Tag Archives: interview

SOTL Q&A with Emily Green, 17, Aspiring Minnesota Orchestra CEO

On May 4, 2013, a sixteen-year-old girl messaged me via my Facebook page:

Hello Emily, my name is Emily Green and I am a Young Musician of Minnesota looking to do something about this lockout! I currently am in MYS [Minnesota Youth Symphonies] and a few of us students are forming a large group of young musicians to make a powerful video in regards to the lockout. Would you be interested in joining us? (Your articles are amazing, by the way!)

And that was my introduction to YMM, a group of talented young people determined to support the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra during their 2012-14 lockout.

YMM outside Ted Mann Concert Hall, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, summer 2014.

YMM outside Ted Mann Concert Hall, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, summer 2014.

 

Over the last year, under Emily Green’s leadership, YMM has done a lot more than just shoot a powerful video. In their own words:

The Young Musicians of Minnesota (YMM) is a student-led and operated organization, consisting middle school through college graduate music students from across the state who have bound together to preserve and promote classical music throughout the state. YMM is entirely student-led, with students taking on roles such as conductor, orchestra manager, logistics advisor, concert event manager, and as performing musicians. YMM serves as a gateway to the professional music world, believing in offering students opportunities to challenge themselves, grow in their musical leadership and technical abilities, develop a greater appreciation for classical music, and work alongside professionals, all for NO COST. YMM members have held a presence in the community through filming our own YouTube video, participating in rallies, performing at the Minnesota State Fair, Orchestrate Excellence forums, our own youth orchestra concerts, chamber performances in the Orchestra Hall lobby, and as well as at We Day Minnesota 2013 (which is an educational event and movement of our time—a movement of young people leading local and global change).

Not bad for a teenager!

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Interviews

Interview with Maud Powell, Violin Mastery, 1919

Here is an interview with Maud Powell from the 1919 book Violin Mastery by Frederick Herman Martens. Powell is one of the more inspirational women in a field chockablock with inspirational women. She was born in a tiny town in the Midwest; became an internationally renowned performer with one of the biggest repertoires around; premiered the Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, and Sibelius concertos in this country; and championed the work of black, female, and American composers. Sadly, there are twenty-four violinists interviewed in this book, and Powell is the only woman. On the bright side, it’s a fantastic interview that touches on violin technique, Powell’s struggles with prejudice, and her championing of American composers.

For more information on Maud Powell and her legacy, head on over to the Maud Powell Society website. If you want to hear a lovely collection of late Victorian and Edwardian violin pieces with connections to Powell, take a listen to Rachel Barton Pine’s Tribute to Maud Powell.

***

Powell is often alluded to as our representative “American woman violinist” which, while true in a narrower sense, is not altogether just in a broader way. It would be decidedly more fair to consider her a representative American violinist, without stressing the term “woman”; for as regards Art in its higher sense, the artist comes first, sex being incidental, and Maud Powell is first and foremost – an artist. And her infinite capacity for taking pains, her willingness to work hard have had no small part in the position she has made for herself, and the success she has achieved.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CONCERT VIOLINIST

“Too many Americans who take up the violin professionally,” Maud Powell told the writer, “do not realize that the mastery of the instrument is a life study, that without hard, concentrated work they cannot reach the higher levels of their art. Then, too, they are too often inclined to think that if they have a good tone and technic that this is all they need. They forget that the musical instinct must be cultivated; they do not attach enough importance to musical surroundings: to hearing and understanding music of every kind, not only that written for the violin. They do not realize the value of ensemble work and its influence as an educational factor of the greatest artistic value. I remember when I was a girl of eight, my mother used to play the Mozart violin sonatas with me; I heard all the music I possibly could hear; I was taught harmony and musical form in direct connection with my practical work, so that theory was a living thing to me and no abstraction. In my home town I played in an orchestra of twenty pieces – Oh, no, not a ‘ladies orchestra’ – the other members were men grown! I played chamber music as well as solos whenever the opportunity offered, at home and in public. In fact music was part of my life.

“No student who looks on music primarily as a thing apart in his existence, as a bread-winning tool, as a craft rather than an art, can ever mount to the high places. So often girls [who sometimes lack the practical vision of boys], although having studied but a few years, come to me and say: ‘My one ambition is to become a great virtuoso on the violin! I want to begin to study the great concertos!” And I have to tell them that their first ambition should be to become musicians – to study, to know, to understand music before they venture on its interpretation. Virtuosity without musicianship will not carry one far these days. In many cases these students come from small inland towns, far from any music center, and have a wrong attitude of mind. They crave the glamor of footlights, flowers and applause, not realizing that music is a speech, an idiom, which they must master in order to interpret the works of the great composers.

THE INFLUENCE OF THE TEACHER

“Of course, all artistic playing represents essentially the mental control of technical means. But to acquire the latter in the right way, while at the same time developing the former, calls for the best of teachers. The problem of the teacher is to prevent his pupils from being too imitative – all students are natural imitators – and furthering the quality of musical imagination in them. Pupils generally have something of the teacher’s tone – Auer pupils have the Auer tone, Joachim pupils have a Joachim tone, an excellent thing. But as each pupil has an individuality of his own, he should never sink it altogether in that of his teacher. It is this imitative trend which often makes it hard to judge a young player’s work. I was very fortunate in my teachers. William Lewis of Chicago gave me a splendid start. Then I studied in turn with Schradieck in Leipsic – Schradieck himself was a pupil of Ferdinand David and of Léonard – Joachim in Berlin, and Charles Dancla in Paris. I might say that I owe most, in a way, to William Lewis, a born fiddler. Of my three European masters Dancla was unquestionably the greatest as a teacher – of course I am speaking for myself. It was no doubt an advantage, a decided advantage for me in my artistic development, which was slow – a family trait – to enjoy the broadening experience of three entirely different styles of teaching, and to be able to assimilate the best of each. Yet Joachim was a far greater violinist than teacher. His method was a cramping one, owing to his insistence on pouring all his pupils into the same mold, so to speak, of forming them all on the Joachim lathe. But Dancla was inspiring. He taught me De Bériot‘s wonderful method of attack; he showed me how to develop purity of style. Dancla’s method of teaching gave his pupils a technical equipment which carried bowing right along, ‘neck and neck’ with the finger work of the left hand, while the Germans are apt to stress finger development at the expense of the bow. And without ever neglecting technical means, Dancla always put the purely musical before the purely virtuoso side of playing. And this is always a sign of a good teacher. He was unsparing in taking pains and very fair.

“I remember that I was passed first in a class of eighty-four at an examination, after only three private lessons in which to prepare the concerto movement to be played. I was surprised and asked him while Mlle. — who, it seemed to me, had played better than I, had not passed. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘Mlle. — studied that movement for six months; and in comparison, you, with only three lessons, play it better!’ Dancla switched me right over in his teaching from German to French methods, and taught me how to become an artist, just as I had learned in Germany to become a musician. The French school has taste, elegance, imagination; the German is more conservative, serious, and has, perhaps, more depth.

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

“Perhaps it is because I belong to an older school, or it may be because I laid stress on techic because of its necessity as a means of expression – at any rate I worked hard at it. Naturally, one should never practice any technical difficulty too long at a stretch. Young players sometimes forget this. I know that staccato playing was not easy for me at one time. I believe a real staccato is inborn; a knack. I used to grumble about it to Joachim and he told me once that musically staccato did not have much value. His own, by the way, was very labored and heavy. He admitted that he had none. Wieniawski had such a wonderful staccato that one finds much of it in his music. When I first began to play his D minor concerto I simply made up my mind to get a staccato. It came in time, by sheer force of will. After that I had no trouble. An artistic staccato should, like the trill, be plastic and under control; for different schools of composition demand different styles of treatment of such details.

“Octaves – the unison, not broken – I did not find difficult; but though they are supposed to add volume of tone they sound hideous to me. I have used them in certain passages of my arrangement of ‘Deep River,’ but when I heard them played, promised myself I would never repeat the experiment. Wilhelmj has committed even a worse crime in taste by putting six long bars of Schubert’s lovely Ave Maria in octaves. Of course they represent skill; but I think they are only justified in show pieces. Harmonics I always found easy; though whether they ring out as they should always depends more or less on atmospheric conditions, the strings and the amount of rosin on the bow. On the concert stage if the player stands in a draught the harmonics are sometimes husky.

THE AMERICAN WOMAN VIOLINIST AND AMERICAN MUSIC

“The old days of virtuoso ‘tricks’ have passed – I should like to hope forever. Not that some of the old type virtuosos were not fine players. Remenyi played beautifully. So did Ole Bull. I remember one favorite trick of the latter’s, for instance, which would hardly pass muster to-day. I have seen him draw out a long pp, the audience listening breathlessly, while he drew his bow way beyond the string, and then looked innocently at the point of the bow, as though wondering where the tone had vanished. It invariably brought down the house.

“Yet an artist must be a virtuoso in the modern sense to do his full duty. And here in America that duty is to help those who are groping for something higher and better musically; to help without rebuffing them. When I first began my career as a concert violinist I did pioneer work for the cause of the American woman violinist, going on with the work begun by Mme. Camilla Urso. A strong prejudice then existed against women fiddlers, which even yet has not altogether been overcome. The very fact that a Western manager recently told Mr. Turner with surprise that he ‘had made a success of a woman artist’ proves it. When I first began to play here in concert this prejudice was much stronger. Yet I kept on and secured engagements to play with orchestra at a time when they were difficult to obtain. Theodore Thomas liked my playing (he said I had brains), and it was with his orchestra that I introduced the concertos of Saint-Saëns (C min.), Lalo (F min.), and others, to American audiences.

