Among the Great Masters of Music: Scenes in the Lives of Famous Musicians Liszt byWalter Rowlands
In a letter written to Franz von Schober, the poet and writer, and the intimate friend of Schubert, in 1840, Liszt says: "Most affectionate remembrances to Kriehuber. His two portraits of me have been copied in London. They are without doubt the best."
Joseph Kriehuber, whose fine drawing of Liszt at the piano, playing Beethoven's C sharp minor sonata to some friends, we reproduce, was a Viennese artist of great talent, who made many excellent portraits in pencil, lithography, water-colours, and miniatures. In this work, Kriehuber has introduced a portrait of himself seated at the left of the pianist, with pencil and sketchbook in hand. Behind the piano stands Berlioz, and next him is Czerny, the celebrated music teacher and composer, and the teacher of Liszt.
We will quote here an interesting letter, written from Paris by Liszt to Czerny. At this time Liszt was but seventeen years old.
"MY VERY DEAR MASTER: - When I think of all the immense obligations under which I am placed toward you, and at the same time consider how long I have left you without a sign of remembrance, I am perfectly ashamed and miserable, and in despair of ever being forgiven by you! 'Yes,' I said to myself, with a deep feeling of bitterness, 'I am an ungrateful fellow, I have forgotten my benefactor, I have forgotten that good master to whom I owe both my talent and my success.' ... At these words a tear starts to my eyes, and I assure you that no repentant tear was ever more sincere! Receive it as an expiation, and pardon me, for I cannot any longer bear the idea that you have any ill-feeling toward me. You will pardon me, my dear master, won't you? Embrace me then ... good! Now my heart is light.
"You have doubtless heard that I have been playing your admirable works here with the greatest success, and all the glory ought to be given to you. I intended to have played your variations on the 'Pirate' the day after to-morrow, at a very brilliant concert, that I was to have given at the theatre of H. R. H. Madame, who was to have been present as well as the Duchess of Orleans; but man proposes and God disposes. I have suddenly caught the measles, and have been obliged to say farewell to the concert; but it is not given up because it is put off, and I hope, as soon as ever I am well again, to have the pleasure of making these beautiful variations known to a large public.
"Pixis and several other people have spoken much to me of four concertos that you have lately finished, and the reputation of which is already making a stir in Paris. I should be very much pleased, my dear master, if you would commission me to get them sold. This would be quite easy for me to do, and I should also have the pleasure of playing them from first hand, either at the opera or at some big concerts. If my proposition pleases you, send them to me by the Austrian Embassy, marking the price that you would like to have for them. As regards any passages to be altered, if there are any, you need only mark them with a red pencil, according to your plan which I know so well, and I will point them out to the editor with the utmost care. Give me at the same time some news about music and pianists in Vienna; and finally tell me, dear master, which of your compositions you think would make the best effect in society.
"I close by sending you my heartfelt greetings, and begging you once more to pardon the shameful silence I have kept toward you: be assured that it has given me as much pain as yourself!
"Your very affectionate and grateful pupil,
"December 23, 1828.
"P. S. - Please answer me as soon as possible, for I am longing for a letter from you; and please embrace your excellent parents from me. I add my address (Rue Montholon, No. 7bis)."
Returning to Kriehuber's picture, we see, on the master's right, Ernst, the famous violinist. Writing to his pupil and friend, Franz Kroll, from Weimar in 1845, Liszt speaks thus of Ernst:
"Ernst has just been spending a week here, during which he has played some hundred rubbers of whist at the 'Erbprinz.' His is a noble, sweet, and delicate nature, and more than once during his stay I have caught myself regretting you for him, and regretting him for you. Last Monday he was good enough to play, in his usual and admirable manner, at the concert for the Orchestral Pension Fund. The pieces he had selected were his new 'Concerto Pathétique' (in F sharp minor) and an extremely piquant and brilliant 'Caprice on Hungarian Melodies.' (This latter piece is dedicated to me.) The public was in a good humour, even really warm, which is usually one of its least faults."
The following epistle, written by Liszt to Ernst, and dated at Weimar, May 30, 1849, is of special interest because of its references to Wagner.
"DEAR FRIEND: - Weimar has not forgotten you, and I hope soon to be able, after the return of the hereditary prince, whom we expect for the day of his fête, by the 24th of May at the very latest, to forward to you the token of the distinguished remembrance in which you are held. It pleases me to think that it will be agreeable to you, and that it will tend to attach you more in the sequel to people worthy to appreciate you.
