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Third Impression


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TEE untiring activities of M. G. Jean-Aubry in
fostering international amenities in literary, artistic,
and musical circles have made his name familiar not
only in France and England, but throughout
Western Europe. The official mission with which
he has recently been entrusted by the French
Government is no more than a just recognition of a
course of action upon which he had already been
privately engaged for many years, and which he
would doubtless have continued without such
recognition. Primarily his mission has been to
spread the knowledge of French achievements in
these spheres not only abroad but at home, for even
Frenchmen were at first slow to realise the im-
portance of the rejuvenation that had taken place
in all the arts during the concluding decades of the
nineteenth century. But the same curiosity that
led him to the study of recent French achievements
was bound eventually to extend itself to correspond-
ing movements in other countries with which his
missionary work had brought him into relations. He
thus became a sympathetic student first of our poets
and then of our musicians, and he is an enthusiastic
advocate, not only of contemporary French com-
posers, but of those English, Spanish, and Italian
composers whose works place them in the vanguard
of present-day music. Thus it comes about that he,


a Frenchman, is warmly furthering the claims of
modern English music in Spain, Italy, and in other
countries. In short, he occupies an international
position whose usefulness is enhanced by his unusual
breadth of outlook.

He was born in Paris on August isth, 1882,
educated at a provincial lycee, and originally destined
for a business career, but, even before liberating
himself from such ties, he had already embarked
upon the work which was subsequently to absorb
all his energies. He first attracted attention as the
leading spirit in the ” Cercle de TArt Moderne ” at
Havre, which organised concerts devoted to the
works of Claude Debussy, Vincent d’Indy, Paul
Dukas, Florent Schmitt, Ernest Chausson, Maurice
Ravel, Deodat de S6v<rac, and Albert Roussel, most
of whom were associated with the performances ;
exhibitions of paintings by Monet, Renoir, Matisse,
Pissarro, and others of the advanced group ; finally,
lectures on Baudelaire, Verlaine, Mallarm6, La-
forgue, and other modern poets, most of which he
delivered himself. It is in the musical section of
this undertaking that will be found the germ of the
Society des Concerts Fran^ais, by means of which his
brother-in-law, M T. J. Gu&itte, has done so much
to further the knowledge of modern French music
in England. *

* Subsequently the Town Council of Havre com-
missioned him to give two series of lectures, in 1910
and 1911, the first of which dealt with “The
Evolution of Modern French Poetry from Baude-
laire to Francis Janunes/ 1 and the second with a few


prose writers, including Anatole France, Villiers de
Tlsle Adam, R&ny de Gourmont, Jules Renard,
El&nir Bourges, Andre Gide, and Paul Claudel. It
is characteristic of him that he selects for preference
names which are still under discussion rather than
those whose claims are universally admitted. He
has the instincts of a pioneer.

Meanwhile he had lectured in France and abroad
on the relations between poetry and music as
exemplified in Baudelaire and Verlaine. He has
appeared at several universities and has been
awarded the title of honorary professor by the
Universit6 Nouvelle of Brussels. In 1912 the
Societ6 des Gens de Lettres awarded him the prize
” de la Critique Independante.”

His interest in England, which he looks upon as a
second home, is by no means limited to music. In
1905 he translated Arthur Symons’s ” The Symbolist
Movement in Literature/’ and he has since rendered
into French a number of poems by Swinburne,
Ernest Dowson, and Arthur Symons. He has also
translated Joseph Conrad’s ” Within the Tides ”
and several stories by George Moore. At the same
time he has, by means of patient research, collected a
mass of interesting particulars concerning the long
sojourn of Paul Verlaine in England, and established
the date of the poems written in this country, as well
as the localit’es which inspired them. He has also
been the first to give in France concerts of modern
Spanish music, and among the first to acclaim the
interesting musical manifestations of the modern
spirit in Italy.


a Frenchman, is warmly furthering the claims of
modern English music in Spain, Italy, and in other
countries. In short, he occupies an international
position whose usefulness is enhanced by his unusual
breadth of outlook.

He was born in Paris on August I3th, 1882,
educated at a provincial lyc&e, and originally destined
for a business career, but, even before liberating
himself from such ties, he had already embarked
upon the work which was subsequently to absorb
all his energies. He first attracted attention as the
leading spirit in the ” Cercle de FArt Moderne ” at
Havre, which organised concerts devoted to the
works of Claude Debussy, Vincent d’Indy, Paul
Dukas, Florent Schmitt, Ernest Chausson, Maurice
Ravel, Deodat de S6v6rac, and Albert Roussel, most
of whom were associated with the performances ;
exhibitions of paintings by Monet, Renoir, Matisse,
Pissarro, and others of the advanced group ; finally,
lectures on Baudelaire, Verlaine, Mallarm6, La-
forgue, and other modern poets, most of which he
delivered himself. It is in the musical section of
this undertaking that will be found the germ of the
Soci6t des Concerts Fran?ais, by means of which his
brother-in-law, M f T. J. Gu6ritte, has done so much
to further the knowledge of modern French music
in England. *

” Subsequently the Town Council of Havre com-
missioned him to give two series of lectures, in 1910
and 1911, the first of which dealt with ” The
Evolution of Modern French Poetry from Baude-
laire to Francis Jammes,” and the second with a few


prose writers, including Anatole France, Villiers de
Tlsle Adam, R&ny de Gourmont, Jules Renard,
Elemir Bourges, Andre Gide, and Paul Claudel. It
is characteristic of him that he selects for preference
names which are still under discussion rather than
those whose claims are universally admitted. He
has the instincts of a pioneer.

Meanwhile he had lectured in France and abroad
on the relations between poetry and music as
exemplified in Baudelaire and Verlaine. He has
appeared at several universities and has been
awarded the title of honorary professor by the
Universit6 Nouvelle of Brussels. In 1912 the
Soci6t6 des Gens de Lettres awarded him the prize
” de la Critique Independante.”

His interest in England, which he looks upon as a
second home, is by no means limited to music. In
1905 he translated Arthur Symons’s ” The Symbolist
Movement in Literature,” and he has since rendered
into French a number of poems by Swinburne,
Ernest Dowson, and Arthur Symons. He has also
translated Joseph Conrad’s ” Within the Tides ”
and several stories by George Moore. At the same
time he has, by means of patient research, collected a
mass of interesting particulars concerning the long
sojourn of Paul Verlaine in England, and established
the date of the poems written in this country, as well
as the localit’es which inspired them. He has also
been the first to give in France concerts of modern
Spanish music, and among the first to acclaim the
interesting musical manifestations of the modern
spirit in Italy.


The work of M. G. Jean-Aubry can thus in no
sense be regarded as animated by chauvinism. He
is a resolute champion of the free exchange of
artistic ideas between all nations, believing that
therein lies the surest protection against intellectual
domination by any one of them. He is the enemy
of all exclusiveness, and has played an active part
in arousing the curiosity of his own countrymen in
the artistic life of other nations.

His book on modern French music represents an
accumulation from several years of missionary work.
It is far from complete, but he has preferred to place
it on record in its present form, the only addition
made since the outbreak of war being the first
chapter, for which there was an actual need. The
appearance of the volume early in the war was due
partly to considerations arising out of the war itself,
and partly to a very natural desire, with which I
have good reason to sympathise, to show that his
interest in French music is not of yesterday. Since
August, 1914, so many who were hitherto apathetic
or even hostile have suddenly declared themselves
enthusiastic, that it is really necessary to make some
distinction between pioneers and these converts of
the eleventh hour.

In spite of the unfavourable conditions, the book
has met with considerable success, having run
through two French editions, besides appearing in a
Spanish translation with a cordial introduction by
the most prominent of the younger Spanish com-
pose^ M, Manuel de Falk, For the purpose of the
English edition it has been necessary to omit the


poetic essay “entitled ” Les Sortileges des Soirs/’
which, cannot be rendered into English owing to the
number of allusions, and to substitute in abridged
form a recent paper on the appreciation of modern
French music in England.