“The fact that I realized that my sex was against me in a way led me to be startlingly authoritative and convincing in the masculine manner when I first played. This is a mistake no woman violinist should make. And from the moment that James Huneker wrote that I ‘was not developing the feminine side of my work,’ I determined to be just myself, and play as the spirit moved me, with no further thought of sex or sex distinctions which, in Art, after all, are secondary. I never realized this more forcibly than once, when, sitting as a judge, I listened to the competitive playing of a number of young professional violinists and pianists. The individual performers, unseen by the judges, played in turn behind a screen. And in three cases my fellow judges and myself guessed wrongly with regard to the sex of the players. When we thought we had heard a young man play it happened to be a young woman, and vice versa.

“To return to the question of concert-work. You must not think that I have played only foreign music in public. I have always believed in American composers and in American composition, and as an American have tried to do justice as an interpreting artist to the music of my native land. Aside from the violin concertos by Harry Rowe Shelly and Henry Holden Huss, I have played any number of shorter original compositions by such representative American composers as Arthur Foote, Mrs. H.H.A. Beach, Victor Herbert, John Philip Sousa, Arthur Bird, Edwin Grasse, Marion Bauer, Cecil Burleigh, Harry Gilbert, A. Walter Kramer, Grace White, Charles Wakefield Cadman and others. Then, too, I have presented transcriptions by Arthur Hartmann, Francis Macmillan and Sol Marcosson, as well as some of my own. Transcriptions are wrong, theoretically; yet some songs, like Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Song of India’ and some piano pieces, like the Dvořák Humoresque, are so obviously effective on the violin that a transcription justifies itself. My latest temptative in that direction is my ‘Four American Folk Songs,’ a simple setting of four well-known airs with connecting cadenzas – no variations, no special development! I used them first as encores, but my audiences seemed to like them so well that I have played them on all my recent programs.

SOME HINTS FOR THE CONCERT PLAYER

“The very first thing in playing in public is to free oneself of all distrust in one’s own powers. To do this, nothing must be left to chance. One should not have to give a thought to strings, bow, etc. All should be in proper condition. Above all the violinist should play with an accompanist who is used to accompanying him. It seems superfluous to emphasize that one’s program numbers must have been mastered in every detail. Only then can one defy nervousness, turning excess of emotion into inspiration.

“Acoustics play a greater part in the success of a public concert than most people realize. In some halls they are very good, as in the case of the Cleveland Hippodrome, an enormous place which holds forty-three hundred people. Here the acoustics are perfect, and the artist has those wonderful silences through which his slightest tones carry clearly and sweetly. I have played not only solos, but chamber music in this hall, and was always sorry to stop playing. In most halls the acoustic conditions are best in the evening.

“Then there is the matter of the violin. I first used a Joseph Guarnerius, a deeper toned instrument than the Jean Baptista Guadagnini I have now played for a number of years. The Guarnerius has a tone that seems to come more from within the instrument; but all in all I have found my Guadagnini, with its glassy clearness, its brilliant and limpid tone-quality, better adapted to American concert halls. If I had a Strad in the same condition as my Guadagnini the instrument would be priceless. I regretted giving up my Guarnerius, but I could not play the two violins interchangeably; for they were absolutely different in size and tone-production, shape, etc. Then my hand is so small that I ought to use the instrument best adapted to it, and to use the same instrument always. Why do I use no chin-rest? I use no chin-rest on my Guadagnini simply because I cannot find one to fit my chin. One should use a chin-rest to prevent perspiration from marring the varnish. My Rocca violin is an interesting instance of wood worn in ridges by the stubble on a man’s chin.

“Strings? Well, I use a wire E string. I began to use it twelve years ago one humid, foggy summer in Connecticut. I had had such trouble with strings snapping that I cried: ‘Give me anything but a gut string.’ The climate practically makes metal strings a necessity, though some kind person once said that I bought wire strings because they were cheap! If wire strings had been thought of when Theodore Thomas began his career, he might never have been a conductor, for he told me he gave up the violin because of the E string. And most people will admit that hearing a wire E you cannot tell it from a gut E. Of course, it is unpleasant on the open strings, but then the open strings never do sound well. And in the highest registers the tone does not spin out long enough because of the tremendous tension: one has to use more bow. And it cuts the hairs: there is a little surface nap on the bow-hairs which a wire string wears right out. I had to have my four bows rehaired three times last season – an average of every three months. But all said and done it has been a God-send to the violinist who plays in public. On the wire A one cannot get the harmonics; and the aluminum D is objectionable in some violins, though in others not at all.

“The main thing – no matter what strings are used – is for the artist to get his audience into the concert hall, and give it a program which is properly balanced. Theodore Thomas first advised me to include in my programs short, simple things that my listeners could ‘get hold of’ – nothing inartistic, but something selected from their standpoint, not from mine, and played as artistically as possible. Yet there must also be something that is beyond them, collectively. Something that they may need to hear a number of times to appreciate. This enables the artist to maintain his dignity and has a certain psychological effect in that his audience holds him in greater respect. At big conservatories where music study is the most important thing, and in large cities, where the general level of music culture is high, a big solid program may be given, where it would be inappropriate in other places.

“Yet I remember having many recalls at El Paso, Texas, once, after playing the first movement of the Sibelius concerto. It is one of those compositions which if played too literally leaves an audience quite cold; it must be rendered temperamentally, the big climaxing effects built up, its Northern spirit brought out, though I admit that even then it is not altogether easy to grasp.

VIOLIN MASTERY

“Violin mastery or mastery of any instrument, for that matter, is the technical power to say exactly what you want to say in exactly the way you want to say it. It is technical equipment that stands are the service of your musical will – a faithful and competent servant that comes at your musical bidding. If your spirit soars ‘to parts unknown,’ your well trained servant ‘technic’ is ever at your elbow to prevent irksome details from hampering your progress. Mastery of your instrument makes mastery of your Art a joy instead of a burden. Technic should always be the handmaid of the spirit.

“And I believe that one result of the war will be to bring us a greater self-knowledge, to the violinist as well as to every other artist, a broader appreciation of what he can do to increase and elevate appreciation for music in general and his Art in particular. And with these I am sure a new impetus will be given to the development of a musical culture truly American in thought and expression.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Not My Writing, Women Violinists

Article: Miss Marie Hall, The Girl Violinist, A Romance of Real Life, June 1903

Forgive the Marie Hall kick, dear friends, but here’s another fantastic interview with her. As if Hall wasn’t spunky and amazing enough already, she says in this article that she wishes she could be a conductor! Even today, a hundred years later, it is relatively rare to see a woman taking on that job.

This piece is by M. Dinorben Griffith; it appeared in the Strand Magazine in June 1903.

***

“Marie is always, for ever and ever, plactising, plactising,” was the irate comment of two little boys when they failed to induce their but little older favourite sister to play with them.

It is this “always, for ever and ever, plactising,” or, in other words, that infinite capacity for taking pains which is the sign-manual of genius, that has brought Miss Marie Hall, the girl violinist, to the front of her profession before she has reached her nineteenth birthday.

Hers is no history of that forced and most miserable of spectacles – the child prodigy, often of ephemeral life and fame. A child prodigy she undoubtedly was, but of natural growth. Her talent was discovered and fostered by strangers, and it speaks well for her bodily and mental vitality that hard work, poverty, and even sorrow have only given strength to her personality and a finished maturity to her art.

She loves her fiddle, and even when idly handling it a beautiful tenderness comes into her face, which is generally sad and grave almost to sternness. With her bow she shows her inner self to the world, at least to as much of the world as can understand its language; her clever fingers not only interpret the masterpieces of the great composers, but the longings and aspirations of a young life striving for the perfection which alone can satisfy it; and for fame, not for fame’s sake, but because it will enable her to carry out a noble, unselfish purpose.

Like all highly-strung natures her personality is complex, oftenest grave, impulsive, yet sometimes as merry and gay as a little child.

To interview her is as difficult as to follow a will-o’-the-wisp.

“Where was I born? Oh, dear, must I go back as far as that? It was ages ago! In Newcastle, on April 8th, 1884, and I was called the ‘Opera Baby.'”

“Why?”

“Because my father, Mr. Edmund Felix Hall, was harpist in the Carl Rosa English Opera Company, which toured all over England. My mother always accompanied him, and while at Newcastle I was born; the company took a great interest in this important event, and called me the ‘Opera Baby.’ I may as well go a little farther back and tell you that my grandfather was a landscape painter and a harpist; my father, his brother, my mother, and sister are all harpists, and I ought to have been one too, I suppose. I did start; but I hated it, and used to hide when my father wanted to give me a lesson. I wanted to learn the fiddle. My father had his own ideas on the subject; I had mine, and I stuck to them.”

The little lady, I noted, had more than one side to her character. Into the grave face as she spoke came a mutinous, mischievous look reminiscent of an enfant terrible. It was also easy to infer that her early childhood held no pleasant memories for her. She was one of a family of four sisters (two of whom died) and two quite young brothers, one of whom – Teddy – is the stimulus to hard work and the making and saving of money on her part. He shares his sister’s love of the fiddle, and, although not yet nine, according to Miss Hall is “much cleverer” than she.

“Teddy is a genius,” she says, enthusiastically, “but, oh, so delicate. I want to have him with me always; to get him the best advice, to care for him, educate him, and love him. That is what I have been working for, that is what success means to me.”

She started learning the harp when only five, and the violin at the age of eight and a half, her father being her first teacher. Those lessons were not shirked, they were her only pleasure. More may be learned of Miss Hall’s early days from what she leaves unsaid than what she says, but there is no doubt that when Mr. Hall left the opera company, that meant to him a regular weekly income of twelve pounds, and more especially on the termination of a short engagement at the Empire Theatre, Newcastle, the family were in dire straits. From the orchestra Mr. Hall had to come down to playing in the streets, his wife and children in turns assisting him in earning a precarious livelihood.

