longed for the wider field of action that the World would offer me. feel

New

279


AMERICA

[I9I3-I9H]

Aged Forty F OLLO

WIN G the usual recipe for preparing an American tour, &

concert agency, Haensel a Jones, and got in touch with reputable Courier. Musical After I had had myself well advertised in the I

fulfilled all

my outstanding

European engagements,

we

sailed for

America around Christmas. Far be

it

from

me to

follow the lead of many tourists

who

try

comprehensive judgment on this multifarious and heterothe musician meets for the most part a specialcontinent: geneous

to give a

ized,

newly-immigrated stratum of society, rather than 'real' I wish to be no more than a chronicler and impartial

Americans.

observer of musical America, recording such impressions as caught reminiscences I shall first visit. Later in attention on

my

my

my

have ample opportunity to note down the changes in America's musical world ten years later.

I

encountered

had about twenty-five engagements, including appearances with all the great orchestras of the country, excluding California. I

In those days, one year before the First World War, the United States did not have the musical renown which they have gained

through the influx of foreign talent. As yet, few thought of making America their home. One stayed no

since, chiefly artists

longer than necessary, usually having booked a return passage on arrival. America was to the artist no more than a new market with

higher fees in exchange for which one had to be reconciled to the of being in exile. Among pianists, only Godowsky and feeling

who had

both entered the country while very young, had acquired American citizenship; among violinists, Kneisel and

Josephy,

ZimbaHst, the to the singer

being attached to the country by his marriage Gluck. Apart from these, there was a numbei

latter

Alma

of reputable musicians

who had

received their training in Ger-

many and to whom America owed its gradual rise from a countn 280


AMERICA [I9I3-I9I4] without any musical tradition to one of the world's musical centres. For this musical middle class saw to the training of a solid generation of teachers the chief determining influence on the musical standards of a country. Among them were the pianists Paolo Gallico and Alexander Lambert, the violinists Lichtenberg, the composer and theory Goldmark, the nephew of the composer.

Sam Franko and Sammathini, and teacher

Rubin

the domestic musicians, Franz Kneisel held an exceptional place. pupil of Griin, he had married Marianne Thoma, a of colleague of mine in Gran's class in Vienna, and at the

Among

A

age

twenty had accepted a call by Gericke to be the leader of the newly-founded Boston Symphony Orchestra which was maintained for many years by Colonel Higginson's self-sacrificing generosity. Later, he exchanged this position for that of a teacher at the Institute of Musical Art in New York, which was under the direction of Frank Damrosch. In building up his orchestra, Higginson followed the principle of skimming the cream off the European pool of musicians. The strings he imported from Vienna, the

woodwind from

France (among them the famous from Germany. He established the fashion, still prevalent among the American moneyed class, of coolly paying out from his own pocket an annual contribution of oboist Longy) and the brass

about 150,000 to 200,000 dollars for the maintenance of an orchesThe undoubted superiority of American orchestras in our day

tra. is

therefore

less

the result

of the

higher, demands

of the American

public than of the desire to go one better than Europe in this respect as in others. The case of Kneisel, to be sure, was not in

keeping with this general picture, for at the time of his emigration he was no more than a talented beginner on the concert platform. A German, born in Bucharest in 1865, he spoke a kind of Slovak dialect and was never able to speak English properly. An excellent music-maker without intellectual aspirations, he could be considered a counterpart of Rose1 (who was likewise born in Rumania), the difference being that Rose was the better violinist, Kneisel the better teacher. The real importance of Kneisel lies in the fact that he introduced quartet playing to

28l


CARL FLESCH America, blazing a trail for this branch of music; though as a teacher, too, he did fruitful work. With his outstanding musicality and the technical solidity acquired in the Griin school, he trained a

number of

Gordon,

who

excellent pupils, such as Jascha Jacobson and Jack were to form the core of a purely American stock of

violinists. It consisted originally

who were

soon acclimatized.

of immigrant

east

European Jews

myself heard Kneisel on only a

I

when he was playing quartets. I was struck by his tone beautiful production, but thought his playing somewhat effeminate and superficial, of small size. Owing to his great nersingle occasion,

vousness, he ended his playing career before his fiftieth year, and confined himself to teaching. He was the president of the 'Bohemians', a sort of lodge consisting almost exclusively of musicians

thought of America in terms of transit, Kneisel was friendly and trusting, chiefly 110 doubt in memory of our common teacher, whom he sincerely revered. But

and music

when I

lovers.

So long

as I

returned ten years later to teach at the Curtis Institute for

four years, he seemed to regard me as an unwelcome rival. Kneisel indubitably exerted a beneficial influence on North

America's musician.

From

musical

He

this

died in

development

as

a

teacher

and chamber

New York in 1926.

summary survey

it

will be seen that native violin

sparsely represented in America before the First the symphony orchestras of the country, the exception of the Boston, as yet a match for those of

playing was

still

World War. Nor were with

Europe. Within a few years this state of affairs was to change radically in favour of the New World but more of this later.

American press criticism was a chapter in itself. There was the one could buy, and then there were the apparently incorruptible reviews in the daily press. Beside its famous Grand National Park in which rare plants and animals are preserved, America seemed to preserve the rough customs of the wild west in its musical journals. Here, praise was quite openly sold accorda to fixed and thumbscrews were tariff, ing put on the recalcitrant until he was ready to empty his pockets. This extortion was criticism

the widely-held but erroneous belief, cleverly nurit was absolutely necessary to

facilitated

by

tured

interested circles, that

by

282


AMERICA [1913-1914] advertise in professional journals in order to get

from musical

societies.

On

die average, an

engagements had to pay an income to these

artist

annual tribute of about 15 per cent, of his total parasites.

Some

years before the First World War, there was even an attempt to transplant this system of blackmail to

Germany. A German-American critic who had to leave New York because of unsavoury machinations, took over the editordisreputable

of a much-respected musical journal in Germany. As European custom did not allow him to levy a tribute on artists in the open American fashion, he introduced a system of passive ship

blackmail.

He

concerts he

would

chose as his victims only affluent artists, whose criticize favourably at first, but later more and

more derogatorily. At the same rime, the administrative department of the paper intimated to the artist that he pay his tribute in the form of advertisements. If this delicate hint had no effect, the tone of the reviews would get sharper. When he began to try these tactics on me, I opened the proprietor's eyes to the attempted blackmail. The critic got to hear of this, whence I became the special target for his antipathy, which even expressed itself in Against an outstanding pianist he used the same methods with equal lack of success, and once was handsomely betrayed by his lack of professional knowledge. By numerous performances, the pianist and I rehabilitated the badly spiteful leading articles.

neglected Schubert Fantasy, op. 159, and it was the pianist's special pride that he could play the demi-semi-quavers of the four intro-

ductory bars not values.

as a

wild tremolo but with their exact note

Our amusement was

grace that a pianist

of such

great

when the review called it a

calibre should

dis-

be unable to execute a

Fortunately, this imported specimen of musical gutter journalist has remained a solitary instance in Germany.

rapid tremolo

!

Among the critics on the daily papers the most important were Henderson and Phillip Hale in Boston. Their knowwas about equal to that of their European colmusic of ledge tenor of their reviews was inspired by certain the but leagues, had nothing to do with the art itself. Above all, the principles that European artist must not be allowed to believe that lesser demands Krebiehl,

283


CARL FLESCH were made on him

in

America than in Europe. The

sidered themselves supreme judges

critics

con-

who could not be impressed by

anybody or anything. Every artist was considered inferior until he had proved the opposite. Much more stress was laid on purity of sound and technique than on individuality. It was no mere accident, then, that such characteristic personalities as Sarasate, Busoni and Mahler in no wise lived up to American ideals and were more less drastic 'flops' with public and critics alike. Joachim always declined to play in America, probably because he felt that there

or

was not enough

superficial

brilliance

impression 'over there'. But in

about

his style to

this respect, too,

make an

things have since

changed in America.

was but slowly able to register a complete dislike of showmanship, my short hair and pince-nez, I was not at all like the artist of popular imagination. A few months before my debut, my impresario, Mr. I myself, likewise,

success.

With my inborn

Haensel, wrote, 'Please send

wise

I shall

find

it

me a photo

impossible to secure

without pince-nez

;

other-

a single

you engagement/ Mr. Haensel was highly dissatisfied with my inability to cast myself in a role. 'Make more of yourself/ he used to say, 'or how can people recognize your worth?' One day, he telephoned, 'Could you play tomorrow on the occasion of a lecture at Harvard University? A brilliant opportunity for free adverAltogether,

tisement/ 'All right,' I replied, 'what programme is wanted?' 'That doesn't matter/ was the answer. I was taken aback, and on asking for further details about the occasion, I was amazed to learn that it was a lecture on acoustics dealing with Chladni's 1

Figures.

and

To

demonstrate these, a metal plate a violin

set vibrating

is

strewn with sand

bow

by drawing against it, whereby curious sand figures are produced owing to the nodes. Mine was to be the honour of bowing the plate. 'But that can be done by

any non-violinist/

I

annoyed and half amused. of the magnificent publicity

retorted, half

'Exactly/ came the answer, 'think value of its being done by a great violinist for the

history/

When

I

first

decisively refused to have anything to

time in

do with

^rnst Florens Friedrich Chkdni [1756-1827] was the father of modern acouThe actual scientific term is chladnische Klangfiguren.

stics.

284


AMERICA [1913-1914] this

ridiculous

affair,

Haensel accused

me of not understanding the

American mentality and maintained

that so long as that

was the

would achieve nothing in America. My New York debut was with the Beethoven Concerto, fosef Stransky [1874-1936] conducting. A native of German Bohemia, in Germany he was considered a mediocre conductor who by his first marriage to a woman of old Hamburg stock had :ase I

icquired wealth, including the means of financing a musical paper, who, therefore, enjoyed the latter's particular favour.

md

When, in 1910, an utterly exasperated Mahler, already marked down by death, gave up conducting the New York Philharmonic, i

representative of the orchestra

juccessor.

Someone got hold of

:>f

the

man and

Europe to find talked

him

a

into

who

the state of music in

For

sent to

remained in charge of the orchestra for annoyance of all musical people a sad indication

engaging Stransky, ;en years, to the

was

no one had any

New York

illusions

before the First

about

his musical

World War.

inferiority,

and

musicians did not stop short at making fun of him even in public. Dn one of the Bohemians' beer-drinking evenings, for instance,

;omeone had the idea of forming an ad hoc orchestra out of the nusicians present, in which everyone had to play an instrument le did not know. Casals was handed a flute, Harold .Bauer had to lurse the double bass, Elman beat the timpani and Paderewski officiated as leader on the violin. Finally, it was observed that the of conductor had not post yet been filled and, of course, Stransky was unanimously chosen. He, who owed everything to Germany, revealed himself during the war as a German-baiter of ;he worst sort, from purely opportunist motives. When, at last, nusical New York saw through him and he was removed from lis position, he became a picture-dealer for which, according to xustworthy reports, he showed more talent than for music. His colleague Walter Damrosch [1862-1950] of the New York Symphony Orchestra, with whom I played the Brahms Concerto, :ould hardly be considered a great hero of the baton either, ;hough he was a man of the world, of/good appearance, and an excellent speaker. Measured by European standards, he was hardly ibove the average of provincial conductors. Toscanini and 285


CARL FLESCH Bodanzki shared the musical direction of the Metropolitan Opera. More will be said of both later on. Outside New York, I have from viola pleasant memories of Frederic Stock who advanced player to conductor, and Ernst Kunwald who, as will be remembered, had found in Cincinnati the extraordinary position which

had descended upon him like a gift from the gods in his greatest need. The two most eminent conductors, however, with whom I came into contact at the time, were indubitably Karl Muck and Leopold Stokowski.

knew Karl Muck [1859-1940] from his work in Germany. As young man he looked so strikingly like Richard Wagner that the I

a

legend of

his

being the composer's illegitimate son was widely one find such agreement between out-

credited. Rarely does

ward and inward

qualities

as

with

this excellent

conductor. His face was sharply profiled,

his

musician and

figure at once well

shaped and spare, his mode of expression unsentimental, sarcastic: without and within, he was of a rugged, angular harmony. With Reger he shared a liking for scatological expressions, with the difference that Reger gave vent to this obsession in anecdotes friends, while Muck delighted in pithy interjections

among on the

concert platform, sometimes merely in order to suppress sentimental impulses. For the rest, he was a noble character endowed

with

all

good fairy can bestow, except benevolence and was a genuine misanthropist and had too about the world for his lack of imagination not to

the gifts a

a love of humanity: he

few

illusions

become noticeable in his

among

art too. Nevertheless

he must be counted

the great conductors of his time.

Leopold Stokowski [b. 1882] was still at the beginning of his an organist, he had successfully changed over to

career. Originally

conducting under the influence of his first wife, the excellent pianist Olga Samaroff. His is a Faustian character, consumed by inner restlessness, eternally dissatisfied and in search of something new, of the philosopher's stone whose possession may bring lasting

He would experiment incessantly,

repeatedly changing the of the orchestra, altering the elevation of the platform seating plan and the lighting arrangements, or abolishing the post of permanent orchestral leader and decreeing that all first violinists should peace.

286


AMERICA [1913-1914]

To

from coming late, lie might of comedy making the members of the orchestra, too, file in one by one during a Haydn symphony. In the vein of Biilow, he would give the upbeat to a piece the moment

lead in turn.

stop the public

stage a grotesque

he reached the steps leading to the rostrum. In turn, he became interested in the technique of the gramophone and radio, in exotic music and in

Buddhism. Among orchestral players he is one of the most feared conductors of his time. His slim, youthful figure and blond curls used to fascinate the female section of the public. As a conductor, his main concern is with the utmost technical precision. The violinists of his orchestra are, as individuals,

at it)

had

ample occasion to realize when teaching the Curtis Institute; but 'in the plural' (as Richard Wagner put they are, or were, in his hand, the most perfect instrument as I

average players,

imaginable.

was often marred by an ignorance started at the bottom of his profession. He learned his craft immediately on the platforms of big towns, unlike the great European conductors, most of whom spent their apprenticeship on the provincial boards. Stokowski is the most controversial conductor of the United States, if only because his experiments, innovations and threats of His approach to the

of

tradition, since

classics

he had not

resignation continually hold the public's attention. According to personal outlook, he is regarded as a genius or a shrewd talent, as all feeling

fractions

or

brain, as a great artist or a showman. All these reduced to a denominator if one wants

all

must be

common

of the problem of his character.

to find the solution

Stokowski

his individuality

is,

in

my

What

gives

mania for a

opinion, his

maximum of expression and effect in life as well as in art, his striving for the ne plus ultra, his perfectionism. His is a Promethean nature with egoistic motives. No other orchestra must sound like his,

climaxes must be of Himalayan

adumbrated

size;

the

whose expression the

still

poetry of an

listener

ought, as it were, to contribute) is unknown to him. He always reaches for the stratosphere. I once attended a rehearsal of the Tristan Prelude. feeling (to

The second theme,

in the 'cellos, did not

him; he gave

baton to the leader,

to

his

287

seem expressive enough went to the auditorium


CARL FLESCH and made them play the passage for half an hour, encouraging, He watched whether each praising and criticizing all the while. and more, until the forced his utmost player unrestrainedly gave he desired was achieved. This extracting of a lemon, has, indeed, always been a expression, as one squeezes who are often unfamiliar with the peculiarity of conductors, and powerful

effect

of matter, which, in any case, they do not have to should he exaggerate, will bestruggle with, whereas the violinist,

limitations

to scream. Nor are gin to scratch, the pianist to thump, the singer such excesses intended by the composer; they spring merely from

an attempt on the part of the conductor to make

his

Beethoven

The spectacles through impressive than his colleagues'. which he looks at a composer are frequently more important tc more

him than is the composer himself. One must have the unegoistical utterly artistic character

of a Toscanini to be

immune

to suet

moral infection. An artistic ideal which strives in the first place for the greatest possible effect will prove delusive in the long run; for the superlative is the highest degree only as long as one does not attempt to go yet higher.

To be sufficient unto mieux

oneself is true

wisdom for individuals and nations

*le

est

1'ennemi du

bien/ Stokowski, however blessed he

may be with

material and

,

will never be completely happy, since it is spiritual possessions, not^ in his nature ever to be satisfied. And yet I must confess that, after"

Toscanini and Furtwangler, he interests me most of all presentday conductors which only goes to prove that his personality is

powerful enough to draw even the resistant into its orbit. During the three months I then spent in the United States,

had

I

opportunity to hear anything novel or outstanding sq far as solo playing was concerned. In the public's little

judgment

was

at

was

overshadowed by Elman, whose impulsive tone the zenith of its brilliance. Ysaye, the ideal of days past, had

Kreisler

reached the

still

downward

ordinate themselves to

slope

where

artistic

intentions

must

sub-,

and attempts to cover bowing these up. Thibaud's habitual nervousness had so much increasecf through an affair of the heart in Europe that he decided, shortly after his arrival, to

defects

break off his tour and return to France.

recompensed by the

art

I

was

of Caruso, Destinn and Gulp. But

my

288


AMERICA [1913-1914] greatest

stimulation

I

had witnessed twenty

a

received

from Paderewski, whose debut

years before as a

member of

I

the Vienna

Conservatoire Orchestra. Here, once again, was proof of the of spirit over matter, of feeling over a partial lack of

supremacy

would have been grave enough in another to technique which subtle spell emanated from total result as inferior. the stamp

A

Paderewski's playing which made one gladly forget his technical insufficiencies and surrender to the hypnotic influence of this

powerful personality.

One day, I received an invitation from the Edison Gramophone Company to make five records for them. It was not the first time had come into contact with this budding branch of musical I had played for Odeon Records in industry. As early as 1905, Amsterdam some pieces on the Stroh violin, a cross between a silent violin and a trumpet which was then considered the most 1 efficient means of recording. In their day, Edison's machines were deemed the best of their kind. The discs were issued under the trade name of 'Diamond Records', and the steel needle was rethat I

t

by

placed

a minute diamond.

spend his leisure hours

The

great

perfecting this, his

Thomas Edison

liked to

most popular invention.

In spite of his deafness, whose effects he sought to mitigate by the use of appliances of his own making as complicated as they were

t

he was better able to register vibrations and interferences than people of normal hearing. I played for the company amongst other things Wilhelmf s well-known transcription of Schubert's Ave Maria. A few months later, at the beginning of the war, I was useless,

informed that this record was considered the best of all existing of the violin and was selling in great numbers, whereof

Recordings

some

dollar cheques, remitted before America's entry into the The world-shaking events of the pleasant evidence.

war, gave

following years

made me

quite forget

my

few wretched records

arrived a until one day in 1920 with my morning coffee less than no for enclosed letter from Edison with a cheque of about 10,000 gold marks, which still had the value

|5,ooo

^Invented

by

Charles Stroh in 1901; the

was replaced fiolin or 'cello) sbrved as amplifier.

by an aluminium

289

body of the instrument (whether a plate connecting with

horn that


CARL FLESCH as it was in view of the conditions was by no means an exceptional one for Germany, in 1913, had shown me his annual Elman, gramophone royalties. commission on the sale of his records in form of a 35,000 dolla^ received 175,000 cheque, while Kreisler, between 1924 and 1930,

marks. This sum, enormous prevailing in

1 dollars a year.

In spite of this auspicious beginning, my connections with the gramophone industry have never been very fortunate. True, I

have made

forty recordings for Edison, some of which the with best of their kind. But the firm itself was

close

on

could compete run according to entirely outmoded and unbusinesslike principles. 'The old man', convinced of the superiority of his products,

thought

it

even

undignified to advertise,

when

Victor and

Columbia began to surpass him in quality. Besides, the very diamond stylus that was Edison's pride was the greatest obstacle in the way of distributing the records, since they could only be played on the disproportionately expensive Edison set. His many an enormous income, and his patents, moreover, gave Edison was only a plaything, a hobby, and not a Gramophone Company milch cow. So the company quietly packed up after some years, and heaven alone knows what became of my records. In the meantime, I was past the age of fifty and had missed contact with thq

t

other great companies. Posterity, then, will hardly be able to playing from the few, often musically worthless discs judge

my

still be bought; in those days, one was compelled to play bad music. It is only recently that only significant works of music have begun to be recorded for an elite of music lovers. But until" then, the gramophone companies' only concern was with markets ing mass-produced articles, whose musical value was mostly nil.

that can

1

Flesch's figure seems to be indirectly corroborated by this passage from Louis P. Lochner's Fritz Kreisler (London, 1951, p. 269) 'The big financial returns came, :

however, not from

long works, but from his short, one-disc pieces. Authoritative figures on the sales of Kreisler records were unavailable, but a press item appeared to the effect that one year they exceeded those of Enrico Caruso, "whose royalties were $125,000 per annum." The reader may conjecture by analogy what the Kreisler records may have brought in in the course of years. When Fritz reached Rio de Janeiro on his 1935 Zeppelin trip, he was told again and again that his records were best sellers in South America.' Lochner does not give the date of the press item, but obviously the 'y ea r* to which it refers must have antedated the period indicated by Flesch: Caruso died in 1921. .

.

.

2pO


AMERICA [1913-1914]

The following experience was typical In 1925 I was engaged to make five double-sided discs for the Edison Company. The

choice of the ten pieces was to be Edison's own. see

him

at his laboratory at

wished to submit. could spite

I

Orange and

found an

to play

old, stone-deaf

I

was invited to

him

man

to

the pieces

whom

I

one

make

oneself understood only by a wearisome effort. In years, he had the clear, blue eyes of a child. I no fewer than sixteen small pieces which, his wish,

of his seventy

played

him

by were mostly chosen from the trash of the last century. His critical judgment was confined to two verdicts 'good seller' and 'no seller'. It was indicative of his taste that he declared TitTs Serenade to be the best of the

pieces, although I had included works by Bach and Handel. He could not bear octaves, since the scanty remains of his sense of hearing were so sensitive to interferences

that to

him even

the apparently purest octave did not seem to correspond exactly to the relationship of i :2. As a surprise, I subsequently played the Ave Maria without octaves for his private use; in return, he sent me his photo with the curious dedication 'Your last Ave Maria is fine'. Once, when the excellent pianist

Harold Bauer played

to

him, he stopped

his ears

and shouted in

a temper, 'I can't bear this !' Aghast, the pianist asked him the c reason for his displeasure, and Edison The notes

you

replied:

play are not sufficiently separated from each other. Whenever you strike a new key, you have not yet lifted the finger from the old one, so that the notes

merge into each

other.'

Now,

it is

a fact that

a perfect legato in the form of a mathematically exact, close succession of notes cannot be obtained on the but it needed

piano, peculiarity insufferable. For the rest, despite admiration for the great inventor, our two hours* meeting

h deaf man to find

my

confirmed direction

me

and

this

in the conviction that surpassing talent in one ignorance in another can well exist side by

total

side in the best-organized

mind.

Has the invention of the gramophone really saved the executant from swift oblivion? Will the disc enable the reproductive beyond his death, and transmit the unadulterated of his art to posterity? I do not believe it. The microimpress is too phone narrowly responsive to smoothness of tone and artist to live

C.F.-U


CARL FLESCH execution and far too insensitive to many of the higher values of to be able to transmit a true picture of an artistic

personality

tone which is best is a peculiar quality of performance. There a concert in hall, and vice versa. suitable for a recording but fails were unable to make satisfactory Joachim, Sarasate and Ysaye records although, in Ysaye's time, recording technique was already far

advanced.

The merits of their personalities were inaccessible to

mechanical reproduction. On the other hand, one often finds dance-baud fiddlers whose characteristics are enhanced by a recordOf well-known artists, Kreisler and Heifetz have recorded ing.

best;

5

even better 'canned

Szigeti sounds

than live; whereas in the

Elman, Busch, Thibaud and many others must be heard flesh in order to be properly appreciated.

of the purely educational value of the gramophone record? Can the conservation of an outstanding interpretation

And what

a beneficial influence, technically or spiritually, on the really exert I can hardly believe it. If I were of later

.performances to advise a pupil

generations?

who

is

studying, say, the Sibelius Concerto, to

exemplary recording, he would, as we know from experience, try above all to imitate the virtuoso's manner, and thus be in danger of nipping in the bud the development of his own personality, even if he succeeded in occasionally assimilatdevices of minor importance. Has the art of singing improved

listen to Heifetz's

ing

because of Caruso's records ? Of course during the last thirty years e in Caruso's voice has since become a the sob' not, even though

heavy gun in the technical equipment of the Italian or Italianizing tenor. The gold bar has been melted down to small change for 1 that's all you can daily use. 'How he hems and how he spits' learn from a record; the great interpretation, born of individual feeling,

My

must needs be immediate, spontaneous and unique. success in America grew from concert to concert, and

&

Jones wanted to engage me for a second tour in the following season. While I could not claim to have become a 'star', I had won great recognition, particularly with the real con-

Haensel

noisseurs, for

whom

is only a means to a higher rather rare type of musithe represented

the instrument

purpose. In their eyes,

I

^chiller, Wallensteins Lager.

292


AMERICA [1913-1914] cian with

whom virtuoso

display takes second place; an attitude to find increasing approbation with the growing musical understanding of the American public. Towards the York without any inkling that I would middle of April I left

which was bound

New

not return for ten years. Great was the joy of being reunited with my wife, who had gone back to our children a month before.

We

decided to spend" the summer by the sea at Zandvoort, starting the holiday as early as June. After the strenuous and exhausting

American interlude I doubly enjoyed my return to domesticity and the company of my dear friends, above all Rontgen and Tadema. By way of extended symposia, we underwent numerous drinking tests; we bathed daily in the wonderful North Sea, and altogether had a grand time. One morning, while still in bed, I read the news of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. My wife found me pale and disturbed as I envisaged the impending catasI trophe. When she anxiously asked what had happened, replied, World War/ die is to come But worse terrible. 'Something however, faded during the following weeks. Everybody's sense of responsibility was lulled by the dilettantish manner in which European diplomacy manipulated the fate of the

This

first

reaction,

world, until a dreadful awakening showed humanity the abyss to which it had been led by the frivolity and incompetence of its rulers.

ie

When, on July 31,

the town-crier of Zandvoort announced

general mobilization of the

irchaic

ceremony meant for

us

Dutch army, we knew

all

the end

ind the beginning of an era heavy with consequences.