"I should have desired to tell you sooner of this, but the inevitable delays in present circumstances postpone more than one wish.
"After the deplorable days in Dresden Wagner came here, and only departed again in order to escape from a warrant (lettre de cachet) with which the Saxon government is pursuing him. I hope that at the present moment he will have arrived safe and well in Paris, where his career of dramatic composer cannot fail to be extended, and in grand proportions. He is a man of evident genius, who must of necessity obtrude himself on the general admiration, and hold a high place in contemporary art. I regret that you have not had the opportunity of hearing his 'Tannhäuser,' which is for me the most lyric of dramas, the most remarkable, the most harmonious, the most complete, the most original and selbstwürdig (the most worthy of his country), both in foundation and form, that Germany has produced since Weber. Belloni has, I believe, written to you on the subject of Wagner, to ask for information as to the actual state of the English opera in London.
"I make no doubt that if it were possible for Wagner to obtain from the directors a tour of performances in the course of the year for a new work ('Lohengrin,' the subject of which, having reference to the Knights of the Round Table who went to search for the Holy Grail, is of the most poetic interest), he would make a great sensation and large receipts by it. As soon as he tells me the news of his arrival in Paris, allow me to induce him to write to you direct, if his plans do not change in this matter."
As for Berlioz, we find Liszt in 1854 endeavouring to aid him in securing a production of "Benvenuto Cellini." Liszt writes about it to Wilhelm Fischer, chorus director at Dresden, thus:
"DEAR SIR AND FRIEND: - Your letter has given me real pleasure, and I send you my warmest thanks for your artistic resolve to bring 'Cellini' to a hearing in Dresden. Berlioz has taken the score with him to Paris from Weimar, in order to make some alterations and simplifications in it. I wrote to him the day before yesterday, and expect the score with the pianoforte edition, which I will immediately send you to Dresden. Tichatschek is just made for the title rôle, and will make a splendid effect with it; the same with Mitterwurzer as Fieramosca, and Madame Krebs as Ascanio, a mezzo-soprano part. From your extremely effective choruses, with their thorough musicianly drilling, we may expect a force never yet attained in the great carnival scene (finale of the second act); and I am convinced that, when you have looked more closely into the score, you will be of my opinion that 'Cellini,' with the exception of the Wagner operas, - and they should never be put into comparison with one another, - is the most important, most original musical dramatic work of art which the last twenty years have to show.
"I must also beg for a little delay in sending you the score and the pianoforte edition, as it is necessary entirely to revise the German text and to have it written out again. I think this work will be ready in a few weeks, so you may expect the pianoforte edition at the beginning of February. At Easter Berlioz is coming to Dresden to conduct a couple of concerts in the theatre there. It would be splendid if you should succeed in your endeavours to make Herr von Luttichau fix an early date for the 'Cellini' performance, and if you could get Berlioz to conduct his own work when he is in Dresden. In any case, I shall come to the first performance, and promise myself a very satisfactory and delightful result.
"Meanwhile, dear friend, accept my best thanks once more for this project, and for all that you will do to realise it successfully, and receive the assurance of the high esteem of
Yours very truly,
"Weimar, January 4 (1854)."
A few years later, in 1862, Liszt addresses his friend, Dr. Franz Brendel, the writer on music, saying:
"I have just received a few lines from Berlioz. Schuberth, whom I commissioned before I left to send the dedication copy of the 'Faust' score to Berlioz, has again in his incompetent good nature forgotten it, and perhaps even from motives of economy has not had the dedication plate engraved at all! Forgive me, dear friend, if I trouble you once more with this affair, and beg you to put an execution on Schuberth in order to force a copy with the dedication page from him. The dedication shall be just as simple as that of the Dante symphony, containing only the name of the dedicatee, as follows:
"'To Hector Berlioz.'
"After this indispensable matter has been arranged, I beg that you will be so kind as to have a tasteful copy, bound in red or dark green, sent perhaps through Pohl (?) to Berlioz at Baden (where he will be at the beginning of August)."
Liszt was always generous to a fault; he carried charity almost to excess. If it were possible that his art could be forgotten, his name would still be gratefully remembered for his numberless deeds of kindness. We have quoted Wagner's acknowledgment of Liszt's exertions in his cause, and his efforts on behalf of Robert Franz rescued that composer from poverty when old age was coming upon him. Beethoven was always the object of Liszt's worship, and the monument to the master at Bonn was reared chiefly through his labours of love.