The struggles of those days are written on Miss Hall’s face, but the fragile little figure is linked with an indomitable will. She is of the stuff that heroes are made of, withal a very girl, with a keen sense of humour and a pretty wit of her own.

The day of her first violin lesson was an era in her baby life, for the little maid had planted her foot firmly on the first rung of the ladder of fame. She had no thought of what was to follow; she had gained her point, and it behoved her to prove that the violin was her special métier.

“One day,” she said, “I played Raff’s ‘Cavatina’ to my father. I had been practising it hard as a surprise for him.” A surprise indeed it was, for it convinced him of her ability, and she was sent to Miss Hildegarde Werner, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, for lessons. She made remarkable progress, and her teacher was so proud of her precocious little pupil that she introduced her to M. Sauret, who predicted great things of her in the near future.

“After I had been learning the violin for a year I made my first appearance on the concert platform,” said Miss Hall. “I was then about nine and a half. After the concert was over I got several offers of engagements at music-halls.”

“Did you then play in the streets?”

“Yes, we all did; I hated it.”

“What were your usual takings?”

“Oh, a penny, and up to six-pence.”

“And is it indeed indiscreet to ask what you make now?”

“I will tell you with pleasure. My first concert in London, at the St. James’s Hall, brought me in five hundred pounds.”

Four hundred people were on that occasion – her second appearance in London – turned away from the doors. A guinea was cheerfully paid for standing room, and two guineas for a seat.

Before little Marie reached her eleventh year her parents moved to Malvern, when, she pathetically remarked, “times were very bad. My sister and I had to do all the housework, as we could not afford to keep a servant, and to help by playing in the streets and in the vestibules of hotels. I used sometimes to go inside the little gardens and begin playing, and was often then called into the houses.”

“Did you dislike it?”

“I hated collecting money,” was the reply, with a flash of her eyes. “Sometimes mother went out with father and she did the collecting, while my sister and I stayed at home.”

One can easily picture that untidy ménage, with the little drudges turning out in the evenings to play for money when tired out with the hopeless task of keeping things straight at home.

“Things might have been worse, you know,” she remarked, “for several people got to know me and were very kind. Fifteen pounds was subscribed among friends to buy me a violin, but my father thought the money would be more wisely spent in taking me to London, so that Wilhelmj could hear me.”

“With what results?”

“I stayed in his house for several months, he giving me free lessons as well as keeping me. I then returned to Malvern and took up my old life; not from choice, but from necessity. I played in the streets and in hotels until I was thirteen. Herr Max Mossel heard me play and offered me free lessons, so I went to Birmingham, living with some rich friends, who paid my parents a pound a week for letting me stay during the three years I worked under Mossel.”

Herr Mossel was charmed with his pupil; he recommended her so highly to the Birmingham School of Music Committee that she received a free studentship, which she held for two sessions.

When fifteen years old she competed for the first Wessely Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Music and won it, but was unable to take it up, as she had no means to live on while in London.”

“It was such a disappointment,” said Miss Hall, “and things were worse than ever at home. We moved to Clifton, and there met with friends who were most kind to us all. They were Mr. and Mrs. Roeckel, of musical fame. We got to know them through a strange incident.

“As I told you, my uncle was a very clever harpist; he used to go about the country playing. Mr. and Mrs. Roeckel were spending a short holiday at Llandrindod Wells, in Wales. My uncle was there too, and they were delighted with his playing and spoke to him frequently, and learnt that his name was Hall.

“The Roeckels, on their return to their home at Clifton, heard one evening a harpist playing outside their door who reminded them, both in appearance and superior skill in playing, of the harpist they had met in Wales. It was his brother – my father.”

From this time their kindness was unceasing to the family, who owe much to their frequent and timely help. They took a practical interest in the clever girl violinist, and enlisted Canon Fellowes’s sympathy for their young protégée.

By Mr. Roeckel’s advice Marie got up a subscription concert, Canon Fellowes promising to bring Mr. Napier Miles, the Squire of Kings Weston, near Bristol, to hear her play. The concert was a grand success, the playing of the delicate, frail, little fifteen-year-old débutante astonishing all present.

“Wonderful! delightful!” said Mr. Napier Miles. He asked if she had ever played with an orchestra. “No,” was the reply. “Then you must come to Kings Weston for that purpose.” Her future tuition and expenses were practically assured from that day.

Mr. Miles and a few other friends combined in sending her to study under Johann Kruse, and she stayed with him a year, or until, in her own words, “I had got all he could give me.”

It was while she was in London with Kruse that she first heard Kubelik. He had shortly before been playing Bristol, and Marie had urged her father to see him and beg of him to hear her play.

“I saw,” said Miss Hall, “an announcement that he would give a recital in London on the 19th of June, 1900. I went. It was a red-letter day in my life. I went mad over his technique. As soon as the concert was over I went behind and waited outside his door, determined to see him if I had to wait until two o’ clock in the morning. After what seemed to me a long time he came out, followed by his accompanist. I rushed forward and said, ‘Oh, will you hear me play?’ He seemed very startled, drew back a little, and stammered, ‘I don’t know you, do I?’ Breathlessly I explained that my father had seen him at Bristol, and finally I left him with an appointment for ten o’ clock the next morning. I practised nearly all night, for to sleep was impossible.

“I found Kubelik and his accompanist at breakfast. I do not think they expected me; they seemed to think I was amusing, especially when I asked Kubelik to accompany me.”

With the sublime audacity of youth she had elected to play one of the very pieces she had heard Kubelik play the previous evening, the “D Minor Concerto” of Wieniawski, which was the success of the evening.

Kubelik was enthusiastic. “You must go at once,” he said, “to Prague to my old master, Sevcik.”

“But what do you think?” said Miss Hall, with a burst of merry laughter at the recollection. “Kubelik and the accompanist were so polite to me they both rushed to place a chair for me at the table, so that I could write my name and address, and I sat down – not on the chair, but on the floor,  with my feet in the air and my hat – well, I don’t know where it was. I felt so small and so humiliated, and they – I do not know how they managed it – never even smiled – at least, for me to see.”

It is difficult to get Miss Hall to talk about herself. She acknowledges being a “creature of moods,” very full of spirits one moment, correspondingly despondent the next; gave, sympathetic, sedate, or a real little hoyden, full of fun and laughter.

Asked if she had received any offers of marriage since she had come out, “Two only,” was the reply – “one from a Greek, a literary man, and one from a Bohemian musician.”

“Were they nice?”

“Well,” with comically raised eyebrows, “one was old and silly, the other very young and impressionable.”

“No millionaire offers?”

“Sorry to disappoint you – no, not one.

“When did I go to Prague? Oh, very soon after my interview with Kubelik. My kind friend, Mr. Napier Miles, made all necessary arrangements. I went first to Dresden to learn a little German, which I managed to pick up without a master – Sevcik does not speak a word of English – and also to practise for my entrance examination for the Conservatoire.”

She was the great Sevcik’s only English girl pupil, and he says, “She is the most gifted pupil I have ever had.” In addition to lessons at the Conservatoire, she had private lessons as well, working often fourteen hours a day and getting up at four in the morning.

“Had you no recreation at all?”

“Oh, yes; while I was at Prague I read all Dickens’s and Thackeray’s works – to broaden my mind,” she said, with a smile. “Do you know, I am very fond of shocking people?” she added. “In Prague it is considered very improper for girls to go out alone, especially to any public place. Several girl students lived together at a pensionnat, and we English ones used to love to dress up and go and dine sometimes at an hotel; people used to look at us, shrug their shoulders, and say, ‘Es sind Englanderinen.’ I was also very fond of dancing, and learned all the Bohemian national dances, which are very pretty.”

“How long were you in Bohemia?”

“Eighteen months. A concert is given at the Conservatoire every year, in which all the students that have won their diplomas take part, and I played and was recalled twenty-five times.”

Miss Hall during her holidays once went to Marienbad, where Kubelik was also staying, and he gave her a few lessons. He has always taken a  great interest in her and considers her playing marvellous. She had a grand reception at Vienna, where she gave a recital before returning to England, being recalled no fewer than five times after each piece, a great compliment from so critical an audience.

“What is your fiddle?”

“An Amati. It was lent me by my master – Sevcik – and is the one used by Kubelik when he made his début. I have no violin of my own yet, but have three bows. I think I must learn to play on them.

“A pretty incident,” Miss Hall went on to say, “occurred when I appeared for the first time after my return, at Newcastle-on-Tyne. A workman stood up and said, ‘Miss Hall ought to have a new violin. I have just made one and would like to give it to her.’ He evidently did not think much of this Amati, did he?”

“Is it not true that a violin worth two thousand guineas is being purchased by public subscription as a presentation to you?”

“Yes, it is so, but it will be some time yet before such a sum can be collected.”

I was shown a letter from Sevcik; curious – as it showed his manner of giving his pupil violin lessons by post.

“He is coming back here with me in the autumn, and I hope he will settle in London.”

“What are your plans when the season is over?”

“After my two recitals here on the 30th of May and 23rd of June, I am going back to Bohemia. I shall take a little cottage in the country there where I can have perfect quietude and devote myself to practising, for I play with Richter in Manchester next season. I have a lot to do before I can rest, though. I am booked up for a tour in the provinces.”

In March last Miss Hall was made a ward in Chancery, which, on account of family differences, her friends considered a wise measure.

“You do not know,” she said, “how I want to help my family. I have offered my parents a regular income if they will only let me have my little brother Teddy.We are so fond of each other, and I want him to get strong and well. I have offered also to have my sister in London. She is fourteen, and her great wish is to have lessons with Mr. Thomas, the Welsh harpist.”