293

that this

of happy, carefree years


THE

WAR

YEARS

Aged Forty

to

[1914-1918]

Forty-jive

O N August 4, Germany declared war on the allies, having crossed the Belgian border near Vise. that their

The Dutch were

own neutrality had not been violated,

greatly relieved

and proceeded to

It became the fashion on Sunday as spectators. regard themselves afternoons to make a trip to Maestricht and to watch the German

invasion of Belgium from a

hill

German With the

nearby; the

uniforms,

of and span, were generally admired. countless Belgian refugees, however, hostility towards Germany assumed serious proportions and it became dangerous to talk spick

German in public. The Germans have always regarded

the

Dutch

arrival

as

a sister

Middle Ages, there was hardly any between Middle High German and Dutch. Neverthe-

nation, chiefly because in the difference

invented the boche, the Dutch had long before the French coined the contemptuous expression MofffoT the Germans; they and fear them, but do not love them, for in the course of

less,

,

respect

the centuries the their languages

two

and

nations have

peculiarities sufficiently.

perpetual

fear

grown too

their social habits to

far apart in

both

understand each other's

On the Dutch side there is, moreover, the

of German invasion.

During the first weeks of the war, many well-to-do Americans were stranded in Europe for want of funds, as travellers' cheques

were not cashed in the initial panic, and the poor the main

on the charity of friends

rich

depended in

Frank Damrosch, for example,

on ours. Today it seems amusing that we were prepared to place no more than 150 guilders1 at the disposal of this enormously rich man: our funds, too, were at low-water mark, for our money was in

Germany and could not,

We

for the time being,

be negotiated.

decided to stay in Holland, to wait and see: financial

lA-bout

20.

294

j


THE WAR YEARS [1914-1918] had advised

us that the

war

could not possibly last longer weeks. Alexander than Schmuller, who was supposed to teach at the Amsterdam Conservatoire from September i, had been interned in Germany as a Russian subject, and force majeu\r experts

six

threatened to break his contract. In order to prevent this happening, I declared myself prepared to deputize for him till his release

which, in

With

fact,

my

ensued

nerves

few weeks later. edge, I had found

a

on

the

last

weeks

at the sea-

mornings I used to escape to Amsterdam in order to hear the latest news from the front at the earliest possible moment. Unable to do any kind of work, I surrendered to a life of side unbearable. In the

which wore

idleness

me down

balance. I even started to

smoke

and endangered

my

mental

I had previously tried in similar emergencies. When, towards the middle of September, I went to Berlin by way of reconnaissance, I discovered that the Germans were un-

a pipe, a diversion

aware of the fundamental deterioration the situation had suffered during the few days preceding. I was compelled to realize that it

would be

in

my interest to transfer my residence to neutral terri-

tory for the duration of the war, if only in order to secure the property of my wife. This egotistic consideration, however, conflicted

with

my

Germany, and I decided to take my soon as possible. All my subsequent date from this moment, all the difficulties and

loyalty to

family back to Berlin financial vicissitudes

as

which I could so easily have avoided if, like many others, could have brought myself to think of my future without regard

setbacks I

for

Germany's fate.

When we

returned to Berlin in early October, our friends us joyfully: they had already believed us lost to GerContrary to the fears that had been expressed during the

welcomed

many. weeks of the war, musical life had not only returned to normal but by way of spiritual compensation, as it were intensification. The Red Cross actually seemed in the process of nd charities of all kinds, including concerts for the wounded and soldiers on leave, made considerable demands on the artists'

first

they, powers but in this way the latter could have the feeling too, were contributing to the success of the total war effort. that

;

295


CARL FLESCH been brought to Hungarian subject, I had been

American concert tour had, of

My

course,

a naught, despite the fact that as for offered safe-conduct my journey to the States. live for an indefinite period in

what had

I felt

unable to

swiftly become

a strongly

I burned easy heart, then, Haensel tried to persuade me

Germanophobe atmosphere. With an

my

last boat,

otherwise,

I

and although Mr my American contract

redeemed

at a considerable

financial sacrifice. It

was the

'cellist

Hugo Becker who, from

the

war, took Gerardy's place in our trio. Musically the latter, he lent a unity to our ensemble which lacked.

As could be gathered from

first

year of the

far superior to it

had hitherto

his exterior alone,

Hugo

Becker was the product of an unusual racial mixture. One of his had been an Arab and, according to a rumour, great-grandfathers

body-Mameluke (Mameluke

in ordinary) to

Napoleon

I.

In any

his bronze skin and lean case, Becker's fine-cut, energetic features, as it were, without a bedouin's figure which was incomplete, a of oriental blood. His father, Jean dash to to seemed cloak, point

Becker,

who came from an old Alsatian family, was the founder of

the Florentine String Quartet; tradition has it that this was the first for the four parts, in contradistincquartet to aim at equal rights tion to the previous practice of having the first violin dominate to which the Joachim Quartet still subscribed. the other parts,

all his life. Economicof two magnificent owner ally independent had managed to he south estates in northern Italy and Tyrol, multiply his property, thanks to his friendship with the GermanBritish banker, Edgar Speyer. Artistically, he had the reputation of being the most outstanding 'cellist of his age, until Casals dethroned him and his competitors. He took the consequences in

Hugo

seems to have been fortune's minion

through his marriage,

he abruptly cut short his career as a soloist. For a further fifteen years, however, he remained active as a chamber musician, first as quartet player with 1908 under the pretext of a heart :

Marteau, then in our

trio.

At

disease,

the outbreak

of the war,

his

pro-

perty, deposited in England, was sequestrated a bitter blow for a spoilt favourite of fortune at the age of fifty-four. He now had to

take

good

care of himself financially,

296

and on our

recital tours

you


THE

WAR YEARS

[1914-1918]

him alight from the train laboriously with a rucksack even accommodated his dress-coat), and with his "cello in (which would

see

bag of oil-cloth, simply to save the porter. After the war, however, his friend Speyer, the banker, gave him a good before piece of advice: 'Weren't you born at a light

1870?

Strasbourg

According to the Treaty of Versailles you are to be considered as of French nationality and are therefore entitled to demand that the sequestration of your property be cancelled.' In due course, Becker was again in possession of his million marks in gold, though the Germans looked askance at this change of nationality on the part of a German super-nationalist. In 1929, at the of age

seventy, he left the Hochschule and eventually lived in retirement at the Starnberger Lake.

Hugo Becker was one of those their

prime

at the

age of forty, but

artists

I

who

reach or even pass

can well imagine

that, in his

he was justly regarded as the most versatile 'cellist of time. In order to be considered 'the greatest' too he would have

earlier years,

his

had to

possess that beautiful tone per se which, even at that early stage, Josef Hollmann and, later, Gerardy were able to produce to a high degree of perfection. His own tone was always somewhat

5

dry, while his vibrato was inert and did not grow spontaneously from his inner life; he depended on his inspiration for his ability to get the tonal reflection of his feelings across to the listener. But his

musicality surpassed that of all other 'cellists of the pre-Casals period. He was a born chamber musician, an ingenious teacher with the widest possible knowledge, and the first interpreter of Strauss'

|eertos

Don

Quixote and 'Cello Sonata as well as of the

of Dohnanyi and

Con-

D Albert. He was, however, far more of J

chamber musician than a soloist. After all, sheer sound and tone do not by themselves play such a supreme role in chamber

a

music his

performance; in fact, the 'cellist revelling in schwelgende* Cellist] can be rather a nuisance in an

as in solo

tone

'

(der

ensemble.

As opposed to Schnabel, Becker was of the opinion that the quality of performance depended above all on that of the technical

pe

When a player described an as an 'inner necessity', Becker or Arbitrary illogical interpretation

fresources at the performers' disposal.

297


CARL FLESCH 'You play it like this, not because you want feel it like that, but to, but because you have to; not because you correct the for means technical the way to play because you lack he thought what about it/ But he would not have any argument and obstinate the correct way. In this respect he was unbending, knew one He way of interpretation and

would remark

drily:

logical only mechanics only one kind of performing

pedantic.

his own. Of a tyrannical in every respect from submission slavish demanded he disposition, to teaching, his devoted his pupils. Although, he was passionately student advanced most feared rather than loved him. The

pupils

was forced to

start

from

scratch

and

alter his

bowing, even

when

the audible result of his technique was sufficiently satisfactory to there are very few make unnecessary. In consequence,

changes Becker pupils teacher. This

is

as a unreservedly acknowledge his qualities himself to to how for had he known adjust

who

a pity,

his pupils instead

of applying

ledge, ability, intelligence an exemplary teacher.

Stimulated by

his

knowwould have made him

Procrustean methods, his

and musicality

my Art of Violin Playing he published, eight years

later, a similar if less

extensive treatise for his

own instrument.

For

of a physiologist, whose

secured the services purpose, he had it was to give an exposition, scientifically well-founded, of, the technique of movement, while practical application of the

this

task

Becker himself. This bi-partite technique was explained by for the average instruapproach, however, proved unpractical, with mentalist cannot be bothered theory unless it is immediately connected with practical examples. Becker had hoped to revolutionize 'cello playing with his publication, to introduce a new era,j but in the event, the book was almost unanimously rejected by the profession. this

The sales,

ambitious and

too,

were negligible a bitter experience for man. Practical philosopher that

self-confident

he was, however, he soon succeeded in overcoming the

dis-

appointment.

him. myself always got on very well with to much thus had and deal a great experienced I

He had tell:

seen and

he had been

of our musical life from actively involved in the development with artists of four music had made and Wagner to Hindemith, 298


THE generations.

WAR

He combined

YEARS [1914-1918] a passionate nature with a

shrewd

opportunism.

The way in which practising musicians survived the war merits some comment. Unlike France, Germany spared her own musicians as far as possible during the war; they were but rarely sent to all the front. the musicians professions, probably showed the smallest percentage of casualties, since most of them wintered in

Of

bomb-proof shelters. The gifted and promising Rudi Stephan, who fell on the battlefield, was perhaps the only exception amongst well-known musicians. At the Berlin General Staff, there was a cartographical department headed by LieutenantColonel Joachim, JosefJoachim's

eldest son, where not only many but also a few musicians were working in peaceful painters, quite retirement, and thus saved from dying a hero's death. During the

war there was no end to the terms of abuse showered upon these 'home warriors, shirkers, skulkers, and clerical swines'. When the war was over, however, it appeared that Germany's policy had been justified, for alone amongst all belligerent nations, she found that her store of artists had scarcely suffered. In contrast to other professions, however, there were hardly artists. But in the neutral countries

any war profiteers amongst the there was a tendency, partly

patriotic

and partly

practical, to

before belligerent nationals. Zimmermann and Schmuller were thus able to stage a cheap, mass-produced series of violin concerts at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw for

favour native

artists

months every Sunday afternoon, bombarding each other with major and minor violin works, inadequately prepared, the sole being the audiences. This exception, however, only the rule that during the war musical production of every proved kind was engaged in dangerous rearguard actions. sufferers

I

know of only two artists who owed their careers to the battle

of the nations Erno (Ernst von) Dohnanyi and Ignacy Friedman. Like Enesco, Dohiianyi is versatile to a degree that places him in the category of universal musicians. He is equally outstandas a composer, pianist and conductor. The basic feature of his talent is his eminently natural and artless power of expression, which is coupled with a spontaneous technical facility. As a

ing

299


CARL FLESCH and

to be consciously retrogressive, composer, he has the courage his musical inventiveness he dares to and convictions of his dint by

atonal movement. He is perhaps can afford to do so, because his who the only musician of standing offer opposition to the

and his

gifts

abilities

modern

show such

and well-balanced

a harmonious

sound original rather than imitative development that his works in spite of their 'datedness'. This Mozartian element of having 1 without labour, is 'dropped from the sky', of achievement evident in his piano playing too, whose spontaneity has an immediate effect upon the listener. At the same time, there is a danger in

kind of talent: as years go by, the 'natural player' may develop 2 into a 'natural swimmer*, if the waning unconcern of youth is not

this

replaced into

takes the physical changes of aging the best musicians amongst conductors,

which

a training

by

account One of

him Dohnanyi commands an admirable eclectic skill which grants in tune the luxury of performing works that are not obviously with

his

He

own musical

really

owes

Bartok's or Kodaly's. personality, e.g.

his great career to the chauvenistic attitude of Professor at the Berlin Conservatoire

the Hungarian government. before the war, he had, as a civil servant, citizen according to Prussian law, without,

nationality. In 1915,

Hungarian

become

a

German

however, losing

when he went

his

to Budapest in

order to give a few concerts, the Hungarian government refused him permission to return to Germany because, as a Hungarian subject,

he was

the unofficial reason

liable to military service

they wanted to secure

being, perhaps, that artist's services for Hungary's cultural

life.

this distinguished

Thus, Dohnanyi was

and presently became

so popular by he had to appear almost daily as a pianist or conductor. For about six years, in fact, he held an unlimited and uncontested musical monopoly. Under the Bolshevist regime, he was appoin-

'discovered'

his fatherland

that

Vom-Himmel-GefaUenen' Flesch alludes to two German proverbs, fallt vom Himmer and 'Es 1st noch kein Gelehrter vom Hirnmel gefallen' literally, 'No master (or scholar) ever drops from the sky*. The approximate English equivalent is, 'There is no royal road to mastery (or learn14

des

:

'Kein Meister

ing).'

A pun on

2

a professional colloquialism : in

ming' denotes the kind of playing which, by technical insufficiencies.

300

German musical

skilful

parlance,

'swim-

musical means, covers up

its


THE

WAR

YEARS [1914-1918]

ted Director of the Budapest fugitive Jeno insurrection,

Academy of Music

in place

of the

1

Hubay. Upon the suppression of the Bolshevist he fell into disgrace with the 'Whites' and was

by Hubay who, thenceforth, did everything in his worry the life out of him. It was only when he was that he resumed his former leading position. In view of

again replaced

power

to

fifty-five

both

integrity and his personal charm, Dohnanyi may be counted altogether amongst the most prepossessing figures in our profession. his artistic

Friedman

Ignacy [1882-1948] belonged to the glorious band of those Leschetizky pupils who dominated the field of piano playing for an entire generation. The importance of Leschetizky's teaching can be gauged by the fact that he left his intact pupils' personalities

an achievement which

personally consider the final object of education. Friedman, too, was in a class by himself; of Slav-

all

I

Jewish descent, he was an elegant man of the world, with a wonderful wrist in both his art and life. He was a natural talent of considerable stature, interested in the excellence of his attainments

both for the sake of his inner,

artistic satisfaction

the gratifying practical consequences that

would

and in view of

ensue.

At

times,

however, he was not above subordinating the composer's intentions to his own views of the work in question. But although I did not always agree with him in matters musical, as a human being he was almost closest to me amongst all my professional colleagues, for his kindness, his ungrudging nature and readiness to help, his human and artistic epicureanism towered above the cerebral ways of many an accomplished apostle of utilitarianism.

"With Friedman, the human being came first, the artist afterwards an attitude of which only few amongst our professional colleagues may boast. His career during the war resembled

Dohnanyi's: he managed to survive the dangerous years in the snug nest of Danish hospitality, and exercised his own musical

hegemony at Copenhagen, where he gave dozens of piano recitals every year. After the war, however, Denmark became too narrow a field

of

artistic activity for

him, and he resumed

Who had become violin professor there as early as 1886,

1-

sight,

his

roving

life.

at the age of twentyhaving already held a previous professorship at Brussels from 1881.

301


CARL FLESCH

As for myself, I have to admit that I had no particular predilection for a hero's death either. Prepared to do duty without

my

undue pushing, I went through four medical examinations but, owing to my extreme shortsightedness, never passed muster. Gradually, however, my inactivity in face of world-shattering events unnerved me to such an extent that, by 1916, 1 felt I had to be active in some way or other for the general welfare, if merely as a polyglot interpreter. But at that stage, only men who were fit for military service were wanted, and so I had to content myself with frequent performances in aid of the Red Cross and for soldiers wounded or on leave. Only once it seemed as if I had been chosen to exert a decisive influence upon the course of events. Daniel Josephus Jitta, an uncle of my wife's, was one of the most outstanding Dutch lawyers of his time. A member of the Council of State, he was a specialist in the field of international civil law. At the Congress of the International Law Association which was held at Madrid in 1913, it was decided that the next meeting should take place at The Hague in August, 1914, and that the Peace Palace should be inaugurated upon this occasion. For this year, Jitta had been elected President of the Association. International collaboration came, of course, to naught in 1914, but he automatically remained President all the same. About 1917, friend and foe grew weary of the war, and the

whole world yearned

for peace.

in the

met on

The

diplomatic ballon d'essai was

neutral ground, but

nobody dared towards It was reconciliation. step generally thought that if one succeeded in gathering together distinguished the

air,

negotiators

first

representa-

of all belligerent nations, and offered them an opportunity to speak their minds, the first step towards an amicable arrangement exert an might well be achieved, and the various peoples tives

enormous pressure upon their put an end to the massacre.

respective

might governments in order to

My plan was conceived in view of this state of affairs. I intended to persuade our uncle to convoke, in his capacity as its President, a of the International Law Association at The

meeting

which Britons and Frenchmen

Hague, at resume wanted to

could, for the first time,

contact with the Germans. In the

first

302

place,

however,

I


THE notify Dr

WAR YEARS

[1914-1918]

German envoy

at The intenHague, of to me his opinion on the matter. For this tions, asking give purpose, I composed a little memorandum and submitted it to the

Rosen, the

my

him

envoy through

his attache,

Roland Koster,

become the German ambassador

in Paris.

I

who later was to was informed that

while the envoy approved of my plan, he himself wished to remain in the background, but that I could always confer with Koster.

Now the attack on the good uncle could be launched. On one of our usual walks in the small wood near The Hague, I impressed him that he be destined to become one of the greatest upon might benefactors of crucified humanity if he took the initiative in sum-

moning the most distinguished lawyers amongst the belligerents to which he was, after all, entitled as acting President of the Association. Visibly moved, he followed the a

meeting

a step to

exposition of

my plan. Some time later he gave me his

decision:

If I were merely a private individual, I should gladly take up your suggestion. But since I am also a member of the Council of State presided over

by the Queen, I belong, as it were, to the government and could only play a mediatorial role at the Foreign Minis-

request a role which, for the moment, I do not deem desirable/ Despite ill success, however, I did not throw ter's

my

yet up the game, but decided to secure the co-operation of his wife. Aunt Caroline was a simple and thoroughly kind-hearted creature to

whom it seemed quite clear what a blessing the success of our plot would be

whole world. She was in fact able to overcome her husband's resistance: a few months later, when I was again in Holland, Uncle Daniel informed me that he had performing sounded various English colleagues on the matter, Lord Parmoor among them; their consultation with the British government, however, had resulted in a negative reply because, meanwhile, America's entry into the war had, of course, considerably increased the chances of the Allies. Thus ended a beautiful dream, ^nd I have never again acted as an amateur diplomat. for the

In 1917, however, an Austrian commissioner of police tried to enlist me in the Austrian espionage service in Sweden. I objected that the technique

of this profession was quite unknown to me, 303


CARL FLESCKC wasn't

as difficult as all that: all I

whereupon he explained that Hotel des Anglais, had to do was to put up at the Stockholm established had nations all of fourth floor, where the spies ^their conditions internal the about to try and get news and headquarters, Since I did not in Russia (this was shortly before the revolution). to test my abilities as an at the hotel, I had no opportunity it

stay

upon my return, bitterly disappointed my employer. for the rest, of a My feelings towards the belligerents were, mother whose tongue subject discordant nature. As a

emissary and,

Hungarian

was German, I had, of course, Germany's victory hate the other hand I could not summon up any in fact,

owing

to

my

French education and

at heart,

but on^

against France;

my German

senti-

My

nations. stood right in the middle between the two of the continuation policy of Charlecredo was the political 1 a for and Napoleon, the desire genuine and unconditional

ments,

I

magne

two great Separated a monstrous misunderstanding, they are destined to

collaboration between the centuries

form It is

by

.

for

nations.

each other peacefully. complement and penetrate them that love but spurned apart. I consider keeps rare still example of a convinced and, alas, very

a unity, to

not hate,

myself a perfect German-Frenchman. During the war,

I

in always refused to play

because the importation of German artists^ occupied territory, a few years into enemy country was, I felt, just as provocative as, in Orchestra Conservatoire Paris the of occupied concerts later, the

Mainz.

The summer of 1915 we Lake,

whence

Partenkirchen.

acquainted

me

we

spent at Tutzing

often took a

weekend

on the Starnberger trip

to

Garmisch-

was there that the pianist Gottfried Galston* with the technique of mountaineering. Towards It

as it were, accomplished my masterpiece with I climbed which Little Waxenstein, conquering the notorious of Artur Schnabel and two guides. In spite my forty-two years, I

the end of summer,

I

withstood the exertions of what

is

perhaps the most fascinating

my

health. detrimental effect upon sport without It was in Garmisch, too, that I made the acquaintance of the Rosenheim family, whose Berlin home was a musical centre for *Karl der Grosse ('Charles the Great'), 768-814.

304


THE WAR YEARS [1914-1918] Sunday evening from six to eleven, it 'offered, by turns, good food and sometimes even better musicmaking. There hardly was an artist at that time whose name was not to be found in the Rosenheims' musical album-cum-diary of 1 programmes. Here was chamber music at its finest, string and piano music of every kind, whereas solo performances were or so: every thirty years

the exceptions.

among

were Artur Schnabel, later

The

on, myself.

The

pillars

of

this

musical

community

the violinist Wittenberg and, extremely kind-hearted and beneficent

his wife,

who

reached the age of eighty-six, played the part of a in particular, her final handshake was greatly appregood fairy;

'hostess

by various young artists, since its central purpose was the salon must "negotiation of a twenty-mark piece. The Rosenheim ciated

have been the

last

remnant of the golden age of Hausmusik in

.Berlin.

in

The summer months of the last two years of the war we spent The Hague. With the increasing scarcity of food in Germany it

was important to let the children have at least a few months' I myself adequate and healthy nourishment. At the same time, "felt the need for recreation, for diversion from the gnawing worries about the outcome of the war.

The wife of Dr Rosen, the

excellent pianist, a granddaughter of Moscheles. Together, we gave a recital at the German legalgnaz for German children, in the tion in aid of the

^German envoy, was an f

^presence of various |e.g.

holiday camps German naval officers interned in Holland,

the Emden, the young Captain MuUer, the commander of

and many

Tirpitz,

^ We

others.

attended the stayed near Scheveningen and regularly concerts there, which were then directed by the French

symphony

conductor Rene-Btton. He dared to make music with me, an which at that time would still be considered "fenemy alien an act da

mortal sin in France.

The

foreign holiday-makers

were mainly

*A free translation of Flesch's Hausmusik (domestic music and music-making, for which there is no English term; opposed to music for public performance), American dictionaries list and define the German word. Technically speaking, my translation is really incorrect, for not by the widest stretch of the term 'chamber the ;foiusic' could it come to include vocal music. In the present context, however, Js

'chamber'

is

the point.

305


CARL FLESCH spies

and

whom neutral

of all nations, with a few artists among them, had offered an opportunity to breathe Thus I made the acquaintance of the pianist, Vera

deserters

their profession air.

Schapira, and her husband, Richard Specht. Vera Schapira was one of the most curious artistic types I ever met. Here was an outward talent of the highest calibre which

stood in an unnatural contrast to her morbid character. It was said that owing to her kleptomania she had once come into conflict

with the

police,

and

that Specht

had married her in order

tc

rehabilitate her.

She was an unequalled interpreter of virtuoso music of the cold brilliant, glittering kind.

While

she

was

able to offer exhaustive

Concerto or Strauss' Burlesque for* renderings of Liszt's Eb major was she and orchestra, capable of this kind of remark before piano '

playing Beethoven's

G

major Concerto: 'Mark

this

passage,

v

where I shall employ an upward glance which will exactly correspond to the modulation and will therefore increase the effect tenfold/ At the same time, hers was a typically Viennese esprit, sparkling and cynical.

eighteen years later, coming to an end.

A lovable adventuress, when

she rightly

felt

she poisoned herself that her career

wa?

Her husband was a grandchild of Vienna's golden age of the. whose unequalled classics were Hanslick, Kalbeck, feuilleton, few exceptions, their gifted sucand Speidl; with very Spitzer cessors indulged in verbal pyrotechnics for their

the most of

effective phrases

and exotic

own sake, making*

adjectives.

But

it

cannot

be gainsaid that Specht belonged to a higher class of his epigonic kind than most, for he evinced a thorough musical education, and*:

was very well informed about contemporary music owing to his personal acquaintance with such musicians as Mahler, Johann Strauss and Richard Strauss. In the long run, however, no talent?* can

resist

the paralysing influence of the Viennese cafes'

all

too

1

world

until

4

'A Viennese won't be anything in the^ he leaves Vienna

comfortable atmosphere In reply to

!'

my

question whether he had yet been to see the

x<

Aber der erschlafTenden Gemiitlichkeit der Wiener KafTeenausatmosphare^ kann kein Talent auf die Dauer widerstehen.*

306


THE

WAR

YEARS [1914-1918]

Specht said quite candidly: 'How could I possibly? I always have to take Vera's dog for a walk.' Utterly docile, he was the hen-pecked husband par excellence, dazzled by her vivid personality. Shortly afterwards,

famous

their

art collection at the Mauritshuis,

marriage was dissolved.

A culinary inspiration for

one's concert tours abroad

was the

chance of smuggling foodstuff into Germany. Argus-eyed allied were posted at the neutral frontiers, lest a bar of representatives chocolate might reach

German

territory.

of my double violin case served abled

me

The

well in

loose leather cover

this situation: it

en-

me to import chocolate by the kilogram.

new year of 1918 had arrived, but the of the gravity of the situation. At to admit refused Germans a dinner party in 1917, I had aroused general indignation when In the meantime, the

I

an early armistice, shyly ventured to suggest that in the interest of to for advisable Germany agree to a minor terrimight prove

it

torial sacrifice in Alsace. In 1918,

for such a step.

The American

however,

it

was already too

contribution

grew

ever

late

more

big spring offensive failed; Foch began his counterthrust; and Germany was finally driven into the defensive. Thus effective; the

the fated

month of September approached. Ludendorff

lost his

head, advised peace, and immediately revoked his opinion. home front was in despair.

In early Aeries

7

November, Schnabel, Becker and myself had

of trio

and sonata

recitals in the

Rhineland.