It is because my own admiration for modern
French music is of equally long date, and because I
also have been associated with spreading its ap-
prec’ation, that I regarded it as a personal compli-
,ment to be asked to undertake the translation of
M. G. Jean-Aubry’s book. The difficulties have
been unusually great. Though never under any
illusion concerning the intricate problem of render*
ing French prose into English, I was under the
impression, before undertaking this volume, that a
knowledge of the language made the task easier.
Long beff re concluding my labours that opinion was
reversed. The more intimately I understood the
author’s point of view, the more hopeless it seemed
to give it adequate expression through another
medium. The implements of M. G. Jean-Aubry’s
illuminating criticism consist in a number of finely
shaded epithets between which it is extremely
difficult to differentiate in English. As if that were
not enough, there is a subtle significance in the
manner in which he groups them, and even in the
order in which they are placed. They are, as it were,
the colours on his palette, and Ms brush flits from
one to another with a nicety which would require all
the resources of paraphrase to do it justice. How I
have longed for the easy method that is content to
take the nearest word in the dictionary I But it


engrossing interest to all those who wish to see
English music set free from the influences which
have so long obstructed its true progress. Of
course it is not the method, but the motives, of the
French composers which should furnish the example
where one is needed. It is not by adding this or
that technical device to the musician’s vocabulary
that freedom of expression is to be obtained. There
has already been far too much assimilation of
features which are purely external to French music.
Neither does a set purpose of conscious revolution
p’romise the best results. Independence does not
consist in mere negation ; it is a positive quality, but
it rests ultimately on the responsibility of the artist
and on that alone. The weakness of traditional
methods consists largely in the short cuts to achieve-
ment which they lay open to composers of indolent
inventiveness. The strength of the modern French
school resides largely in its scorn of these short cuts.
Few indeed of the modern French composers permit
themselves to have recourse to devices the effect of
which is a foregone conclusion. Were one of their
works lost, one could not restore it, as one could
many pages of German music, from a fragment, like
a naturalist restores an extinct quadruped from a
single bone. They preserve their allegiance to each
individual composition on which they are engaged.
This artistic probity expresses itself in a strict
economy of means and its natural concomitant, the
cleanest precision. Lavishness of means and
opaqueness of texture are the expedients by which
banalities are made pretentious, as Richard Strauss


has proved many times Economy is the enemy of
all such imposture. As Sir Thomas Beecham
pointed out in a recent speech, the French composers,
by their remarkable sense of precision, are able to
sustain the musical interest with the simplest means,
and where these answer their purpose they use no
more. In this respect they have brought the
twentieth century into line with the eighteenth.
Allowing for the development which has meanwhile
taken place in the musical vernacular, there is little
to choose for clarity between Mozart and Ravel.
It is this lucidity that we must learn to appreciate if
we are to undo the mischief resulting from our
saturation with music which does not include this
quality among its ideals. Music has more to gain
from directness and conciseness than from any
assumption of profundity, and it has yet to be
proved that either quality is an obstacle to the
expression of the noblest thoughts or sentiments.
That is what M. G. Jean-Aubry implies in his
constant attacks upon over-emphasis.

It is, however, possible to become too exclusive in
this appreciation of fine chiselling. It “is no more
logical to neglect “Michael Angelo because one is
fascinated by Cellini than.it is to despise Cellini
because of the grandeur of Michael Angelo. There
is, in fact, a remarkable duality in all Western Art
which has its explanation in the historical origin of
the great nations of the West, and, if I may hazard a
criticism, M. G. Jean-Aubry is apt sometimes to
forget, in his championship of the exquisite, that the
France which achieved perfect expression in


minute poetic forms, such as the rondel, was also
the architect of Rheims cathedral. France is
Gothic as well as Romance, Prankish as well as
Roman, and this duality, which has its equivalent in
England no less than in Italy, plays an important
part in her artistic expression. It, is not without
significance that Cesar Franck was an immigrant
from the North, and that the outward appearance of
Debussy was typically Southern. The tendency
that one occasionally observes in French criticism
to regard the Franckist movement, now led by one
of the greatest of French musicians, M. Vincent
dTndy, as something imported, and not entirely
French; involves a negation of some of the most
vital features in French art. The controversy that
ragged m the first decade of the present century
between the champions of two different kinds of
music was never a contest between the national
tradition and foreign influences, but belonged to the
” growing pains ” of a vigorous and youthful
movement which had not realised that its tongue
d’oil and its langue d’oc were different aspects of one.
language. The national temperament will inevitably
react against excess, whether in emphasis or merely
in dimensions, but that does not exclude the
grandiose from French music any more than the
majesty of symphonic form can be a menace to the
delicacy of the musical miniature. It is beyond the
Rhine that the obsession of size can be observed in
its most characteristic form. It is German criticism,
r criticism feas^d OK German ideas, which cannot
admit that a work of art can be great without being


big, but it would be lamentable if the inevitable
reaction went so far as to foster the opposite illusion
that it must needs be minute. It is at least an
interesting theory that German megalomania owes
something to the Asiatic infiltration which re-
plenished the partial void created by the westward
migration of all that was best in the Teutonic tribes.
Shortly before the war a French illustrated journal
gave, side by side, photographs of the Arc de
Triomphe and of the monument recently erected to
commemo^tte the battle of Leipsig, and the com-
parison accentuated the barbaric character of the
latter, which might have been the landmark of some
Babylonian devastator. The Byzantinism of modern
Germany is not indigenous to Western Europe.

These are fundamentally matters of taste, in
respect of which surely none will deny the right of
the French to their own standard. For alertness
and finesse they are constantly compared to the
Athenians, and the parallel loses none of its force if
one extends it to Marathon and the Marne, where
the conflict, material and moral, was the same. I
would go further, and claim that the emancipation
of their music is one of many symptoms that, if
rightly understood, would have prepared the world
for the magnificent spectacle of 1914, for the
doctrine of self -reliance remains the same, whatever
its mode of expression, and music is not a side-issue,
but an integral feature of national life. Our nation
is less articulate, and one would not expect a similar
manifestation to make itself felt with equal vividness
among us, but the recent renascence of interest kv


our own music, and the emancipated outlook of out
composers during the past twenty years, belong to
the same class of phenomena. It did not need the
actual crisis to show that there was a new spirit in

Whether one definitely associates this new spirit
in France and England with what is known in music
as nationalism is beside the point. It is something
more subtle than the nationalism of Russia, con-
sequently less dependent upon such assistance as
may be derived from the intensive cult either of
folk-song or of native classics. Even among the
Latin nations the English movement presents a
much closer analogy with what has taken place in
France than with either the Spanish movement as
represented by Pedrell, “Granados, and Albeniz, or the
interesting group of Italian composers headed by
Casella, Malipiero, and their companions. Despite
their ancient culture, the Spaniards, like the
Russians, had practically clear ground upon which
to build, and the Italians had to resist a native rather
than a foreign despotism, that of their own operatic
tradition. The problem of the French was to purge
their music of parasitical elements, not so much
because their origin was foreign in the geographical
sense as because they were unsuited to reflect the
French mentality, and our own problem is the same
in an aggravated form, because the parasitical
elements have held longer and more complete sway
over our music. It is not to be solved by the
deliberate adoption of mechanical expedients/ or
even by conscious effort, but only by the sub-


conscious search for more applicable means of
expression ; and in this search, however different its
results may and must be, the French have been our
forerunners and are our companions. Hence the
mutual esteem which has grown up between French
and English musicians is neither fortuitous nor due
to statesmanship. It is a natural effect of similar
causes operating on both sides of the Channel. It
is the task of Frenchmen such as M. Aubry and M.
Gueritte, and of Englishmen sharing their views,
not so much to create these ties, which grow natur-
ally from existing affinities, as to give them outward
expression, and secure for them the recognition of
the French and English public.

