Magazine article Musical Times

From the Musical Times 100 and 50 Years Ago

Magazine article Musical Times

From the Musical Times 100 and 50 Years Ago

Article excerpt

The Musical Times, December 1898 WAGNER was not the first to complain of the inanity of the libretti of Italian operas. In 1754 Lord Chesterfield, in the World, wrote as follows: "Were what is called the poetry of it (i.e., of Italian opera) intelligible in itself, it would not be understood by one in fifty of a British audience; but I believe that even an Italian of common candour will confess that he does not understand one word of it. It is not the intention of the thing; for should the ingenious author of the words, by mistake, put any meaning into them, he would, to a certain degree, check and cramp the genius of the composer of the music, who perhaps might think himself obliged to adapt his sounds to the sense; whereas now he is at liberty to scatter indiscriminately, among the kings, queens, heroes and heroines, his adagios, his allegros, his pathetics, his chromatics, and his jiggs."

ANOTHER coming man amongst composers? We confess that young von Dohnanyi amazed us the while we were listening to a superb performance of his MS. Pianoforte Quintet at the Hampstead Conservatoire, on the 16th ult. This was our first introduction to the gifted Hungarian pianist as a composer. True, we had heard his effective and masterly cadenzas to Beethoven's fourth Pianoforte Concerto at the Richter concert, but they could hardly be looked upon as independent "compositions". Having listened with rapt attention to this youthful quintet (it was written three years ago), it seems as if we must say straightway: Here is another young man in whom the fire of genius burns, one who, while still a youth, writes as one who has a message to deliver to the world and has learnt how to say it boldly and in a beautiful language. We were both astonished and delighted while the composer-pianist, assisted by Messrs. Peskai, Verbrugghen, Ferir, and Lebell, unfolded his four movements to us; for his music flows with an utter absence of effort - a broad stream of melody, and from a seemingly inexhaustible and original fount of that most rare commodity And his melody is lacking neither in distinction nor charm. His themes breathe now a dignified pathos, now a fervent passion, as in the opening Allegro and the Andante; anon - e.g., in the Scherzo, bright, tuneful, and full of esprit - they sparkle and flash like diamonds in a silver setting; again, they storm with daring impetuosity in unusual rhythms, as in the wonderfully brilliant Finale, which is written in a curious mixture of 5-4 and 6-4 and, later on, 4-4 time. There was not a dull bar in the work. True, the performance, like the music, was very much alive, and full of temperament. Rarely have we heard one equally inspiriting. Herr von Dohnanyi's style recalls that of Brahms, but very faintly; of absolute reminiscences there seem none, while for effectiveness it has few rivals; at any rate, when performed as on this occasion. The composer played the very difficult pianoforte part (by heart) most brilliantly, and the ensemble was excellent.

SIR JOHN and Lady Stainer have gone abroad for three months. Sir John has recently completed fifty years of professional life. He entered the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral, as a chorister boy, aged seven, in 1848. He deserves a good holiday May he greatly enjoy it. …

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