The

to give a

On November

we played at Bonn. Back at our hotel after the recital, we heard

rumours about

a revolt in

Cologne:

sailors

from Kiel were said to

of mental adjustment to Jiave proclaimed the republic. By way the desperate situation, there was, at that time, a general atmos1 decided to seize this opportuphere of Galgenhumor, and we, too, to watch a revolution a kind of event which we only knew

nity

from history books. Next morning at Cologne station, however, we saw how the common sailors tore down the shoulder-straps from the officers' uniforms, and we grew conscious of the gravity

We

decided to Evaporate' as speedily as possible; Becker the on any case, railway services were gradually stopping. 1 merriment. Lit. 'gallows-humour', i.e. grim humour and reckless

of the

situation.

C.F.-X

307


CAUL FLESCS

'^s-i"-

-'

we

L gp emoze A

ttain

a five

t

not morning in order

tc

,

nss

our demobilized ssoldier in to him: four weeks, had not come as a surprise collapse to the front, and of i

troops had tad to direct a transport bolted. had men the three-quarters of Re :~n-l to igned to The Gottingen recital, too, went according plan. the future to wait and see what sad thmgs tbekftte people seemed from Gassel, w, witnes.ecl for them. Travelling back e

m

?in

i

an incident which

;

.

,

at a later

to assume symbolic sigmstage came


THE

WAR YEARS

[1914-1918]

The communistic tide which had risen overnight and threatened to destroy Germany had created the impression of amongst holders of fourth-class railway tickets that the concept a classless society might profitably be applied to railway classes

ficance for us.

Three such 'revolutionaries' appeared in our second-class that compartment and proceeded to explain to the conductor too.

were no longer any 'class distinctions'. The conductor, however, was a Prussian of the traditional kind, for whom railway were eternal and revolutions transient; he would not regulations be intimidated and actually succeeded, with a few vigorous words, there

in getting the men back to their fourth class, 'Notwithstanding all rhetoric and big words', I remarked to Schnabel, 'this nation is

the German's need is to constitutionally incapable of revolutions: belief in authority is inobey; he loves to be ordered about. His eradicable/

October 9, 1918, I had completed my forty-fifth year. A dark and gloomy future lay before all of us who had remained faithful to Germany during these last years. Thanks to my healthy constitution, however, I felt sufficiently young to be able to hope

On

Tor better days. After a troublesome journey, Schnabel and and faced the future with calm resignation.

309

I

returned home,


THE POST-WAR YEARS Aged Forty-six

to

[1918-1923]

Fifty

THE long-feared catastrophe, then, had happened: Germany had was disbanding. The war, the Kaiser had fled, and the army called Spartasocialists had come into power; the communists,

lost the

contested their victory.

cists,

The

trial

of strength took place in

round the the revolution of 1919. Despite the bullets that whistled to with, in all demonstrations against corners, I begin

participated,

the Spartacists, though I took to my heels when I became scared or less life. After a few weeks, with the help of more for

my

the revolt was crushed. regular troops, The seductive influence of Bolshevist theories excitable

mind

is

easily

a separate story, as instructive as

it is

view of the subsequent political sloughings of various concerned. Schnabel's excursion into extreme leftism ended*

delicate artists

artist's

upon the

ia

somewhat abruptly with his ascent to the sphere of the 'stars'. The 1 was infected with the Spartacist^" composer von Reznicek, too, that time, he had just heard me play the 'Hungarian At epidemic. and, strongly impressed, had decided to Concerto of 9

Joachim

write a violin concerto for me. 'Mind you, something popular^ accessible to the multitude, as he put it. I easily comprehensible,

was

attracted

for a chat

by his noble personality and he,

between working hours.

and amused perplexed mother's

side,

latest rulers

too, liked to

On these occasions, I was bothi

to note that this aristocrat

descended from Prince

before Carol

I,

drop in

Stirbei,

who, on

his

one of Rumania's

turned out to be a radical anarchisf

destruction of existing conditions regarded the out-and-out as the sine qua non of a future and better world. He was completely

who

impoverished,

and

his

wife earned their livelihood

by giving

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek [1860-1945] was an Austrian conductor and^ composer with a great deal of stage experience. He wrote, amongst other things, 1

ten operas, Diejungfrau von Orleans (after Schiller) and Holofemes (after Judith)

among them. 310

HebbeM


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923] bridge lessons; in his desperate situation, the annihilation of the existing social order seemed to him the only possible solution, Russia serving as a shining example. In contrast to these confused dreams of the future, his Violin Concerto proved to be a reactionary salon piece, intentionally shallow, and showing a confounded

resemblance to de Beriot's students' concertos. As hehadaskedme of my unreserved opinion, I gave him a candid

for

description the crushing impression his work had made on me. He seemed to share view, for he committed the manuscript to the flames. 1 While the post-war years were not a favourable for the

my

development of

ideal values,

it

was perhaps

reaction to the anti-artistic state of affairs that

period unconscious

my

prompted

two important

steps

Violin Playing,

and the foundation of the Hilfsbundfilr

the decision to write a

me

work on The Art

to

of

deutsche

Musikpflege (an association to help German musicians). In 1919, 1 had frequent opportunities to meet Max Dessoir, the vriter on aesthetics, and to talk with him about of

problems

idolin

technique.

)f some

He seemed impressed by the novelty and daring

of views, and thought it would assuredly be important or the great community of violinists if I ordered thoughts and loted them down with a view to them at a later stage, publishing replied that I had no idea of the technique of writing, whereipon he suggested that I should make a beginning by jotting down ny ideas as they came to me, and leave their systematic arrangenent until later. It was at Schierke in the Hartz on a sunny summer

my

my

norning in 1919 that, strictly according to instructions, I bought nyself a copy-book, walked into the wood, duly sat down on the ;tump of a tree and patiently awaited the onflow of inspiration. Anon, however, I had to realize that this unsystematic and primitive way of writing books was of no avail, at any rate for

time-honoured text-book method of developan initial string of cues into a ing general outline remained the best. myself, arid that the

Once defined, my route directed my ideas and prevented me from digressing, and presently I was able to show Dessoir a general preface wherein I

expounded

my

syllabus.

^e may have had another copy, for a Violin Concerto of von Reznicek's exists in print.

311


CARL FLESCH Dessoir was an inestimable adviser. So far as the actual sub-

book was concerned,

stance of the

to be sure,

he was more of a

recipient, but for the arrangement of the subject matter and the exclusion of inessentials, his wide and profound experience proved

of extraordinary value. Fanatical purist that he was, he

removed every foreign word from

my

pitilessly

manuscript for which a

German equivalent could be found, thus making me appreciate the importance of preserving the purity of the German language. style attracted him from the outset. Ready cliches and stale

My

were indeed odious to me, and since I had something to found the form in which to cast my thoughts. Dessoir's was the opposite of a one-track-mind. A doctor of medicine and philosophy, well versed in all the arts, he was a polyglot student of aesthetics, a Germanic scholar, musician and violinist, a highly finished stylist and conversationalist with just an

phrases

say, I easily

who further occupied himself, by way with unmasking spiritualist mediums. He was a noble and kind-hearted man of great integrity. His movements and gestures were not altogether free from a kind of stiff pedantry atavistic

of

dash of histrionics,

a side-line,

;

indeed, he

not have been to everyone's

many, he seemed a somewhat precious and effeminate eccentric, and among his closer professional colleagues he had the reputation of a Jack1 and Once a-dandy Jack-of-all-trades. you put up with some of his superficial whims, however, you discovered a wise and wideawake man of the world, a comrade whom you could trust and whose companionship was as instructive as it was enjoyable. My

own

career

may

he influenced decisively

taste: to

as accoucheur

of The Art of

Violin Playing.

The Hilfsbund filr deutsche Musikpflege, on the other hand, owed its birth to a more accidental inspiration. With the progressive devaluation of the German mark, the material lot of the musical profession had noticeably deteriorated, for musicians' salaries had not risen in proportion to the cost of living. As early as 1917, it will be remembered, I had given, together with the wife of Dr Rosen, the German envoy at The Hague, a charity concert in aid of German which had holiday camps, yielded the approxi1

The German

phrase,

Hans

in alien Gassen, rolls these

312

two Jacks

into one.


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923] net proceeds of 5,000 guilders. Now, in the winter of 1920, the recital with her, it vhen partner invited me to repeat truck me that the impoverished German musicians might profit tiate

my

and

so

hould go

to

>y

it,

agreed on condition that half of the net proceeds needy colleagues. 2,200 guilders fell to my share,

I

the thereupon I invited to a meeting Professor Georg Schumann, of the editor lirector of the Singakademie, Paul Schwers, the illgemeine

Musikzeitung,

Kestenberg,

musical

adviser

to

the

Felix Deutsch, the General Manager of the vlinistry of Education, 1 \.E.G. Union, and a certain Dr Richard Stern, a reputed adminisfound an rator, and informed these gentlemen that I intended to distress purpose of alleviating the growing the was prepared to offer necessary imongst musicians, and that I

issociation for the

>asic capital.

In due course, the association was officially registered, zealous members' contributions, lotteries, and

my

ind donations,

America

steadily increased its resources. Eventually, subsidized to be by the government itself so that, during

reflections in

t came he first twelve years, we were able to distribute several hundred 2 ;housand marks in gold among impoverished musicians, and ;hus to save many literally from starvation. In the course of time, iie committee expanded and came to include, amongst other 3 and Geheimrat4 Hinrichsen of Dersonages, Georg Schxinemann

the music publishers. When, in 1933, the anti-Semitic laws :ame into force, I, the founder of the association, was not rejected to the board and was disposed of by way of a conventional of 'the interest I had shown' in the venture. Peters,

My acknowledgment since I :ase was perhaps of more than the usual charming irony, kad happened to be the only musician in Germany and a the bargain who had helped his less fortunate foreigner into at that critical stage with deeds rather than German colleagues

with euphonious words. At the time of the Spartacist revolt and its after-effects, had become a somewhat uncomfortable country to live

Germany in. I

did not believe in the

The German

x

bloom of proletarian

equivalent of, say, s,o Q Q 100,000 marks equalled See p. 315 f., text and note. 4 Privy Counsellor (even literally 2

*The General

m 8ld. so).

313

Electric*.

art; it

seemed to


CARL FLESCH me, on the contrary, that centuries of a musical culture which had been kept alive by surpassing talents were about to succumb to a to a levelling-down process that would do for rage

equalization,

when I away with anything disturbingly outstanding. Therefore, intended to Music of learnt in 1919 that the Vienna Academy which had entrust to me the master class for violinists a position Otakar Sevcik's remigration to Czechoslovakia, I was attracted by the I initially left off, i.e. of estabhad Bohm idea of continuing where Joseph school of international significance in Vienna after lishing a violin and of redirecting to the conof about

been vacant

since

felt

inclined to accept the task.

stagnation, seventy years cert hall all the valuable talent which, for decades,

devoted

itself to ensemble

work from

When

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

that the authorities papers, however, offer die post to myself or to Rose

had mainly

the Schrammels I

1

to the

read in the Viennese

were undecided whether to who, in point of fact, was

2 as a teacher notwithstanding his great absolutely untalented musical and technical merits, I was forced to conclude that respon-

Vienna had no inkling of the finer nuances of to stay in Berlin, where fewer gifted teaching. Thus, I preferred violinists were to be found, but where there was a greater underof what constitutes good violin teaching. In 1921, 1 took sible quarters in

standing

weeks' master course at the Hochschule. Upon charge of a twelve the other violin teachers' protests, the description 'Special Course'

which, however, did not stop among them, and as twenty-four pupils, outstanding with the result that the listeners, from attending my class, (Sonderkursus)

had to be chosen

violinists

many

course was repeated in the following spring with the same artistic success. The material upshot of my work, on the other hand, was negligible.

For since

the summer,

I

did not receive

my salary before the end of

by which time the German mark had

fallen to a

1

See footnote on p. 26. There is no question here of professional jealousy on the part of the author; I have checked his observation very thoroughly and all my reliable evidence, including that of a loyal and successful Rose* pupil, entirely confirms his diaga

nosis. It is significant, too, that not a single great fiddler has emerged from Rose*'s not so much because a good teacher makes a good pupil, but because a

school

potentially great violinist will usually find out soon

314

enough

that his teacher

is

bad.

.


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923] catastrophic degree, I received no more than about four marks in gold for two hundred lessons. 1

hundred

At that time, the Hochschule was headed by Franz Schreker and Georg Schiinemann. In the last resort, Schreker was the victim of Paul Bekker's overestimation: though otherwise highly judicious, Bekker regarded Schreker as the successor of Richard Wagner and tried to influence public opinion accordingly. In reality,

however,

Schreker was only an extremely gifted musician of great technical 2 ingenuity for whom colour came before everything else. Personally,

I

have always

felt

that Schreker's music sprang

from

a

superficial rather than an inner impulse; his inflated fame was bound to burst like a children's balloon. As administrative director

of the Hochschule, in any case, he was altogether useless. His main activity was to sign the official documents prepared by Schiine-

mann. He

rarely put in an appearance at the Hochschule, which Havemann to the observation that

the violinist Gustav

prompted on the first of each month, Schreker was 'The Treasure-Seeker', 3 whereas for the rest of the time he was 'The Distant Sound'. 4 Fundamentally, he was a 'good sort' who, if his existence had been more narrowly and realistically circumscribed e.g. if he had remained Vienna's musical ruler could have fulfilled his task as creator of time-bound values. For the rest, he seemed to me an

exemplary teacher

who knew how

to keep a pupil's personality

unimpaired.

The Hochschule was

really

run by Georg Schiinemann, 5 the

per hour. can be objectively stated that this is hardly a fair appraisal of Schreker's output: it seems that Flesch's sober reaction against Schreker's exaggerated reputation drove his judgment towards the other extreme. Whatever the purely musical value of Schreker's works, their historical significance is considerable and verifiable. Arnold Schoenberg has described the role his harmonics have played in the 'emancipation of the dissonance* ; besides, it must be remembered that he was the father of the modern chamber orchestra (hear his ballet, The Birthday of the from Schoenberg's First Chamber Infanta, after Oscar Wilde's fairy story) which, Symphony to Strawinsky's 'third period' chamber ensembles or Benjamin Britten's and Boris Blacher's chamber operas, has come to dominate the widest H.e. 2s.

2

It

.sector

of the contemporary

scene.

*Der Schatzgraber, Schreker's fifth opera. *Der Feme Klang, Schreker's second opera, and perhaps his most famous. 5 at Berlin Unil884~i945, musicologist and flutist, a pupil of Kretschmar in 1907. He started his career as a flute versity, where he took his doctor's degree

315


CARL FLESCH

who later became head Vice-Principal (stellvertretender Direktor), State Library's Music Department, after Prussian the of (Direktor) he had devoted all his energy to the Hochschule for thirteen years. Thanks to his many-sided talent he had succeeded, in the course of short period, in raising the status of this conthis comparatively

servatoire to such an extent that as the

it

presently

most distinguished educational

came

to be regarded

institute in the

world.

Schiinemann represented an ideal combination of theoretical in every knowledge, practical ability and administrative skill;

home. His zest for work and knowledge of people, coupled as they were with a lovable perand a self-sacrificing devotion to sonality, a winning modesty artistic

sphere he

music in

all its

felt

forms,

equally at

won him

as

much

esteem for his adminis-

State Library's Music Department as, previously, he in the capacity of director of the conservatoire and enjoyed

tration

had

of the

was all the more remarkable university lecturer. His versatility since his exhaustive knowledge of his several subjects would have him the luxury of specialization. Owing to the amalpermitted

gamation of all these isolation, his

gifts

which,

was the strongest

only be found in

in German music. single influence course I liked Alma Moodie best.

the pupils in my Australian and Irish origin, she had studied, as a child, with

Amongst

Of

as a rule, will

C&ar Thomson and Oskar Back at Brussels. In 1914, Max Reger sent her to me, but she did not commence studies because she had to leave Germany: her mother feared that they would both be enemy aliens. Without the benefit of any regular kind she of study, stayed at Brussels until the end of the war, living from hand to mouth without any aim or purpose. In 1918, she interned as

on the last train from Belgium. By had badly deteriorated, though her talent had not greatly suffered. She now started lessons with me and worked most intensely; two years later, her debut caused a sensawas lucky enough

to escape

that time, her fiddling

Although, subsequently, she did not always succeed to the same degree, she must nevertheless be regarded as the most tion.

virtuoso and music

critic. His works include studies of the history of conducting, of choral music, musical autographs, etc. ; he also wrote a biography of Carl Friedrich Zelter.

German

316


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923] outstanding female violinist of her time, a worthy successor of

Norman-Neruda not least in view of her general musical endowment. Her lasting importance rests upon the fact that, between 1920 and 1930, she stimulated modern compositions for the violin in a similar

before her. Pfitzner alone,

way

Amongst

as

Joachim, Sarasate and Ysaye had done

other works, the Violin Concertos of Hans

and Ernst Kfenek,

as

well as

many

sonatas for violin

owe their existence to her art. 1

Amongst

my

other pupils, the sixteen-year-old

Max

Rostal

and the thirteen-year-old Szymon Goldberg were by far the most 2 outstanding. Rostal came to acquire a thorough orchestral experience as a leader at Oslo, whereupon, in 1928, he joined the staff of the Berlin Hochschule as my deputy. Two years later, he succeeded Wolfsthal, who had meanwhile died. Szymon Goldberg, who had become my pupil at the early age often, started out as an orchestral leader; in this capacity, his five years with the Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwangler constituted an absolutely unique achievement. In the sphere of chamber he has formed a sonata team with Lily Kraus, with music,

Exemplary results.

My colleagues at the Hochschule tended to watch my 'intrusion' with mixed

feelings. At the time, these well-paid violin teachers descended, without exception, from the Joachim school, and they regarded the fresh air of contemporary principles of violin still

playing as a threat to the comfortable routine of their existence. Only Gustav Havemann, the youngest among them, seemed to

my point of view. In more favourable circumhe might well have become Adolf Busch's counterpart. His personality as a violinist was essentially that of a pleasant daredevil. If he had perfected his technique instead of playing in orchestras before the war and, thereafter, joining in the harlequin's dance of sympathize with

stances,

ultra-modern string quartets up to the time of the Nazis, only to eventually rather than his instrument who

practise politics

knows whether he would not have become one of the ^orn at Brisbane in

1900,

Alma Moodie

died at the early age of forty-two at

Cologne, where she had married a lawyer. 2 Unfortunately, Flesch did not live to describe these

317

leading

artists'

subsequent careers.


CARL FLESCH exponents of in him.

German

violin playing.

He

certainly

had the

stuff

and the resultant pessimism Increasingly hopeless conditions end-of-the-world an that at time, produced had, atmosphere in

Germany which manifested itself, materially, in a disgusting race for pleasure and, on the artistic side, in an utterly anarchic and little of, purely cerebral decadence. It was a period which thought the imperishable values of the past and only valued modernity,

however of string

inferior. Publishers, conductors,

music

critics,

leaders

they all joined in this wild chase after nervequartets as early as racking ugliness. Looking back on these years, I wrote Art of Violin Playing [translated 1926 in the second volume of

my

by Frederick H. Martens]

:

A group

of interested persons [has] gathered around conmusical production, which largely desires the cultitemporary vation of

modern compositions for other than purely artistic first among them critics of a certain type, for

considerations;

whom the belated recognition accorded Beethoven^ Wagner, Brahms^ Strauss and Reger is a warning example. Posterity, so they think, will be less apt to take it amiss, if they raise ten unworthy artists on their shield than if they fail in the immediate recognition of one who is worthy. Older works to be reviewed are dismissed with a line, while every bit of modern 'trash' is

whose

given columns of space. This, again, induces all those on public opinion conductors and

existence depends to cultivate interpreters reasons.

ditioned

modern music, if only for practical The engagement of an executant artist is conon the performance of some specified modern work

.

.

.

of whose artistic value or lack of value the conductor is hardly aware. ... I am far from barring the door against all that is

new as a matter of principle. Hence, no hitherto unusual combination of tones frightens me into giving up the attempt to out the inner value of a work. ... In spite of

search

my

honest endeavour to

move with

the times, however,

it still

seems most regrettable to me that linked with the exaggerated and indiscriminate cult of all that comes into being today, is the neglect of the valuable music of yesterday. I have in mind, in particular,

Max

Reger

(d.

1916), this already half-forgotten

318


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923]

Who

still plays his chamber music ? And who among the disciples of modernism has any knowledge or understanding of Beethoven 's last string quartets and piano sonatas

master.

which, so far all

as

that has since

the revolutionary spirit

been written

far

is

concerned, leave

behind them

1

to the devaluation of the German mark, concerts and abroad had become particularly desirable for German

Owing recitals

As early as 1920, I had pointed out in a letter to the that foreigners were in a position to Musikzeitung Allgemeine industrial not only products, but also spiritual goods at a acquire executants.

price far below their actual value. I suggested founding a teachers' union to control fees the members of this cartel would pledge :

themselves to

made

demand

foreign fees in foreign currency.

When

I

the suggestion was found whimsical, exaggerated and but a year later it was carried out with a rare degree pessimistic, it,

of unanimity meanwhile, I had formed my own one-man union. said and done, it was the foreign concerts that ;

But when all was were particularly

from the economic point of view: to maintain a family for a whole would suffice a single concert fee month. At the time of the Kapp putsch and the ensuing railway strike, for instance, I tried my utmost to get from Hamburg to The Hague, where I was expected for a series of concerts. Although I had to travel in stages and had to avail myself of to every conceivable means of transportation from a locomotive a mere hours' with a horse-cab, I did reach The Hague thirty-six attractive

delay.

The

was a journey strangest experience of this sort, however, to Berlin via Aix-la-Chapelle. I was loaded with

from Maastricht

about half a hundredweight of food, mainly sausages, cheese and chocolate, which I proposed to smuggle through the French

and British zones.

My

adventures on the

way would have been

funny film. I bribed the French officials was stopped by morally with my knowledge of their language, the British, had to spend the night in a gambling den, and conindustrial tycoons to discover suitable means spired with several an inn run by of Together, we tried to put up at

good enough

for a

transportation.

Spartacists,

but decided upon a speedy escape

319

when it seemed that


CARL HJSSCH

my

companions were recognized

class.

When I finally

arrived

at.

the

members of the exploiting Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin I

as

found that all my foodstuffs had vanished. Pure art, the ideal of the best possible public performance for which you could prepare yourself at leisure, had become a thing of had turned into an unpredictable the past. Concert-giving adventure: the last hours before a concert

you had to stand in a that there was no room in found arrival and train, you upon your the hotel At the concert itself, you had to play by candle-light because of some strike, and after a great success you were unable to get to bed because the cabbies refused to drive an exhausted artistic risks artist home. At times one even had to take purely as conmuch as have never would one which, in normal times, Beethoven two I for instance, sidered. At Munich in 1921, gave recitals with Bruno Walter without any rehearsal and without ever having played with him before, because Rose, who was to have played with him, could not get to Munich owing to a

way

rail-

strike.

My property, too, had dwindled in consequence of the general slump and my lation.

By

my losses by specubankruptcy: my of the mark credited me

ill-advised attempts to recover 1 realized that I was approaching

1921

balance at the time of the stabilization

with about 4 per cent, of my original property. The thought of in the case of my death having failed to provide for my family was unbearable, whence I had to consider another concert tour to America. For the moment, to be sure, I was still doing very well. were filled with foreign I foreign pupils, my pockets taught chiefly banknotes which, reckoned in marks at that time, seemed to an enormous fortune, while a few months later,

represent

reckoned in gold marks, they amounted to a very modest sum. Thus I got in touch with the Judson concert agency in Philadela series of concerts during phia, and we concluded a contract for

months of 1923-4, the receipts from which were to sei on a healthier basis. my Meanwhile German concert life had entered a state of stagnation, whence it passed into a catastrophic decline that was soon t< reveal all the symptoms of a complete dissolution. It had becom the winter

finances again

320


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923]

moreandmore difficult to accept new engagements, or to fulfil existing ones, since, owing to the steadily progressive inflation, the agreed fee often did no more than just pay the cost of the journey. Artur

Schnabel had resigned from our

trio

True, in Karl Friedberg [b. 1872] to him, but in the 1922-3 season soloists

were concerned, died

soon

after the

end of the war.

we

gained a worthy successor German concert life, so far as

a natural death. For myself the activities was the most painful

renunciation of chamber-musical experience of the time.

Karl Friedberg was equal to Schnabel in his musical and techbut as a personality he was completely different. His

nical gifts,

technique was no longer at

its best owing to his having suffered of symptoms paralysis which, however, he had largely overcome; and he made up for any disablement by his fine-nerved, subtle, natural and unaffected temperament, poetic in the best sense of the word, which allowed him to communicate to the listener the intimate mood of a work, undamaged by intel-

from

serious

At such moments his features acquired a spiritual almost made him appear beautiful. He somewhich expression ^what resembled Voltaire and had a slight lisp. He was adaptable and capable of great enthusiasm, but his intense artist's imagination manifested itself in his daily life, too, with the result that one lectual dissection.

could not always take

at their face

value the promises or assertions

for something. Becker and I were he was the only possible successor to Schnabel, but, ^agreed that as Becker said somewhat maliciously, 'You must be ready for

%e made when he was

all afire

the possibility that if Friedberg writes you a letter and if you write him a letter he won't receive it'.

it

won't

Our

arrive,

collabora-

tion, so enjoyable in the purely artistic sphere, was often spoilt by of our friend's ardent imagination. But our friendthe

pranks

and my admiration for him withstood these pinpricks. He had been trained in the good old school of Klara Schumann, in an age when more weight was still given to the principles of correct phrasing than to maximal technical efficiency. It was -remarkable how Friedberg, after his right hand had been para^ship

Jysed, set to facility,

work with unbroken

which

will to regain his technical he cleverly adapted to the anatomical changes


CARL FLESCH which

his illness

most lovable

had caused. His

woman

wife,

of considerable

born a von Waetjen, is a both artistically and

stature

human

being, not a little responsible for strengthening his be remembered as in position society. Friedberg will always the most outstanding pupil of Klara Schumann, and as the most as

a

personality among German pianists of the preSchnabel generation. As a kind of parting token, Schnabel had dedicated his Sonata

interesting

1 unaccompanied violin to me. It is an interesting monstrosity, to which takes nearly an hour play, and offers a sample card of all

for

the contradictions of its composer's personality. Its accumulation/ of minor seconds, augmented sevenths and diminished tenths pro-

duced such an studying

it I

irritating effect

had

a

on

my nerves that in the middle of"

nervous breakdown which manifested

itself,

above all, in acute insomnia and drove me away from my summer holiday. The first performance took place in my home before an invited audience.

The

effect

was crushing.