So far as this country is concerned, little remains
to be done. M. Aubry himself confesses that there
is no country, out of France, where contemporary
French music is so well known and appreciated. I
wish we could say the same concerning English
music in France, but if that is not yet possible it is
for reasons which give no ground for reproach. The
French musical public has given ample proof of its
receptivity by the prompt appreciation it has given
to many modern movements, from that of the
Russians to that of the Hungarians, Bartok and
Kodaly, on the eve of war. If our music has not
made the same headway it is due to two causes.
The first is that until recently the element of fresh-
ness and independence was not prominent. French-
men welcomed Russian music because it gave them
something new, which English music in those days
did not. We might feel that our composers were


breaking away from the German tradition, but the
differentiation was scarcely perceptible to audiences
that were less eager in their search for it. French
musicians came expectant and went away with an
impression of having heard echoes, faint, maybe, but
still echoes, of the Rhine. The second cause of their
lack of enthusiasm was that in many cases we sent
them the wrong music. A wise missionary studies
his audience in the selection of his texts, and there
is a wide difference between an English and a Latin
audience. This difference was vividly brought home
to me a few years ago in connection with a certain
concerto which had its first performance in Paris
and in London within a few weeks. The work was
a product of sound musicianship, not without a
certain distinction, but lengthy and somewhat
pretentious. The Paris audience, after listening
courteously for a little while, expressed its dis-
pleasure in a form which brought the performance to
a close. The English audience received it with
apparent cordiality. I quote the incident to show
that there is a psychological difference that must be
taken into consideration. I do not wish to imply
that the English works performed in Paris have
merited the same description, but we have not
sufficiently considered, when selecting works for
performance abroad, which aspect of our music is
most likely to gain acceptance. Our music is, in
fact, like our race, made up of many strands, Celtic,
Latin, and Teutonic. There is an aspect of it which
will be appreciated in Copenhagen, Rotterdam, or
Zurich, and utterly rejected in Paris or Rome. It


is our misfortune that this aspect for a long time
predominated over the others. But the conditions
have changed, and there are many works in our
repertoire which have a much better prospect of
acceptance among the Latins. From the first it is
these that should have been put forward in Paris,
but such was the strength of reaction that they had
to fight strenuously for acceptance at home. Here
again the analogy with French experience is a
striking one. All of M. Avbry’s heroes, or at least
their friends on their behalf, have had a hard
struggle to secure recognition in their own country.
They write and speak in the highest terms of the aid
and encouragement they derived from their recep-
tion in England. That they were anxious to repay
the debt is proved by the fact that they and their
friends attended in force M. Gueritte’s concerts of
English music in Paris, whereas English professional
musicians were at first not a conspicuous element at
his French concerts in London. The ground is well
prepared, but in appraising the progress that has
been made it must not be forgotten that the English
movement is at the very least a decade younger. If
French appreciation of our music follows at the
same interval, France will be doing as much for
England as England for France. That brings us to
the present day, and I have every reason to state
with confidence that, so soon as the conditions in
Paris permit of it, English works will be sure of a
welcome there. But there will still remain the
problem of selection. There are living English
Composers whose works< though estimable ip


selves, and highly thought of at home, would only
delay French appreciation. Let them find other
worlds to conquer, and come to Paris when Paris is
better able to judge to what extent thay are repre-
sentative. We have been unfortunate in the past,
and may be again if misdirected zeal is allowed to
have its way.

One of the most encouraging signs of the times is
the system of co-operation that has grown up
between important musical associations in Paris,
Madrid, and Rome, each with its provincial connec-
tions. There is a constant exchange of com-
munications between men who have a finger on the
pulse of musical life in each of these countries, and
that fosters the mutual introduction of new works.
It is in each case the man on the spot who decides
what works are likely to be appreciated. This
triangular arrangement is capable of indefinite
extension, and the process has already begun. At
the moment of writing I have just received a pro-
gramme recording the performance at Turin of works
by John Ireland, Eugene Goossens, and Cyril Scott.
Several English works are set down for performance
in Rome under the auspices of the ” Societa Italiana
di Musica Moderna.” Others have been played in
Madrid. If there is not similar news from Paris it
is only because of conditions which may have
changed even before these lines rppear in print.
Our own record is not in question. We have always
thrown open our concert-rooms, perhaps with too
little discrimination, to the music of the entire
world- The foundations of musical


alism, as distinct from the former world empire, are
laid. We need perhaps a little more enthusiasm for
the principle of musical self-determination, to which
many English musicians give at present a lukewarm
allegiance. If a nation has not faith in its own
music, it cannot complain if others have been slow
to recognise it ; and faith in English music, as an
article of the Englishman’s creed, is not as widely
held as it should be. Here again we may learn from
France, <fulie French musician of to-day do’es not
ask whether his composers have written better or
worse music than the German classics. He is con-
tent to know that they are writing his music, music
possessing qualities the appreciation of which is
natural to him. He does not enquire whether the
songs of Faur, Duparc, Chausson, Debussy, or
Roussel are worthy to supersede those of Schubert,
Schumann, Brahms, or Hugo Wolf. He acclaims
them as French songs which accentuate the aesthetic
values of French poetry, and leaves the rest to the
world-historian of the future, who will probably
chuckle with amusement to find that the point was
ever in question^ It is this attitude of the most
enlightened Frenchmen that has helped the modern
French song to its present level of perfection, for the
composer, like Adolphe in Pinero’s play, does better
under a regime of appreciation, even of the few, than
under constant comparison with Henri. When we
cease to grumble at our composers because they do
not give us songs like those of Brahms or Wolf, it
will not be long before they give us a library of
English song worthy of English poetry. The sarnie


applies to other spheres of music. The one thing
needed is faith, and faith is the unstated text of
M. Aubry’s book.




” FRENCH Music of To-day ” is less a book than a
collection of closely related papers, including articles
which M. G. Jean-Aubry has contributed in the last
few years to various French and foreign reviews ;
lectures he has given in Belgium, Switzerland,
England, and France ; and ” studies for portraits of
living musicians/’ It follows that the chapters
comprised in this volume do not present a strict
sequence. It will, however, be possible to trace in
each of them the course pursued for ten years with
convinced ardour by M. G. Jean-Aubry, not on
behalf of the French musical renascence, which,
having set in at least half a century ago, no longer
needs to be explained or defended, but in favour of
a more recent and more controversial movement in
French music.

I will add with regard to that which is “of
To-day/’ that M. G. Jean-Aubry puts forth startling
opinions and ingenious theories, amounting almost
to dogmas, which I confess I cannot accept without

In these earnest days, when one thought alone, the
war, obsesses us, will not the appearance of a book
devoted to music appear disconcerting, or at least
inopportune ? Perhaps, on the contrary, the chap-
ter entitled ” French and German Music ” will be
read with applause, for in this chapter, which alojie


would suffice to justify the publication of the entire
volume, M. G. Jean-Aubry proves with irreproach-
able good faith that, whilst French art has not
ceased to progress, to broaden out in splendour, to
make itself manifest by works, tendencies, and
characteristics of extraordinary variety, German art
since the death of Wagner has entered upon a decline
which we have been too amiable to notice sooner.
Obviously the advantage gained in this sphere is of
far minor importance when compared with the
vital considerations which dominate the present
conflict. May we not, however, derive from it some
satisfaction ?

But, on the other hand, shall we have to forget all
that French music owes to the contact of the great
German classics ? In many parts of this volume
M. Jean-Aubry allows an intention to become
manifest I might call it the leading theme of the
book which consists in regarding as really French
solely that music which is linked to the tradition of
Rameau and the clavecinists of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. ” The desire of our present-
day musicians/ ‘ says M. G. Jean-Aubry, “is for
infin’te variety of expression as opposed to the
unity of scholastic composition. Their goal is eman-
cipated expression : it is expressive music, the music
of impressions. Couperin, Rameau desired naught
else.”-* May not this point of view, which at first
appears very broad, be, on the contrary, very narrow ?
I confess that I do not understand in what manner
scholastic discipline can restrain expression, or place
obstacles in the way of the utterance of impressions,


or how emotion fails to find a free outlet from it. Is
not everyone free to express his thought, his feeling,
by such means as he chooses ? Do not the sym-
phonic works of Saint-Saens, Franck, D’Indy, or
Dukas, which are conceived in a form of German
origin, admit the essentially French qualities of
taste, clearness, and sense of proportion ? There is
no link, I imagine, connecting Victor Hugo with
Racine. Like all the romantics, he felt the influence
of Goethe, Schiller, and Byron, just as Berlioz felt
the influence of Weber. Is he, therefore, not a
French poet ?

Elsewhere M. G. Jean-Aubry rises against ” an
art which proposes to be utilitarian and to serve some
other cause than that of freedom in life and that of
beauty.” Again, on this point it is possible not to
be of his opinion. What matters it if Wagner
brought philosophical, Franck or D’Indy moral or
religious, Bruneau or Charpentier social, pre-
occupations to bear upon the conception of their
works, or whether these preoccupations proceeded
from deliberate intention, or unconscious impulse,
if the result for us has consisted in grand, strong, and
beautiful emotions ?

Saint-Evremond 1 has said, ” The love of pleasure
and the avoidance of pain are the earliest and most
natural impulses discernible in man/’ Art has thus
every right to be voluptuous. One cannot, however,
forbid those whose outlook reveals life in a more
serious aspect to express it as they see it.

M. G. Jeaji-Aubry must excuse me if I rebut some
1 1610-1703.


of his theories. To discuss them is to recognise their
importance. They will not cause me to forget the
keen and rich pleasure I have had from this volume,
which I am happy to recommend for perusal.