Miss Hall has very artistic tastes, is fond of pictures, and has the usual feminine love of pretty clothes. She always designs her own gowns. In a literary way her favourite books are the biographies of great musicians.

In reply to a query as to her favourite composers she said, “The three great B’s – “Bach, Brahms, Beethoven; and last, but not least, Paganini. I do not really care for anything but classical music, but the public taste must be studied too.”

She recently played for the first time before the Prince and Princess of Wales, and met with great appreciation. She is in much demand at smart “At-homes.” I heard an amusing story about a very smart society function at which she was asked to play. Her first piece was Bach’s famous “Chaconne.” When she had finished, and received the usual applause, a lady came up to her and said, “You played it divinely. It is my favourite piece. Do you play his ‘Chaconne’ also?” Miss Hall, when she had recovered a little, simply answered “Yes.”

“I forgot to tell you one thing that is important,” said Miss Marie, with a laugh. “I am immoderately fond of oranges, and eat I do not know how many a day; they taste better if I am reading a novel at the same time; that is what I was doing when you came in,” pointed to “Temporal Power” and a plate of orange peel lying side by side.

“You are a second Kubelik, people say, I hear.”

“I am not a second anybody or anything,” she quickly retorted, with a proud little gesture. “I want to be myself, with a method and style of my own. If I were a man I should like to be the conductor of an orchestra. I should love it. That is not impossible, is it? although you are unfortunate enough to be a girl.”

“Perhaps not impossible, but it would be a startling innovation, would it not?”

Miss Hall is fortunate in having as an accompanist a charming Bohemian lady, who was introduced to her by Sevcik himself. Miss Vojácek has travelled with, and accompanied, all the Sevcik girl pupils in England and on the Continent.

“Do not forget to mention,” said Miss Vojácek, smilingly, “that Marie always sits on the table when she is practising with me; it is so characteristic of her.”

There seems – if she does not overtax her delicate frame – to be no limit to the possibilities that the near future holds for this youthful and gifted violinist. Her short public life has been, and continues to be, a series of triumphs that might spoil a less modest and natural person.

11 Comments

Filed under Not My Writing, Women Violinists

Article: She Began As A Street Musician (Interview with Marie Hall, 1906)

Here is a surprisingly frank interview with violinist Marie Hall (1884-1956). She obviously had a dizzying drive and spunk to spare. She saw what she wanted and she went for it, other people’s opinions be damned. I wonder if all of these astonishing stories are true…

This article originally appeared in Success Magazine in March 1906.

***

She Began As A Street Musician:

Marie Hall, the Greatest Woman Violinist, Tells the Story of Her Hard Struggle to Win

by Ernest R. Holmes

“I was always determined to be at the top, and I’ve always had plenty of energy and perseverance.”

It was a very slight girl who said this, a girl with a thin, pale face, very serious brown eyes, and a mass of most rebellious dark hair, neither long nor short, just “coming in,” after an attack of typhoid fever. An utter stranger might well have questioned what it could be that such a frail person could lead the world in. Yet that girl of twenty-one can almost lay unquestioned claim to be the greatest woman violinist, and she is compared with Kubelik, her friend and benefactor, pupil of the same master.

But as I talked with Miss Marie Hall, the day after her second New York concert, her pale face grew animated, her eyes opened wide and flashed, and her words came with a decision that revealed a soul on fire with her art, and a determined will to great for her slight frame. One felt almost a pitying fear that her efforts would over-tax her strength.

As Miss Hall talks, one forgets her frailty, so sure of herself is she, and so full of her music. And the impression of an iron will and a dogged determination keeps recurring as she tells incident after incident of her rise from street and music-hall playing to a place among masters of the most human of instruments.

“Yes,” she said, “even when eight years old, I was determined to be a great violinist. My father was a harpist. He was with the orchestra of the Carl Rosa Opera Company and another, and he tried to teach me the harp. But I wanted the violin. He taught me a little on this, but still discouraged my continuing. I heard a lady play a concerto of Paganini, and I was bound I would play it too. With only a little help from my mother, I learned it in a few hours, and then played it for my father. He was astonished, and gave up to me. I had my beloved violin lessons.”

She had won by the weapon she has used ever since – winning prizes, tuition, instruction by the best masters, and now financial and artistic success.

“I have been lucky,” she went on. “I have always found friends to help me, I don’t know why. And if people won’t do what I want, I play for them, and generally then they do what I want,” and she gave a roguish smile as she thought of the magic power she keeps in little, slender, white fingers.

It was thus she won Kubelik, and through him his master, Sevcik, with an audacity that surprises when one thinks what she must have been at sixteen. Kubelik was taking London by storm.

“I went to hear him,” related Miss Hall. “I saw immediately that he had something I never had been taught, and I felt sure that it was from his teacher. I heard all his concerts, and I resolved that I, too, would learn that wonderful technique. I waylaid Kubelik – I was only sixteen, and my long hair was hanging loose. I told him I wanted him to hear me play. He smiled, and seemed amused, but consented. I went next day. His accompanist met me, and, seeing my violin, said, “But are you really going to play to him?” “Of course I am,” I answered, “that’s what I came for.” Kubelik came. He was very kind, but still seemed amused. I told him I wanted to know who his master was, who had taught him to play so, for I wanted to go and learn to do so too. He said, “I’ll hear you play first. I suppose you play from memory?” “Of course I do,” I replied with spirit, and then I played him two concertos that he had played the day before. He said it was wonderful, that I must go to his master, Sevcik, at Prague.

“I went to Professor Kruse, my teacher, and said, ‘I have found something that you can’t teach me. I must go to Sevcik to learn it.'”

The girl’s audacious proposal met with strong opposition from her master and her benefactors, who were supporting her in London. When there was no other way to gain her point, Miss Hall declared that if she could not go to Prague, she would quit studying and go home. She had her way, and it proved for the best, just as her decision for the violin and against the harp was for the best.

The ten years between her first public appearance at a little hall in her birthplace, Newcastle, and her triumphant debut at Prague, in 1903, were full of ups and downs, but that childish determination to be “at the top” shines through it all, and illumines seeming wilfulness that somehow always led to better things. One can gather, too, for Miss Hall is very frank, that her parents, musicians though they were, hindered rather than helped her high ambitions, though willing enough that she should help the family purse by playing in the way they always had. When enthusiastic Newcastle gentlemen wished to educate her, her nomad father took the family across England to Malvern, near Worcester. Her next benefactor, Max Mossel, violin professor at Birmingham, gave her a year’s instruction, and secured her a free scholarship at the Birmingham School of Music. Friends, won by her playing, aided her father to take her to London to Wilhelmj, who was so delighted that he wanted to adopt her, and he did keep her and teach her several months. But, as she told me, “I did not stay long. I was afraid of him, and of the bulldogs he kept in the room next to where I practiced.”

Then the ambitious girl tried for a Royal Academy scholarship, and won in the competition, only to find that it meant merely tuition, and there was no money to pay her board in London. She had to give it up, and go back to playing for her father in concert halls, and even on the street, for the family was then desperately poor. They wandered to Bristol, and there something in the little minstrel’s playing appealed to a musical clergyman, now Canon Fellowes, of Windsor. He asked her to his house, found out her poverty, her genius, and her ambition, and interested wealthy friends in her. Here again her unambitious father was an obstacle. He did not want to sign an agreement to give her to others’ care for a three years’ systemic course. When provision was made for the family, to compensate for the loss of her now valuable earning capacity, he consented, and the way was clear to accomplish all that the girl’s genius was capable of doing.

Then came Kubelik. When she had won consent to go to Prague, Kubelik aided her in every way, even to securing an apartment for her, and won over his old master, Sevcik, and Dvorák, director of the Conservatorium, to a lively interest in the little English girl.

“And there I worked,” said Miss Hall, reminiscently, “ten hours a day, but it was pleasure.”

When Miss Hall talks of Sevcik and his method, she grows enthusiastic. She says no one else on earth teaches such technique, and in such a systemic way. To that method she ascribes her sureness, and the confidence with which she attacks the most difficult concertos. On entering the Conservatorium, her attainments were recognized, so that she was admitted to the sixth year work, and in one year she had completed the whole course. Then for five months Sevcik gave her private lessons, – his “little concerts” he called them, so delighted was he with her playing.

When she gave her “coming out” concert  in Prague, to invited guests, they recalled her over a score of times after her rendering of Ernst’s concerto in F sharp minor. Two gold caskets and a laurel wreath were hers before she left Prague for other triumphs at Vienna, and then her appearance at St. James Hall, London, where the enthusiasm is said to have been unequaled since Rubinstein took London by storm. The long years of patience practicing (four thousand bowing exercises, she told me,) the alternate hope and despair, and the struggle with unappreciative parents and dire poverty had borne fruit – she was a great concert performer.

When I asked Miss Hall how much of a great artist’s success is from genius and how much from hard work, she looked puzzled for a moment, and then said: -

“Well, you must have the mind, the feeling to know what is right. You do feel, you don’t know how,” and she put her hand to her breast in an effort to express intuition. “You must be able to grasp the principles of art. If a person does not admire beauty in whatever form, if he is satisfied with the course and vulgar things, he can never become a great artist. Hard work will not make him one.”

“But in your struggles did you not get discouraged?”

“Yes, indeed I did, and I do yet. I just give up, and think I will not try any more. Then I conclude it is worth while, and I go at it again.”

1 Comment

Filed under Not My Writing, Women Violinists

Article: An American Girl And Her Violin, March 1900

Here is a charming, very well-illustrated article on American violinist Leonora Jackson (1879-1969). It is by Katherine Graham and is from the Metropolitan Magazine of March 1900.