It

was here

that the

otherwise not very commendable music critic Rudolf Kastner, uttered the famous bon mot: 'Dem Schnabel ist der Vogel hold 2 gewachsen/ A second performance followed in connection with an exhibition of modern pictures organized by the Gurlitt pub-

lishing X

company. Since

then, so far as

I

know, only

my

pupil

have not touched the passage following here or the somewhat parallel one on p. 260 because it seems to me that Flesch's double account of this work is' too important to be rolled into one or otherwise edited. 2 An excellent, but absolutely untranslatable pun. The allusion is to The Mastersingen, Act II, end of scene 3, where Sachs rounds off his soliloquy on I

Stolzing's artistic de"bicle:

Dem Vogel, der heut' sang, Dem war der Schnabel hold gewachsen; Macht er den Meistern bang', Gar wohl geel er doch Hans Sachsen (The bird

who

Has got a throat that rightly waxes; Masters may feel dismay, But well content with him Hans Sachs Vogel means bird, Schnabel

is

!

sang today

a bird's bill (replaced

by

is

!)

'throat' in the free translatior

quoted above). But in colloquial German, to have a 'Vogel' means to be cracked 01 I think the joke is still funnier if it avails itself of Wagner's complete

crazy.

sentence,

melody included

:

Dem Schnabel, der heut' sang, Dem war der Vogel hold gewachsen. 322


</)

"o

2. W)'


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923] Stefan Frenkel,

who had

an extraordinary

talent for

performing

problematic compositions, has played the Sonata from memory in public. It did not appear in print and would doubtless have fallen into oblivion but for the fact that I included the third

movement, complete with a commentary, among the of my Art of Violin Playing^ I

interpretation in Vol. II

studies in

regret the

tremendous trouble which, for years, I took with its execution, and for which nobody, not even the composer, ever thanked me.

Amongst conductors with whom I got into closer touch in I chiefly remember Hermann Scherchen, Georg

post-war years

Schneevoigt, Fritz Busch, Fritz Stiedry, Leo Blech and Heinz Unger. Originally a viola player, Hermann Scherchen [b. 1891] caused something of a stir towards the end of the war, when he conducted the first performance of Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire, whose financial support was due to my endeavours. 2 His talent reveals itself

above

all

in contemporary works. His

is

a Faustian

nature, striving for ever greater differentiation of expression, and he knows how to impose his will his others, be

upon they generous patrons or orchestral players, by keeping his voice down to a hypnotic pianissimo. Though he began as a 'cellist, Georg Lennart Schneevoigt [1872

is a natural conductor. As a matter of rehe principle, indulges in conscious exaggerations of that 50 per cent, of any given degree of dynamics, considering

-1947] undoubtedly

markable

loudness or softness

is

lost

on

the

way from

the orchestra to the

audience. In his opinion, that is, the conductor's ff changes into mffor the audience, and his pp into p; hence he must always

ensure a stronger or weaker

volume than

that

which corresponds

^Supplement, pp. 223fF.

though this passage must be based on a multiple slip of memory, I am leaving stands because I find it impossible to substitute the true version, and in the hope that Flesch's very mistakes will eventually help to establish what he wished to communicate. The facts as I know them are that (a) Pierrot was first performed under Schoenberg at Berlin in 1912, the work and production being financed by Albertine Zehme (the reciter) and her husband; (b) Scherchen, who was twenty-one at the time, played, at the outside, a very subordinate role in the preparation of the production that of an odd-job man; (c) Fritz Stiedry, whom Flesch also mentions in his list above, did direct a well-known production of the work. it as it

C.F.-Y

3 23


CARL FLESCH

own perception. Although

to his

theory, taken

as a

there

whole it is marred in

is

a grain of truth in this view by the disadvan-

my

tage of conscious design, instead of a subconscious necessity of expression. But Schneevoigt at times achieved extraordinary effects

with

his principle, so

youthful fervour. As a

was combined with his a somewhat stagey wag, disarm-

long

man he is

as it

ingly funny.

Busch [1890-1951], Adolf's brother, is profoundly frank and honest, an enemy of all pose, straightforward, musical, uncomplicated and unsentimental, a typical German conductor in Fritz

one of the [b. 1871] though most conscientious and musical conductors of his generation, at his best in opera, perhaps only failed to achieve an international reputation in the concert hall, too, because he lacked the fascinating exterior of a Weingartner, Muck or Stokowski. Heinz Unger's artistic intentions are more significant than is his education: he has not risen from the ranks. The orchestral the best sense of the word. Leo Blech

member, like the simple soldier, carries a baton in his knapsack: Hans Richter was originally a horn player, Nikisch sat among the second

Stokowski played the organ, Koussevitzky the

violins,

double

bass.

my activities as soloist and teacher my work on of my Art of Violin Playing was rapidly advancing, driven

Alongside Vol.

I

How

I by an irresistible inner impulse. managed to combine these three fundamentally different activities remains an enigma to me. I sometimes devoted as much as ten hours' work a day to the book,

though

at

the cost of

my health;

but

I

had the

of hav-

satisfaction

ing the work ready for the printer towards the end of 1923 published by Ries

.

It

was

& Erler and achieved an uncommon success in

professional circles. Translations into English, Dutch, Italian and French soon followed, while I was unable to follow up suggestions to

have

it

translated into Russian, Spanish, Portuguese,

Hungarian, Czech and even Chinese, owing to the lack of suitable publishers.

A year later it

a rejoinder entitled Flesch and Eberhard appeared; dilettante named Schroeter, an

was written by a

sounding substitute for

his original

324

name of Schlesinger,

Aryanwhich

in


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923] 'method' was roundly condemned in favour of Eberhard's. 1 Siegfried Eberhard was the son of the Goby Eberhard who took

my

such a fancy to the idea of my Basic Studies, which to

him

in a private talk, that

1 had explained he published them under his own

name. His son Siegfried continued the paternal tradition in that for years on end he appropriated my ideas during walks or in until he he had sufficient material to publish cafes, thought independent efforts. He began with a treatise on the vibrato, in which, out of kindness, I helped him a great deal. Then he turned to changes of position, the holding of the violin, the 'disposition

of the body'

heavy tomes, mixtures of bombastic phrases and which he repeatedly attempted to force me into polemics by attacking me. But 1 did not take up the game, and would not enter into any discussion with him. He seemed to have developed a kind of hate-love for me and, more than anything, he would have liked to 'collaborate' with me. But notwithstanding his intolerable garrulity, he was not lacking in intelligence which, however, he chiefly used for the purpose ofinventing some fantastic surrogate for his own impotence as a violinist, which was platitudes, in

to take the place of the solid craftsmanship

he lacked. Despite his megalomania he was perhaps ultimately an honest dreamer, and certainly the most outstanding among the 'faith-healers' on the violin that have sprung out of the ground during the last decades like toadstools, to reach the apex in Josef Klein, who invented a system of study without the aid of the bow. Incidentally one cannot but wonder why there are far more charktans of the violin in Germany than loathsome hunt

in

all

after publicity

and

his

the other countries taken together. Probably because techniwere a secondary consideration in German violin

cal foundations

playing during the latter half of the nineteenth century: the spirit was left to dominate over the fragile matter; the artistic intention

was regarded

as the

main

thing,

and the

result in

sound

as

un-

important.

mediocre teacher, Josef Joachim, the interpreter of genius and

was

chiefly to

blame for this

state

of affairs. While the Hochschule

*K. Schroeter, Flesch/Eberhardt: Naturwidrige oder naturliche Violintechnik?, pp. 39, Leipzig, 1924.

325


CARL FLESCH were urged to be present at Joachim's public quartet in their own rehearsals, they were virtually left unsupervised as dishonourable, was 'technician' term studies. The regarded students

die only thing that mattered, even when in scraping noises. Hence the they found outward expression search for the philosopher's stone as ersatz for the absent solid found it successively in the vibrato, in craftsmanship. Eberhard in an unnaturally twisted body and c>f the changes position, naive to believe that this condition! finally in the physical

the

artistic intentions as

How

which indeed we all seek, can be produced by a or through the idle fixe of predetermined position of the body 'contact between instrument and body' It arises of itself when the player possesses the feeling of technical certainty, when in he can allow virtue of his mastery of the instrument

artistic solution,

!

sovereign himself to be spontaneous and full-blooded, to submerge himself in the spirit of the work without being troubled about the technical course

of events.

My American tour was to start in the second half of December. I had to sail on a urgent concert engagements definite day, on which only the French liner Paris was available for Powers were not yet journey, and subjects of the Central

Because of

my

my

on French ships. But my route was December 1923, after eleven years' absence I saw fixed, in the food shops, where the fiveabundance Paris again. What franc piece was the main coin in use, as opposed to starving Germany, where people reckoned in billions of marks The average Frenchman had no suspicion of the hopeless conditions welcomed and

as

passengers

so in

!

in Germany. If one tried to enlighten him, he shook his head incredulously, smiling ironically. It that during voyage I thought at

my

territory, for despite

soon scented

my

was not first

surprising, then, that I was in enemy

my Hungarian passport my fellow travellers

German outlook, and I was duly boycotted. The

whom I occasionally exchanged a few words were the pianists Edouard Risler and Ernst Schilling. Joseph Edouard Risler [1873-1929], the most distinguished pupil of only people with

326


THE POST-WAR YEARS [1918-1923] Diemer, was Marteau's counterpart a German-French mixture of Alsatian origin, with the German element predominating. His playing was genuine in sentiment and musical in expression, if a little on the slow and heavy side. I had lost sight of him for close on fifteen years, and was deeply shocked by the unmistakable 1

of his physical and artistic decline. He had resorted to drink, or apparently to deaden some unbearable pain, whether

signs

physical

mental. Ernest Schelling [1876-1939], of Polish origin, claimed have been Paderewski's only authentic pupil. He was the typical gentleman artist, having achieved independence through a wealthy marriage. He devoted himself to the organization of children's concerts, with the aim of teaching the young to become listeners a most laudable understanding undertaking, for in our of and canned of radio and music, age cinema, any attempt sport to save children's souls from the seductive powers of thoughtless and comfortable inactivity is welcome. At the beginning of the

Henry

to

I had suffered intolerably from sea-sickness and only after some days acquired the minimum immunity necessary to be able to appear in the dining-room and on deck. My deckchair neighbour was a Frenchman, with whom I soon entered into conversation, for we were brought together by our common sufferings. He introduced himself: Le Braz/ 'Anatole?' I asked. 'But do you know me?' he exclaimed in joyful amazement. 'Of course/ I replied, 'you are from Brittany and the themes of your novels are taken from the life of your own district/ Rather touched, he

voyage

remarked: 'So I'm

known even

in

We

Hungary;

I

shouldn't have

were thus brought closer together, and soon thought that/ our conversation turned to politics. I did not hesitate to tell him the plain truth about my German sentiments, as well as about conditions in Germany, of which he had to confess he had had no suspicion. Later, together with Risler and Schelling, I took part in a concert for the benefit of the ship's crew, and was invited to the for an captain's table, a quite special distinction at that time enemy alien who had dared for ten days during the occupation of iLouis

Diemer (Dimmer)

[184.3-1919], French pianist, teacher

327

and composer.


CARL FLESCH the Rulir to

make pro-German propaganda on French

soil.

Soon

the Statue of Liberty announced the immediate proximity of the American mainland. At the age of fifty 1 stepped on to American soil

for the second time, after

there

my first attempt to establish myself

had been interrupted by

the outbreak of the First

War.

328

World


AMERICA Aged I

ARRIVED

in

[1923-1928]

Fifty to Fifty-jive

New York

before Christmas,

had not changed a great deal since 1914.

Still taller

The metropolis skyscrapers,

still

louder illuminated advertisements, the absolute reign of the

motor-car musical

these

were the most

striking impressions. America's

had remained much the same, except that the leading orchestras showed great technical improvements owing to the immigration of numerous outstanding artists from Europe, too,

life,

conductors

as

well

After a time

as instrumentalists.

noticed another change the preponderance of Eastern Jews executant musicians. Before the war, amongst Eastern Jewry had been only represented by Elman and Zimbalist. In the course of and after the war, however, a number of outI

standing virtuosos had taken out American naturalization papers; at the same time, a considerable proportion of the violinistic

middle

class

form the

phony

had immigrated from Poland and Russia, and came to

staple elements in the string sections

orchestras

which were

distinguished of those MishakofE

We

owe

by

Burgin, Piastro and

as

above all, to the example of these three excellent an orchestral career is no longer felt to be a humiliat-

it,

violinists that

ing

led

such

fiddlers,

of the great symsome of the most

come-down for a fiddler who

numerous than

this elite,

started out as a soloist. Far

however, was the

whose natural, in fact racial,

talent

class

more

of mediocrities

could not be denied, but whose

make-up was distinctly modest. They fiddled of them, even though many landed eventually in bands and the like; but of an ultimate artistic purpose they

general cultural well, almost cafe

all

knew nothing. They showed no

interest in

immediately connected with the four repelled me all the more

since the

329

anything that was not

strings,

an

attitude

which

company of Schnabel, Busoni,


CARL FLESCH and Furtwangler, Galston, Petri, Eisner accustomed

many

had one of

others in Berlin

me to regard our position first and foremost as

of the broad mass of our profession. It was at that time that Josef Szigeti first appeared in America. He was born at Munkass in 1894 ofJewish parents, and his original A pupil of Jeno Hubay, he started his concert name was

artistic leaders

Singer. career at an early age. At sixteen he was supposed to become of the war, his father moved with him pupil, but at the outbreak

my

A

few years later, at the early age of twenty, at the Geneva Conservatoire. His activities as Szigeti was teaching a soloist ever widening, he moved on to Paris and devoted himself exclusively to his virtuoso career. Like so many violinists of school all too early and was left his

to Switzerland.

generation, Szigeti quitted to his own devices. In former times, fiddlers used to concentrate on their studies for many years before they stepped on to the concert platform, even when they had already achieved a great deal in their boyhood. Sarasate, for instance, won the first prize at the Paris Conservatoire at the age

three

when he

of Ysaye,

Kreisler,

tion; whereas

of fifteen, but he was thirty-

started his great virtuoso career.

and most well-known

nowadays the boys leap

The same

is

true

of my generafrom the classroom

violinists

direct

to the concert platform. violinist who has reSzigeti is our time's only distinguished tained the low right upper arm and the rectangular relation of

arm

wrist and lower

arms

his conservative

from

that

were usual

his

ago; allegedly, his

childhood habits.

His left-hand technique a

fifty years

modern posture, but the real reason for bowing is that he had no teacher to wean him

are too short for the

little

is

to the point

heavy

distinguished,

of

though

unreliability

at times it

when he

is

is

not in

other hand, is purity of his intonation, on the the at a tone has chaste piano level, especibeauty exemplary. His ally when heard in mechanical reproduction. In forte passages,

good form. The

however,

it is

accompany

his

not always free of scratchy noises, which also quick detache and spiccato, both executed too

close to the bridge. But in the main his technical ability is most further characteristic feature of his way of playing distinguished.

A

330


AMERICA [1923-1928] on accented beats, his head goes into independent action, instead of an integrated reaction of the entire body. As an interpreter, he feels strongly and sincerely, and is alive to his artistic individuality. In general, one gets the impression that is

that

antiquated technical resources have prevented the complete

development of his outstanding personality. Thus, Szigeti's real significance for contemporary musical life does not lie in the purely violinistic field, but in that of original and progressive programme-building. Ever in search of new, unknown, or halfforgotten works, he may, up to a point, be regarded as Joachim's heir in this particular respect, except that Joachim strongly objected to arrangements for the violin. Szigeti's industry is proverbial;

he

spares

no trouble when pursuing

a chosen purpose.

Once he has decided

to play a certain work in public, he does not hesitate to practise it daily for several years, nor does he fight shy of admitting the fact. His deliberate one-sidedness is not without

charm. The violin means everything to him; it is the world in and for which he lives. Violin playing is such a great pleasure for him in itself that he is often unable to refuse concert engagements which are out of keeping with his professional rank. He has undoubtedly served as a ferment opposing the increasingly humroutine of programme-building and exerting a laudable influence in this respect. From the purely instrumental point of

drum

I have always regretted that he did not spend two of his under my supervision. I could have normalized years youth his bowing within the shortest space of time, broken him of the habit of his head-accents, and taught him methods of study which would have reduced his excessive working time to a

view, however,

minimum. If, despite his unfavourable bodily build, Szigeti was able to reach such a high artistic level, how much more even could have become of him if he had been educated understandwith due respect for the distinctive traits of his musical

ingly,

character

!

Extraordinarily lovable as a turally

and

socially,

human

being, adroit both cul-

Szigeti enjoys general popularity,

and

I

have always taken great delight in his presence. In the development of our art he represents the great outsider, neither member 331


CARL FLESCH owing to his highly individual style whose innovatory programmes have had

nor

founder of a school, a

highly stimulating,

if not indeed a revolutionary effect. concert activities were very successful In the meantime, not financially. For the so-called 'American musically, though crown-tour' to which many young artists look forward as to the

my

illusion. It only proves rewarda ing of their careers is really great 1 the thousand-dollar limit. exceed fees whose 'stars' the ing for For the others, the expenses turn out to be so high that they often devour the fees. While one's expenses in Europe are usually in the

the total fee, they amount to neighbourhood of 25 per cent, of 60 or 80 per cent, in America. I seem to remember, for instance,

no more than 2,500 dollars from the 20,000 American tours. It is true earnings of one of his early

that Szigeti retained dollars gross

that the expenses decrease in proportion as the fees increase, but there are extremely few artists who are able to fill a big American hall with a concert

of their own.

When giving a concert in Philadelphia I made the acquaintance of John GroUe, following years.

who was to influence my career He had emigrated from Holland in

during the the 'nineties

and was at first active as an orchestral fiddler, until he was entrusted with the directorship of the so-called Settlement School of Music, a kind of people's conservatoire. The circumstances in which he relinquished his orchestral career were symptomatic of the state of musical affairs as it then obtained. The conductor of the

symphony appending two which did not,

which Grolle played insisted on tonic chords to the end of every orchestral piece orchestra in

in his opinion, close with sufficient splendour, in order to let the audience know that the piece was over. Grolle

refused in rehearsal to participate in this outrage, and though threatened with dismissal he did not play the chords in the concert

by way of open protest.

He was

a socialist with rather confused ideals, aiming at humanity's redemption through art. Among those who helped to subsidize his conservatoire was a Mrs Mary Bok, a society lady,

of

whom

more anon. Like

Grolle, she

^re-war dollars.

332

was inspired by vague


AMERICA [1923-1928] artistic

aspirations without giving

was Grolle

bility. It

who

much

thought to their

feasi-

suggested to her the idea of founding an

whose task would be to raise a new Money would be no consideration, the would be engaged, and the should

ideal educational institute

musical

llite

in

no

time.

world's best teachers

pupils

live solely for their studies,

without financial worries. Grolle,

who remembered me from my a great deal

first American tour in 1913 and of me, proposed to Mrs Bok that I should be

thought put in charge of the violin classes. Since, however, the lady did not know anything about music and was unable to form a proper idea of my teaching methods, it was decided that I should be

engaged for a trial period so that my educational gifts could be tested, and I was invited to take charge of a course often weekly I that teaching days of six lessons each. Greatly surprised,

replied

had not really been my intention to teach in the United States at all, and that my fee for a teaching day would have to be as high it

concert fee, to wit 500 dollars. 1 1 did not realize at the time that I was demanding four times the normal top fee. eventually agreed on 4,000 dollars for the ten days, a record fee, which as a

L

We

came

to cause a little revolution

amongst music teachers through-

out the country: they, too, began to ultimately their conditions

raise their fees,

improved owing

to

my

so that

innocent

day must yield the same financial result as a concert engagement. The exaggerated remuneration I received in this instance was solely due to the fact that Mrs Bok belief that a teaching

was immensely

rich

and regarded any

businesslike calculation as

superfluous.

few details about teachers' fees may be of There seem to be extremely few extant documents relating to fees for music lessons in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, but we do know the financial basis on which Anton In this connection, a

interest.

Stamitz livres

taught Rudolf Kreutzer: Stamitz received eighteen francs) a month for twelve lessons, that is, one and a

(i.e.

half livres per lesson.* Turning to our own time, I started to teach as a boy in Vienna for a fee of fifty kreutzer (twenty American a

Pre-war dollars. *See Joseph Hardi, Rodolphe Kreutzer,

Paris, 1910.

333


CARL FLESCH cents),

while Vienna's leading violin teacher,

five gulden

much

as

(two

dollars)

ten gulden

per

lesson,

1

J.

M.

Griin, received

and Leschetizky was paid

the highest possible fee at the time.

as

The

average fee, however, was never more than one gulden. In Berlin, meanwhile, Joachim already received twenty marks

and Marsick in Paris twenty francs. While at Buchamyself was paid between ten and fifteen francs for a lesson. Before the First World War, Berlin's top fee was twenty marks. for a lesson, rest, I

After the post-war inflation, however, there was of course a rapid rise; between 1925 and 1930, Schnabel and I were paid 100 marks

per lesson, though subsequently top fees fell to sixty or forty marks. In America, prior to my employment at the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia, the upper limit was twenty dollars, afterwards forty to sixty dollars. When I moved to England in 1934, I succeeded in raising the standard to four guineas. As for institutional fees, neither then nor at any later time did

the Paris Conservatoire pay more than five francs for a lesson, at the State Hochschule in Berlin, the principal teacher

whereas

received a fee in the neighbourhood of sixty or seventy marks. York, paid at the rate of forty Juilliard Foundation,

New

The

and teacher at, the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia, drew the bagatelle of 100,000 dollars per annum. At the Dutch educational institutes, the average fee for a lesson was five guilders, 2 and the corresponding fees in dollars,

while Josef Hofmann,

as a director of,

England were ten shillings to one guinea. In the meantime, my 'trial class' at Philadelphia proceeded according to plan. Most of the pupils were members of S tokowski's orchestra. Once again, I thus had an opportunity to observe how rarely the individual elements of a famous string band fulfil more

than ordinary requirements. Although the Philadelphia Orchestra

was

still considered to be the best in the States, only a single violincould claim to possess more than an average talent. teaching methods, new to America, seemed to appeal so strongly to all concerned that I was presently engaged as a teacher and

My

ist

principal

head of the violin :

A

*8s.

class

of the

Continental lesson takes at

least

institute that

one hour.

4d. at the time.

334

was about to be


AMERICA [1923-1928] founded. In the

first year, I was paid no less than 25,000 dollars and a half months' teaching. In New York, I had again met quite a few of my European to hear too. colleagues, some of whom I had an

for three

opportunity Despite his divine carelessness in all matters technical, Kreisler still seemed to me to reign supreme so far as tone and tone-

modulation were concerned musical character

was

(klanglich), whereas Thibaud, whose of a young rather than a mature man, former excellence. Disputatious as ever,

that

was unable to retain his Mischa Elman, whose playing was scientious

phrasings,

as

fiery,

technically con-

and tonally sensuous as it was unscrupulous in had meanwhile devoted himself to the string

liming, in the

its

quartet,

first

violin part, at a concertante style

of unprece-

dented perfection. He had indeed achieved his ambition, if at the expense of a simple and selfless chamber music style. Despite their external perfection, his interpretations left

one unmoved: they were calculated to rouse the gallery rather than adapted to the ;hamber. His chamber-musical activities did not in fact spring

xom an inner need,

but from the conscious intention of revitalizng development as a soloist. Thus he ceased playing quartets is abruptly as he had started. Nevertheless, it has to be admitted his

hat from the purely instrumental point of view, his

he string

first

violin in

quartet was the acme of perfection.

Jascha Heifetz [b. 1901], originally a pupil of his father, had tudied for a short time under Auer and first appeared in public in Berlin before the First World War, at the early age of twelve. With-

he represents a culmination in the contemporary of our art. What we have to admire above all is levelopment lis technical 'readiness' he can always start playing withunfailing >ut any preliminary practice; his fingers and bow function like a nachine which runs at its maximal capacity as soon as you press a mtton. His tone has a noble substance and is of a magical beauty, md there is not the smallest flaw in his technical equipment. He Irives what I have described as the 'Russian style' of holding the >ow (touching the stick with the first joint of the index finger) to )ut question,

:

ts

utter extremes, exaggerating it, in fact, in a way that would it useless for ordinary mortals. His gramophone records are

ender

335


CARL FLESCH his fame for amongst the most perfect of their kind, ensuring a human being, he is reticent and a little inhibited, posterity too. As off-hand. In his early years he seemed at times even

consciously

superficial,

velop as

his

but

as a

mind.

grown man he was

Superficially,

phlegmatic. His

his

to deeager continuously described be might

temperament

facial features are

marked by a certain

rigidity,

the purpose of hiding his reactions to both inner and outer events. For the importunate crowd he is inaccesas if he wore a

mask for

*

sible, butamongst friends hereadily opensup.

His general musicality

has reached an unusually high degree of development, which is parmanifest when he sits at the second desk in a string quartet. ticularly

Nor

is

would

a sense of humour (the very last attribute one him with upon superficial acquaintance) he is in

he without credit

;

fact capable of side-splitting imitations of mediocre pupils' efforts. In view of this range of superior qualities, unquestionably

to ask ourselves how unique in its completeness, we are compelled it is that many people remain unaware of the purely artistic aspect

world.

of his achievements, whereas as a violinist he delights all the Now, for one thing, he shares with most Auer pupils a bad

in cantilena dynamic habit, i.e. an unmotivated decrescendo on forte a renewed down-bows, followed by every intervening^ manner: in the following approximately upbow,

His interpretations thus come to depend on certain technical and do not exclusively obey musical laws or the dej peculiarities

mands of individual feeling. His unswerving use of one and the same kind of portamento falls into the same class of mannerisms which produce a certain monotony :

In London, in 1936, inhibitions

of

my criticism

1

* Iftoudibt* note drew his attention

his natural expression,

a

to the first

proof of his superior mentality. 336

of these twc

and he readily acceptec

<


AMERICA [1923-1928]

The

basic reasons for the

occasionally problematic impression playing makes upon musicians, however, lie in the peculiar course which his artistic development has taken. From the purely instrumental point of view, that is to say, Heifetz was wellnigh his

perfect at the age of twelve. Unlike everybody else, he never had to struggle for his technique. Everything came to him easily, in the

Mozartian way, like a gift from heaven. Thus he was soon led towards neglecting, to some extent, his personality; his unparalleled routine seemed to suffice. He got used to playing often with his hands alone and rest. allowing his mind a Sleeping Beauty's

When, however, it was roused by the Prince ofinspiration, a work of art of the very first rank came into being, such as his interpreof the Sibelius Concerto, to whose transcendental

tation

qualities

the gramophone record bears witness, too. When, on the other hand, he played without inner participation, then a marble statue, perfect but mercilessly cold, was the result.