During recent months the question has often been
asked : What is our art to become after the war ?
Un’ess I am mistaken, the most important in-
tellectual movement following upon the war of 1870
was realism, both in literature and in the plastic
arts. Afterwards, and perhaps as a kind of reaction,
there arose a literary and artistic movement which
seems to have its principal source in Wagner’s
” Parsifal ” considered in its philosophical, dramatic,
and musical aspect- Hence the ” Rose Croix,”
occultism, Pre-Raphaelism, etc,, etc., all capable of
being brought back to two termsasceticism and
immobility. Again later, in the safety and the
continuity of a prosperous peace which, it was
believed, would never be broken, many painters,
burning with the fever of novelty, invented, in
succession to impressionism, intentionism, cubism,
etc., whilst some musicians, less daring, attempted
to suppress sentiment in their works and substitute
sensation, forgetting that sensation is, on the whole,
the preliminary condition of sentiment.

Will the terrific storm through which we are
passing bring us back to ourselves by restoring our
common sense, that is to say, the taste for clear
thought, formal purity and sobriety, the disdain for
big effects in one word, all the qualities that can
Contribute to make French art iji its entirety recover

its admirable character and, whether profound or
subtle, remain for all time essentially French ? I
more than believe it ; I am sure of it.








MUSIC – – – -17

1. THE FRIENDS OF Music – 51





DEBUSSY – – – 85


TIONS’* – – – no





2. VINCENT D’INDY – – 121


4. HENRI DUPARC – – 132

5. PAUL DUKAS – -137



8. MAURICE RAVEL – – 148

10. ERIK SATIE – – – 160


1. BAUDELAIRE AND Music – 171




2. RICARDO VINES – – 214


4. J. JOACHIM NIN – 223

INDEX OF NAMES – ‘ – – 259



French Music of To-day


IN 1905, on the occasion of a musical festival in
Alsace-Lorraine, M. Romain Rolland wrote, ” French

art is silently engaged in taking the place of German


A statement of this kind acquires in course of
time a special value from the fact that the author
of Jean-Chrislophe is one of those most fully informed
in regard to the conditions and achievements of
European music, and that within the same article
he further stated, ” I have never concealed my pre-
dilection for German music and I still consider
Richard Strauss to be the foremost musical per-
sonality in Europe/’

We have had occasion since the war to read the
sincere and regrettable utterances of M. Romain
Rolland concerning his German friends. They have
merely confirmed what we have long thought as to
the German tendencies of his intellect. They can-
not, however, detract from the documentary value
of such books as Some Musicians of Former Days
and Musicians of To-day, and they can only add
importance to the conviction expressed in 1905,
It is, moreover, impossible to forget that so far back
as 1904, in a booklet published in German under


the title Paris as a Musical City, M. Remain Rolland
contributed to the fame of French music one o. his
most considered appreciations.

Nowadays those who, a few months ago, were
the least concerned with the efforts of our young
composers have suddenly awakened to the possibility
that France may possess a national music. We
have seen M. Camille Saint-Saens, whose age, and
the quality of certain of whose works, gave him a
natural right to our respect, engage in a violent
attack upon Wagner and demand, in the name of
French music, the restoration of compositions which
have become definitely obsolete.

It will perhaps be opportune to distinguish between
those whose discovery of French music dates from
the war and those who have been occupied for many
years in adding their testimony, or propagating it
so iar as lay in their power. However well qualified
he may be, by his love of Rameau and of the French
clavecinists, to speak in the name of musical France
of the past, M. Saint-Saens has infinitely less right
to constitute himself the champion of French music
of to-day, for he has expressed himself, regarding
this, solely in terms of sarcasm on every occasion.

In any case the Union Sacr&e has nothing to gain
from Kindness. It has never been a service to
France to engage in an unrestricted campaign of
invective. To-day it is less so than ever, and to
serve France is the sole concern of every one of us.

If, in the region of thought, as on the battlefield,
we hold the certainty of victory, shall we compromise
our fameiy regrettable excesses ? If it is true that


in our race survives the Athenian faculty of fair
judgment, it is especially now that we must give
proof of it.

In this struggle, in which so many material inter-
ests are involved, the moral attention of the world
is concentrated upon France. For twenty nations,
curious or anxious as to the result of the struggle,
she represents the very soul of the conflict. Her
attitude in the first months of the war restored her
prestige, which had been weakened, in all parts of
the world, by her own supineness and the strong
determination of her enemies. Her attitude at the
approach and on the attainment of victory wiH
further define her new prestige, which will be en-
hanced by Latin and Slav sympathy, based on faith
in her intelligence. Utterances filled with bitterness
against Wagner have, since the war, earned for
France the smile of neutrals. From Spain, Italy,
Switzerland, and America, the Press confronts us
with it.

The more our adversary proves himself hateful,
the more it behoves us to recognise those qualities
by which he might have earned esteem if the extent
of his iniquities had not compromised and obliterated
his virtues.

It is as profitless to-day as it was yesterday to
belittle the genius of Richard Wagner. It is childish
to invoke the aid of genealogists and justify the
taste which one may still retain for Beethoven by
sheltering oneself behind his Flemish antecedents.
It would be just as easy for a musical scribe from
the Rhine to draw attention some day to the German


heredity of Cesar Franck. These are vain subter-

Beethoven is a German of the dawn of the nine-
teenth century, just as Wagner is a German of the
nineteenth century at its height, and as Bach is a
German of the eighteenth. In attempting to belittle
such genius as was theirs we incur nothing but
ridicule. Shall we hate Haydn, Mozart, and Schu-
bert, who were Austrian, and deny to Liszt, because
he was a Hungarian, the honour of having been the
most fertile source of musical progress in the whole
of the nineteenth century ?

It is unworthy of the present to attempt an attack
upon such a past. The grandeur of German music
from Bach to Wagner is a universal truth. But
to-day we are concerned in the present, and, truly,
here we hold a winning hand. That alone affects
us and of that we must be convinced. Rather
than rise against Wagner (now that his influence,
having taught us all that it was advisable to
retain, has lost its effect on the young French
composers), it would have been better to under-
stand, at the time when they appeared, the
fundamental truths contained in certain articles,
apparently full of paradox, wherein some fifteen
years ago Claude Debussy fought against Germanism,
denounced the dangers of Wagnerism, and rehabili-
tated the art of Couperin and of Rameau.
i The playful ingenuity of his points of view and
of his critical method earned for the composer of
Pelleas et Melisande the reward of laughter and
insult. As for his message, Who cared? And


when, with an ardent sense of justice, Claude De-
bussy defended the memory of Rameau against the
exaggerated fame of Gluck, Who was there to take
him seriously ? Was the invasion of the German
army really necessary to drive home the truth of
the following, which is dated February 7, 1903 :

* f We possessed, however, a purely French tradi-
tion in the works of Rameau, full of delicate and
charming tenderness, of truthful accent, of strict
declamation, free from all affectation of profound-
ness and from the impulse to explain with hammer-
blows, to explain breathlessly in a manner which
seems to say, c You are an assembly of very special
idiots who understand nothing unless you are
previously compelled to accept chalk for cheese/
One is surely permitted to regret that French music
has followed, for so long, paths which led it away
from this clearness in expression, this precision and
conciseness in form, which are the special and signi-
ficant qualities of French genius:”

The revival of some fragments of Rameau’s
Castor et Pollux prompted this justified regret on the
part of Claude Debussy, at a time of patient effort,
when ingenious temperaments were striving to
rediscover the right road and to effect the restora-
tion of French music. Since 1870 two generations
have succeeded by their works, by their critical
labours, and by their social organisation, in raising
French music of to-day to a level higher than it has
known for a century, where it is able to challenge
comparison with the music of all the ages.

Truly we hold the trump cards against musical


Germany of to-day. Since the death of Richard
Wagner, musical Germany drags herself in echoes
of Bayreuth, when she is not imitating Brahms,
or simply Berlioz.

Richard Strauss himself, despite the power of
his symphonic works, the indisputable worth of
Salome and of Elektra, despite his prodigious orches-
tral skill, Richard Strauss has only the semblance
of genius. He personifies in the clearest fashion
modern Germany in her essence and in her outward
expression. He might be her symbol.

