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[Illustration: The Master, Camille Saint-Saëns]




MUSICAL MEMORIES

BY
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS

TRANSLATED BY
EDWIN GILE RICH
Translator of Lafond's "_Ma Mitrailleuse_," etc.

[Illustration: (A publisher's seal, inscribed "SCIRE QVOD SCIENDVM".)]

BOSTON
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY

PUBLISHERS




1919,
BY SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
(INCORPORATED)




CONTENTS

CHAPTER
I MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD

II THE OLD CONSERVATOIRE

III VICTOR HUGO

IV THE HISTORY OF AN OPÉRA-COMIQUE

V LOUIS GALLET

VI HISTORY AND MYTHOLOGY IN OPERA

VII ART FOR ART'S SAKE

VIII POPULAR SCIENCE AND ART

IX ANARCHY IN MUSIC

X THE ORGAN

XI JOSEPH HAYDN AND THE "SEVEN WORDS"

XII THE LISZT CENTENARY AT HEIDELBERG (1912)

XIII BERLIOZ'S REQUIEM

XIV PAULINE VIARDOT

XV ORPHEE

XVI DELSARTE

XVII SEGHERS

XVIII ROSSINI

XIX JULES MASSENET

XX MEYERBEER

XXI JACQUES OFFENBACH

XXII THEIR MAJESTIES

XXIII MUSICAL PAINTERS




ILLUSTRATIONS

The Master, Camille Saint-Saëns

The Paris Opéra

The First Performance of _Déjanire_

M. Saint-Saëns in his Later Years

The Madeleine where M. Saint-Saëns played the organ for twenty years

Hector Berlioz

Mme. Pauline Viardot

Mme. Patti

M. Jules Massenet

Meyerbeer, Composer of _Les Huguenots_

Jacques Offenbach

Ingres, the painter famous for his violin




MUSICAL MEMORIES




MUSICAL MEMORIES


CHAPTER I

MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD


In bygone days I was often told that I had two mothers, and, as a matter
of fact, I did have two--the mother who gave me life and my maternal
great-aunt, Charlotte Masson. The latter came from an old family of
lawyers named Gayard and this relationship makes me a descendant of
General Delcambre, one of the heroes of the retreat from Russia. His
granddaughter married Count Durrieu of the _Académie des Inscriptions et
Belles-Lettres_. My great-aunt was born in the provinces in 1781, but
she was adopted by a childless aunt and uncle who made their home in
Paris. He was a wealthy lawyer and they lived magnificently.

My great-aunt was a precocious child--she walked at nine months--and
she became a woman of keen intellect and brilliant attainments. She
remembered perfectly the customs of the _Ancien Régime_, and she enjoyed
telling about them, as well as about the Revolution, the Reign of
Terror, and the times that followed. Her family was ruined by the
Revolution and the slight, frail, young girl undertook to earn her
living by giving lessons in French, on the pianoforte--the instrument
was a novelty then--in singing, painting, embroidery, in fact in
everything she knew and in much that she did not. If she did not know,
she learned then and there so that she could teach. Afterwards, she
married one of her cousins. As she had no children of her own, she
brought one of her nieces from Champagne and adopted her. This niece was
my mother, Clemence Collin. The Massons were about to retire from
business with a comfortable fortune, when they lost practically
everything within two weeks, in a panic, saving just enough to live
decently. Shortly after this my mother married my father, a minor
official in the Department of the Interior. My great-uncle died of a
broken heart some months before my birth on October 9, 1835. My father
died of consumption on the thirty-first of the following December, just
a year to a day after his marriage.

Thus the two women were both left widows, poorly provided for, weighed
down by sad memories, and with the care of a delicate child. In fact I
was so delicate that the doctors held out little hope of my living, and
on their advice I was left in the country with my nurse until I was two
years old.

While my aunt had had a remarkable education, my mother had not been so
widely taught. But she made up for any lack by the display of an
imagination and an eager power of assimilation which bordered on the
miraculous. She often told me about an uncle who was very fond of
her--he had been ruined in the cause of Philippe Egalité. This uncle was
an artist, but he was, nevertheless, passionately fond of music. He had
even built with his own hands a concert organ on which he used to play.
My mother used to sit between his knees and, while he amused himself by
running his fingers through her splendid black hair, he would talk to
her about art, music, painting--beauty in every form. So she got it into
her head that if she ever had sons of her own, the first should be a
musician, the second a painter, and the third a sculptor. As a result,
when I came home from the nurse, she was not greatly surprised that I
began to listen to every noise and to every sound; that I made the doors
creak, and would plant myself in front of the clocks to hear them
strike. My special delight was the music of the tea-kettle--a large one
which was hung before the fire in the drawing-room every morning. Seated
nearby on a small stool, I used to wait with a lively curiosity for the
first murmurs of its gentle and variegated _crescendo_, and the
appearance of a microscopic oboe which gradually increased its song
until it was silenced by the kettle boiling. Berlioz must have heard
that oboe as well as I, for I rediscovered it in the "Ride to Hell" in
his _La Damnation de Faust_.