The enemy

absolute infallibility of his technical apparatus is his worst because it promotes a certain emotional inertia. As a

he invariably is ready for everything, inwardly he isn't. some, even his immaculate technique becomes positively

violinist

To

irritating it

:

spotless perfection tends to

be a perfect

People would

produce uneasiness, whether

the art of a juggler, or Goethe's art of life. forgive Heifetz his technical infallibility only if he face,

made them forget it by putting his entire personality behind it. He a living example of the relativity of a virtue which, when it overshadows something more essential, may come to be felt as a

is

For the rest, one might reproach Heifetz with his exaggerated tempi which are induced by his unprecedented technical facility and precision; in the last movement of the Mendelssohn defect.

>

Concerto, for instance, the wind instruments are no longer able to keep pace with him. At the turn of the century, it was customary to play quick passages in Kubelik's manner, i.e. clearly

and none too '

possessed by Heifetz is

fast. Since Heifetz' appearance, young fiddlers are the devil of speed and are trying to establish records. now [1940] forty years old and at his zenith; he will

no doubt hold

many

years to

the office of the high priest in our profession for come. He fully deserves the position; there has

337


CARL FLESCH probably never been

a violinist

who has approached the summit of

more closely. If, in maturer years, he will play not only perfection the violin superlatively, but in the first place his own self, then his will become a landmark in the history of like name,

Kreisler's,

violin playing, and the second quarter of the twentieth century will bear his stamp. Toscha Seidel Amongst the other Auer pupils I heard then, mentioned. be to Hansen Cecilia and [b. 1898] ought [b. 1899] rank of" front the in included often is not Toscha Seidel

Unjustly, the Auer school.

I

do not know him sufficiently as a man to be able reasons for this underestimation, but one

to judge the deeper the quality of his tone is one of the most thing I do know that career. Technically, too, he is excelbeautiful I have heard in

my

lently equipped,

whence

I

regard

it as

an

injustice

of

fate that

not considered the third in a triumvirate with Heifetz

he is Elman.

and

Cecilia Hansen's playing, on the other hand, I would always father see than hear: she is one of the very few violinists whose

,

to the laws of perfect physical posture and movements correspond to the harmony. Like Zimbalist, however, she does not belong a has Auer school. She charming personality*; super-class of the

way outstanding as a fiddler; her appearance to forget her artistic flaws. listener the helps Mishel Piastro 1892] devoted himself to the career of without being in any

[b.

orchestral leader. Instrumentally, he is aura is, of course, far weaker.

personal Erica Morini

of Heifetz'

class,

while his

1908] studied with Sevcik and Rosa HochmannRosenfeld. In her case, this combination has yielded excellent results: to

[b.

Sevcik she owes her technical grounding, to her female

teacher her well-balanced interpretations. She doubtless is an uncommonly talented artist, utterly musical and conscientious technically; all

somewhat anti^ development has come to

one can hold against her

quated technical

style:

her instrumental

is

her

of the Grtin school. I retain the most enjoyable memories of her playing, however, particularly of her interpretation of Spohr's Violin Concertos; in fact, without leaving male fiddlers out of account, I consider her the greatest a partial standstill in the traditions

338


The Carl

Flesch

Medal for Excellence in Violin Playing, designed by the sculptor Benno Elkan

December XBtfa 1944

Reference: 03/&/1CB

1 I want just to say * Thank you very much indeed for so kindly letting me take part in that charmingly planned tribute on Saturday and friends in that equally for allowing me to come with you and join your I so ntuch enjoyed it and hope that if there is .delightful evening, Father's with memory about which your ever any other matter connected know. you think I could be a help you will unhesitatingly let Ete

I have just had an interesting letter from Dr. Geissmar, who says, In amplification of; Hi tier's talk with Fiirtwangler at Berchtesgade; that the main contention was Turt'wtagler C a defence of your Father and She also says that it was FurtwSngler effort to keep him in Berlin. 7 Tho had a good deal to do -with getting your Father s removal from Holland to Switzerland, but I daresay you know all about this.

pV

:>U--

c <v-*

1

C. 7. Flesch, Eso^., 41, Avenue Mansions, 503, Flnchley Road,

London t Letter

from

Sir

Adrian Boult to C.

F. Flesch


/>*. -V**?^-.

"'"

'"

r'

The

first

of which from Otakar Sevcik to Carl Flesch, a translation page of the letter on pp. 371 f. appears


AMERICA [1923-1928] :ontemporary exponent of this master, whose music has become foreign to present-day generations. The Kneisel school, too, has provided America with several

amongst whom I liked Jacques Gordon best. Sascha Jacobson could likewise claim to be one of America's most outstanding fiddlers, if we may count the Eastern Jewish immiexcellent violinists,

experience, the question of for the violin is in fact a racial one the position here American talent

grants

among

the Americans. In

my

:

is

similar to that in Poland or Russia.

lent violinists

As against the countless excel-

of Jewish descent, there

Gentile in America,

i.e.

the

is

a single representative

Thomson pupil Albert

his aim, has reached a

Spalding who, remarkable standard

steadily pursuing without, however, belonging to the first rank. Leopold Auer himself was very friendly to me at the beginning

by

of my American sojourn. He had come to the States in 1917, at the same time as Heifetz, by dint of whose success he immediately became the most sought-after teacher in the country. For this with the Curtis exceptionally favourable contract could to his a blow was in Institute reputation. One Philadelphia waited he in his notice attitude; not, however, any change reason,

my

patiently

for his time to come. Sure enough,

Europe he became

at the

age of eighty-four

upon

my

my return to

successor at the

Curtis Institute. Before moving to America he had married his niece, The chief condiherself a skilful business who

manager.

proved

tion of admission for a prospective pupil consisted in his ability to the student had, 360 dollars for six lessons. With this amount

pay

same time, bought his right to describe himself as an 'exponent of the Auer Method' and maybe even to found an 'Auer Auer's Conservatoire' in his native town. In other respects, too, name was exploited to the full. Thus I saw in a certain shopa common Markneukirchner fiddle complete with window at the

quite

bow,

resin,

mute, and a

case, advertised as

'Auer

outfit' for fifteen

dilution of his pedagogic dollars. Apart from the inevitable to suffer for this inartistic made not Auer was reputation, however, that he did not enjoy a traffic in his name. One only regretted rest at the end of his life, instead of continuing

well-deserved to

work. In C.F.-Z

particular,

the

exhausting railway journeys

339

to


CARL FLESCH lessons which stretched over many hours,

Philadelphia, followed by must have had a cruel effect

upon the eighty-six-year-old man. Man of the violin, representing an Old He era that had, by then, become legendary; he and Hugo Heermann were the last survivors from the age of Paganini. died in 1931, a Grand

Among the violinists resident in America who have not so far been mentioned, Paul Kochanski [1887-1924] played an outstandhe was a friend and collaborator of ing part. A Thomson pupil, he was considered the most music of whose Szymanowski's, He died of an incurable disease at an all too authentic exponent. used to play one of the most beautiful Strads, the early age. He so-called 'Greffulhe, which later came into the possession of my

(The correct name of the instrument

Briselli.

pupil

may

be

Mr

Tenucci, the expert of Messrs. Hug 'Greville', for according to of the the are Co. in Zurich, who present [1940] owners *Greffulhe*, this violin was never in Kochanski's possession; cf. also

&

The Grevilk

Stradivarius of 1726,

New York,

1

Kochanski's

I839.)

he was, moreover, an inimitable as an excellent arranger, of little Spanish violin In the more extended forms he was less successful, because pieces. on the concert platform he often suffered from nerves. Nevertheless, I remember a truly exemplary rendering of Brahms' Double

tone captivated by interpreter, as well

its

sweetness;

Concerto, with Kochanski and Salmond conversationalist; as a raconteur

charming

as Griinfeld, Rosenthal, or

as soloists.

Thibaud. Thus he would,

his greatest success after a concert when,

He was at times,

left a

human and all

too

human

gap in American musical

In the course of the

last

life

class

have

having had their artistic fill,

the music lovers had a wine withhim and wanted to hear

about the

also a

he was in the same

side

of the

artist.

that has not yet

decades, conductors

2

something His death

been

filled.

have tended to

play the public role that was previously assigned to primadonnas. species show indeed a common characteristic: they are^

The two

easily liable to 1

The

wear and

tear.

With primadonnas

it is

the voice

by Kochanski during the latter part of his career was neither of those suggested by Hesch. It was sold to him by W. E. Hill & Sons of London, prior to the First World War, and was an inlaid instrument dated 1687, known at Strad used

that time as 2

The Spanish'.

Allusion to Friedrich Nietzsche's two-volume 'book for free

All Too

Human (Menschliches

t

Allzumen$chIiches, 1886).

340

spirits',

Human,


AMERICA [1923-1928] that

soon goes the

way of nature,

while conductors,

whom

the

crowd

usually judges by their appearance and gestures, become boring after a time because the concert-goer wants to see some-

thing new. 'Look at his silhouette;

wonderful?' I once Stokowski concert. An

isn't it

heard a lady whisper to her neighbour

at a

orchestral player alone is in a position to gauge the intrinsic value of a conductor's work, to appreciate his ear during rehearsal and his power of suggestion in the concert hall. The listener is all too

readily impressed by the visual aspect of stick-waggling and, on the other hand, tends to make the conductor responsible for certain unpredictable accidents, especially horn squeaks. This is the reason why, paradoxically, the very best conductors rarely maintain their success in one and the same place, while the less

outstanding

members of the

species evince a

remarkable persever-

when supported by critical coteries. Josef Stransky New York Philharmonic Society for ten long years as

ance, especially directed the

Mahler's successor, and Frank Damrosch conducted the New York Symphony Orchestra for twenty years. The excellent pianist

Rudolph Ganz was appointed conductor in St. Louis, and it took the public three years to discover that he had never before manipulated a baton. Mahler, on the other hand, was harassed to death by the

New

York

critics,

who

also ferociously attacked

and

dis-

couraged both Mengelberg and Furtwangler. At the time of my second American tour, the chief conductors there were Artur Bodanzki, Bruno Walter, Fritz Busch, Otto Klemperer, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Willem Mengelberg, Serge Koussevitsky, Leopold Stokowski, Frank Damrosch, Fritz Reiner, Frederick Stock, Alfred Hertz, Pierre Monteux and, last but not

least,

Arturo Toscanini.

Artur Bodanzki

[b.

1877],

whom I knew from my childhood

had become when we had conductor for the German operas at the Metropolitan Opera in New days

both studied with Back, in 1915

York, an appointment which he retained, despite various vicissitudes, until his death in 1939. He was an excellent musician and a of Mahler. He opera conductor, as well as an apostle passionate

was charmingly friendly and easily made you feel at home in his house, which seemed a Central-European oasis in that sphere of 341


CARL PLESCH

New

York's social

life

which was

accessible to musicians.

As

a

conductor in the concert hall he was of less significance; both his interpretations and his gestures were somewhat limited. But he finding, in Mrs Lanier, a generous in 1918 founded the Society of the Friends of patroness Music for the special purpose of offering him opportunities for

had the good fortune of

who

concert

many

work which proved

years his

influence

numerous

upon

who

time held an appointment in another of those conductors who feel more at ease in

the theatre than in the concert as well as

in every respect rewarding; for performances exerted a stimulating

New York's musical life.

Fritz Reiner [b. 1888],

Cincinnati, is

first

at the

hall.

He is one of the best musicians

one of the most thorough orchestral experts

ductors, but he lacks, to

among con-

some extent, that personal aura that creates

sympathetic resonance in the audience and thus largely determines the effect an interpreter makes upon his listeners. After a teaching

term

Philadelphia, where he directed the he found again a permanent post in Pittsburgh. Furtwangler, Mengelberg and Stokowski have already been discussed, and are too well known to stand in need of more than a brief mention here. Furtwangler did not feel at home in New York; he was unable to learn even pidgin English, for which at the Curtis Institute in

orchestral class,

reason he had his social

difficulties too.

His

first

concert was a

sensational success which,

however, did not prove enduring; after his second he turned his back upon America. 1 season, already left America after a short time and returned Mengelberg, too, to Holland. Owing to some tactless remarks about Toscanini he

had become highly unpopular though the treatment which he received on this occasion from the American critics did not by any means cover them with glory. Stokowski I had met again after a span of ten years. In the he had cast off meantime, his slough: the modest thoroughly organist had grown into America's most popular conductor. He had separated from his wife, an excellent pianist who was known under the name of Olga Samarov, and to *It

whom he owed

a great

must, however, be added that he repeatedly returned to the States: he

regularly toured the country from 1924

till

342

1927.


AMERICA [1923-1928] of his musical development as well as of his social success. Surrounded by mysterious obscurity, he lived in Philadelphia as a much-courted bachelor. His New York concerts were deal

regarded

the climax of the season; the technical precision of balance and blend (des Klangkorpers) which he achieved was unprecedented. as

His actual music-making, however, was not sufficiently He did not serve his art it served him.

selfless.

:

Busch continued in the style of Fritz Steinbach, though conducting was far more flexible and universal in taste. Alfred Hertz [1872-1942], the conductor of the first American Fritz

his

production of Parsifal, conducted the San Francisco Orchestra, while Frederick Stock [1872-1942] was in charge of the symphony concerts in Chicago. The latter had originally played the viola in

Theodore Thomas's

orchestra,

and had subsequently become

his

He could pride himselfon being the American conductor with the longest single appointment. He was an exceptionally solid, successor.

sincere

and experienced musician without any

star-like qualities,

external or internal.

Boston was

still

ruled

by

Pierre

Monteux

[b.

1875], later

succeeded by Koussevitsky. It will be remembered that Monteux had been a colleague of mine at the Paris Conservatoire; he

took up the viola and, eventually, the baton. The only French stature, he is at the same time an ideal

later

conductor of international violinist's

accompanist.

He and Ansermet were

the

first

conduc-

whose

perfect interpretations produced a measure of popular for Strawinsky's Kite of Spring. After he left Boston, r recognition he became for a time Stokowski's deputy conductor in Philators

delphia,

where he felt very ill

at ease.

When an artist leaves America in order to return to

Europe, he he duly praises America's usually interviewed, whereupon and its culture and social musical customs, in the most exalted life, terms. Monteux, however, thought that he would not return to the country, and that he could therefore afford the luxury of a

is

1

little

prank.

He

described the American continent as highly bar-

baric, without any real culture, and American concert-goers as uneducated snobs. Although people were, in a sense, impressed it *>y his effrontery,

did seem as if his return to America was 343


CARL FLESCH But at present [1940]. impossible. Los in Angeles. ducting

Monteux

is

once again con-

Otto Klemperer [b. 1885] I knew from the days when he was a coach at the Prague Opera and had to play the piano accompani'second items' in the popular symphony concerts. collaborated with him in his capacity as Curiously enough, I never a conductor. Furtwangler, Walter and Klemperer have been considered the most outstanding conductors of their generation.

ment

to

my

Klemperer

is

be an artist of high and serious ideals, I personally have not searching and changing. his career beyond 193 3 when it seemed to me

known

always striving,

to

Mow

been able to that he had not yet fully found himself. Bruno Walter [b. 1876] indisputably is to be counted among the most valuable conductors of the last thirty years. He, too, is more >

at home in the theatre than in the concert hall.

he had,

He may

for

be

An excellent pianist, with Arnold Rose.

sonata years, given described as the lyricist among conductors, at times recitals

many

somewhat over-dreamy, were, rather than 'out

recreating his music 'into himself', as it is '. why his concerts are not

of himself This

In the opera house, on the other hand, always sufficiently effective. he is Mahler's real successor, without the latter's sternness and 1

contempt for the individual orchestral player. Walter was one of the few Jewish musicians to Nazis' accession to

power

whom

offered the opportunity for

an

the

artistic

renaissance. In the years preceding, he had annually conducted a series of subscription concerts in Berlin, which were financially

concert agency and invariably landed guaranteed by Wolff's themselves in a deficit. Consequently, the agency declared that the concerts would have to be abandoned from 1933. In othei

Walter's position in Germany seemed to have respects, too, had lost his Leipzig appointment, and as a become shaky.

He

much in demand. Then came guest conductor he was no longer the rescue. The Nazis cancelled his last Berlin concert on March 6, 1933, and Walter immediately

left

Germany

for Holland where,

*As a boy, I heard the composer Franz Schmidt talk with the deepest enthusiasm about his experiences as a 'cellist in the Vienna Philharmonic under Mahler he said the only thing ofwhich Mahler was 'contemptuous' was a player's tendency to place routine above art.

344


AMERICA [1923-1928]

new

regime, he was received with princely honours. In due course, all the democratic countries wanted to as

a victim

of the

for the insults to which he had been subjected in and thus it came about that, quite innocently, he Germany, Nazi persecution. Nobody begrudged the the from profited artist this curious joke of history. outstanding

make amends

In Boston, Koussevitsky [1874-1951] took the helm after Monteux. In his younger days, he had been regarded as the most the successor of his time outstanding double-bass player of Bottesini. He used to play on a small Italian double-bass, on

which he achieved 'cello-like effects. He married a rich Russian to possess ten million roubles in gold), and lady (she was said anon his activities seemed to him all too narrowly restricted. He decided to become a conductor, and in order to acquire the necesand experience, he hired a huge river-boat, assemsary qualities bled an orchestra, invited a crowd of friends who had to play the and sailed the Volga with his boat. While part of the audience, with his band, and at larger towns he went travelling he rehearsed ashore in order to give concerts and thus practise his conducting. The guests on the boat, chiefly journalists, were treated with

and had to take care of the necessary publicity. the time he reached the end of his journey, the newly-fledged

lavish hospitality,

By

conductor was ready to continue

he was considered merely were regarded as the hobby of

first

his activities

on dry ground. At

a gifted dilettante: his activities a rich man who kept orchestral

musicians instead of racehorses. In the Bolshevist revolution, was forced to earn his however, his wife lost all her money and he

own

living.

When, in 1924, he was appointed to direct the Boston musical world awaited his activities Symphony Orchestra, the with mixed

feelings.

one of those musicians on whom verdicts of ranged between the extreme

He was

'contemporary judgment

cannot offer any personal opinion, for did I ever hear him. I thus have to I never played with him, nor established and confine myself to the observation that he firmly 'genius'

and

'charlatan'. I

trained his orchestra consolidated his position in Boston, having that his I .there to a high degree of perfection. imagine

345

must have


CARL FLESCH been an extremely strong original talent, though at the outset been difficult for him; he cannot have score-reading must have wind instruments. But his the of had any knowledge technique of and manual talent as well as his vigour general musicality must

have been there from the fully

did.

When,

start.

The

he had to

and

success-

acquire by many years' experience. a hundred years ago, people talked about violin playing, above all of Paganini; the concept of piano playing

they thought used to be closely linked with the

nowadays

rest

name of Liszt; and when we

of conducting, we think first of seems to be the prototype of the per-

discuss the subject

Toscanini [1867-1957], who fect conductor not only to the broad mass of music lovers, but also

to the majority of musicians. What distinguishes him above all from his colleagues are certain character traits which do not generally

of conducting, a profession that a man's character and to induce megalomania,

seem to go with the

tends to spoil

business

for the individual. All too a Napoleonic attitudes and contempt falls a victim to the hallucination of conductor the being easily, alone responsible for the re-creation of a work, whereas in reality

another hundred-odd people participate in the process. In addition, circumstances usually call for a

man who knows

at least as

much

about pulling strings as about bowing them. Toscanini's character does not show these deficiencies. In Italy, he preferred to face threats of physical violence to playing the Fascist anthem in the

middle of a programme. He would rather renounce a concert an imperfect performance. In his demands altogether than risk

both on the individual orchestral player and indeed on himself, he unrelenting to the point of cruelty. Musically he represents, in

is

in the

first place,

interpretative

a reaction against the baton virtuoso, against

'views'

(Tempoverschiebung).

and unmotivated

He

exclusively

distortions

confines

of tempo

himself to

the

written text, to die composer's own expression marks, and demands of the orchestra the greatest possible precision and tonal perfection (klangliche Vollkommenheif). His artistic ideal, then, work speak for itself by way of a perfect execution. His interpretations are distinguished by an consists in letting a

incorrup-

tible sincerity, a

complete absence of claptrap 346

effects,

and a burning


AMERICA [1923-1928]

He

rhythm as the primary force in music, and seems once correct to him he tempo fanatically adheres to it. If an agogical modification appears to him to be necessary, he intensity.

regards

a

executes

it

so unobtrusively that the listener hardly becomes far as his beat is concerned, he tends towards the

aware of it. So

old school which considers precision and clarity to be of overriding

importance, the sine qua non of the individual player's exactitude and of the simultaneity of orchestral entries. His single beats take the

form of a wide

arm.

The listener

ellipse,

described with the help of the whole with a unique personality and,

feels face to face

unresisting, submits to

amount

its suggestive power. the brilliant sure, light of his qualities creates a certain of shadow, and exaggerated virtues easily turn into vices.

All too

literal faithfulness

To be

to the text degenerates into pedantry the possibility of misprints, wrong metronome disregards marks, or even inaccurate beats of the metronomic pendulum.

when it

Again, while his colleagues have abused their calling by their 'personal' interpretations

which contradict the composer's inten-

tions, Toscanini, by way of extreme reaction, shows a certain distrust of his own inner impulses he would rather suppress them than expose himself to the supposed risk of disobeying the rigid :

to the letter. He hates sentimentality, principle of always adhering and in order to avoid it, his tempi in slow movements will often

too quick. His artistic credo is the highest possible degree of the expurgation of all subjective feeling. More objectivity and than any other conductor, he needs an orchestral body of the very

be

all

first

:

rani in order to

realize his artistic intentions.

orchestra he does not

knowledge and ability to raise an orchestra's merely lacks the patience. He may be described

Throughout

With a mediocre

know where to begin. Not that he lacks the

his career,

technical standard:

he

supreme teacher of interpretation. Toscanini has been regarded as the most of re-creative art. The world has as a

distinguished representative his personality in its entirety, gladly overlooking its less attributes. It is this uncritical idolatry on the part of the perfect the experts' contradiction. 'broad masses that has

judged

provoked

In particular

it

is

untrue to say that with

347

him

the art

of


CARL FLESCH conducting reached

its

zenith. In actual fact Toscanini

is

in the

and only in the second place a great place a great man, of evaluation is reversed, the critic order this If conductor.

first

out that, for instance, Nikisch was rightly point Toscanini s technical superior so far as his heat was concerned, that Biilow introduced a new era of conducting, or that Mengel-

may

and many others have, unlike Toscanini, proberg, Steinbach of modern composers. But if we consider him music the moted first

and foremost as

influence

a

man,

we must all acknowledge his purifying

the regrettably turbid atmosphere surrounding his was he who reinstated the composer in the dominat-

upon

profession. It ing position that

is due to him, and who accepted for himself the a servant. He represents the consummate personificaof position tion of the artistic principle of selflessness, and in this capacity he

will survive as a shining

WITH a 25,000

example for his colleagues.

my

next season in pocket, of conscious to return Europe, happily journey my next the for about to not have would I that the fact money worry

I

dollars contract for the

embarked on

few years. On the boat Deutschland, Kreisler, Friedberg, Elly Ney and I gave a concert for the crew, to which the painter Emil Orlik contributed an illustrated programme. Orlik, a Sudeten German from Bohemia, lived in the same Berlin house (Liitzowplatz 12) as I. With him, drawing was not only a

gift,

but a downright mania. Wherever he found himself,

he had to manipulate his pencil. In Berlin I often met him in thei Romanische Cafe, at a Stammtisch whose white marble slab served Orlik as an ersatz drawing pad, and over which the painter Max Slevogt presided. He used to draw everything and everybody; the painter Mopp once reported that Orlik was engaged in illustrating the telephone directory.

of kindness, a

a routineer in his art

and

very distinctive personality. For the fourth time running,

on

I

he was the soul and an eclectic without

For the life,

rest,

spent the

summer with

my

Riigen, an island in the Baltic which particuto me, as I was a passionate swimmer. This time, larly appealed

family at Sellin

348


AMERICA [1923-1928]

we noticed there the first signs of the anti-Semitic wave which later was to flood the whole of Germany. To begin with, bowever, it

itself in the shy request, 'Jews, get out!', usually the walls of public lavatories; one of the addressees of wrote under it: 'Don't worry, we won't stay hereT

manifested

posted on this bill

was Incidentally, the lack of culture among nearby landowners a I had Beethoven after played amazing. At a private recital, sonata,

one of diem asked me,

'Tell

me, in which cafe do you

actually play?'

had brought along a poor little Jewish boy, whose education had taken in hand. He came from Odessa, and his name was Isaak Briselli. On our way to Sellin we decided to rename him, on the assumption that it would be difficult to find 1 accommodation for him under the name of 'Isaak'. Henceforth he was called Iso', and it was under his new name that, round Christmas, we took him along to Philadelphia. He was to join my class at the Curtis Institute; a rich silk merchant had undertaken I

as a violinist I

to provide for his material existence. travelled in the company of Furtwangler.