Richard Wagner was the musician of a rising
Germany whose industry and patience had lifted
her to imperial dignity. Richard Strauss, in spite
of all his gifts, or perhaps even because of them, is
only the musician of the German decadence, the
composer of false power, resting solely upon the
strength of the orchestra and upon violent sensation.
He represents in reality the best that Germany of
to-day can give us. One can measure exactly
in his works the disdain of all discrimination in
the intellectual factors, the disproportionate mul-
tiplication of orchestral units, the strength of
material organisation, a self-complacency carried
to the most naive vanity (as in the Sinfonia Domes-
tica), and the assurance of bad taste.

Never was this made plainer than when the
Russian Ballet troupe gave, two months before the
war, the Legend of Joseph under the personal direc-
tion of Herr Strauss.

Emerging that evening from the opera I expressed
to a friend, who has often recalled it since, the clear^


irresistible, and definite sensation I had received of
the decadence of German music. Like many others,
we had, until then, adopted towards the music of
Richard Strauss an attitude of unprejudiced curio-
sity, of interest free from disdain. But then, in
truth, we felt the pretentiousness which would
force the acceptance of anything. The poverty
of the themes, which reaches the point of vulgarity,
was not even disguised. Wagnerian imitation was
shamelessly flaunted, enlivened with a sordid Italian-
ism, traces of which can easily be found in the earlier
works of Richard Strauss. We pass over the silliness
of a libretto which paradoxically aspired to erect
a choregraphic design upon the apotheosis of
chastity, and necessarily achieved nothing but
foolishness. The mere fact that Strauss had become
a party to such nonsense was in itself significant,
but the music alone, freed from the libretto which
was its foundation, threw a strong light upon the
present situation’ of German music in the person of
its most notable representative.

The genius of Richard Strauss appeared to us that
day (and we have recorded the impression 1 ) an
illusion in which we had once or twice been on the
point of believing, and which now crumbled away
definitely. Three months later the military genius
of Germany in its turn revealed itself as another
illusion, and German power, great as it might be,
proved itself wanting in precisely those intellectual
virtues which ensure success and justify it in the

1 Soliloquy on the Russian Ballets. (Tribune Musicals,
Brussels, July, 1914.)


eyes of the world. The two phenomena are of the
same class.

In March, 1905, Mr. William Ritter wrote :

” The orchestra of Wagner, of Mahler, of Strauss
is no longer the agreeable and empirical association
of harmonious instruments employed by Mozart and
Haydn. It is an army in battle array, equipped
with full artillery. Mozart’s orchestra might have
been composed of the angelic choir of Cosimo Roselli
and of Gaudenzio Ferrari. Now we have arrived
at lyddite and dum-dum bullets. 37 *

Now Mr. William Ritter was one of the most
ardent champions of Strauss and Mahler. His
remark is not the expression of a whim ; it is
essentially a statement of fact.

For the last twenty years the temple of German
music has been no longer at Bonn, or Weimar, or
Munich, or Bayreuth, but at Essen. The modern
German orchestra, with Strauss and Mahler, was
concerned more with the preoccupations of artillery
and the siege train than with those of real music.
It desired to become a rival of Krupp.

The progress of German orchestration was always
directed towards quantity and not towards the
discovery of additional resources in the instruments.
In its most valid manifestations, such as Strauss’s
Salome or Ehktm or Mahler’s Eighth Symphony,
the effect produced was always startling, discon-
certing, or stupefying, rather than the sensation
of a human emotion. It was often impossible at

1 Studies in Foreign Art. Introduction. Published by


the first hearing of a work by Richard Strauss to
resist this overpowering force, but, once the first
assault had passed, the mind regained its self-
possession and awakened to the emotional inanity
and the absence of real musical substance.

It is necessary to have heard, or closely examined,
such works. It is impossible to form an exact
idea of the music of to-day if one has not done so.
But one may say of them, and with stronger reasons,
what Claude Debussy said in 1903 of Wagner :
” Ought we not long ago to have become acquainted
with the whole of the Tetralogy ? In the first place
we should have been rid of it, and the pilgrims from
Bayreuth would no longer irritate us with their

The pilgrims from Munich, Berlin, and Vienna
formerly flooded us with their marvellous stories
of the productions of Strauss and Mahler. We have
since learned what they amounted to.

In the vast musical agitation which has been
seething from one end of Europe to the other for
the past forty years, what does the original contribu-
tion of Germany amount to, if we compare it to the
new impressions, the wealth of originality, the
substantial provision for our musical enjoyment
that have been and are being furnished by the
Russian and French schools, by the Scandinavians
from Grieg to Sibelius, by the Spaniards from
Albeniz to Turina, Granados and Falla, and by
the young Hungarian School with Bartok and
Kodaly ?


The music of Europe would not be put back a
single step if one were to suppress the output of
Strauss or Mahler. It is easy to feel what would
be missing in our musical vocabulary had there
been no Rimsky, or Albeniz, or Debussy.

Spain, Hungary, England, and Italy furnish proofs
to-day of musical effort rooted in their national
inspiration, but called forth by the achievements
of French composers. New Russia possesses in
Stravinsky an admirable and prodigious musician,
but France of to-day, from Saint-Saens and Gabriel
Faur6 to Maurice Ravel, has produced the chamber
music that is richest in emotional, picturesque, and
lasting qualities, as well as the symphonic music
best qualified to take up, with all the resources of
French feeling and intelligence, the legacy of German ”
classical genius in the kingdom of sound.

Even in our own country there has been an irritat-
ing tendency to maintain on every occasion that
French music lent itself only to minute designs.
Obsessed by German conceptions, certain minds
were disposed to mistake for pettiness the dimen-
sions of French works, and for power the violence
of those hailing from Germany of to-day. Has the
war awakened them from their dream ?

Shall we make up our minds to realise at last the
true greatness and universal value of a period which
has seen the birth of Vincent d’Indy’s Symphonic
sur un theme montagnard, Debussy’s Nocturnes,
La Mer and Iberia, Albert Roussel’s Evocations,
Florent Schmitt’s Psalm, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe,
Roger-Ducasse’s Suite Frangaise, and the appear-


ance, in the theatrical sphere, of Pell6as et M&i-
sande, Ariane et Barbe Bleue and P&n&lope ?

Never has France known a period more richly
endowed or more full of new promise. There are still
too many people even in our own country perhaps
especially in our own country who are not yet
aware of this. We have become too accustomed
to judge the musician or the musical output of the
time by the stir they make in the newspapers and
in the theatrical world.

The lack of understanding of our musical past has
contributed to this lack of perception of the present.
Some have believed that if such minds as those of
Saint -Saens, d’Indy, Debussy, or Dukas were in-
. terested in French composers of the sixteenth, seven-
teenth, and eighteenth centuries, it was merely
through antiquarian curiosity, whereas they were
seeking and finding there the justification of their
tendencies and the confirmation of their French taste,

Was not this clearly brought home to us by the
musical productions of the ThMtrc des Arts, where
the happy initiative of M. Jacques Rouch6 brought
together the past, present, and future of musical
France, where ballets and fragments of operas by
Lully or Rameau came together with new works
by Ravel and Roussel, and made us appreciate the
same qualities of precision and charm ? That
which was accomplished for French music in this
little Theatre des Arts surpasses in influence the
noisy labour of many State-aided theatres.

The greater public is still too ignorant of these
activities, or does not understand their full effect.


It is still more preoccupied with virtuosi than with
music. It crowds to hear a tenor and cares little
about the works. But in music, as elsewhere, it is
minorities that triumph in the end. It is a minority
which has created a public in succession for Samson
and Delilah, Gwendoline, Pelleas or Penelope. This
minority invigorates itself from day to day with
new ardour, surrounds young composers with an
atmosphere of fervour, and inspires them with an
unceasing desire to renew their efforts, to seek with
increased passion the precise and lasting expression
of our true characteristics.

However fertile and rich French music of to-day
may be, and however assured of the direction of her
development, it is no more desirable to-day than
yesterday, and perhaps even less, that it should
be enclosed within a Chinese wall. French art has
never benefited by facing inwards. The French”
mind is rich enough not to fear outside influences,
but to assimilate them.

In a recent article, 1 Alfred Casella rightly sets
before young Italian musicians anxious for their
national art the example of Igor Stravinsky, who
studied towards 1908 the works of Debussy, Paul
Dukas, and Ravel, with loving care, just as about
1890 Claude Debussy had initiated himself in the
beauties of Boris Godunoff. Just as the latter gave
proof of his essentially French art in PelUas et
Melisande, the former brought new life into Russian
art with Petroushka, and The Rite of Spring.

