Issuu on Google+


'


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