We

The weather was

I bad, the cold piercing, and since I slept with the hatch open, Iso was refused lumbago. At the passport control, little

caught

to American law, children permission to land because, according the enter could sixteen under country when accompanied by only all the until wait to had blood relations. passengers had dis-

We

Ellis Island,

the

Mr Grolle, purgatory for undesirable immigrants. our arrival, accompanied us in order to try to extricate Thanks to the intervention of an interpreter who knew me,

us.

embarked, whereupon a policeman escorted us to

who had met

-us at

we

which eventually rethe boy would leave that oath on leased us, after I had promised state of excitement, The months. "the United States within four however, into which this episode had thrown me caused my to deteriorate into a proper neuritis, and I arrived in succeeded in bringing together the tribunal

lumbago

man. Philadelphia a sick

My complaint caused me a great deal of

and at night I could only sleep in four After weeks, moreover, at a symphony sitting posture. 1 Always a Jewish name on the Continent.

trouble; I tried all sorts of cures, *a

349


CARL PLESCH concert in Minneapolis,

I

suffered a relapse

which forced

me to sit

down

during my performance of the Brahms Concerto, wherethe critics described me as a hero. For the rest, Iso's fosterupon looked after him very touchingly they later adopted him parents ;

and bought him three famous

violins, the

renowned

'Greffulhe'

Strad (or 'Greville' Strad) among them. illness did not prevent me from entering on my duties at the Curtis Institute. Its president, Mrs Mary Louise Bok, was the

My

only daughter of the famous newspaper magnate Curtis, the proprietor of the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal and Country Gentkman.E6.ward Bok, her husband, a self-made

man of

Dutch descent, had developed the Saturday Evening Post, of which he was editor-in-chief, into a highly flourishing concern. Mrs Bok was the principal shareholder; the family property was estimated to amount to about 200 million dollars. It was therefore easy for her to

twelve

endow

the conservatoire that bore her father's

million

dollars,

especially

since

this

name with

investment also

offered considerable advantages from the point of view of taxafew years, the endowment was increased to fifteen

tion. After a

million dollars, so that the Curtis Institute disposed of an annua] income of 600,000 dollars. A magnificent palace had been rebuilt for the purpose, and valuable sculptures and pictures as well as' Persian and Chinese carpets graced the foyer. There were no school fees on the contrary, needy pupils received a weekly allowance of twenty dollars. They were examined at regular* medically intervals, and I remember almost an epidemic of both dental and tonsiUar extractions, at the time when these parts of the body^ were held responsible for all kinds of bodily ailments. When, at a ;

later stage, the Institute

produced a number of outstanding pupils,

organized and financed their

first public appearances. The dtbuwere, moreover, presented with valuable Italian instruments, and sent to Europe in order to give concerts there at the Institute's expense. In short, it was the music student's El it

tants

:

Dorado,'

an

institution

of which

many had dreamt

as

of an unattainable

ideal.

The piano teachers were Josef Hofmann and, in quick succession,Moritz Rosenthal, Wilhelm Backhaus and Benno Moiseiwitsch.^ 350


AMERICA [1923-1928] br the first four years, I was in charge of the violin classes; I was ucceeded by Auer and Zimbalist. Marcella Sembrich, Sarah Valuer and Grogorza taught singing, Felix Salmond the 'cello, .nd Louis Bailly the viola. The Institute even went so far as to lave a special harpsichord class, for which Wanda Landowska, the >est exponent of the instrument, had been engaged. The instrunental and vocal classes had their own accompanists. The lirector's office, on the other hand, was entrusted to less outtanding figures. The founder of the whole venture, the aforenentioned John Grolle, was an honest idealist and indeed somehing of a Utopian; he did not retain his post for more than a year, rlis

successor "William Walter, a former orchestral manager,

was

competent administrator, but without any musical knowto make way for Josef Hofmann, .edge whatever; he soon had i

iie

there were several personal friend of the president. For the rest, who were familiar with the ins and outs of such

efficient assistants

in organization. The supreme commander was Mrs Bok who, with die best of intentions, was touchingly ignorant of both the

and the re-creative aspects of the art of music. Marcella Sembrich [1858-1935], the once celebrated drew for ten lessons per week an annual salary of 40,000 :reative

There

is

no doubt

singer, dollars.

that she brilliantly acquitted herself at her task,

even though she was apparently unfamiliar with the development of modern opera from Wagner onwards. Apart from her there was Sarah Cahier, equally outstanding in oratorio and opera, and the best exponent of the contralto part in Gustav Mahler's possibly

Song of the Earth. Michael Press was for

one

year.

When,

installed as

my assistant,

at a later stage, I

but he only taught

recommended

that pre-

be instituted, three of my former pupils paratory classes should were appointed for the purpose, i.e. Frank Gittelson, Sascha Berlin assistant Richard ff acobson and Emmanuel Zetlin, while my for my own class. In preparatory teacher the piano department there were continuous changes, for Josef directed the Institute from JHofmann, who at that time already other gods at his side. Betolerate not did fcehind the scenes, easily

Hartzer was engaged

as

tween 1925 and 1928, no fewer than three pianists 351

Moiseiwitsch,


CARL FLESCH Backhaus and Rosenthal succeeded each other, none of them stand an atmosphere pregnant with intrigues. Of willing to I cannot say much more than that he was Moiseiwitsch 1890]

[b.

an excellent

pianist,

almost equally accomplished

as a card-player.

to return to Europe, sojourn of about six preferred months. His successor Moriz Rosenthal [1862-1946], the doyen of after a

He

with Emil Sauer [1862-1942], one of< piano virtuosos and, together was widely feared because of his Liszt the last surviving

caustic

pupils,

humour.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Ysaye escaped to in a fishing boat, and there were reports in the papers that

England he had almost perished on the way. Rosenthal confirmed the news and added, When Ysaye arrived in England, the tragedy had his compositions had been saved too.' already happened: Rosenthal survived as the last representative of pure virtuosodom into an age which regarded the instrument as but a means *

towards the musical end. His

style, therefore,

made

a

somewhat

and I personally did not take to it. Schnaantiquated impression, bel was his pet aversion, for he could not understand that tech-^ of musicality rather than an independent nique could be a function achievement. His urge for perfection, however, was admirable.* he still tried to pursue a new and? advanced in

Although

years,

and even sued, those obstinately fought, the value of his not did to his mind, who, fully recognize art An untiring worker, he sacrificed his life to the piano. Bui| he never tried to found a school and hand down to posterity his

more

artistic course.

He

critics

no doubt valuable technical principles. His artistic role in the fielq of piano playing was not dissimilar to Huberman's in the art of violin playing.

His successor Wilhelm Backhaus

[b.

1884]

was of a

different

and as a man: stamp. have a high regard for him both as an artist, he his In spite of proved unable tq great successes, however, attain the position that might have been his in the artistic life 1

I

time. His technical equipment was overwhelming, his musicality of the first rank, but there was one thing he lacked in

of our

his art as well as his life:

he was uncommunicative, incapable oj he was inhibited in every respect

psychic exhibitionism; since

352


AMERICA [1923-1928] is

rich reservoir

of emotions had no

Vhen

in company, he would ig his mouth. As a pianist, he

access to the outer

world.

sit for long hours without openwas regarded in most countries as

istinguished but cold, a moderately sensitive musician without lemental feeling, a sovereign craftsman who, however, lacked hie

gift

of sweeping the

listener off his feet.

The principal teachers at the Institute felt that they were Dmewhat overpaid and that they therefore ought to make an dditional contribution to Curtis :ellist

its

prestige.

It

was thus

Quartet was born. Apart from myself,

Salmond,

the

viola

player

Bailly,

it

that the

conssited

and

of the

Emmanuel

]etlin.

A Londoner by birth, Felix Salmond [1888-1952] occupied the wo most important

teaching posts in America: at the Curtis Foundation. He is justly regarded as an ex-

istitute and the Juilliard

ellent artist ofprofound musical culture,

who possesses an engaging

ersonality. Louis Bailly [b. 1882], an outstanding representative f the highly developed French school of viola playing, was disall for his special knowledge of the technique of hamber music, which he had acquired during his many years with le Capet-Flonzaley Quartet. Emmanuel Zetlin, too, was up to is task, and since we got on well with each other, had no financial worries, and loved to play quartets, our efforts reached a con-

nguished above

.derable standard within a comparatively short time. la the course

f one year,

we only gave three or four recitals, playing chiefly the

Beethoven quartets. After my departure, the ensemble disanded and its name was adopted by a quartet consisting of former upils of the Institute; coached by Baifiy, they achieved excellent

ite

erformances.

So far as sonata playing was concerned, I formed a short-lived uo with Josef Hofmann [b. 1876], my future director. Rubin;ein's last pupil, he had originally been a phenomenally gifted liild prodigy. As a young man he was the acknowledged ivourite of Russia's high society, and until the First World War, e confined his

concert activities almost exclusively to that

ountry. In Moscow and Petersburg alone, he gave dozens of oncerts every year.

353


CARL FLESCH which made

His well-shaped face stowed a childlike softness that had survived into manhood. His you think of a baby's head while on the other hand he mind, too, evinced infantile features, to the artistic had a special gift for higher mechanics. Transferred sphere,

mixture of these contrasting traits resulted in a strange

calculation. Elemental and rousing explosions spontaneity and cerebral punctiliousness. would, surprisingly, give way to purely as a indeed almost overpowering, talent In view of his unique,

he might have climbed to the very top of his profession, but for certain obstacles in his personality. His chamber-music had a smack of dryness, of unnatural forcedness that made

pianist,

playing an almost droll impression and all but concealed the great soloist. was sceptical: His attitude towards higher musical schooling his ultimate was teachers 'There are no good only good pupils',

wisdom. If this

dictum were

true, it

would be impossible

for a

compean

or for tent teacher to raise a mediocre talent to a higher level,

ruin a great talent; but experience has incompetent teacher to such pro~< the contrary in either case. However, clearly proved dilettante's educational for the excuse nouncements are a good

with pupils of average talent, while they also seem to prov^ those teachers right who devote themselves exclusively to outwas only natural, then, that Hofmann claimed standing talents. It the cream of all available pupils for his own class and left the rest failure

to his colleagues Backhaus, Moiseiwitsch or Rosenthal. Lacking a real knowledge, he tried to replace most of pupil' s,

any

teaching

his

own and to

personality by a compulsive influence to

know from

already Busoni's teaching.

It is

stimulate

him towards

imitation

which a pupil easily submits, the examples of Joachim's, Ysaye's

as

not surprising, then,

'

we

and that Hofmann showed

little understanding for teaching methods. I have always tended to occupy myself even more intensively with the averag^!

my

pupil than with the talents is like a

As long to his

two

as

elite.

A teacher who

man who

only interested in great"

only seeks the company of rich people. to confine his aristocratic inclinations

Hofmann had

own class, he was unable to

years,

is

do much harm. But when,

he was appointed director and proceeded to 354

afte

let his


AMERICA [1923-1928] whole Institute, its decline had begun. was teacher no longer required to guide his pupil, step by step, towards the summits of his art; instead, there was an all-out effort to attract mature young artists from all over the world, to let them shine and thus contribute to the glory of the Institute and its founders. Anon the rumour was rife amongst American musical students that to enrol at the Curtis Institute meant a lucrative post for the present and an insurance for the future; the lessons by the greatest specialists were regarded as a pleasant addition that one got into the bargain. By way of parallel development, an advertising drive was started, American in an unfavourable sense, whose leading motive was not the artistic result, but circumstantial claptrap. The orchestral class, for instance, was at one time under the direction of an eminent conductor, who, however, did not deem it worth while to direct the rehearsals in his own illustrious person, asocial principles rule the

The

*

;

but contented himself with walking about in the orchestra as a kind of chief inspector, dropping an occasional remark or two to one of the players.

One

could hardly blame the students

the circumstances, they were above 1

all

intent

upon

having a

if,

in

good

time, gradually losing sight of their original artistic aim altogether. I saw the catastrophe coming and tried to prevent, or at least to

'

delay

In a detailed

it.

branded

as unsocial

and recommended

memorandum

addressed to

Mrs Bok,

I

the Institute's addiction to easy star-breeding, that preparatory classes should

*in order to educate talented pupils

be introduced

from the elementary

level

upwards. My suggestions met with complete incomprehension; in the ^probably I was even regarded as a spoil-sport, a foreign body organism of the Institute. It now only needed a minor stimulus for me to devote my artistic energies to more serious activities. Amongst the numerous Russian emigrants in that period, there

f

*was Lea Luboschiitz

'An Auer since she

In

[b.

in America. 1889], who tried her luck she Odessa until in lived emigrated, and

pupil, she had talented fiddler she

was a

had enjoyed

a certain esteem.

New York,

she was at first supported by beneficent art lovers, met Josef Hofmann, who took an interest in her and gave few sonata recitals with her. Although she had never taught

until she *a

before,

he decided to engage her

C.F.-AA

as a

355

teacher for the Institute. For


CARL FLESCH as Lead of the violin departpurpose he required my consent ment which he obtained after our lady president had exerted some this

pressure Institute

the future of the

upon me. I now had definite proof that would be determined by personal relationships and

and I firmly decided to leave. Sure enough, intrigues of all kinds, from that time, Hofinann engaged his teachers for all sorts of inartistic reasons;

and in the autumn of 1927, under the pretext of

to concert-giving in wanting to devote the following years Europe, I handed in my resignation. The following years were to show that my forecast had not The eighty-four-year-old Auer and Efrem been too pessimistic.

Zimbalist

[b. 1889],

who had never taught the instrument, became

my successors. The great crash on the stock exchange in 1929 and the ensuing depression, moreover, reduced the Institute's funds to a considerable extent. Thus the Juilliard Foundation soon gained the

N

built upon an equally geneupper hand, an institute that had been rous financial basis which at the same time consisted of more solid

The teachers, too, were sounder and took their work more seriously, and the director, the pianist Ernest Hutcheson, was averse to any kind of bluffing and knew what he wanted. The pupils who had been entrusted to me at the Curtis Institute were mostly Americans, but there were also a few particularly it were ordered from gifted Europeans whom the Institute had as die Old World at its own expense. Apart from Briselli, whom I have already mentioned, there was above all Henry Temianka, who did great credit to the Institute: both musically and technia model collection of talents. If he continues to cally, he possessed grow emotionally too, if he develops his spontaneity and selfforgetfulness, he may well come to play an important part in America's musical life. 1 1 also remember a girl fiddler of German investments.

descent, Loys zu Putditz, who at first raised great hopes which, however, did not materialize. Most of the rest of my class were not above a decent average excellent future orchestral players. One of them, Gama Gilbert, later changed his aind became

profession

second critic on the New York Times. "While at Philadelphia *He

now leads

I

worked at the completion of the second

the Paganini Quartet.

356

,

,


AMERICA [1923-1928] volume of The Art of

and supervised the English translation of the first volume. In the latter task, I was most ably assisted by Gustav Saenger, my publishers' (Fischer's) music editor: his practical knowledge of violin playing together with his mastery of both German and English proved invaluable. Most of all, I liked to work during railway journeys, when I was able to do as much as ten hours a day. Teaching and writing inevitably reduced my interest in concert-giving. Since I made a point of making up for any lessons I missed it was very difficult for me to embark on longer journeys, case, high and regular salary made it unnecessary to look for additional sources of income. Besides, the

and in any for

me

Violin Playing

my

strange circumstances in which one sometimes had to practise one's profession were disagreeable to an inveterate European.

Admittedly, there were a few rays of light, such as the sonata with Gabrilowitsch in California, but on the other hand,

recitals

one had to contend with conditions of the Wild West variety. Thus, one day, I had to play in Texas in a place of about 15,000 inhabitants. Upon my arrival, I was confronted with a complica-

had held a revival meeting in a big wooden shed holding 5,000 people, which had been for the purpose. One thousand five hundred chairs specially built had been taken there from the concert hall, while the rest of the believers had to content themselves with primitive wooden benches. The 'stalls' consisted of enormous quantities of shavings and sawdust which covered the naked ground. Since there was tion: a

few days previously,

a ranter

number of people to get the chairs the recital had to take place in the shed unless I wanted to desert, a course of action which in view of the

neither time nor a sufficient

back to the concert

hall,

customs obtaining in Texas might not have been without dangers. At the other end

its

of the social ladder, I gave a concert at the White House, where I met Coolidge, then President of the United States. On Sunday mornings, we usually initiated the new week with a concert at die house of my friend Rudi Polk, originally a veryconcern of good violinist who was working in his father-in-law's 357


CARL FLESCH After a generous American breakfast, we in the morning right into the afternoon. The played from ten of chamber music and were improvised, a motley programmes small orchestra. These a with even violin concertos, sometimes

department

stores.

most pleasant morning matinees have remained among my rare enjoyments, memories from that period. Apart from such American with at home feel not colleagues. did I my however, could not stomach my high salary, and the atmos-

They simply

with intrigues and was not even mitigated by phere was heavy such beneficial institutions as the Beethoven Association. The of this music club was Harold Bauer. Its financial means president

drew from half a dozen concerts, in which members played gratuitously. Bauer himself had

it

its

most famous

a originally been

I violinist and had turned to the piano relatively late in the day. on with Casals, at Amsterdam, playing first heard him in 1903 whom the older artist is said to have exerted a very favourable influence. Bauer certainly is one of the most sensitive musicians

amongst

pianists,

as

well

as

a

most lovable person, the right

for bringing his colleagues together, at

any

man

rate for a social

evening.

However, despite the great number of musicians with whom I became acquainted at that time, I did not feel particularly attracted towards any of them on a purely personal level. Perhaps it was my own fault. I was, after all, preoccupied with my creative work. The German, English, Italian, Dutch and French editions of the

volume of my magnum opus had already been published, under my own supervision. In 1928, the second volume

first

partly was to appear in German, and in other languages soon after. With interest the continuous mental tension in which I lived, even

my

in the practice of violin playing was temporarily superseded by attempts to get at its theory, to establish its inner connections and analyse its external, physical elements. Thus I came to feel

my

upon completion of the second volume, a re-orientation of my existence, such as would be necessitated by transferring my activities once again to my European home, would have a benethat

ficial all,

influence

as

early

the practical development of 1926 the Berlin State Hochschule

my

upon

as

358

art.

After

had asked


AMERICA [1923-1928]

me whether I would consider succeeding Willy Hess, who was approaching the age limit. The negotiations in the following year proved successful, and I undertook to teach at the Hochschule from October 1928. For six months a year, I was to give eight lessons per week, and to make up for any lessons I missed. For the remaining three and a half months, I could name my own substitute. My salary amounted to 12,000 marks per annum, which meant about sixty marks for a lesson. My pupil Max Rostal was appointed my deputy. Thus the die was cast, the Curtis Institute gave a big reception in my honour and had a plaquette coined in memory of my activities there; and at Easter I returned with my wife to Europe. In the spring of 1925, still weak from my neuritis, I had been ordered to convalesce at Baden-Baden, and in view of the beauty of this place, which I already knew from previous concert tours, I had decided to live there for that part of the year which I spent in Europe. A year later, I had bought a handsome house in the most beautiful part of the town, and had moved in a few months after, shortly before my return to America. It was to lovely Baden-Baden, then, that my wife and I now returned. [END OF CARL FLESCH'S MS.]

359


THE LAST SIXTEEN YEARS [1928-1944] by C.

F. Flesch

ON his return from the U.S.A.

my

father attracted to

Baden-

He always and believed in having gradually extended in this idea until it was correct to say that he actually taught 'classes'. For the pupils themselves this was good training for

Baden

a circle of pupils

from

over the world.

all

listeners at his lessons

?

in public; many regarded these lessons as a more severe playing test than a concert, since the audience consisted entirely of experts ;

the listeners learnt

but

also the art

much, not only about the

art

of violin playing

of teaching.

Baden-Baden

is

an expensive spa but

my

father succeeded in

number of private householders to let rooms to his inducing at moderate prices, and during the summer months one a

pupils

could hardly take a walk without identifying Flesch pupils by the from various houses. The informal sound of

coming

practising

atmosphere at Baden-Baden, its swimming pools, Kur Garden, and the wonderful surroundings must have made many students'

an ideal time for them from every point of view. My father found this method of class teaching so successful that

stay

he kept

it

up

after

he had moved

to

London,

as

well as during

summer holidays in various Belgian spas. It would be name any particular pupils of this period, especially

unfair to as

many

attended only for a few 'finishing' lessons, but mention should be made of Ida Haendel, Ginette Niveu, Ricardo OdnoposofF,

Henry

Szering, Bronislaw

whom

studied with

my

Gimpel and Joseph Hassid,

father for several years. Hassid

doubt one of the strongest violin Fritz Kreisler, after hearing

fiddler such as

him

at

X

talents

my

of

all

of

was no

his time. Indeed,

father's house, said:

'A

(mentioning a very famous name) is born every 100 years; one like Hassid every 200 years/ During the last war

360

,


THE LAST SIXTEEN YEARS [1928-1944] he made, whilst

a boy, a very successful debut in London with but Henry Wood, shortly afterwards he developed schizophrenia from which he never recovered: he died a few years later in an institution. He has recorded only a few small genre pieces but even these show what a loss the violinistic world has suffered still

Sir

through his early death.

The

number of pianists who collaboone of them the young Franz Reizenstein for father even then predicted a very distinguished future.

courses also attracted a

rated with pupils

whom my

But to return to pre-Hitler days: whilst at Baden-Baden father organized Chamber Music Series with Carl Friedberg and Felix Salmond, whose place was later taken by Gregor Piatigorsky. These concerts became important annual events and the revival

my

of his chamber music

gave him immense satisfaction. During the winter months my father moved to Berlin and divided his time between teaching at the Berlin Hochschule, private lessons and concerts. He was at the peak of his success artistic as well as material

when

activities

out of the blue the

My

New

York Stock Exchange

crash

had invested all his savings in American securities and much worse had bought a great proportion of them 'on margin', i.e. he had paid only a small percentage of their actual price. "When the 'bottom fell out of the market' he not only lost all his money but a great deal more, occurred in 1929.

father

ending up with a debt of at

He owed

this

money

least

100,000 marks.

to his friend, the banker Franz

von

Mendelssohn (see p. 256), and seeing no possibility of repaying it, he wrote him one day and offered his Stradivarius in full discharge of the and so

debt.

Von Mendelssohn was good enough

to accept this

had

to part with the instrument which had been 1 his constant companion for the greater part of his career.

my

father

However, with

his natural resilience

shock and from then onwards used

his

he soon overcame

this

second violin, a Petrus

Guarnerius, with great success. His mode of living did not change because his income con-

it

1P The violin was kept by the firm of Mendelssohn as an investment but I gather was later destroyed during an allied air raid on Berlin.

361


CARL FLESCH his tinued to be high, and he was even able to begin to rebuild

depleted resources. His house whether in Berlin, Baden-Baden or Londoncontinued to be a point of attraction for any musician who hapand many are the evenings of pened to be passing through town, chamber music which under strict exclusion of strangers

produced combinations of

artists

such as will never be heard

I remember a quartet evening in together on a concert platform. Felix Salmond, others in London and Kreisler Baden-Baden with several with Emanuel Feuerand with Heifetz and Max Rostal, It is an rnann, to mention but a few of the most outstanding ones. eternal pity that the tape recorder was practically unknown at that time, though it is certain that my father would not wittingly

on these occasions when all those down. musically speaking, were letting their hair

have permitted

its

use

present,

made

for a very interesting time for us, the younger a curious thought, incidentally, that whilst so generation. It is much has been written about prominent men, the story of their It all

families' reactions

man

is

still

by no means

awaits easy,

its

author. Living as a son

of a great

and comparisons, particularly with

and not always altogether satisfying. The * And do you also play question from strangers after each concert, die violin?' became so annoying that Stefan (son of Artur)

pupils, are inevitable

I proposed to appear at one of our fathers' sonata with a placard round our necks proclaiming, 'No, I don't play the violin (piano) Unfortunately we never carried out the idea.

Schnabel and

recitals

.'

Children also tend to get somewhat distorted ideas of the standing and importance of friends of the family. Famous people become commonplace and so it happened that my brother, at the age of eight, on being told one day that he would not be allowed up for supper because guests were expected, replied con-

to stay

temptuously:

'But

who

is

coming

after

Schnabel, Nikisch. . . .' In the literary field my father undertook

He

all

just

Kreisler,

no major works,

prepared a second edition of his Art of Violin Playing, edited a number of concertos and sonatas (some together with Artiu wrote two small treatises the Problems of Tone ProducSchnabel),

362


THE LAST SIXTEEN YEARS [1928-1944] tion in Violin

How

to Practise

Bruno

hand

at the

arias.

Playing and Eisner also tried his

One of them-Prayer

Menuhin, has, of this genre.

I

think, a

and with the

pianist

transcription of six Handel recorded amongst others by Yehudi

permanent place in the music

literature

The advent of Hitler in 1933 did not immediately change his The authorities were only too anxious to keep a number of

career.

distinguished Jewish artists and teachers Tor show', and so father continued until 1934 to teach and give concerts. His last

my

appearance was as a soloist with Furtwangler in Berlin on the evening of the Reichstag Fire. I still remember the early editions of the morning papers (appearing at about midnight) bringing the first sensational news, and the chief editor of the Vossische Zeitung,

Georg Bernhard, who was in the party of friends at an after-concert supper, asserting that this would mean the end of the Nazis one of the many miscalculations to which Democratic Leaders at that time were so prone. Incidentally, the coincidence of this concert and the fire on the same evening is mentioned in Lion Feuchtwanger's famous novel The Family Opperman which describes these events.

In 1934

my

father inevitably

came

could no longer stay in Germany.

to the conclusion that he

He

sold his house

and

after

some exploratory journeys settled in London, where he continued to teach and give courses to a large number of pupils. Although he had originally decided to stop playing in public after his sixtieth year, economic conditions forced him to keep up his :oncert career, and it was a source of pride to him that his powers lis lis

le it

He ascribed this to the soundness of methods and he continued to play in public until shortly before death. In fact, in a letter written just a few days before his death, mentioned that he had never felt so successful as a soloist as

a performer never waned.

is

that time.

When war broke ngagements

out

in Holland

my father fulfilled a number of concert at that

time neutral

and then decided

o stay there and follow an invitation to give a course of lessons. People in Holland were completely blind to the dangers of a

Jerman invasion and the event caught 363

my parents unprepared, in


CARL FLESCH of our warnings by letter and telegram to return in time. As a matter of fact, I managed, on the first day of the invasion, to obtain the British through the good offices of Sir Adrian Boult, to the Vic-Wells attached be to Consulate s consent for them in Holland, and which was Ballet which happened to be on tour evacuated to London via Spain. However, I was unable to get father himself and he never thought of asking the word to

spite

my

British Consulate for help to return.