1 IgoY Stravinsky and his Art. (La Riforma Musicale,
Turin, Marclx 7, 1915)*


The victory of French arms will fill us with a just
pride and endow us with a new prestige in the world.
It is more than ever our duty to understand what
is being accomplished at home and elsewhere. It
is more worthy and profitable to penetrate the spirit
of the beautiful creations of French music, and
assist in making them known beyond the limits
of France, than to attack the memory of the im-
mortals whose part in bringing the art into being
has been played to its conclusion.

The musical victory of Modern France over
Modern Germany is a reality from which we have
not yet derived the full benefit. Our own energy
must be applied to it, and this can only be achieved
in full strength by maintaining, side by side with
respect for the great musical past of Germany, the
open mind and the lively interest which will be
necessary in the greater France of to-morrow.

The task is both noble and pleasant. Moreover,
it is facilitated by the abundance and variety of
present-day French music.

In their delicate and subtle diversity these com-
posers, sons of a period of deep and powerful senti-
ments, reflecting a time of misgivings that have
reached the certainty of conflict, lovers of mystery
and obsessed by clearness, witnesses of a feverish
movement alike of ardour and of irony, had unveiled
to us the harmonious, smiling yet grave, features
of a race whose greatness it has needed this blood-
steeped experience to reveal in its fulness. They
affirmed the grounds ‘of our belief in the lasting
existence of French music.


At their side others, who are younger, gaze open-
eyed on the wide spaces of the world, strengthening
our joy in the present and preparing to justify our
most confident hopes for the future.

From a course pursued for nearly ten years 1 on
behalf of French music, these few papers are col-
lected here in order that they may serve, once again,
a cause which deserves and attracts deep affections.

The works which furnish the themes of this book
have often been my brilliant companions. I have
not wished to disguise the warm regard I still retain
for them. They teach the joy of life and the thou-
sand qualities of the heart. They are the clear
mirror in which are reflected the ardent and delicate
features of the French race.

However imperfect this book may be, however
incomplete it may be rendered by the extent of the
subject itself, which it covers only in some of its
aspects, at least it may perhaps derive value from
the great love of music to which it owes its conception.

Music is the Ariadne, sad, or smiling, and pas-
sionate, who explores by means of her harmonious
thread the labyrinth of souls. All I did was to
follow her with confident and attentive footsteps.

Sometimes she turned her face towards me ; then
I saw that it was sweet, moving, and imbued with
the charm of France, which words are powerless to

1 All the chapters of this book, except this one, have appeared
in the form of articles or lectures from 1906 to 1914 in France,
Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium,




THOSE who devote themselves with sympathetic
affection to the study of the manifold forms of art
cannot fail to be overtaken by a feeling that is at
once powerful, moving, and tender. There is no
sentiment more full of sadness, nor at the same time
more consoling. It is the consciousness of their
enduring quality,

We live, time passes, our affection seizes upon a
thousand objects, anxiously chosen, and we imper-
ceptibly come to believe that these objects belong
to us, that none other has known them as we know
them, and that none before us was troubled by the
thoughts that move us. But there comes a moment
when our glance, falling upon a more distant time,
reveals to us a resemblance in the past and a thou-
sand sympathies in common. At first we experience
a certain impatience. It does not please us to think
that we have invented nothing and that we have
merely rekindled ashes that were aglow but neg-
lected. Then these links that bind us to the past
acquire in our eyes great charm, since, if the objects
of our affection are not born solely of ourselves,
at least we are not without claims upon this mysteri-
ous past.

Thus is art ! The art of our period is not solely


of our day, even when that day happens to See the
opening of its sweetest blooms. If one is ignorant
of the past one cannot love the present. We ought
constantly to repeat to ourselves the saying, so
full of truth, of Auguste Comte : ” The dead govern
the living/’ We all bear within ourselves an infinity
of memories and the deep traces of an often unsus-
pected past* In the kingdom of the soul, which is
the widest of all kingdoms, there is but little distance
between the living and the dead. The accents
of one whom we have loved still govern our speech,
and we often appear to ourselves as only memories

– For the heart, distance is nothing and time
shrinks. The succession of day upon day is easily
unsettled by the peaceful effort of affection. Some-
times we think we forget, and are thrown into some
excitement by the incidents of life, but the being
whom we had believed to have passed away for all
time suddenly lives again and reveals to us a mar-
vellous persistence.

Thus is art when one loves it not only for its
fugitive pleasures and its passing semblances, but
when one loves it with all the strength of one’s life,
of one’s joy, of one’s heart. That which speaks in
the depths of the heart does not pass away. Art
is not ancient or modern for those who are not
archaeologists, but possess living minds, and many
a work written yesterday falls to ruin before the
eternal freshness of poems spoken two thousand
years ago.

It is from this eternal freshness that we must draw


rejuvenated power. It is there that we must seek
the secret of the mysterious words. It is thence
that flashes forth, irresistible and often unperceived,
the flame which animates the movements of our

Of this truth, those are the best aware who en-
deavour to be alive, and who love their day for the
words it can as yet scarcely lisp, but in which there
transpires already the desire to widen the human
horizon or to travel beyond it.

And whilst others surround with reverence a past
that is peopled with sumptuously clad corpses, some
there are who succeed so far in unravelling the
sources of fruitful sap in their day that, at their call,
the dead come to life again, and impart to them, with
tenderness or with power, their immortal confidences.

Of this no proof is stronger or more subtle than
that offered by present-day music, and the links
which unite it to a past whose value we misjudge.

Thus it happens that those who are obsessed with
modernity are regarded as lacking fervour for these
mirrors of the past wherein our emotions are re-
flected, whereas it would be more surprising were
there musical minds that hesitated to recognise
tradition in works on which its character is so incon-
testably impressed.

Tradition, that is the word with which one opposes
all innovation. With it, as has been ably shown by
Mme. Wanda Landowska, 1 one falsifies the expres-
sion of older works, whereas it is in the name of

1 Wanda Landowska : Musique 4n&ienne, p. 130. (Published
t>y Mercure de France.}


tradition that, with a little more attentiveness, one
justifies the quality of works that endure.

It is thus possible to borrow the utterance of the
most pronounced reactionaries by asserting with
all sincerity : ” One does not evade tradition. Out
of its tradition a race accomplishes naught that
endures.” In its aggregate of the characteristics
deeply inherent to a race, tradition inevitably
reveals itself in works in which race is expressed
with the conscious ingenuousness of sincere art.

In the course of centuries foreign additions may
accrue to the racial inheritance, but if the race be
strong these foreign elements are absorbed, take a
new shape, and reveal more than ever the particular
quality of the national tradition.

At times the race appears to become languid, and
it accepts foreign modes of expression in excessive
measure ; but in a race like our own such periods are
fruitful in reflection, and do not last.

Then an entire people becomes active and its
activity makes short work of restoring the links with
its tradition, for the art-forms necessarily renew
themselves, but the essential forms of a race are
not effaced.

It is by its traditional quality that a work of art
lives. To link up tradition it is necessary to go to
the very roots of the thought and feeling of a people.

There are, in truth, two kinds of tradition :

apparent and real ; lying and truthful ; superficial

and deep ; one which one thinks to see, and one

which truly exists.

“for all French mia4s desiring beauty, for every


sensitive soul that is captivated by French beauty,
the present age represents a longed-for movement
in musical history : the return to the French tradi-
tion. We are recovering ourselves by degrees,
liberating ourselves from more than a century of
foreign influences ; and we are returning by distant
paths to the respect and the love of our true an-
cestors, whom we have too long held in disdainful
ignorance. 1

There is at present in France a school of music
if one may give the name of school to the presence
of certain curious and original minds linked by
similar tendencies ; there is a grouping which begins
to disturb the musical conscience and confront it
with salutary reflections.

The name of Claude Debussy is, in a certain sense,
the binding element of this school, that is free from
the didactic spirit. The works of Debussy are its
strongest, most penetrating, and most considered
expression. Beyond these works there are those
of Severac, Ravel, Roussel, Schmitt, and others.
” There are still some who, on hearing these works,
assert : ” It is interesting, but it is not music/’
a sibylline phrase that would be difficult to explain
if a little examination did not reveal its sense to be :
” It is not music such as we are accustomed to.”