***

A slender girl, holding herself very straight after the manner of those who are students of the violin; in manners somewhat shrinking and diffident; a little defiant, perhaps, the better to conceal a natural timorousness at the sudden transition from the routine of study to the fierce light of publicity and unexpected fame – that is the picture.

The long arms and large, powerful hands are curiously awkward, like those of an overgrown schoolboy; they seem lost and meaningless until they grasp the violin, when they become beautiful, womanly, and alert with nervous force. The face is replete with promise and interesting to a high degree. The eyes are long and narrow, with wide spacing; in contrast to the olive, colorless skin they look pale-blue, but in certain moods they deepen and glow and impress one as being black. The forehead and head are almost massive, giving a suggestion of delicacy and supersensitiveness to the mouth and chin – an impression altogether erroneous, for the lips are full, and the chin, if short, is broad and square. Such is the first impression of Leonora Jackson, the young American violinist, who in a career of only two years has scored triumph after triumph with every orchestral organization of importance in Europe, and of whom Dr. Richter has said: “A genius! – one not found in a thousand.” And the critics indorse him.

“It is not what I say of myself, it is what I accomplish that counts,” she remarks sagaciously; and then she adds: “What have I to say after these last two years of public life? It is this: I am an American girl. I have been educated through the beneficence of the American people. Whatever triumphs I have achieved, I rejoice, since through them I have held up the Stars and the Stripes.”

Although Mr. and Mrs. Jackson were married in California and are identified with the pioneer colony of that State, Leonora and Ernest, their two children, were born in Boston. The parents removed to Chicago while the children were still in their infancy, and it ws in the latter city that Leonora passed her childhood and early girlhood, and received her first violin lessons.

“I am proud to think,” remarks Miss Jackson’s loving and devoted mother, “that my daughter inherits her musical temperament from our side of the family. There was a family of twelve boys and girls, all musically inclined, in my father’s home. He was passionately devoted to music, and had a big organ built in the parlor, around which we gathered, night after night, singing the great choruses of the classics. I was sent to Italy to have my voice cultivated, and upon my return, after my marriage, I formed and conducted large singing classes. After Leonora came I resolved that she should be a singer or a pianist, like her brother Ernest, but even as a baby the sound a violin would send her into ecstasies of joy. ‘Buy the child a violin,’ said her grandfather. So we bought her a little violin, and I gave her her first lessons in the nursery, making believe that the notes were little girls and boys, whose homes were on the lines and spaces, and who each spoke with a different voice.”

At six years of age the child began to study seriously under the best masters the city afforded – Albert Ruff, Carl Becker, and Professor Jacobson. She made astonishing progress, and a brilliant future was predicted for her if she were sent abroad to pursue her studies. The child was taken to Paris and place under Professor Desjardins, of the Paris Conservatory. It was while in Paris, after her second year of study, that the shock came that changed Leonora Jackson from a merry, thoughtless child into a serious girl. News came that the entire fortune of the father was lost. Not a dollar remained. The son was taken from Harvard, and the mother and daughter, through the assistance of friends, returned home.

“It was a great blow,” remarked Miss Jackson. “Child as I was, I was suddenly confronted by poverty and the utter impossibility of continuing my studies. I knew I had the power to succeed, but how continue to pay for lessons and teachers? Mother knew that the position was desperate. At any price I must be sent to Europe to finish my education. We then devised the plan of giving little concerts, Brother Ernest as pianist and I as violinist, at the different seaside resorts during the summer, and with the proceeds sending me to Europe to study in the winter.”

For two years the girl struggled in this way to complete her education, notwithstanding the heavy strain on her body and mind. But her extraordinary talent forced recognition. When two wealthy women offered to pay her expenses abroad for four years, it was discovered that numbers of others insisted upon the privilege of sharing the expense. A subscription paper was started with twenty signatures representing six of the principal cities in the United States: New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington.

The fund arranged for four years’ study in Berlin under Joachim, and the purchase of a beautiful Storioni violin. In January, 1894, Mrs. Jackson, accompanied by her son and daughter Leonora, sailed for Europe.

The outcome is well known. Miss Jackson made her début at the Berlin Philharmonic in the Brahms Concerto, Joachim himself leading the orchestra. She was commanded to appear before the empress, and then followed a series of engagements under the distinguished orchestra leaders of Germany. That same year she won the coveted Mendelssohn prize of fifteen hundred marks. Her triumphs since then at the Colonne concert in Paris, at the Hallé orchestra in London, at Windsor before the queen, in Scotland, Belgium, and Geneva, followed by twenty orchestral engagements in America, have been repetitions of her great successes in Germany.

“What is my aim in playing?” repeats the young virtuoso in reply to the question. “First a solid technique, then the message of some great immortal to be received and conveyed to others through the medium of my own individuality.”

1 Comment

Filed under Not My Writing, Women Violinists

Article: A Quick Chat With the Eissler Sisters

For whatever reason, musical talent often runs in families. Look at Lady Hallè, who was born into a family of prodigies – or the sisters Teresa and Maria Milanollo – or, nowadays, siblings Scott and Lara St. John. The Eissler sisters were two prominent Victorian sibling musicians. Clara was a harpist and Marianne a violinist. Here is a short excerpt from an article entitled “Moments with Modern Musicians” by F. Klickmann that appeared in early 1896 in The Windsor Magazine.

***

…Our final moments are to be spent with those two clever musicians the Misses Eissler. Like Herr Stavenhagen they are not natives of our foggy land, but unlike him they have made a permanent home with us. This is the more singular seeing that both the sisters hold official appointments at a foreign Court, Miss Clara Eissler being Court Harpist and Miss Marianne Eissler Court Violinist to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha. When State functions require their attendance, the sisters take a journey abroad to fulfil their engagements, after which they return to their home in Redcliffe Square.

It was in Miss Clara Eissler’s boudoir that I first heard the story of their earlier years. I had been wandering around the room looking at the innumerable portraits of the ever youthful Madame Adelina Patti. To no one are they more attached than to the prima donna, and, there is no lack of evidence – if one may judge by the inscriptions on the photographs – that the affection is mutual. Another photo that also attracted my attention was of a bright-faced happy-looking boy in a sailor suit. It bore an inscription, written in a round schoolboy hand – “Alfred, 1887.” When I commented upon this I was shown a diamond and sapphire ring that had been presented to Miss Marianne Eissler by the royal parents of the little sailor boy. Inside the ring is engraved, “From the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.”

This Misses Eissler are natives of Brünn, Moravia – a town already famous in the annals of violinists. Ernst was born there, also Wilhelmina Neruda (now Lady Hallé) and her brother Franz Neruda, the ‘cellist.

Herr Eissler was a professor of science at the Brünn University. On his death however Madame Eissler removed to Vienna, in order that her daughters might have greater musical advantages than was possible in Brünn.

“How was it that you made the harp your specialty?” I inquired of Miss Clara Eissler, after examining the exquisite instrument that had been made for her by Messrs. Erard.

“When I was ever so small I used to be taken to the concerts at the Vienna Conservatoire, where my sisters were studying, and the harp always fascinated me greatly. I made up my mind that if ever I played anything it must be the harp. At last they agreed that I should at any rate try what I could do with it, and when I was seven years old I likewise became a student at the Conservatoire and was placed under Zamara. Later on I studied under Hasselmans in Paris.”

“Seven years old seems very young to enter a Conservatoire,” I remarked.

“No, I think not. My sister Marianne began her studies at Vienna when she was the same age. By the way, it was rather curious that her first master at the Conservatoire was Professor Heissler.”

Our conversation was interrupted by the appearance of the young violinist herself, who had just returned from fulfilling an engagement at an afternoon concert. At my request she exhibited her beautiful “Carlo Bergonzi” violin, which bears the date 1732. This violin cost £400, and was presented to her by her friends in London. Violin collecting is a pardonable weakness in which Miss Marianne Eissler indulges; her partiality for autographs is a less expensive pursuit, however.

Miss Clara Eissler – who has a most artistic eye for such matters – finds her chief delight in arranging furniture and generally beautifying the home, while her favourite pastime is playing billiards.

The sisters have the highest regard for the musical ability of our royal family.

“I have heard that her Majesty takes a great interest in the music that is performed before her,” I said.

“Yes, and not only the Queen but likewise the princes and princesses,” Miss Clara Eissler replied. “On one occasion when my sister was playing at a concert in Portsmouth the Duke of Edinburgh came into the artists’ room and shook hands with her, and said how much he had enjoyed her playing, adding, ‘I have heard you play that solo before,’ and he mentioned the occasion on which she had previously played it. It is surprising how they can possibly remember trivial things like that, and yet they do.”

“You have often played before the Queen?”

“Yes we have played before her Majesty on several occasions. Once she honoured us so far as to command an encore.”

Our musical chat was finally broken up by Tristan – a terrier belonging to the harpist – who noisily demanded to be admitted to his mistress’s domain without further delay. The rest of our time we employed in trying to induce that quadruped to perform certain tricks in view of a prospective piece of sugar. But he was a superior dog and declined to sell his genius to so base an end – though he ultimately ate the sugar with little compunction.

Leave a comment

Filed under Not My Writing, Women Violinists

Article: Short Leonora von Stosch biography

Here is a short article on Leonora von Stosch (later Lady Speyer) from The Illustrated American, 13 February 1892. This dates from early in her career, when she was 20 years old. In a field full of fascinating women, Leonora is one of the most interesting: she was not only an internationally renowned violinist, but also a Pulitzer-Prize winning poet.

***

Miss Leonora von Stosch. – The admired young artist whose portrait is here presented is a native of those country, and was born in Washington in 1872. Her mother is a New Englander, a successful contributor to various magazines, and a natural musician whose vocal and instrumental talents were sacrificed to the advancement of a literary career.

