Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/112

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95 THALBERG.

stalls, behind Balfe, who conducted, heard him call out to Cruvelli, ' Sing properly, for if you do not respect yourself, you ought at least to respect the audience, and Her Majesty the Queen.'

But if Thalberg was not successful on the stage, it is but fair to say that his compositions for the piano not only combined novel effects both in form and arrangement, but real inven- tion, because he had the talent, through adroit use of the pedal and new combinations, to make you believe that you heard two performers at the same time.

A catalogue at the end of this article gives a list of his piano compositions. It comprises more than ninety numbers, many of which earned glory and money for their author, and stamped him as a specialist for his instrument, the com- bined effects of which nobody had ever better understood. Robert Schumann was one of the composers for whom Thalberg entertained a per- fect enthusiasm, although their natures both as musicians and men widely differed. It is undeniable that until 1830 the performers of Mozart, Beethoven, Hummel, Moscheles, etc., sub- mitted their talent to the interpretation of the composer, whereas afterwards the sacrifice of the composer to the virtuoso became the fashion.

Thalberg married, not, as Fe'tis states, in 1845, but in 1843, at Paris, Mme. Boucher, the daughter of the famous Lablache, and widow of a painter of merit. He travelled through Belgium, Hol- land, England, and Russia in 1839, and Spain 1845, went to Brazil in 1855, North America 1856, and settled in Posilipo (Naples) in 1858. He appeared again in public in 1862, and in 1863 played in London, in concerts arranged by his brother-in-law, Frederic Lablache, after which he retired to Naples and lived as a landowner and winegrower. The writer saw him in his house at Posilipo, that wonderfully picturesque position above the Bay of Naples, opposite San Agata, and over all the property there was not a trace of a piano to be found. His collection of autographs (still apparently unsold) was of extraordinary interest and value. Thalberg died at Naples on April 27, 1871. He leaves a daughter (granddaughter of Madame Angri), who resembles him much, and who broke what seemed to be a promising career as a prima donna by singing too early and straining her voice in parts too high for her tessitura, both common faults with present singers, who are always too anxious to reap before they have sown, and who fancy that shouting high notes to elicit injudicious applause is all that is re- quired to make them renowned singers.

Schumann, in an access of ill-humour (boser Laune), says that Thalberg kept him in a certain tension of expectancy, not ' on account of the platitudes which were sure to come, but on ac- count of the profound manner of their preparation, which warns you always when they are to burst upon you. He deceives you by brilliant hand and finger work in order to pass off his weak thoughts, and it is an interesting question how long the world will be pleased to put up with such me-

��THALBERG.

chanical music.' It was the Grand Fantaisie (op. 22) which so irritated Schumann. It once happened that while Mme. Schumann was playing Thalberg's waltzes, Schumann laid a few roses on the desk, which accidentally slipped down on the keyboard. By a sudden jump of the left-hand to the bass her little finger was wounded by one of the thorns. To his anxious inquiries she replied that nothing much was the matter, only a slight accident, which showed, like the waltzes themselves, no great suffering, only a few drops of blood caused by rose- thorns. Thalberg's first Caprice (E minor), says Schu- mann, containsa well-developed principal thought, and is sure to provoke loud applause ; and he ex- presses the wish that Thalberg might furnish for the appreciation of the critic a piece thoroughly well-written throughout. His wrath however relents when speaking of Thalberg's Variations on two Russian airs. He finds the intro- duction/ through which, every now and then, the child's song peeps like an angel's head, fanciful and effective.' ' Equally tender and flexible are the variations, very musicianlike, well-flowing, and altogether well rounded off. The finale, so short that the audience is sure to listen whether there is nothing more to come ere they explode in spontaneous applause, is graceful, brilliant, and even noble.' These expressions seem cer- tainly enthusiastic enough, and scarcely bear out the severity of his judgment on the general qualities of the composer of the Fantaisie. (See 'Ges. Schriften,' i. 316; ii. 55).

Concerning Thalberg's fantasia on motifs from the 'Huguenots,' some of Erard's friends fancied that he had written the brilliant octave repetition variation to show off the double echappement of Erard. This is not very likely. Thalberg had one thing in view, and that only to find new forms, new effects, new surprises for the public. Schu- mann says that in this fantasia Thalberg reminds him of Goethe's saying : * Happy are those who by their birth are lifted beyond the lower stratum of humanity, and who need not pass through those conditions in which many a good man anxiously passes his whole life ' (G. S. ii. 66).

Thalberg had the great art of composing works much more difficult in appearance than in reality. His studies, incomparably easier than those of Moscheles and Chopin, sound as brilliantly as if they required the most persevering labour to overcome their difficulties. That makes them grateful to play and pleasing to the ear. It has been said of the ' Etudes ' that they are graceful work for ladies, ' for the tepid temperature of the drawing-room, not for the healthy atmosphere outside the house.' His studies and his ' Art du chant ' are only specimens of what he could do best. It is in one or another form his full, light, energetic and singing touch. His studies are the expression of his successes, of his glory, and of his very industrious hard work. For be it well known, he studied perpetually. Thalberg was es- sentially the pianist of the French, who in art, poli- tics, and life, have only one desire, ' Autre chose !' He was therefore continually forced to devise

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