And some are to be met with who charge the art

1 Let it be observed that all this, written in 1908, is only one
statement among many asserting this renewed consciousness of
French tradition that, a few years before the war, seized upon
all forms of thought and of art. This renascence of the French
idea was perhaps not without effect upon the national unanimity
that was a matter of surprise to the foreigner, and for France
herself in August, 1914.


of Debussy and his colleagues with not being French
art. Strange irony of terms ! Have most of those
who advance such opinions endeavoured to unravel
the roots and characteristics of French art ? Have
they explained to themselves the nature of the French
musical tradition in whose name they speak ? And
are they aware that the works which are their models
are not associated with their race ?

Meanwhile there are works of charm, feeling,
often deep whilst charming, which prove that we
have had in France a period of admirable musicians
who were deeply and delightfully French. / :

During more than a century these musicians have
been forgotten. Those who knew them despised
them, believing them to be superficial and negligible
minds, remote from the taste of the day. If they
were remote from that taste it was for an excellent
reason : they were delicately and really French,
and for more than a century there had been no
French music in France.

This abandoning of our music may be dated about
1770. In Bussely’s work on The Present Conditions
of Music in France and Italy, published in 1771,
one may note his remark concerning Mile. Diderot,
whom he states to be one of the best clavecinists in
Paris, and possessed of an extraordinary knowledge
of modulation, adding, however : ” Although I had
the pleasure of hearing her for some hours, she did
not play a single French piece. All was Italian or

Yet the epoch of the great clavecinists had scarcely
closed. Towards 1770 the Italianism, which Lully


iad deformed a century before, and whose elements
Couperin and Rameau had transformed according
to the principles of French genius, reasserted itself,
thanks to the complicity of virtuosi. The signs of
it that may be discerned in the works of Royer or
Duphly only needed to spread, and were easily to
reach the opera with the assistance of opera-comique.

At the same time, as M. Claude Debussy has so
wittily said : ” Marie-Antoinette, who never ceased
to be an Austrian until that sentiment was taken
from her, once and for all, imposed Gluck upon
French taste. Since that blow our fine traditions
have become falsified and our need of clarity sub-
merged.” 1

Agitated, confused, shaken to her roots by the
revolution and its consequences, France could not
at the time concern herself with considered art-work.

Italian and German influences continued to have
concurrent effect, the theatre possessing special
attraction ; and, little by little, one saw come into
being that hermaphroditic product, that strange
mixture, described, no doubt by antiphrasis, as
French opera : the creation of an Italian, Rossini ;
and a German, Meyerbeer.

We are not here concerned with disputing the
value of Orpheus, or of the Barber of Seville, or even
of Les Huguenots ; but is it in the name of Gluck,
Rossini, and Meyerbeer, three foreigners, that one
is entitled to defend the French tradition ? Would
it not be possible to quote three names of French,

1 Claude Debussy : Concerning ” Hippolyte et Aricie.” (L&
Figaro, March 7, 1908.)


truly French musicians, representing a powerful
factor between 1770 and 1830 ? Except out of
curiosity, who still cares for the works of Lesueur ?
Is it Auber’s Fm Diavolo that will stand for a date
in musical history ?

French tradition, where art thou ?

Years pass. Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann,
Weber, penetrate gradually. Liszt, that great and
admirable propagandist, confronts the musical
races one with another, sets the new ideas in motion
and stirs them, and then it is Wagner whose author!*
tative and violent genius imposes his tendency on
French music. Reyer submits to it, Vincent d’Indy
propagates it, even to Massenet, all experience it.

French tradition, where art thou ?

What musicians are there before 1880 to represent
French tradition, with dignity and some standing,
in the eyes of the unbiassed musical historian ?
Berlioz and Saint-Saens ; for the Italianism of
Gounod, even when he is Wagnerian, does not
equitably represent our race.

The case of Berlioz would suffice to throw light
upon the spontaneity of tradition. The case is
unique, an example of a prodigious gift that, start-
ing from a daring ignorance, attained to a singular
expressiveness ; this Berlioz who began his acquaint-
ance with Bach only when at the Villa Medici, and
who can have studied only scraps of Beethoven at
a time when the eight scenes of Faust and a large
portion of the Fantastic Symphony were already
written. I

that is the man who first restored some of


the links of the French tradition, because his ignor-
ance of foreign influences permitted him to recover
in his own personality the expressive qualities of his

There are in Berlioz many unsound elements.
His work bears the trace of the grandiloquence of
his times. But there is in Les Troy ens, and in the duets
of Romeo and, Juliet, an earnest and tender beauty,
smiling or sad, expressive without stress : a truly
French beauty.

Yet Berlioz seems to have had no influence except
in Germany, where to-day Richard Strauss, having
transformed it by the leaven of his own gifts and
talent, represents its accomplishment. Saint-Saens,
on the contrary, astonishingly intelligent, qualified
to understand all, treating with. the same felicity
all styles in music, ought to have been the leader
of a school, if his too inquisitive mind had been able
to form a definite resolution of the kind which stamps
a genius.

One may reproach him with his ” try-all ” tastes,
his often excessive skill, his diverse and changeable
curiosities. But in his taste for clarity, even in his
curiosity, in his witty and sensitive manner, there
are some of the greater qualities of the French
tradition, still mingled, alas, with all the influences,
too often apparent, of Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt,
or Wagner. 1

Since then we have had Cesar Franck proposed
to us as a French master.

1 Tt is well known that, since then, Saint-Sa-ens has 4enie4 his,
indebtedness to the la


It is impossible to be lacking in reverence for the
man of genius who composed the Beatitudes. But
is it French, this mysticism, this ignorance of irony,
this taste for metaphysic, this readiness to take
everything seriously, this need to prove something,
this absence of critical sense, this irnperviousness
to the strong sensuousness of the Latins, and this
taste in formal development in which can be found
the characteristics of the Teutonic race ?

Apart from these, what musicians are there to
defend, in our eyes, the French tradition ? Bizet,
whose recently’ published correspondence places
him in a not very favourable light, and whose works
have importance only in themselves, allowing neither
principle nor example to be deduced from them ?
Lalo, who is neglected, and who really represents
the pretty, delicate, charming aspect of our musical
intellect ? Chabrier, who is unappreciated, and
who embodies its robust, witty, ironic aspect ?
But these have as yet had no influence upon the
musical public.

What is then the tradition in whose name those
speak who find that modern music is not French ?
When one traces their origin, one recognises that
their French tradition in music is that of Beethoven,
Mendelssohn, or Schumann, when it is not that of
Rossini, or Wagner.

In France we have all acquired our musical educa~
tion almost exclusively from the German classics.
That is certainly of more worth than the sole teach-
ing of the virtuosi of the piano. But at the present
day we are concerned with something else. We ar


confronted with efforts made to ensure to France her
own mode of musical expression, and here is the
public scarcely beginning to understand that there
have been times when we were familiar with forms
of music and with compositions in which the par-
ticular characteristics of our genius were reflected.

There are a few of us whom the love of our modern
musicians has led towards our admirable men of
the Renaissance, towards those clavecinists of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The oblivion
of our true traditions is signalised by the harmful
neglect of these masters, and the regard for our
traditions, by the return towards their eternal
freshness and their beauty of substance.

Yes, sometimes, in the course of our musical studies,
our attention was drawn to a piece by Couperin
or Rameau, just as one claims to describe our
admirable poetic efflorescence of the sixteenth
century with the aid of a sonnet by Joachim du
Bellay a rondeau by Remy Belleau, followed by some
poems of Ronsard. Until fifteen or twenty years
ago, apart from a few monomaniacs, there were
none to interest themselves in Rameau, Couperin,
Dandrieu, and others.

^Somewhat suddenly there was a revival of curio-
sity concerning them. By whom was it revived,
or rather whose names do we find at the head of this
movement of reparation ? Precisely those which
mark the summits of present-day music in France :
Saint-Saens, one of the founders of the SooUte
Nationale de Musique (which for forty years^has
witnessed the flowering of all French music) and


at the same time director of the complete edition
of Rameau’s works, that important monument of
reparation of the twentieth century to the eighteenth
century in music. And with Saint-Saens, whom
do we find associated in the achievement of this
edition ? The organist Guilmant, and the three
names most representative of this French day:
Vincent d’Indy, Paul Dukas, and Claude Debussy.