The father of the young violinist, Count von Stosch, a German gentleman of noble birth, came to America some twenty-five years ago, and was naturalized soon after his marriage. He died, and his wife became Mrs. Schayer, the name she now bears.

When not more than eleven years old, little Miss Von Stosch attracted attention by her skill in playing the violin. At a much earlier age she had given evidence of her ability both as pianist and composer. As a sort of youthful prodigy she appeared in concerts at Washington and Baltimore, studying all the while under Prof. Jos. Kaspar, of Washington, who strongly advised her going abroad for the advantage to be gained in foreign schools.

Following his advice, Miss Von Stosch and her mother went to Brussels when the former was in her sixteenth year. She was a diligent student at the Conservatory of Music in that city for twenty-four months. At the end of the first half of the course she was awarded second prize, with distinction, and the next year she carried off first honors.

It was shortly after her graduation that the young American played before Joachim in Berlin, also appearing in a great concert at the Monnaie Theatre, in which many distinguished professionals took part.

January, 1891, found Miss Von Stosch in Paris, ardent as ever in pursuing her course, and studying under Marsick. Circumstances at this time interfered, necessitating a trip home, where success and honor awaited the pretty, gifted girl. She realized, in spite of these triumphs, that her student’s life had not been fully rounded out, and feels it is only a question of time when she returns to the French capital, and enters again in earnest pursuit of the high mark her ambition has sent for attainment.

Her first professional appearance in this country was made with the Seidel’s Orchestra in New York, since when, she has, with profit and honor, assisted at many fashionable muscales in the drawing-rooms of the Four Hundred.

Tall and symmetrical, having a charming face lit by vivacious intelligence, of graceful presence, and with manners a happy mixture of dignity and warmth, few young women have been so graciously endowed by nature as this youthful artist, of whom New York audiences heartily approve.

Leave a comment

Filed under Not My Writing, Women Violinists

Interview: Daisy Kennedy

Here’s a link to a fantastic interview with Australian violinist Daisy Kennedy (1893-1981). I don’t feel comfortable copy/pasting it here, so I’d recommend moseying over there and reading (and listening!) to it ASAP. It gives an intriguing glimpse into the European violin scene around the turn of the century. Enjoy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Not My Writing, Women Violinists

Article: A Talk With Madame Beatrice Langley

This article appeared in The Windsor Magazine sometime in early 1898. It is by Charles Cathcart.

***

A bitter, north-easterly gale, accompanied by blinding sleet and snow, was sweeping over Primrose Hill as my dripping hansom pulled up with a jerk at Madame Beatrice Langley’s comfortable house near Regent’s Park; but before I had been many minutes seated near the blazing fire, sipping tea and listening to the sparkling conversation of my genial hostess, all recollection of the refrigerating process I had just experienced had faded from my mind and my spirits had risen considerably. Indeed, so completely did Madame Langley’s witty comments upon all sorts and conditions of men and matters engross my attention, that fully half an hour must have passed before we came to actual business.

“It was in Dublin,” my hostess then said, in answer to my opening question, “that I first played in public. My mother, at that time a well-known amateur singer, had promised to sing at the Antient Concert Rooms for the benefit of some charity. The song, I remember, was Braga’s famous serenade, and I played the obbligato.”

“Was that long ago?”

“Yes, for I was quite a child, barely nine years old; but I had, of course, been learning the violin for several years; indeed, I cannot remember the time when I did not possess a fiddle of some sort. In 1886 I became a pupil of Mr. Joseph Ludwig, but after I had studied with him for seven years I went to Professor Wilhelmj, then just returned to England.”

“Did you remain with him long?”

“Two years. But before going to him I had made my début.”

“Where did that take place?”

“At one of the Crystal Palace Saturday afternoon concerts. Then engagements began to come in, and the most important concerts at which I played were the London Symphony Concerts, the Queen’s Hall Orchestral Concerts, and Madame Albani’s London Concerts.”

“But didn’t you go on tour with Madame Albani?”

“Yes, but that was later. I toured twice with Madame Albani; indeed, it was Madame Albani who gave my ‘send off,’ as they say in America. The first time I met her was one evening at dinner, before I had made my début, and after dinner I was asked to play. I played several solos, and next day Madame Albani asked me to go with her on tour.”

“Was that tour made in England?”

“Yes. We went all through England, and everywhere the public seemed to like my playing. I enjoyed the tour immensely. Last year, as you may know, I was the violinist in Madame Albani’s concerts in Canada, and we had a perfectly delightful tour right across the continent, from Halifax to Vancouver and Victoria, and we also gave a few concerts in the United States. In all we gave thirty-three concerts. Madame Albani had also engaged Mr. Braxton-Smith and Mr. Lempriére Pringle, and in Canada we were joined by Miss Beverley Robinson, daughter of the late Lieut.-Governor of Ontario. From beginning to end the tour was a kind of triumphal march, for, of course, Madame Albani is immensely popular in Canada, as, for that matter, she is popular everywhere.”

“I am told that you were married just before you sailed for Canada.”

“Only three days before!” Madame Langley answered, with a look of amusement.

She is the wife of Mr. Basil Tozer, a prolific writer of newspaper articles and the author of several books on sport.

“I wonder how your husband liked your going on tour for the honeymoon,” I continued; “he went with you, I suppose?”

“He did, and he rather enjoyed the absurdity of the situation. Afterwards, in Canada, strangers were constantly blundering by saying the wrong things to him. One day, for instance, in Montreal – or in Toronto, I forget which – an inquisitive stranger, with whom he was talking casually, inquired whether it was true that I had a husband ‘knocking around’ with me. Upon his answering that such was actually the case, and that he, my husband, knew the gentleman intimately, the stranger became quite confidential, and presently remarked in an undertone, ‘Say, I guess you might introduce me to that husband right away,’ and, of course, my husband did so. Then – when we were in Winnipeg, I think – I remember reading in a newspaper that ‘yesterday Madame Albani and her husband were seen sleighing, accompanied by a small boy, probably their son.’ That ‘son’ was my husband!”

“Does your husband look so young, then?”

“About ten years younger than he is, though he has travelled in every part of the world except Australia – by the way, we ought to be in Australia now.”

“With Madame Albani?”

“Yes. Just before Christmas Madame Albani asked me to accompany her as violinist on her tour in Australia and South Africa, but, much as I should have loved the voyage and the tour, I could not see my way to leaving England for six whole months, especially as I had already accepted several engagements in England for this year.”

“And how did America impress you?”

“Very favourably indeed,” Madame Langley replied promptly; “and I think the Canadians themselves perfectly delightful. As for the audiences, well, you can’t help liking the public when they seem to like you, and the larger the city, the more enthusiastic to audience – at least, such as my experience in Canada, and several artists who have toured there say they agree with me. The biggest ‘house’ we had was in Winnipeg, where the Drill Hall is said to have scating accommodation for 5,000 persons. On the night of the concert it was packed.  Some of the people came scores of miles in sleighs, others two hundred and two hundred and fifty miles by train, to be present at the concert. I shall never forget the sight of that Drill Hall, or the applause of that audience, as long as I live. It was perfectly splendid. Then, too, everybody was so hospitable. During the week or [?] days we spent in Winnipeg we were feted almost to extinction, and in such towns as Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Kingston, Vancouver and Victoria – everywhere, in short, where we stopped for a week or more – people hitherto perfect strangers to us seemed to vie with one another in entertaining the company. I must say that in this respect the Governors of the various provinces set the example – an excellent example, too, we thought it.”

“So you prefer Canadians to your own countrymen and countrywomen?”

“Oh, no, I don’t mean that.”

“But you prefer Canadian audiences?”

“No, I don’t mean that, either. What I like about Canada, and about the States, too, is that an artist appearing there for the first time in reality runs entirely upon his or her own merits. For instance, an artist with a big name comes over from Europe, having been duly ‘billed’ in immense letters and boomed by the Press. At first the public flock to hear him, ready enough to approve and applaud; but if the artist with the big name fails to please, his song, or his playing, or his performance, or whatever his entertainment may be, falls quite flat, and very soon the towns hundreds of miles away, which he means to visit, hear that he is ‘a frost’ – for nearly all news goes by wire in America – so that when he arrives there, in spite of all his advance booming, he finds only empty houses awaiting him. For your American citizen is nothing if not practical, and, like our English tub-thumper, when he asks for his dollar’s worth he ‘means to get it’ – not that he always does. Now take the case of a really clever and well-taught, but unknown, artist. He appears upon an American platform for the first time. He is received in silent. The audience hardly look at him. If they speak of him at all they merely criticise his appearance. He sings, or he plays. Gradually the audience become attentive. Then he seems slowly to hypnotise them. Their interest expands; their admiration increases. Finally he stops; the spell is broken; he leaves the platform amid a storm of applause, only to be recalled again and again, and the next time he makes his appearance he is greeted with quite an ovation before he has sung a note or touched his instrument, as the case may be. Then glowing reports about him are flashed from city to city, so that from the first his success is assured all along the line. These remarks apply to women as well as to men artist,s and the artist may have been raised in Germany and christened with a name of fifteen syllables, or he may be called Tom Jones, and have first seen light in Whitechapel, it makes not one whit of difference, provided he please his public.”

“Did you study abroad at all, Madame Langley?”

“No, I studied entirely in London,” she answered with a bright smile. “That is something to be proud of in these days of foreign competition!”

“And you were not even born in Germany.”

“No, I was born in Devonshire, in a secluded townlet called Chudleigh.”