Thus both

my parents stayed

on in Holland. of course, not allowed to teach or play and a new edition of the Kreutzer occupied most of his time with Studies and a large work, the Art of Fingering, which he regarded as exceeding in importance even his Art of Violin Playing. This book is shortly to be published by Messrs. Curci. Incidentally, when he left Holland he had to leave the manuscript behind with

My

father was,

bombing raids, but was suddenly discovered have been attacked by mice luckily without any permanent

friends. It survived all

to

damage.

were made for my father to be allowed to he was offered a teaching post in the U.S.A., but the Germans declined to give him an exit permit. Meanwhile the Nazis began to round up Jews and put them into Repeated

efforts

leave Holland; for instance,

concentration camps with a view to eventual extermination. Both father had been lucky my parents were arrested twice but

my

enough to have in his possession a letter from Furtwangler, his lifelong friend, recommending him to a German official in quite a different connection. This spoke of him in the highest terms and when produced made such an impression on the German authorithat parents were released almost immediately. Nevertheless, in the long run, even Furtwangler would

ties

.;

my

have

been unable to prevent their extermination, in particular since~ they had meanwhile lost their

German

well as their Hungarian nationality and stateless Jews were the first target of the Germans. Here, however, two colleagues came to my father's aid, the as

Geza von Kresz and Ernst von Dohnanyi, who managed Hungarian authorities' consent to reinstate my father's^ nationality. Upon diverse protracted applications he was perviolinist

to get the

364

,

:


THE LAST SIXTEEN YEARS [1928-1944] Germans

Holland and by the Hungarians The journey took my parents straight through war-time Germany and was one of the most nervetnitted

by

the

to leave

to enter their country.

racking experiences of their life. It is probable that it was the origin of the heart disease from which my father eventually died. In Hungary, which at that time was only just beginning to be

dominated by the Nazis, my father gave one concert in which he played both the Beethoven and Brahms Concertos, with sensational success. However, when he advertised a second one, quite a number of anonymous letters and telephone calls were made to the police to prevent it, and he therefore preferred to cancel it. He managed to earn a living through a new edition of the two Bach Violin Concertos. Again, however, he could recognize that conditions

At

would rapidly deteriorate.

that time the Basle Conservatoire

had decided to open

a

separate Conservatoire at Lucerne, and my father, through the good offices of Ernest Ansermet, was able to secure a Swiss visa and labour permit (a great feat at the time) and was engaged to

take over the violin

class.

The head of the Lucerne

Conservatoire

soon came to be on very was Paul Eger, with whom my friendly terms. He taught and played with great success for one father

and a half years, and, political and world conditions apart, was happy in his work and surroundings. Violin playing in Switzerland had never been of a generally high standard, and it was my father's aim, in time, to create a new the excitement of generation of young Swiss violinists. However, to fail. Examiyears had taken its toll and his health began nation by a specialist confirmed that the heart was seriously

the

last

damaged. The

specialist

discussed with

my

mother

how

far to

to continue playing and teaching, but they came to the conclusion that for an active man like him, this would be

forbid

him

tantamount to

a death sentence.

They

therefore decided to allow

him to continue in his work unchecked.

One day he contracted 'flu,

cancelled his lessons for a

few

days,

but recovered very quickly. He therefore wrote several postcards next lessons, and on retiring to :o giving the dates of their pupils, his last

:>ed,

words were, 1

feel

completely well again.'

365


CARL FLESCH During the same night on November

15, 1944,

he died in

his

sleep.

In spite of the world's preoccupation with war, the news stir in Switzerland and it was broadcast the same morning

caused a

to the great consternation father's postcards

I

of those pupils

who

received

my

on the following

evening. British agencies picked up the broadcast from Switzerland and myself read of his death the next morning in the papers tele-

grams at that time took anything from twenty-four hours upwards to arrive. Memorial concerts were held in Switzerland, in Holland in and in London, where Sir spite of the German occupation Adrian Boult and Mr Edric Cundell spoke, and Max Rostal and the late Franz Osborn (with the help of a small string orchestra composed partly of former pupils) played. After the war, Yehudi Menuhin gave a concert in his memory in Berlin. At the instigation of Max Rostal and Mr Cundell the Guildhall

School initiated a Carl Flesch medal 'For Excellence in Violin Playing' which is now an annual prize coveted by young violinIt is a fitting memorial to a man for was the most teaching important part of his work.

ists all

over the world.

366

whom


APPENDIX

I

HUBERMAN by Hans

Keller

LJESCH and Huberman were

t

Huberman

is

opposite musical characters, and the one in this narrative towards Flesch is figure

whom

i

unable to maintain his uniquely objective attitude, shown, for instance, in his characterizations of such and opposites as Rose 49

^Heifetz (see pp. 335

^which

I

happen

to

ff.),

(see pp. ff.) description of Joachim's playing, of idea from a very old record, and with

or in his

have some

which, paradoxically enough, Huberman's

style

seems to have had

much in common. seems moreover likely to me that Flesch had last heard Huberman long before I heard him first, for not even his purely technical observaIt

tions

apply to the

Huberman I knew:

since

Huberman's was a strongly

developing personality, Flesch and I may at times be talking, as it Vere, about different artists. At the risk of momentarily extending my 'editorial function, then, I feel that I

might profitably offer a rejoinder and some complementary comment to Flesch's observations. Huberman was one of the greatest musicians I have ever come across. Right or wrong, mine line

of artiste has

is

not altogether an eccentric impression: a long stature as an artist, violinist towering

testified to his

knd man, including such vastly different musical character types Brahms, Toscanini, Bruno Walter and Furtwangler,

as

In general, Huberman's technique seems to have undergone various in the course of his It was in:hanges

development.

iividual, ^ff-days.

and to some extent

certainly

always

depended on his mood, on his on- and When he was *on form', both hands evinced a virtuoso techit

lique of the utmost brilliance and an almost uncanny verve. More in particular, when I heard him, he did no longer hold the

in the old

manner

,

nor did he 'whisper'

at a

low dynamic

bow

level.

Typical of his ever-changing interpretations was a tendency towards he sharpest possible characterization and, consequently, an occasional

extreme pianissimo of the greatest I have never intensity. again heard he entry of the second subject after the cadenza in the first movement >:

the Beethoven ....... ,__

Concerto pkyed so

367

softly

and

intensely, yet


APPENDIX

I

restrained!/ and without incidental noises, (Unluckily, I never heard a Flesch concert.)

He no longer used a 'pure finger vibrato' when I heard him, norindeed was his finger vibrato like other people's. It was determined, on the one hand, by his very original sound-ideals, and on the other hand, by the peculiarities of his left hand which, so far as 'trembling* movements were concerned, seemed to function in a highly individual man-

he would execute the fastest and clearest possible and stretched fourth finger, by way of a vibrato-like stiff

ner. For instance,

shake with a

motion. His records show that his vibrato, far from being inadequate, was capable of the subtlest differentiations. In view of his records, the reader will be puzzled by Flesch's remarks on Huberman's intonation. It was the very opposite of a 'welltempered' intonation; in fact, I do not know of another violinist whc adjusted his intonation so consistently to harmonic and melodic requirements. Naturally, with a violinist whose technique can be erratic, critical appraisal will easily be one-sided if his development is not closel) followed. While Flesch prefers Huberman's left hand to his right, Grov t

IV

speaks of his 'excellent technique, especially of the right hand* evidently, it all depended on when you heard him. Nor did I find an^ 'neglect

of elementary

emphasis Huberman

rules

lays

of

upon

articulation', his

own

and

as for 'the over-

personality',

a

powerfu

we do

not take to will always seem to us egocentric personality Huberman's musical character had affinities with that of Furtwangler one of his profoundest admirers, whose own intense personality like wise aroused the impression of self-centredness amongst those wh< reacted against it.

As a

man, finally, Huberman showed his passionate intellect an integrity in his fight for a United States of Europe, in his famou l accuse (1933) in reply to Furtwangler's invitation to play in German

f

after the Nazis

had assumed power (see Curt Riess, Wilhelm Purtwanglei most important, in his founding, in 193 ) and,

London, 1955, pp. 117 (after

about a year's strenuous

efforts

entailing

innumerable auditions

what has meanwhile become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra achievement which Toscanini helped to bring to fruition.

368

a


APPENDIX

I

HUBERMAN by C. A.

Mr

S

F. Flesch

Keller so rightly points out, his note is not stricdy within his However, since I was anxious not to suppress his

editorial functions.

same time not to have my father's viewpoint dison the somewhat unorthodox step of an additional torted, agreed comment on my part. The fact that there can be opinions on Huberman which are so at the Dpinion, but

we

diametrically opposed

shows

that his

was a strong personality of many

facets.

am not qualified to judge the purely technical aspects of his playthat his technique underwent fundamental changes ing: it may well be I

hi later years and could be erratic, though I may be forgiven if I rely father's judgment than on that of Mr in these matters more on

my

Keller or Grove IV.

to

As to interpretation, however, I know from numerous discussions which I listened in our own home that many prominent artists

of playing. For my fundamentally disagreed with Huberman's style was the overriding intentions father the realization of the composer's

Huberman, no doubt, frequently put

consideration whereas personality

before the

work he was

his

own

interpreting.

connection the experience of Artur Schnabel is perhaps he began instructive. After many years of co-operation with my father, last long and, did not association The Huberman. with to play sonatas a foregone conclusion for all I believe, was artistically not a happy one who realized the extreme difference between the two artists' approach

In

this

to their work.

no enmity between Huberman and my Huberman had the greatest respect for him as a teacher. From conit is clear that Huberman once in

There was, father.

incidentally,

my

'correspondence

possession

for the

*

"

of his

express purpose young violinist's expenses for lessons with my father. London to coming Both were sometimes united, too, in their aim to help colleagues

tributed to a

trouble, such

as,

for instance,

Rose; Huberman's

bears witness to reproduced below,

no doubt two great

It is

tion,

in

letter to myself,

this.

a healthy sign that there could be, in the same generaa classical works in so different artists

approaching

manner and yet both with such outstanding success. 369


APPENDIX

II

TRANSLATION OF A GERMAN LETTER FROM BRONISLAW HUBERMAN TO C. F, FLESCH BRONISLAW HUBERMAN

London,

May

10,

1939-

Scheveningen,

May

29,

I939

SECRETARIATE

1

Oranje-Hotel, Villa 12.

Mr. C. 54,

F. Flesch,

Baker

Street,

London, W.i.

Dear Mr.

Flesch:

Enclosed please find a cheque for .10.0.0; kindly use it for the Rose Fund, according to our agreement. It goes against my grain to send this cheque personally to the old

gentleman. I think it is only logical that the initiator of the undertaking.

it

With

should go via your father

best wishes,

Yours,

Bronislaw

Huberman2

*It seems to me that the London date refers to the dictation of the letter whicl was probably signed in Scheveningen, during a concert engagement. It wa received on May 31. Tr. 2 The signature, incidentally, might help to put an end to the frequent mis spelling of the name ('Hubermann'), e.g. in Grove IF and F (Flesch, too, employ

the double

V in

his manuscript).

Tr.

370


m

APPENDIX

TRANSLATION OF A GERMAN LETTER FROM

TO FLESCH

SEVCIK (cf.

facsimile

between pp. 338 and 339).

Pisek,

May

5,

1924.

very dear master,

My

With your work1 you have provided violinists with a bible to which teachers

and players will continue to

refer as

long

as there is violin

the world. playing in violin playing has been left Nothing connected with the violin and out of account, and to every question you have found a convincing

answer.

Hats off to the great master standing,

what

!

work! Should not

we

had no

who

others,

violin, get together in order to I

What knowledge, what artistic undermaking of this

has gone towards the sagacity

gigantic

have perpetrated things for the

commit auto-da-fet

idea of this latest fruit of your genius; otherwise I should

not have failed to congratulate you. I

am much obliged for your kindly sending me the work which the

has beautifully produced, publisher, too,

and for the

your letter of April 30. So far, most great violinists have taken me.

I

am,

therefore, particularly impressed

the great, but one of the greatest [the

temple of our]

art. I

has

warm words

special pleasure

in hanging

the fact that not

by

come to

in

one of

a little niche in grant me

am infinitely grateful to you for this courage.

With the Czech translation one might wait a little. of Czechoslovakia, which alone can be taken into

In the big towns

consideration, people

to send copies on approval your publisher ought to Bohemian music shops too As the interest in the work increases, # the translation should be embarked upon.

know German;

only,

!

iThe Art of Violin Playing.

C.F.-BB

371


APPENDIX

III

and am kept going until the end term the of the academic thought of my holiday in Prague. by I

now live permanently in Pisek1 I

remain,

my

dear master, with

Yours very

my kindest regards, sincerely,

Ot. Sevok.

^e died there ten years later at the age of nearly eighty-two.

37*


INDEX Art of Violin Playing, The, 8, 2i., 33/1., 39., 44n., 86, 174, 241, 242, 25i.,

^BBIATE, LOUIS, 98

.ccompanying practice, 64

ma non

dagio

tanto(J, S. Bach),

238

357i 362, 364,

118 dagio Religioso (Thome"), Oskar, 20.; Quartet, Baron, 168

.diet,

20.

Asow, E. H. Mueller von, 247. Asow, Hedwig von, 247.

G

Aubert, Jacques, 239 Audiences compared, 232-3

vani (Vieuxtemps), 46 ix-la-Chapelle, 319 lard, D., 16, 38, 42, 239 ir

Auer, Leopold, 139, 153, 252-4, 255, 265, 278, 336, 338, 339-40, 351, 355, 356;

London

253-4, 339^40; death, 34; exploitation of name in U.S. A., 339; fees, 339; school, 139, 252-4, 255, as teacher,

lexanian, Diran, 23 5. S. Bach), 238; (J. (Lorenzo Somis), 238

Jlegro

(Lolli),

238;

203,

241,

157,

265-6, 336, 338; technique, 252 Aulin, Tor, 240 Austria, 12-59, 73. 127 Autobiography (Spohr), 2

313,319 Honge*e instruments, 264 Isace,

translations of,

Asnieres, 100

.gogics, 209, 247, 254 ir on the String, 48

Musikzeitung,

37i.;

Artot, 196

.gogical expression, 51

.llgemeine

312, 318-19, 323, 324*

324, 358

.erenthal,

Jbert Hall. See

3H,

253, 298,

284^.

.coustics,

Ave Maria

307

(Schubert), 289, 291

Jtenburg, II

Jtmann, Linati

Dr Wilhelm, 204

instruments, 55

B

Vmerican

tour', the, 332 onsterdam, 14, 26, 38, 45, 46, 82, 90, 112,

151, 175, 186, 190, 198, 208, 210,

212-

ACH,

j.

s.,

22, 23,

27.,

32,

3<5,

40, 48,

50, 80, 81, 83, 104, 115, I3i

i39-

160, 162, 177, 202, 207, 209,

2i7.,

225, 234, 237, 238, 268n., 270/1., 277, 291, 365; sonatas, 36; sonatas and

49, 266, 268, 269, 289, 295, 299, 358;

concert life in, 230-1 ; Concertgebouw Orchestra, 212-13, 220-49, 266, 268, 299; Conservatoire, 212-49, 266, 295; Lees Museum, 236; Music School, 217-18; Nieuwen Achtergracht, 217; rivalries within Concertgebouw Orchestra, 226-7; Society for the Pro-

motion of Music, 212; strike threat by Concertgebouw Orchestra, 226-7

partitas,

violin,

207; sonatas for clavier and violin concertos, 365;

40;

violin sonatas, 23 Bachrich (viola player), 52 Bachrich, Berthold, 26, 29

Back, Adolf, 13, 16, 341; as composer, 14; slow vibrato of, 14; teaching methods,

Lndrae,

14 Back, Oskar, 14, 3i<5 Backhaus, Wilhelm, 350. 352-3, 354

todriessen,

Baden-Baden, 38, 231, 279, 359,

[msterdamer Handelsblad, 234

Volkmar, 248 Willem, 217 ijorooy, Peter van, 230 tosermet, Ernest,

343.

3<55J

interpreta-

^ria

(Francoeur),

Baldner,

42 239;

(Mondonville), 239 btihem, 225, 230 behold, Eduard, 270 brangement, 'Paris', 102 Irf

Baillot, 62, 64,

196

Bailly, Louis, 351, 353

tions, 343

^rb6s, Fernandez,

3<5o-i>

362

of Fingering, The, 364

(Locatelli),

238;

Max, 264

Ballet Scene (J. Hellmesbefger, sen.),

24

Baltimore, 275; Peabody Institute, 275 Balzac, 87

Bardeleben,

von

(surgeon), 165

Barmas, 275 Bart6k, 83., 300

373


INDEX Basic Studies, 8, 241-2, 263,

314-26, 334, 358-9, 3<5i-3; Mendelsat Prize Hochschule, 105; Molique Prize at Hochschule, 105; music in after First World War, 319;

325

sohn

Basle, 60, 276, 365; Conservatoire, 365;

Concert Society, 277 La (de Beriot), 239 Bassermann, Hans, 92

Basque,

life in, 133-4; Philharmonic Choir, 151; Philharmonic Orchestra, 44, 105, 127, 140, 144, 148, 149, 150, 156, 195, 2i6., 230, 245, 267, 273, Philharmonic Society, 202; 317; Reichstag fire, 363; Royal Academy of Arts, 30; Singakademie, 200, 313 State Opera, 25, 105; teachers' fees in 334; treatment of foreign artists in 105-6; University, 3151*. Berliner Borsen-Zeitung, 157 Berliner Tageblatt, 4, 139, 140, 157, 158, 203,

musical

Bauer, Harold, 235, 285, 291, 358

Bayreuth, 29, 48,

167*1.,

Festival,

230;*.;

20Q. Bazzini, 143

Bebung, 120 Becker, Hugo, 35, 80, 235, 257, 258, 266, 267, 296-9, 307-8, 321; as chambermusician, 297; as teacher, 297, 298; has book on 'cello playing, 298; interpretations, 297; on technique, 298; on quality of performance, 297-8; physical appearance, 296; tone, 297; vibrato,

204 Berlioz, 75, 112

297

Bernhard, Georg, 363 Berthelier, 68

Becker, Jean, 181, 296 Beethoven, 2, 2on., 227*., 24, 27, 32, 33, 36,

Besancon, 99

39, 40, 47, 53, 75, 7<5, 80, 84, 93, 94, 97, 104, 124, 140, 145, 151, 152, 163, 164, 167, 169, 179, 183, 200, 206, 208, 221, 227, 228, 229, 234, 235, 236, 239, 246/1., 247., 248, 257., 262, 264, 267,

Biber, Heinrich J. F.. 238 Bielitz,

Bismardi 28

^73, 277, 278, 285, 288, 306, 308, 318, chamber 319,^320, 349, 353, 358, 365; music, 97; piano sonatas, 319; quartets, 40, 93, 164, 353; sonatas, 36, 145, 308; string quartets, 319; symphonies,

76

Bittner, 55 Bizet, 127

Blacher, Boris, 31571.

Blech, Leo, 73, 323, 324 Bodanzki, Artur, 13-14, 286, 341-2; inter-

.

'Beethoven*

Rondo

(Kreii

21),

pretations, 342 Boellmann, 76 Boer, Willem de, 216

124

Behr, Therese, 257, 258 Bekker, Paul, 203, 274n., 315 Belgian school, 45, 196

Bohemian

String Quartet, 31, 78, 181-2, 234, 251, 276 Bohemians (U.S. lodge), 282, 285

Belgium, 14, 266, 294, 360 Benda, Franz, 239 Berber, Felix, 34, 139, 143-4, 205; lack of self-control, 144; technique, 143 Berceuse, op. 16 (Faure), 239; op. 28, no. 3

Bohm, Joseph, 314 Bohnke, Emil, 256 Bok, Edward, 350 Bok, Mrs Mary Louise, 332-3, 350, 351, 355

(Juon), 240

Bokay

Berg, Alban, 2611. Berger, Otto, 182/1.

Bergonzi instruments, 157; prices

of,

Cfcu de, 19, 42, 196, 239, students* concertos, 311

311;

i77- 184, 1 86, 2i6n., 223, 229, 230,

127, 132-60, 169, 173,

231, 234, 238, 244, 245, 246, 249, 25078, 295-309, 310-26, 330, 334, 344, 348, 351, 358, 3<$i-3, 366; Bechstein Hall, 136, 140; Beethoven Saal, 200; bibliophiles among musicians in, 269;

Conservatoire, 300; Court Orchestra, 195; Flesch memorial concert, 366;

General

Staff,

Bordeaux, 71, 127, 196 137 Bossi, E., 240

157

Berlin, 19, 25, 30, 34, 37, 44, 66, 69, 78, 84, 85, 89, 90, 93, 98, 105, 113, 119,

I95-2H,

(lawyer), 147

Bonn, 307

Be*riot,

193,

257

Bilse, 78; Orchestra, 44, 98 Birthday of the Infanta, The, 31 $n.

Borsenkurier,

Boston, 20, 144, 221, 281, 282, 283, 343, 345-6; Symphony Orchestra, 20, 281, 282, 345-6 Bottesini, 345 Boucherit, Jules, 88, 108; as teacher, 88; technique, 88; tone, 88

Boulangerism, 129 Boulogne, 114 Boult, Sir Adrian, 364, 366 Bourrfa (Telemann), 238

Bowing,

299; Hochschule, 28.,

30-8, 89, 105, 127, 138, 139, 145, 147, 152, 195, 203, 250-4, 267, 274, 297,

374

18, 33-4, 3<5, 39, 44, 51, <5l, 64, 6 7, 78, 79, 90, 93, 95, 121-2, 131, 154, 177. 197, 228-9, 250, 253, 267, 298, 330; by Franco-Belgian school, <$5,


INDEX V>AF MUSIC, 68, 92, 102-4, 105 Cahier, Sarah, 351

253; 'Russian* style, 253, 335; slowmotion, 51; stiff, 4; tremor, 81 Brahms, 20., 24, 2y., 36, 37, 41, 46, 51,

Cajanus, 279

53, 75, ?6, 84, 104, 146, 149, 154, 178,

California, 269, 281,

203., 209, 2I3., 214, 227, 258, 262,

Camondo, Count,

270/1., 285,

Cantacuzene, Constance, 163, 170 Cantata for voice and orchestra (WuUner),

318, 340, 350, 3^5, 367; 209 ; double concertos,

clarinet sonatas,

208tt.

340 Braz, Anatole

le,

Cantilena, 266

327

Bremen, 201, 274

Canzonetta, op. 53 (Godard), 239 Lucien, 48/1., 88, 74, 92-4, Capet, 101-2, 145; and cafe music, 102; as author, 93-4; as quartet player, 93; as teacher, 93 bowing, 93 ; death, 93 ; early hardships, 92; editions of classical works, 94; Joachim's influence on, 94; love of quartet playing, 92; mysticism of, 94; popularizes quartet playing, 94; Quartet, 74, 93, 182, 251; recordings, 93 ; style, 94; technique, 93 Capet-Flonzaley Quartet, 353 Caressa, Albert (violin dealer), 113, 244 Carl Flesch Medal for Excellence in Violin

Brennerberg, Irene von, 54, 57 Breslau, ion.,

Brisbane,

204

3I7. 340, 349-50, 356

Briselli, Iso,

;

Benjamin, 315/1. Broadcasting. See Radio Britten,

Brodsky, 156; Quartet, 156 Bruch, Max, 39, 53, 64, 80, 88, 104, 142, 154, 239; and development of violin concerto, 154 Bruckner, Anton, 27, 148 Brun, Alphonse, 88 Brussels,

357

62, 71

14,

45, 78, 79,

83, 2i6n., 268,

30i., 316; Conservatoire, 45, 78;

Playing, 366 I, King, 164-9, 168, 310 II, King, 169 Caruso, Enrico, 288, 2OO., 292;

Quartet, 182 Bucharest, 25, 27, 39, 40, 42, 89, 92, 117, 128, 135, 159, 161-91, 193-4, 195, 196, 200, 205, 211, 212, 242, 244, 28i; Atheneum, 162; Conservatoire, 117, 135, 159-60, 162-91, 193-4; Conservatoire orchestral concerts, 185-6; court concerts, 164-94; court life in, 164 rT.; Metropolie, 162

Carol Carol

phone 292

Casals, Pablo,

in,

214, 234, 235-6, 254,

267, 277, 285, 296, 297, 358; as conductor, 236; as teacher, 23 5.; fingering, 235/1.; glissandos, 235; influence

on

Budapest, 49, 60, 127, 139, 152, 153, 186, 300-1; Academy of Music, 153, 154, 301; Conservatoire, 186 Bulow, Hans von, 32, 127, 133, 148, 2o8., 209, 287, 348 Bungert, August, 167 Bunte R.eihe, op, 30 (David), 239 Burgin, 329

'cello

playing,

Cassirer,

Bruno, 270

297 Chabrier, 76

Chaconne

(J.

S.

Bach), 32,

265; recordings, 292; tone, 265 Busch, Fritz, 323, 324, 341, 343 Busoni, Ferruccio, 80, 154, 155, 156, I97-, 201, 202, 224, 225, 234, 269, 277, 284, 329, 354; as author, 155; as composer, 155; as pianist, 155; as teacher, 155; influence on musical development, 155; influence on students, 155

Chasse,

50/1.,

52,

i88.

48/1.,

50, 115,

131, 139, 1 60, 162

Changes of position, 326

Friedrich, 27,

technique,

Castrone, Marchese de, 116 Cavatina, op. 25 (Cui), 239 'Cello Concerto (D' Albert), 297; (Dohnanyi), 297; (Grieg), in; (R. Strauss),

playing, 143*, physical appearance, 141; 'pieces', 142; rhythm, 141; style, 141 ; technique, 141 Busch, Adolf, 216, 246, 264-5, 292, 317, 324; as composer, 265; as teacher, 265;

Buxbaum,

235;

235; tone, 235 Cassel, 308

Burlesque (R. Strauss), 306 Burmester, Willy, 3, 119, 127, 139, 141-3, 195, 233; arrogance of, 141; bowing, 141; death, 142; influence on violin

personality,

gramo-

royalties of, 290/1.; recordings,

Chaplin (medal designer), 106 Charlemagne, 304 Charlottenburg, 204 Charpentier, Gustave, 76, 126-7

La (Mondonville), 239 Chausson, 197 Chevillard, 73, 76, 278 Chicago, 84, 201, 207, 343; Conservatoire, 201 Children's Song (David), 239 Chladni, Ernst Horens Friedrich, 284-5; Figures, 284-5 Chopin, 201, 202 Choral Fantasy (Beethoven), 163

375


INDEX Symphony

Cincinnati, 78, 273, 286, 342;

Orchestra, 273

Cinema,

56,

327

Clarinet Quintet (Brahms), 209 Cohn-Hollander family, 118 Cologne, 208, 209, 210, 216, 221, 227, 3078,

317^.; Cathedral, 227; Conserva221, 227; Hochschule, 216; Orchestra, 208; revolt in

toire,

Municipal (1918), 307-8 Colonne, Edouard, 72, 75 ; interpretations, 72; Quartet, 72 Columbia Gramophone Company, 291 Concertante style, 335 Concertgebouw Orchestra,

Dancla, 61, 62, 68, 74; bowing, 61

See Amster-

status

as teacher,

Dante, 269 David, Ferdinand, 30., 213, 239, Debroux, Joseph, 87, 112

as

61;

268.

