Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/418

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406

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��writing of calm criticism, which must have a fixed and clearly defined position as its basis. But it often introduces a varied and even dramatic live- liness into the discussion, which is very attractive, and leads to a deeper consideration of the subject. Schumann, however, could use still more arti- ficial forms in his critiques. Thus he discusses the first concert conducted by Mendelssohn at the Gewandhaus, Oct. 1835, in letters addressed by Eusebius to Chiara in Italy ; and within this frame the details of the concert are gracefully entwined with ingenious reflections and fanciful ideas which add brilliancy to the picture. On another occasion, when he was to write about a mass of dance-music, Schumann has recourse to the following fiction: the editor of a certain musical paper gives a historical fancy ball. Composers are invited, young lady amateurs and their mothers, music publishers, diplomatists, a few rich Jewesses, and of course the Davids- bundler; the dance-programme includes the music to be criticised, to which the couples whirl about during the whole evening. Hence arise all sorts of humorous incidents satirical, whim- sical, and sentimental outpourings, in which a criticism of the compositions is brought in unper- ceived. On another occasion, the Davidsbundler have met, and the new compositions are played in turns ; during the playing the rest carry on a variety of amusements which culminate in a magic lantern, throwing the figures of a masked ball on the wall, which Florestan, standing on the table, explains, while 'Zilia' plays Franz Schubert's 'Deutsche Tanze.' Anything more vivid, charming and poetical than this essay has never been written on music (it is in the 'Gesam. Schrif ten,' vol. ii. p. 9 ; and is partly translated in Music and Musicians,' i. p. 102); a little work of art in itself ! Once, in reviewing a concert given by Clara Wieck, he gives us a real poem ('Traumbild, am 9 September, 1838, Abends,' vol. ii. p. 233). In this he combines his own tender sentiments with a skilful characterisation of all that was peculiar in the performance. For sketching character-portraits Schumann shows a conspicuous talent ; the articles in which he has characterised Sterndale Bennett, Gade, and Henselt are unsurpassed by any thing since written concerning these artists. He seems to have pene- trated with the insight of a seer to the core of their natures, and has set forth his conclusions in a delicate and picturesque manner that no one has succeeded in imitating. In his article ' Der alteHauptmann' (cited as 'The Old Captain' in ' Music and Musicians,' i. 98) he tells the story of an old military man with a passion for music, who has become intimate with the Davidsbundler, and describes his identity with a subtle obser- vation and keen insight that result in a really classical treatment of the type of a kindly and amiable dilettante, with a slight vein of melan- choly adding to the charm of the picture.

The foundation of Schumann's critiques lay in kindness ; his distingut character would simply have nothing to do with anything bad enough to demand energetic reproof. The most cutting

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and bitter article he ever wrote was the famous one on Meyerbeer's 'Huguenots' (vol. ii. p. 220; translated in ' Music and Musicians,' i. p. 302). In its violence it has no doubt somewhat over- shot the mark ; but nowhere perhaps do the purity and nobleness of Schumann's artistic views shine forth more clearly than in this critique and in the one immediately following on Men- delssohn's 'St. Paul.' It was the great success of the ' Huguenots ' which infused the acid into Schumann's antagonism ; for when dealing with inoffensive writers he could wield the weapons of irony and ridicule both lightly and effectively. But he is most at his ease when giving praise and encouragement; then words flow so directly from his heart that his turns of expression have often quite a magical charm. As an example we may mention the article on Field's 7th Concerto (ibid. i. 268 ; Music and Musicians,' i. p. 267). Anything more tender and full of feeling was never written under the semblance of a critique than the remarks on a sonata in C minor by Delphine Hill-Handley formerly Delphine Schauroth (ibid. i. 92). Schumann has here given us a really poetical masterpiece in its kind, full of intelligent appre- ciation of the purport of the work and giving covert expression to its maidenly feeling, even in the style of his discussion ; it must delight the reader even if he does not know a note of the composition. Schumann had fresh imagery always at command, and if in a generally meri- torious work he found something to blame, he contrived to do it in the most delicate manner. His amiable temper, his tender heart and his conspicuous talents for literary work combined, never left him at a loss in such cases for some ingenious or whimsical turn. Sometimes, though rarely, in his eager sympathy for youthful genius in difficulty he went too far ; Hermann Hirsch- bach, for instance, never fulfilled the hopes that Schumann formed of him ; and even in his re- marks on Berlioz, he at first probably said more than he would afterwards have maintained.

In later years Schumann's flowery and poetic vein gave way to a calm and contemplative style. His opinions and principles remained as sound as ever, but they are less keenly and bril- liantly expressed than at the earlier period when he took peculiar pleasure in turning a flashing and ingenious sentence (see Ges. Schriften, vol. i. pp. 27, 208). Still, the practical musician always predominates, and Schumann himself confesses that 'the curse of a mere musician often hits higher than all your esthetics' (ibid. ii. 246). Here and there however we come upon a pro- found aesthetic axiom, the value of which is in no degree diminished by our perception that it is the result rather of intuition than of any system- atic reflection. It is universally acknowledged that by his essay 'On certain corrupt passages in classical works ' (ibid. iv. 59 ; ' Music and Musi- cians,' i. 26), Schumann gave a real impetus to the textual criticism of music ; historical clues and comparisons are frequently suggested, and though these indications are not founded on any

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