We continued our conversation, and I soon gathered that my hostess entertained the highest opinion of Madame Albani, not only, of course, as an artist, but as an individual. Incidentally, too, she let fall a remark that I have heard made before, a remark to the effect that Madame Albani seems never to say an unkind word about anybody, but that she is, on the contrary, ever on the look-out for talent, and ready to help any young artist in whom she discovers the germs of genuine merit. Now, oddly enough, from what I am told about Madame Langley herself, and from what I saw of her during my brief visit, I should say that the selfsame remark might truly be applied to another lady.

Upon the subject of musical agents and musical managers Madame Beatrice Langley waxed eloquent. With but one exception, she personally has been fairly treated, though she prides herself upon never in her life having asked for an engagement either for a concert or for “at homes,” at which latter she plays largely.

Madame Langley is an enthusiastic Wagnerian, and seldom misses an opportunity of being present at a Wagner concert. Also she is interested in politics, and, besides being a lover of art, she is an omnivorous reader, and appears to be thoroughly posted in topics of the day and well abreast of current literature.

“Would you care to see my fiddle?” my fair hostess asked presently, as she refilled my cup. I replied that I should like, not merely to see it, but to hear it, whereupon she favoured me with Bach’s famous “Aria,” played most exquisitely on her favourite violin, a Maggini, which her father, Colonel Langley, late of the Royal Artillery, gave her as a wedding present. This was the violin which she took to Canada. As Maggini died in the year 1630, the fiddle must be at least 267 years old; nevertheless, it is in perfect condition.

Madame Beatrice Langley is, I believe, the only woman violinist in London who has ever played in public the difficult A minor variations of Paganini. Her tone is quite wonderful, and, listening to her playing, one could almost imagine her Maggini was a ‘cello. During her absence from the room for a few minutes, I glanced through her albums of Press notices, truly a marvellous collection of unanimously favourable criticisms, and presently I came across one in particular that I well remembered having read before. It was taken from the Times of January 2nd, 1897, where, under the heading “Music of the Year,” Madame Beatrice Langley’s name is coupled with that of Sarasate. According to the Times, Sarasate, Ysaye, and Madame Beatrice Langley were “among the most successful violinists who appeared during the year.” Among the Canadian newspaper cuttings I noticed one that tempted me to ask Madame Langley rather a personal question as she re-entered the room.

“Are you a Romanist?” I ventured to inquire.

“Why, yes,” she answered, “I am Catholic. I suppose that paragraph about my playing in the Catholic Cathedral of St. Boniface, in Winnipeg, made you ask that question. I played several times in church on Sundays while in Canada, and the Maggini sounded magnificent – at least, so I was told. Most of the churches in Canada are very good for sound, you see, and the atmosphere is so crisp and dry that it suits the fiddle to perfection. Do I ever teach the violin? Yes; and I find teaching very interesting, especially when pupils show particular talent and are industrious.”

“One more question, Madame Langley, and I have done. I must put this question to you because it is one that everybody asks everybody else: Do you ride a bicycle?”

“I do,” came the laughing reply; “at least, in the country. My husband will not let me ride in town.”

I remarked that “Mr. Beatrice Langley” must be wise in his generation, and soon afterwards I took my leave.

Leave a comment

Filed under Not My Writing, Women Violinists

A (Transcribed) Chat With Lady Hallé, 1894

Here’s a great interview with Wilma Norman-Neruda (also known as Lady Hallé) from Cassel’s Magazine in 1894. Link to the Google scan here.

***

A Chat With Lady Hallé

By the Baroness Von Zedlitz

Violin playing has, during the last century, attained a high degree of real excellence in England, although, we regret to say, not particularly through the instrumentality of English executants. On the contrary, England has produced but few solo violin players of eminence, and violin virtuosity has, as a rule, been most ably represented in this country by foreigners.

Although we may not claim her as our own, by reason of her alien birth and extraction, we are proud to know that the subject of this word-sketch, Lady Hallé, has settled down on British soil, and has chosen her home in our very midst.

Her inherent genius, coupled with early and strict training, undoubtedly has contributed much to the shining success with which, since the date of her earliest musical reminiscences, she has displayed and perfected the brilliant gifts bestowed upon her by Queen Nature.

The power of really pure interpretation on the violin has not been bestowed upon many women, and Lady Hallé may be said with truth to have been the first girl-artist who had the pluck to stand by her inclinations, and who refused to allow herself to be disheartened by outward considerations not consistent with her inborn principles and predilections with regard to her executive art.

At the tender age of seven her wonderful powers began to assert themselves, but – she tells me – they had to be exercised almost by strategem.

When I had the pleasure of a chat with Lady Hallé some days ago at her charming home, she was kind enough to give me some interesting details concerning her eventful career.

“My parents didn’t want me to play the violin,” said Lady Hallé, after we had fallen out of the ordinary routine of small talk, “but my brother Victor, who was then preparing to study with my father, inspired me with the notion that there was more to be got out of his child-violin – a mere toy, without much feeling or tone – then he seemed able to draw forth with his bow.

“It absolutely fascinated me so that I had no rest until I had handled it myself.

“In those days there was rather a strong prejudice against violin-playing among our sex; it was not considered a graceful accomplishment nor a womanly one, but I found it impossible to crush the desire within me to draw the bow across the strings of my brother’s violin; so I lay in watch for the moment when he would go out, and then stole to his room in order to shut myself up and indulge in the sweet notes of the instrument.

“Forbidden fruit, indeed, and therefore all the more luscious to taste!

“To begin quite at the commencement of my career, however, I should tell you that I was born in Brunn, Moravia, my birthday being the 21st of March, 1840. My father held the position of organist and Capellmeister at the Cathedral of that town, and the Neruda family dates back, musically, to the seventeenth century. The earliest musician of our name was Jakob Neruda, who died in 1732.

“His sons were also musicians, and when they died the sons of the younger offspring of Jakob Neruda, called Baptiste Georg, left two sons behind him, both of whom became chamber-musicians at the Court of Dresden. The elder of these brothers was the grandfather of my father.

“It was necessary to go back a little in the history of our family in order to show you that there was a very excellent raison d’étre for my early musical proclivities.

“It became evident to my parents that a career lay before me, although they were quite averse to my taking to the violin. They wanted me to play the piano; but as a child I hated the idea. Matters continued in this wise [sic?] for some time, I always secretly increasing my power over the instrument, without informing my parents of the progress I had made, until one day by accident my father heard the strains of music emerging from my brother’s room, and, overjoyed at the progress he believed his little son to have made, he rushed upstairs and discovered his mistake!”

“What happened then, Lady Halle?” I asked, becoming keenly interested in the turn of events.

“Well,” she replied, after a pause, “my father was very much disappointed and pleased at the same time. I feared that the discovery would lead to a strict prohibition on the part of my parents of my ever touching a violin again.

“But I was overjoyed when my father took me in his arms, his eyes moist with tears, showing me that his artistic nature (for he was every inch a musician) had experienced pleasurable appreciation at the surprise that came upon him, in spite of my brother’s backwardness; and from that day forth my father devoted his spare time to the development of my talent.

[Victor Neruda later became a cellist, so apparently he eventually caught on!]

“Yes, my first laurels were earned at an absurdly early age, and this circumstance, like the origination of my career, occurred, so to speak, by accident. I was practicing one day with my father as usual, for we were very industrious and ardent in our devotions to music, when Professor Jansa rushed in unexpectedly to see my father on some matter concerning a concert which he was arranging. This incident occurred in Vienna. On hearing me play Jansa – I can see his face before me now – appeared to be electrified, and almost beside himself with joy. Nothing would do but I must play at his concert, which suggestion was at first pooh-poohed by my father, but then taken seriously into consideration after the continuously urgent entreaties pressed upon him by Jansa.

“I think I was the least preoccupied member of the trio, for the importance of facing an audience at that age was a thing unknown to me.

“I played at Jansa’s concert and achieved a phenomenal success at my first appearance on the platform; I believe that, entre autres, I ventured upon a sonata of Bach, which elicited a veritable deluge of applause. After that Jansa became my master.”

“Who were your subsequent teachers, Lady Hallé?”

“I have never studied under any others than my father and Jansa.

“I thoroughly disapprove of the system of changing schools so prevalent just now. One master only should develop and train the flexible, impressionable growth of interpretation, so that the young shoots in the form of impressions may not wander adrift and lose themselves in the ocean of infinity. Is it not better to adopt one particular manner of expression and express one’s self well than to try several methods and interpret these indifferently?

“We each have sympathies and special affinities which we should endeavour to portray with our own individuality.

“It is a thousand pities that beginners are sometimes placed under the direction of mediocre teachers. It is suggested that they will not require a good master until their talent is more advanced, and then, when they have wasted years of fruitless labour, and have acquired much that is deteriorating to their technique and style, they find themselves placed under a first-class tutor, who will not tolerate their faults – by this time deeply rooted – and who, in dealing peremptorily with badly-acquired habits, often crushes an intelligence which might have blossomed into something better than good.

“Genius should be dexterously trained from youth upwards, or it loses much of its inborn strength.

“The violin is, next to the voice, the most powerful exponent of musical feeling, and requires to be dealt with poetically, simply, and yet characteristically.

“The player during his period of experiment should try to adopt a style in unison with the nature and idealism of his instrument if he desires to obtain brilliant and beautiful effects. These last named can only be ensured by entirely abandoning one’s self to the devotional study of one’s art, for nothing is more painful than a crude, erring technique or a want of feeling and refinement in the production of musical sounds on this particularly subtle instrument.

“On the other hand, there is nothing more divine, nay heavenly, than the nobility and grandeur of a perfect interpreter of the literature of the violin – heavenly indeed, for we can trace its religious influence back to the year 1650, in which we find that the clergy, once having discovered the artistic capabilities of the violin, were not slow to introduce it to the services of the Church.