Debussy, 80, 82, 178, 214, 258 Dechert, 267 Decrescendo, unmotivated, 336 d'Harcourt, Viscount Eugene, 76; certs,

dam

Con-

76

Delsart, 98

Deluge, Le, 196

Concerto in the Hungarian Style (Joachim), 31, 32, 33, 36, 41, 135, 267, 3io Concerto romantique (Godard), 77 Conductors as solo players, 324; differences

between, 272; individuality of, 272; mentality o 230; music, 151; 'singin success of, ing', 271; variations 340-1 Conductors and conducting, qualities of, 288 Constantinople, 71 Coolidge, President, 357 Copenhagen, 301 Corelli, Arcangelo, I, 36, 238; sonatas, 36

124.

Cousine Bette, 87

Cracow, 117 Crickhoom, 82 Criticism and critics,

2, 3,

85,

107, 136,

157-8, 163, 168, 16970, 186, 199-200, 203-4, 207, 212-13, 215, 229, 233-4, 241, 282-4, 3l6., 322, 341. 342, 352, 35<5; artists' over137, *39>

I4>

estimation o

Deman, 105 Demuth, Leopold, 27 Denayer, 87

Denmark, 301 Deroux (violin dealer), 113 Dessoir, Max, 311-12; assists with The Art of Violin Playing, 312; influence on Hesch, 312 Destinn, 288 Detache, 330 Detroit, 137 Deutsch, Felix, 313 Deutsch, Maurus, 57-8, 6o~i, 62, 69, 104, 113, 115, 125, 170

Deutschland, S.S., 348 Devil's Trill, the, I

Cortot, 99, 234 Country Gentleman, 350

Couperin,

Damnation of Faust, 75 Damrosch, Frank, 281, 294, 341 Damrosch, Walter, 275, 285; conductor, 285

192; Berlin Press

com-

pared with Paris, 157-8; in U.S.A., 282-4; knowledge of music of, 284 Csdrdds Scenes (Hubay), 154 Cm", Cesar, 239 Gulp, Julia, 234, 263, 288 Cundell, Edric, 366 Curci, Messrs, 364 Curtis, Cyrus H. K., 3 50 Curtis Institute. See Philadelphia Curtis Quartet. See Philadelphia

Dickin, Mrs, 172 Dickin, Walter, 172 Diemer, Louis, 70, 327 d'Indy, Vincent, 75, 232 Dinico, Demeter, 27, 162, 163, 164, 169, 172, 182-3, 194; Concerto, 183; refuses to play with Flesch, 170 Divertimento No. I (Stamitz), 238 Dohndnyi, 6, 108, 150, 154, 297, 299-301, 364; as composer, 300; as conductor,

300; Hungarian Government's treat-

ment of, 300-1 Don Juan (Strauss), 75 Don Quixote (Cervantes), 297 Dont, Jakob, 37 Door, Anton, 27 Doret, Gustave, 77 Double Concerto (J.

Double stopping,

S.

269; (Strauss),

Bach), 8 1

33, 235

Czechoslovakia, 371

Dm

JL) 'ALBERT, 297

Dresden, 25, 89, 267; Court Orchestra, 267 Dreyfus affair, 129 Dubois, Theodore, 82, 90, 200 Duo for solo violin (Stamitz), 238

dalTOrso, Edgar, 164, 166, 168, 170; influence over Queen Elisabeth of

Durham, L., 3 on. Dusk (Schillings), 240

Rumania, 166-7

schlichte

Dtisseldorf,

Weisen (Schillings), 240

244


INDEX Dutch instruments,

55,

113,

development of violinteachers' fees in, 334 Epstein, Julius, 27 Ernst, Heinrich Wilhelm, 31, 45, 53, 239

I4O., 15?;

in,

prices of, 157 Dutch Wagner Society, 230 Dvorak, 26, 40, 46, 90, 104, 124, 183, 239

191-2;

playing

'Eroica'

Dynamics, 254

204

(Fiorillo),

238

Etudes harmoniques (Sauzay), 62 Eureka (Marsick), 66

Execution, effect of microphone on, 292 Exner, 35 Expression, 183, 188

;

325; treatise

;

Essen, 74, 210 Essence of Music and Other Papers, igjn. Etude No. 9 (de Beriot), 239; No. 28

_b STRING, OPEN STEEL, 4 Ebensee, 263 Eberhardt, Goby, 241-2, 325; as teacher, 241; plagiarism by, 242, 325 Eberhardt, Siegfried, 242, 325-6; 'faithhealer* on the violin, 325 plagiarism by,

193

Symphony, 151

Ertel, Paul,

on

in,

violin playing,

325-6 Echo de Pans, 157 Edison, Thomas, 4, 289-91 ; effect of deafness on, 291; musical tastes of, 291; Company, 289, 290-1 Eger, Paul, 365 Ehrlich, Heinrich, 157 Bin Heldenleben, 220 Eisner, Bruno, I46., 269, 270, 330, 363 Eisner,

Mme,

Eldering,

iAIRBANKS, FREDERICK, 23 5. Falsch spielen, 2in.

Family Opperman, The, 363 Fantasy, op. 159 (Schubert), 283 Fantasy for violin and orchestra (Schumann), 32; (Suk), 150, 276, 278 Fantasy on a Theme from Rossini's Moses on the G string (Paganini), 239 Fantasy on Motifs from Gounod's Faust

270

Bram,

34, 35, *95, 208, 210,

216-

265; as teacher, 216; misplaced kindness of, 216; style, 265 17,

Elgar, 8 1 Elisabeth,

Queen of Rumania,

39, 42,

(Wieniawski), 239 Faur6, Gabriel, 99, 239, 268 'Faust' Fantasy (Alard), 16; (Sarasate), 16

162-

164-9, 182-3, 193; as author, 167; as patron of music, 164 flf.; as pianist, 164; emotional character of, 167;

F& d'Amour (Raff), 39

musical judgment and knowledge, 167, i<58; poems, 167-8; personality, 168; preference for organ music, 164; unhappy married life, 164-5

Feme

3,

Fenermann, Emanuel, 362 Ferdinand,

Ellis Island, 349 Elman, Mischa,

Prince, 165, 168

Fingering, 36, 38, 95, *8o, 235, 267, 368; 'Casal', 23 5n. Finland, 279

17, 81, 251, 252, 253, 254264, 285, 288, 290, 292, 329, 335, 338; as quartet player, 255; bowing, 254; chamber-musical activities, 335; 5,

compared with Zimbalist, gramophone royalties of, 290;

Crown

Klang, Der, 31 $n. Feuchtwangler, Lion, 363 Fiedler, Heinrich, 220, 221 Fifth Symphony (Beethoven), 151, 235 Fin de siecle, 197

Fiorello, Federigo, 18, 238 First Chamber Symphony (Schoenberg),

255;

3i5-

inter-

leftpretations, 335; intonation, 254;

First

hand technique, 254; physical appear-

First

Symphony (Brahms), 149 World War, 25, 69, 77, 89, !35-

*43

144, 186, 192, 201, 220, 234., 257, 258, 264, 266, 268, 275, 280, 293, 294-

ance, 254; recordings, 292; rhythmic unruliness of, 255; style, 254; tem-

perament, 254; tone, 254, 255, 288, 335 Etnden, 305 Enesco, Georges, 68, 88, 94, 171, 178-81, 299; as accompanist, 180; as composer, 178, 1 80; as conductor, 178; as pianist, 178; as teacher, 180-1; character, 179-

309, 335, 340rt., 352, 353 Fischer (pianist), 52, 105; (publisher), 357

Fischhof, Robert, 270 Flesch andEberhard, 324-5 Flesch,

C.

F.,

360-6

Flesch, Carl, passim; a small-town

over-refined 1 80; 80; fingering, pianissimos, 180; personality, 179; 1 80; tone, style, 179, 1 80; technique,

180 audiences England, 191-3, 259, 278, 296;

377

man by

nature, 71; acquires Storioni violin,

55; anxiety about artistic development, 173-4; appears in public for time, 16; artistic personality of, 59; as chamber-musician, 70-1, 225-6, 230-1, 266; as concert artist, 111-12; first


INDEX as critic, 233-4; as Marsick's private pupil, 65-8; as quartet player, 182-4,

185; as soloist at Berlin Philharmonic Concerts, 245-6; as teacher, 44, 55~9 iio-n, 114, 126, 129, 162-93, 216-49, 256-79* 3H-26, 333-5* 339^ 35O-9, 3601, 363, 365; assesses Gr tin's teach-

ing abilities, 21-2; at a Stammtisch, 204-5 at Cremerie du Conservatoire, Paris, 99-100, 104; at Curtis Institute, 282; at lecture on Chladni's Figures, 284-5; attends chamber music class, Paris Conservatoire, 97 ; awarded premier accessits, Paris Conservatoire, 96; becomes engaged to Berta Josephus-Jitta, 242; befriended by Maurus Deutsch, *>

57-8, 60-1, 62; befriends Iso BriselK, 349-50; Berlin d6but, 136-^7, 173", birth, 6; birth of his first child, 243; borrows Lewinger's violin, 136-7; boycotted during voyage to U.S.A., 326; bowing, 64; buys a Stradivarius, 244; Capet's advice to, 101-2; Casals' impact on, 235; collects books, 268-9; composes cadenzas for violin con-

by Joachim, 241; death, 366; debt to Hellmesdebt to 86-7; Rivarde, berger, 23; dbut as writer on theory, 263 ; debut on concert platform, 54; depressed by Sauzay's teaching methods, 64-5; describes Bohemian Paris, 63-4; describes Paris Conservatoire contests, certos, 27; congratulated

95-6, 104-6; describes Sauzay's class, 69-70; describes Schon's exercises, n;

during First "World War, 294-309; during Second World War, 363-6; effect of Griin's style on, 57; effect of Marsick's teaching on, 67; effect of seven years in Vienna, 58-9; enters

gymnasium, 11; enters school, 19; fascinated by Rivarde's playing, 86; feels artistically Altenburg Griin*s

158-9;

dissatisfied^

184;

first

pupil,

first

publication, 55-6; first violin

9-12; forms a duo with Hofmann, 353; founds Hilfsbund fur deursche Musikpflege, 312-13; founds string quartet with Dinico, 170, 172; given title of Royal Rumanian Chamber Virtuoso, 193 ; gives private lessons in Bucharest, 170-1 ; gratitude to Marsick, 66; habitual portato, 67; has nervous breakdown, 322; Helllessons,

mesberger's antipathy to, 22-3, 53, 57; his Aunt Regi, 14-15, 29; his brothers and sisters, 9-10, 131; his cousin Risa, 14-15; his father, 6-12, 16, 53, 55, 57, 61, 71, 96, 102, 107,

130-2,

160,

170,

21 1

no, ;

117, 127,

his

father's

378

death, 244; his French-Swiss nurse, 7; his grandfather, 6, 1 3-14* 56 ; his greathis great-grandgreat-grandfather, 6; father, 6; his longing for Paris, 158; his

mother, 6-12, 13-15, 16-17, 55,

59, 7i, 96, 102, 107, U7, 127, 130-2; his mother's death, 8, 189; his opinion of Mo6r, 248; his violins, 55, 100-1,

H3, 127-8, 135, 138-9, I40., 185, 244, 361; illness of, 349-5O; im-

106,

pressed

by Nikisch, 147; in Amster-

87, 175, ipo, 210, 212-49, 295, 339; in Asnieres, 100; in Baden-Baden, 279, 359, 36o, 362-3; in Berlin, 66-7, 69, 9L 93, 132-53, 157-60, 186, 195-211, 245, 2,50-78, 295-305, 310-26, 348, 361, 362; in Bohemian Paris, 126-7; in Bonn, 307; in Bucharest, 89, 92, 161-91, 193-4, 200, 212; in Budapest, 152-6; in Cassel, 308; in Cologne, 307; in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 304-5; in Gottingen, 308; in Helsingfors, 279; in Leipzig, 205-7; in London, 191-3, 278, 336, 362, 363; in Meiningen, in in 350; Minneapolis, 247;

dam,

45, 46, 82,

Montmartre, 63-4, 69; in Munich, 320; in Nancy, 108, 112; in NewYork, 67, 179, 329, 335J in Paris, 60117, 126-9, 225-6, 278, 326; in Philadelphia, 186, 282, 332, 349, 350-9; in

Rundbach, 263; in

St. Petersburg, 278; in Schon's violin school, 1012; in The Hague, 305, 319; in Tutzing, 304-5; in U.S.A., 280-93, 329-48, 349-59; in Vienna, 88, 117-26, 187, 190; in Wieselburg, 6-12, 71, 107, 130-2, 173, 189, 193; in Zandvoort, 293; income in Paris, 114; indebtedness to Maurus Deutsch, 115; interested in Auer's pupils, 253-4; interned in Holland, 364; invents the phrase 'applied technique*, 53 joins Lederer ;

Quartet, 70-1; joins Sauzay's class, 61; Kreisler's influence on, 17, 118, 1 88; left-hand technique, 64; love affair with Anna, 188-91, 210, 236; makes gramophone records, 289-91; marriage, 242; Marteau's influence on, 174, 188; Max Dessoir's influence on, 311-12; meets President Coolidge,

357; meets Thomas Edison, 291; nearly drowned in Danube, 58 ; York dbut, 285; on arrangements, 124; on concert agents, 200-1; on Eastern Jews as musicians, 329; on

New

Ellis Island,

349;

on his role

as teacher,

274-5 ; on influence of gramophone, 291-2; on moral reputation of Paris Conservatoire, 69-70; on Parisian


INDEX standards, 88; on Rtigen 348; on shop-talk, 221; on social life, 231; on teachers at Paris Conservatoire, <5i, 65, 67-8; on teachers* fees, 333-4; opposes Hofmann at Curtis Institute, 354-6; partnership with Schnabel, 257, 25960, 277-8, 307-9; personal relations with Lamoureux, 76; personal relations with Marteau, 91; personal relations with Schnabel, 261-2; physical exercises, 100; plays viola, 112; publishes Kreutzer*s studies, 184; quarrel with Dinico, 169-70; Russian concert tour, 278; relations with Hasselmanns family, 97-9, 104, 108; relations with U.S. colleagues, 358; resigns from Lamoureux Orchestra, 76; results of Vienna de"but, 125-6; Sarasate's influence inSchnabel*s on, 43; fluence on, 263; shakes, 53; shortsightedness, 23; sight-reading, 103, 105; slow vibrato, 67; staccato, 53; studies at Paris Conservatoire, 61-117; studies at Vienna Conservatoire, 1655; studies under Adolf Back, 13-14; studies under Marsick, 96-7, 101, 104, 106; studies under Maxintsak, 17-19; studies under Sauzay, 64, 69-70; style, 82; teaches at Amsterdam Conserva-

violinists*

Island,

Florentine String Quartet, 181, 296 Foch, Marshal, 307 Folia, La, 238 Folk music, 41-2, 171, 203/1., 214, 238 France, 57, 60-120, 126-9, 186, 196, 281, 288, 304; audiences in, 232; treatment

of foreign artists, 105-6 Franck, Cesar, 75, 78, 80, 82, 98, 146, 154, 163, 178, 197, 199, 214, 258, 268 Franco-Belgian school, 35, 276 Francoeur, Francois, 124, 239 Frankfurt/Main, 84, 108, 229; Hoch Conservatoire, 108 Museum Concerts, 229 Franko, Sam, 281 Franz Josef, Emperor, 22, 161 Frederick the Great, 116 French conductors compared with Ger;

mans, 73 French school, 68, 70, 75, 87, 88, 192, 196, 265 Frenkel, Stefan, 323 Freud, ijn. Fried, Oskar, 273-4

Friedberg, Carl, 257, 269, 321-2, 348, 361; collaborates with Flesch, 321; technique, 321 Friedberg, Mrs Carl, 322 Friedlander, Max, 203-4 Friedman, Ignacy, 203, 299, 301 Friedrich Wilhelm, Prince, 200 Fritz Kreisler, I22n., 290*1.

toire,

216-49; teaches at BadenBaden, 360-1; teaches at Berlin Hochschule, 314-26, 361; teaches at

From

Curtis Institute, 339, 350-9; teaches at Bucharest Conservatoire, 162-93; teaches at Lucerne Conservatoire, 365; teaches in Berlin, 256-79; teaches in London, 363; teaches in Philadelphia,

Fundamentals

Fundamental

ness of, 272; naivety, 273

Violin

Playing,

362-3;

writes The Art ofFingering, 364; writes

The Art of

Violin Playing, 9, 311-12, 324, 356-7, 358; writes Urstudien, 2634; Ysaye*s comment on his bowing,

81; Ysaye's influence on, 82 Flesch Competition, 153*1.

Hesch memorial

concerts, 366

Flesch, Gyula, 56, 107, 159 Hesch, Mrs Carl, 242-3, 249, 250, 263, 293,

27.

;

personality,

272

7; writes Basic Studies, 9; writes How to Practise, 363 ; writes Problems of Tone in

line, 27^.; structure,

of Violin Technique, The (Klinger), 251 Furtwangler, Wilhelm, 73, 148, 209, 229, 271-3, 288, 317, 330, 34-1, 342, 344* 349, 363, 364, 367, 368; compared with Nikisch, 148; emotional restless-

333-5; technique, 53, 67, 103; Thibaud's impression upon, 197-8; tone, 53; transcribes arias, 363; unhappiness in Amsterdam, 236-7; Vienna debut, 115, 117-26; Wirth*s opinion of, 146-

Production

My

Life (Smetana), 182 Fuchs, Robert, 27

VJTABRILOWrrSCH, OSSEP SOLOMONOVTTSCH, 137-8, 203, 269, 357 Gagliano instruments, 55, 157, 219; prices of, 55, 157 Galgenhumor, 307 Calico, Paolo, 281 Galston, Gottfried, 269, 270-1, 304, 330 Gand & Bernardel instruments, 106, 113 Ganz, Rudolph, 341 Garcin, 61, 88 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 304-5 Gartenmelodie, 31

359, 3<53, 364, 3<$5 Fleurs du mal, 127

Gauthiers-Villars, Willy, 157

213 Honzaley Quartet, 182

Geloso, 74, 78, 93, 145 Geneva, 29, 84, 89, 330; Conservatoire, 89,

FUegende

Blatter,

Gaveau (piano manufacturers), 224-5

330

Florentine Nights, 3

379


INDEX George

n

of Sachsen-Meiningen, Duke,

2477*.

266Jean, 91-2, 235, 256-7, 258, 297; cantilena, 266; personality, 266-7; technique, 266; tone, 266

G&ardy,

7, 296,

Gericke, 281 German instruments, 136-7, 157; prices of,

157

German

school, 33, 35,

3<5,

276

73 129, 132-60, 195-211, 213, 220, 227, 230, 231, 248, 249, 250-78, 280, 281, 283, 285, 286, 290, 294, 295-309, 310-26, 344, 345, 15, 35, 48n.

Germany,

348-9,

359,

Grandval, Vicomtesse de, 116 Graz, 127

Gregorowitsch, 34 Grlvilk Stradivarius 0/1726, The, 340 Grieg,

Groningen, 216, 230 Grove IV, 368, 369, 3?on.; V, 37on. Grumbacher family, 263 Griin,

Mme, 145 Geyer, Steffi, 181 Ghika, Princess, 116 Gigue (Aubert), 239 Gilbert,

Gama,

M.), 17, 19-21, 22, 25, 40,

21-2; bowing, 21; 21 fees, 334; finger 21; interpretations, ;

20; 'Jokes', 19, 22; mordent, 20; personality, 19-20; physical appearance, 19; school, 281, 338; technical specialities, vibrato,

21-2; technique, 20, 21; tone, 20. Grundlagen der Geigentechnik, Die, 25i. Griinfeld, Alfred, 181, 268.; 'octaves', 181 technique, 181 ; tone, 181 Griinfeld, Heinrich, 145, 268; as musical ;

35<5

Gimpel, Bronislaw, 360 Gipsy Melodies (Sarasate), 41, 42 Gipsy music, 41-2; musicians, 162, 171

jester,

Alexander,

278-9;

268

Guadagnini,

Gittelson, Frank, 274, 275, 351; as teacher,

275 Glazunov,

(J.

teacher, 19, 20, failure as violinist,

232; charlatans of the violin in, 325; concert life in, 320-1; during First World War, 89, 295-309; treatment of foreign artists in, 105-6; students in, 253 Gernsheim,

Jakob

46, 50, 52, 53, 54, 5<5-7, 64, 7O, 117, 135, 186, 193, 244-5, 281, 338; as

368; after First 310-26; audiences in,

36o-3,

World War,

in, 214

Grogorza, 351 GroUe, John, 332-3, 35IJ artistic aspirations, 332-3; as orchestral violinist, 332; influence on Flesch, 332

violin

278 Glissandos, 235 Gluck, 203M. Gluck, Alma, 280 studies,

Godard, Benjamin, 77, 97, 98, 239, 276; as composer, 97; death, 97 Godowsky, Leopold, 201-3, 275, 280; as 'combinator', 201-2; as composer, 201 ; 201, 202; Bach arrangements, 202; Chopin arrangements, 201 ; style, 201 ; technique, 201 as teacher,

J.

B., 267/1.

Guadagnini instruments, 55, 267.; prices of, 159, 185 Guarneri (violinist), 77 Guarneri, Andrea, 55

185,

244,

Guarneri, Joseph, 55 Guarneri, Petrus, 55 Guarneri instruments, 200; 55, 157, 'd'Egville', 200; 'Guiseppe del Gesfc', 55, 200; prices of, 157

Guarneri Quartet, 182 Gurlitt (publishers), 322 Giirzenich String Quartet, 2i6. Guttmann, Albert, 115 Gyor, 152

Goethe, 337 Gofriller

instruments,

184,

185;

prices

184 Goldberg, Szymon, 317 of,

Gottingen, 308 Goulue, La, 63-4

225 Habeneck, 76 Haendel, Ida, 360 Haensel (impresario), 284-5, 296 Haensel & Jones (agents), 280, 292 Hague, The, 135*1., 222, 230, 302-3, 3057, 312-13, 319; Peace Palace, 302; Residence Orchestra, 230

Gound,

Hale, Phillip, 283

,

Goldmark, 51, 104, 150, 245 Goldmark, Rubin, 281 Goldschmidt (impresario), 41 Goldschmidt,

Jules,

172

Gordon, Jack, 282, 339

ii 8; suite, 118

Grainger, Percy, 214

Gramophone,

4, 93,

Halif, Karel, 31, 34, 49, 139, 145, *95, 263,

124, 137, 259, 287,

289-92, 327, 335-6, 337, 361, 363, educational value of, 368; 292; royalties,

289-90

Grancino instruments, 55, 219;

prices, 55

267, 277 Halle, 139, 152

Lady, I45n., 317 Halld, Sir Charles, I45n. Halle",

Halpen, Fernand, 101

380


INDEX Hamburg, 186, 285, 319 Hamburg, Mark, 203 Hammig, Hermann, 156-7, violinist,

Hellmesberger, Joseph H., jun. (Pepi), i8., 22, 24, 25, 147; as teacher, 25 Hellmesberger Quartet, 18, 24, 26, 53 Helsingfors, 25, 127, 138, 279; Symphony Orchestra, 138 Henderson (critic), 283 Hengelo, 233 Hermann Quartet, 108

200, 244; as

156

Handel, 209, 238, 291, 363; arias, 363 Hanover, 19, 22, 201 Court Orchestra, 19 ;

Hansen

(impresario), 118

Hansen,

Cecilia, 338 Hanslick, Eduard, 22, 32^., 116, 306 Hardi, Joseph, 333/1. Harold in Italy, 1 12

Hertz, Alfred, 341, 343 Herwegh, Marcel, 88 Herzogenberg, Heinrich von, 36, 146 Hess, Willy, 34, 35, 195, 267, 359; as teacher, 267; bowing, 267; fingering,

Hartz, 311 Hartzer, Richard, 162, 163, 169, 185, 351; as teacher, 186; death, 186; style, 162 Harvard University, 2O3., 284 Hasselmanns (conductor), 97-8, 104, 108

Hasselmanns (harpist), 98, 108 Hasselmanns, Louis, 97-8, 104, 108;

267 Heyermans, Hermann, 243 Higginson, Colonel, 281 HHfsbund fur deutsche Musikpflege, 311, 312

Havemann, Gustav,

34, 251, 315,

Hindemith,

32/1.

20; tone, 2O. Hochmann-Rosenfeld, Rosa, 338 'Hochschule' style of tone production, 255 Hoffmann, E. T. A., 3 Hoffmann, Karel, 181

Hochmann, Mrs,

317-18;

Hermann, Jose as

354 Hofmeester

(viola player), 221

Hohe

Schule Pavid), 268n. Hohenlohe, Prince, 140

Hugo, 78, 83-4, 340; as teacher, 84; Paris d6but, 84; style, 84; tone, 83-4

Heidenroslein, 29

Heifetz, Jascha, 17, 39, 199, 232, 253, 264, 292, 335-8, 339, 362, 367; bowing,

exaggerated tempi, 337; 335; interpretations, 336, 337; personality, 336, 337; portamento, 336; recordings, 292, 335-6. 337; sense of humour, 336; technical infallibility, 337; technical 'readiness', 335; technique, 335, 337; tone, 335 Heine, 3 Heissler, 50 Hejre Kati (Hubay), 154 33<5;

lingering,

Hekking, Anton, 112, 258 Hekking, Ge'rard, 112 Hellmesberger, Ferdinand H., i8n., 22, 25 Hellmesberger, Georg, sen., i8., 22 Hellmesberger, Georg H., jun., i8., 22 Hellmesberger, Joseph H., sen., 16-17, l8., 19, 21, 22-5, 28, 50, 53, 55, 57> 112, 118; as composer, 23-4; as conof,

201, 269, 350, 351, 353-5; chamber-musician, 354; as teacher,

354-5*, fees, 334; physical appearance,

Heermann,

24; 'Griin Jokes' Vienna's debt to, 24

340.

83,

Hitler, 363

Hayot, Maurice, 66, 68, 78, 84, 87, 145, 234; changes of position, 87; technique, 87 Hayot Quartet, 234 Hebbel, 31 on. Heber, Richard, 264

ductor,

E.,

I97., 258, 298 Hinrichsen, Geheimrat, 313 Viennese Concert Life, History of

technique, 317 Haydn, 6, 28, 183

335,

W.

Hill, Messrs.

as

conductor, 98 Hasselmanns, Marguerite, 98-9, 104, 108 Hasselmanns, Mme, 104, 108 Hassid, Joseph, 360-1; London d^but, 361; recordings, 361 Hausmann, Robert, 31, 35 Hausmusik