At the same time I was learning to read. When I was two-years-and-a-half
old, they placed me in front of a small piano which had not been opened
for several years. Instead of drumming at random as most children of
that age would have done, I struck the notes one after another, going on
only when the sound of the previous note had died away. My great-aunt
taught me the names of the notes and got a tuner to put the piano in
order. While the tuning was going on, I was playing in the next room,
and they were utterly astonished when I named the notes as they were
sounded. I was not told all these details--I remember them perfectly.

I was taught by Le Carpentier's method and I finished it in a month.
They couldn't let a little monkey like that work away at the piano, and
I cried like a lost soul when they closed the instrument. Then they left
it open and put a small stool in front of it. From time to time I would
leave my playthings and climb up to drum out whatever came into my head.
Gradually, my great-aunt, who fortunately had an excellent foundation in
music, taught me how to hold my hands properly so that I did not acquire
the gross faults which are so difficult to correct later on. But they
did not know what sort of music to give me. That written especially for
children is, as a rule, entirely melody and the part for the left hand
is uninteresting. I refused to learn it. "The bass doesn't sing," I
said, in disgust.

Then they searched the old masters, in Haydn and Mozart, for things
sufficiently easy for me to handle. At five I was playing small sonatas
correctly, with good interpretation and excellent precision. But I
consented to play them only before listeners capable of appreciating
them. I have read in a biographical sketch that I was threatened with
whippings to make me play. That is absolutely false; but it was
necessary to tell me that there was a lady in the audience who was an
excellent musician and had fastidious tastes. I would not play for those
who did not know.

As for the threat of whippings, that must be relegated to the realm of
legends with the one that Garcia punished his daughters to make them
learn to sing. Madame Viardot expressly told me that neither she nor her
sister was abused by their father and that they learned music without
realizing it, just as they learned to talk.

But in spite of my surprising progress my teacher did not foresee what
my future was to be. "When he is fifteen," she said, "if he can write a
dance, I shall be satisfied." It was just at this time, however, that I
began to write music. I wrote waltzes and galops--the galop was
fashionable at that period; it ran to rather ordinary musical motives
and mine were no exception to the rule. Liszt had to show by his _Galop
Chromatique_ the distinction that genius can give to the most
commonplace themes. My waltzes were better. As has always been the case
with me, I was already composing the music directly on paper without
working it out on the piano. The waltzes were too difficult for my
hands, so a friend of the family, a sister of the singer Geraldy, was
kind enough to play them for me.

I have looked over these little compositions lately. They are
insignificant, but it is impossible to find a technical error in them.
Such precision was remarkable for a child who had no idea of the science
of harmony. About that time some one had the notion that I should hear
an orchestra. So they took me to a symphony concert and my mother held
me in her arms near the door. Until then I had only heard single violins
and their tone had not pleased me. But the impression of the orchestra
was entirely different and I listened with delight to a passage played
by a quartet, when, suddenly, came a blast from the brass
instruments--the trumpets, trombones and cymbals. I broke into loud
cries, "Make them stop. They prevent my hearing the music." They had to
take me out.

When I was seven, I passed out of my great-aunt's hands into Stamaty's.
He was surprised at the way my education in music had been directed and
he expressed this in a small work in which he discussed the necessity of
making a correct start. In my case, he said, there was nothing to do but
to perfect.

Stamaty was Kalkbrenner's best pupil and the propagator of the method he
had invented. This method was based on the _guide main_, so I was put to
work on it. The preface to Kalkbrenner's method, in which he relates the
beginnings of his invention, is exceedingly interesting. This invention
consisted of a rod placed in front of the keyboard. The forearm rested
on this rod in such a way that all muscular action save that of the hand
was suppressed. This system is excellent for teaching the young pianist
how to play pieces written for the harpsichord or the first pianofortes
where the keys responded to slight pressure; but it is inadequate for
modern works and instruments.



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