“The violin,” continued my hostess, “is generally acknowledged to be the most popular and useful of all portable musical instruments; besides, is it not the principal one in figuring in a stringed orchestra?”

“On question, Lady Hallé. Do you consider violin playing a facile accomplishment?”

“Yes; certainly. There is none that can be so easily mastered, if the learner sets about his task in the right way; for the fiddle exercises a subtle charm over the mind – a charm which furnishes much good suggesting for conceiving and executing the ideal of the composer.”

“Do you agree with the theory of an old fiddle being better than a new one?”

“A violin can only be well made to begin with, and one must not always judge the instrument by its outward appearance. Some of the old Cremona violins have been overrated by reason of the beauty of their ornate designs; but there is every reason to believe that the more modern master-makers have produced, and do produce, as beautiful tones in their violins as those emitted by the ancient ones.

“There is a peculiar fascination, I am told, in putting an old, disused violin through a course of rehabilitation, and in reawakening its old musical capacities. Thus the violin enjoys a sort of mysterious immortality, the effect of which is augmented by the often erroneous theory that no good makers of violins have existed since the Cremona days. The main excellences of a violin are purely mechanical; therefore let it not be judged by its outward appearance any more than a singing-bird be praised for its fine feathers. [In another book I read, her husband, pianist and conductor Charles Hallé wrote in August 1890, “On Monday morning our beautiful goldfinch died in Wilma’s hand, to our great grief. The last two days it had been ailing, but we hoped it would get better again; we were very sorry indeed. If, according to Hector Malot, great affection for animals is a sign of insanity, then Wilma and I are a very insane couple. ” Later in the same book he makes the satisfied observation that “We travel now with no less than sixteen birds.” In light of this, I found her analogy to birds to be rather endearing!]

“Remember the violin is quite three centuries old, and is practically the only instrument that has not undergone any radical change. Many futile attempts have been made to improve it, but all experiments have failed, and the violin will ever maintain its sway over all other musical instruments.”

“Do you know to whom is attributed the invention of the violin in the first instance?” I inquired later.

“It is commonly supposed,” said Lady Hallé, “that a man of the name of Diuffoprugcar, born at Bologna, was the originator, and I am told that there exist three genuine violins of his making, dating back as far as 1520; but I believe that the authenticity of any date in a violin before 1520 is questionable.”

“Which of the ancient makers, in your opinion, are most productive of perfection in tone qualities?”

“There you ask me a difficult question. I love my Stradivarius, and for me there exists not a violin to surpass it in the exquisite delicacy of its intonation. But we have it on the best authorities – to whose superior power I bow in submission – that for sweetness of tone and beauty of design the brothers Antonius and Hieronymus Amati are even now hard to beat.”

After the Jansa concert Lady Hallé’s (then Wilhelmine Neruda) career formed itself, and the little artist threw her heart and soul into her studies. We hear that in 1849 the gifted child made her first appearance in London on the 11th of June at the Philharmonic Concert, where she made her debut before our warm-hearted English public, which has never forgotten her effective rendering of one of De Bériot’s concertos, and ever since has recognized in her one of the most accomplished musicians of the century.

“By this time,” continued Lady Hallé, while alluding to her subsequent studies, “I had traveled a great deal, having visited Leipzig, Berlin, Berslau, Hamburg, and other German cities, where I am bound to say I met with friends who have remained so all my life, and advisers and just critics at whose hearts lay the interest of my future, and who counseled me for the best in all my undertakings.”

“In what year did you first visit Paris?” I asked then.

“In 1864,” was Lady Hallé’s answer, “where I played at the Pasdeloup concerts, at the Conservatoire, and elsewhere. Here, too, I met with remarkable ovations and enthusiasm from the music-loving French, who have ever since accorded me a welcome which could hardly fail to surpass the expectations of even the most fastidious of artists.”

“Did you ever compose any music for the violin, Lady Hallé?”

“No, at least nothing worth speaking of. As a girl I may have indulged in one or two musical fancies, but as a rule I preferred other compositions to my own.”

“And who are your favorite composers?”

“What a question to ask!” exclaimed Lady Hallé with warmth. “For an empire I could not specify any special favourites. I love all music. From Bach and Mozart to Chaminade [interestingly, Lady Hallé is referring to Cécile Chaminade, arguably the most famous and highly regarded female composer around the turn of the century] there is such a wealth of great and noble works, each is so beautiful of its kind, that is would be difficult to specify anything individually.

“When I play Brahms I am enraptured; then comes the passion and grandeur of Wagner; after that, I am bewitched by the beautiful simplicity of Bach or the wild impetuosity of Chopin; and thus each in his turn makes of me a most devoted slave.”

“Will you show me your violin?” I begged, ere I took my leave, and Lady Hallé then proceeded to display a very costly Stradivarius which, she informed me, was the joint gift of the Lord Dudley and the Duke of Edinburgh.

“How curious it is,” I remarked, while examining the deft mechanism, “that such a simple-looking instrument should possess such a wealth of melody and charm!”

“Yes, indeed,” was Lady Hallé’s reply; “but, as I said before, it is not so easy to make it sing. That which is worth speaking is worth repeating; but it is hard to give the violin sympathetic speech unless the words you wish it to utter are the echo of your heart’s own sentiments.

“How earnestly I would wish to impress upon all young girls that violin-playing is not an accomplishment quickly acquired; it demands a life of earnest study and undivided attention. I think I may say that, beautiful as this particular branch of music is, I would rather hear one who plays really well then ten who interpret indifferently.”

To revert to the continuance of her career Mademoiselle Neruda entered into matrimony with a Swedish musician, Ludwig Norman, while she was in Paris. Her husband, however, died shortly after their marriage, and the distinguished violinist has since then been known in musical circles under the name of Norman Neruda. [Actually, Ludwig Norman did not die; the two separated, and possibly even divorced. Whether the reporter heard faulty information or Wilma flat-out lied to her, we don’t know!]

In 1869 Madame Neruda visited England again and played at the Philharmonic Society on the 17th of May. At this stage of her career she was no longer the infant prodigy who had promised to become “somebody”; she had outstripped the years of infantine celebrity, and appeared before a critical audience in the zenith of her musical powers.

The fragile-looking child-artist had developed into a handsome, well-built woman whose brilliancy of talent and charm of execution electrified all those who heard her.

Joachim’s opinion, expressed about her to Sir Charles Hallé, many years ago, was a very correct one, although (with his usual grace) he could not help praising a fellow artist without undervaluing his own unimpeachable talent.

This is what he said of her:-

“I recommend to your attention this young lady. Mark my word, when people shall have heard her play, they will not think so much of me.”

And the public did, and does think very much of her, although they do not think any the less of Joachim on that account; his name is encircled by an aureole of fame which no lapse of time can dim.

At the Philharmonic Society M. Vieuxtemps had occasion to hear Madame Neruda, and was so deeply interested by the perfection of maturity into which the promise of childhood’s genius had ripened that he endeavoured to persuade her to remain in London until the winter, and, in the end, she was induced to take the lead of the string quartet in the Monday Popular Concerts before Christmas, and at once assumed her proper place in the front rank of first-class violinists.

Here it is appropriate to mention that Sir C. Hallé obtained her services for his recitals in London and Manchester, and that she appeared in many provincial towns, where she met with equal and undaunted success, and that Sir Charles Hallé, having lost his first wife in the early days of wedlock, married Madame Neruda in 1888.

Lady Hallé has given concerts in Russia, Prussia, Denmark, Great Britain, etc., not forgetting Australia, and has received many testimonials and orders of distinction from crowned heads.

In her reception rooms I espied innumerable gifts and souvenirs, some photographic, others autographic, testifying to the esteem with which she is regarded by the Royal family, and especially by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, of whom she possesses many portraits, all of which are signed. One photograph struck me particularly as being an excellent likeness of His Royal Highness the late Duke of Clarence and Avondale, taken with his mother, under which are inscribed the simple but touching words, “Alexandra, and my first-born,” which seem to point to the burden of a distressing memory. Yet another interesting portrait is that of Her Royal Highness in her robes of Mus.Doc., also signed “Alexandra.” [Alexandra received a doctorate of music from Trinity College in Dublin in 1885.]

And now I would venture to speak of the personality of this brilliant artist, and to add a few words in humble criticism of her executive talent. Lady Hallé possesses an unerring sense of artistic propriety and technical perfection, therefore the strongest feelings of form and sound are displayed in her fine renderings of no matter what composer. Pathos, dignity, and gracefulness are her chief means of expressing herself, while often she displays a fire of passionate emotion which tells us that the artist’s heart and soul are devoted to her art. The left-hand technique shows how capable she is of executing all difficulties without displaying any symptom of labour, and that the systematic perseverance with which she has applied herself to her studies has borne good fruits, of which the universal public is the happy recipient.

Her manner, which is gentle and courteous, has much refinement about it, and when roused to speak upon matters that interest her she becomes eloquent, while her looks imply that she seriously means what she says.

Her house and surroundings show her artistic fondness for rich warm colours and harmonious decorations, and her desire to have around her the counterfeit presentments of all her confreres in the musical world.

In Australia, when Lady Hallé, accompanied by her husband, Sir C. Hallé, gave a brilliant series of concerts, she was received with much favour, and at the conclusion of their visit to Melbourne, which lasted six weeks, a huge floral lyre was presented to her by the members of the Victorian orchestra as a token of their esteem and admiration.

That Lady Hallé has studied hard and has won her laurels through legitimate diligence is a fact of world-wide renown, and that this constant mental application has not spoilt her youthful enjoyment both of life and natural beauty may be gathered by the extraordinary charm of her artistic capabilities, as well as her amiability and cordiality as a hostess and friend.

Leave a comment

Filed under Women Violinists