Is not the coincidence truly singular ? There
is no chance in this. In art there is only the logic
oJ consciences, of wills and of facts. Vincent d’Indy
who, together with Charles Bordes, founded the
Schola to co-ordinate the efforts which aimed at
restoring our music from the thirteenth to the
eighteenth centuries, presides to-day over the
Societe Nationale de Musique/i^nd conducted the
other day the rehearsals of Rameau’s Hippolyte
et Aricie and Dardanus, Paul Dukas composed his
celebrated Variations on a theme by Rameau.
Finally, Claude Debussy has written an admirable
piece, full of noble gravity, entitled Hommage d
Rameau, and is it not also the composer of Pclleas
et M&lisande who wrote some time ago :

” Why should we not regret this charming manner
of writing music that we have lost, just as it is
impossible to discover the traces of Couperin ?
It avoided all redundance and was possessed of
-humour. We scarcely dare nowadays to own a
sense of humour for fear of being lacking in grandeur,
Jto> which we breathlessly aspire without attaining
to it very often.” a

1 Claude Debussy, I c.


No, all this is not due to chance. Those minds
are alert. They have appeared at a time when French
music has begun to feel the need of emancipation,
of being true io itself, of liberating itself from
Germanism, whether hailing from Beethoven or
from Wagner.,

Let none repeat that music is a universal art,
independent of nationalities and races : Genius
can attain to some degree of universality when it
bears the name of Shakespeare or Beethoven, but
even those are, none the less, the one an Englishman
of the sixteenth century, and the other a German of
the end of the eighteenth. All the more does an
aggregate of works bear the stamp of its period and
its nationality, especially in the world of music, an
art of the senses, an art more closely linked than any
other with those differences of mood, those move-
ments of character which stamp the variety of races.

It would be well in future to examine our modern
compositions, more logically than has been done in
our generation, in the light of a perfect knowledge
of our sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth cen-
turies. One would then discern, better than is
possible in the arguments stated here, how the
special dharacteristics of the French mind perpetuate
themselves from the seventeenth to the twentieth
centuries in spite of a century of foreign influences.
^ There is certainly no question of comparing the
method of composition in French works at the
commencement of the eighteenth century and at
the commencement of the twentieth. Let us only
consider that in the space of these two centuries

32 FRENCH Mtlsic ofr T

there has occurred the most rapid evolution an art
has ever known. It is a question of examining
throughout the musical contents, more or less
complex, of these works, the spirit that governed
its inflections. It would be equally possible to
examine it in vocal or dramatic compositions, but
perhaps it will reveal itself more fully in the music
of the keyboard.

The fashipns and cults of yesterday do not con-
stitute tradition. To discover it, it is necessary
to penetrate further into, and even beyond, an art,
towards the springs at which its sap is refreshed and

The features of our music are those of our mind
and our temperament. To determine these fea-
tures is not easy, but to know them, it suffices to
have had passionate enjoyment from our works
of art.

r Clearness first. Not the external clearness of

, works which are devoid of thought, like some

Italian compositions, but the clearness of the mind

that has reflected, and that puts forth in good order

the fruits of its meditation.

In order, clearness ; arwi in expression, precisely
that quality which has been described as the fear
of emphasis. This we find as much in Dardanus as
in PelUas, in TMsee as in Arianp et Barbe Bleue.
We find the opposite in Manfred, and in Tristan and
Isolde, in association, with other qualities which are
not ours.

It is not that we do not know how to be lyrical,
but with us ironyjs ever on guard. We are too


enamoured of proportion to yield for long to the
intention, as the saying is, of taking the moon in
our teeth.

The avoidance of all that is redundant ; know
ledge without the desire to display it ; a horror f
of pedantry ; a taste for pleasantry and for wit ;
these are features that may be found revealed as
clearly and as constantly in the pieces of Couperin,
Dandrieu, or Daquin as in those of Ravel, Roussel,
or Sev6rac.

The desire, definite or vague, of our present-day
musicians, is to reject all the philosophical, meta-
physical, or literary theories with which the greatest
German geniuses have stuffed their music. As-
suredly our music, like our intellect, lacks certain
qualities which are sometimes abundant in the
Teutonic and Slav races ; but a better knowledge
of its origins can only lead to increased consciousness
of itself and of its powers.

The desire of our present-day musicians is an
infinite variety of expression as opposed to a unity
of scholastic composition. Their goal is emancipated
expression : expressive music, the music of impres-
sions. Couperin, Rameau, neither wished nor ac-
complished more.

It is the French mind in music that is here under
discussion. One must see hi this matter neither
chauvinism nor national vanity. It is solely a
question of determining our mind with precision.

For centuries we have borne within our tempera-
ments the subtle sense of atmosphere, the love of
delicate vibrations. We have a soul that is at once


sensitive and ironic, as far removed from puritanism
as it is from grossness, a soul impregnated with the
sensuous pantheism which is the eternal strength
of our genius. We possess the Mediterranean taste
for rhythm, and here we find reviving in our most
modern composers, with an entirely musical dignity,
the cult of dances, harmoniously projected by the
formal sense, and the cult of ironic wit, harmoniously
projected by the intellect. And all this is steeped
in a feeling for the picturesque in which Debussy,
Ravel, S6verac and the others reveal an ingenuity,
and impressions which rival those of our clave-
cinists, whose evocations are not tarnished by the
dust of more than a century and a half.

A glance merely at the titles of the compositions
will convince one of this love of the picturesque and
of evocation. We find in them not closely defined
programmes but themes of evocation. When to-day
Claude Debussy entitles a piece Poissons d’Or, he
has not the pretension to depict. Ichthyology
does not fall within the province of music. But
he desires to evoke the impression of something
glittering and fugitive plunged in a fluid atmosphere
something that is gone in a flash and that quickly
renews its rapid movement in diverse directions with
the colour-play of all that gambols in the sunshine.
*”* If one listened to music a little more with the ears,
with feeling, not sentimentality, but with intellectual
sensuousness, this question would not need discus-

By their regard for the picturesque as by the
featwe of the Freuch intellect.


which are plainly discernible in both, the music of
the past and that of to-day reveal themselves as
much nearer to each other than one might at first

In one, as in the other, we are concerned with a
music of the senses in which the regard for expres-
sion predominates over formal considerations. It
is programme music in which is revealed the taste
for rhythms and for picturesque sonorities, and
which is thus led to the selection of subjects which
are similar or proximate. But a French musical
tradition could not be based upon a mere resemblance
of titles, were these not narrowly associated by the
spirit which animates these appeals to the imagina-

The twentieth century will witness the musical
awakening of many nations who ranked among the
greatest in the past, and have seemed to lose their
vigorously national features. Already Spain on the
one hand, and England on the other, are endeavour-
ing to bring about the rebirth of a genuinely national
efflorescence by the study of their true musical
ancestry, and of their wealth of folktune, and they
remember now having given birth, the one to Gabezon
and Victoria, the other to Byrd and PurcelL The
spirit of renewal has spread even to Italy, which,
perhaps, may see again splendours to be compared
with those of Monteverde.

France has embarked upon her musical emancipa-
tion. It is not yet assuredly accomplished. As
yet it is only the dawn, but the dawn is gracious
and moving, and it is precisely for that reason that,


to-day more than ever, we must remember that
French music does not date from yesterday, that it
possesses many charming, tender, and witty pages,
and that a clavecin two hundred years ago has often
sufficed to evoke sentiments whose truth and fresh-
ness, recalled by these pages, still come to life for
us with a mysterious and delicate power.

French clavecin music does not commence with
Couperin, but fifty years earlier with Jacques
Champion, known as de Chambonnires. It would
be wrong to neglect this charming spirit. It is he
who must be considered as the starting-point of
7 the French school, and, if he was neither its most
complete nor its most powerful manifestation, at
least he^remains one of the most delicate and most

Chambonnieres was the first in France to succeed
deliberately in emancipating the music of the
clavier from that of the organ. If it is true that
Frescobaldi had already attempted it in Italy, the
earnestness of that admirable musician drew him
too strongly towards religious forms of expression
to permit Him to liberate himself.

In the works of Chambonnieres one can remade
that charming frankness which is a feature of his
whole century. He introduces at the clavecin the
dance-forms, especially those which were beginning
to be abandoned and in which, being no longer
concerned with the dancer, the musician is free to
infuse infinite variety and fancy. In his slow move-
ments one often discerns a tender feeling, which is
the first attempt towards the delicate psychology


and the discreet tenderness which were to be re-
vealed later by Couperin, Rameau, and Dandrieu.

Chambonnieres was, moreover, an admirable
performer on the clavecin, celebrated for his light
touch,and the incomparable rapidity of his fingering. 1
The principal clavecinists of the period, whose works
have been handed down to us, were his pupils ;
among others-, d’Anglebert, Le Begue, and the three

Of the numerous family of the Couperins, which,
during two centuries, gave musicians to France,
whether composers or performers, Franois has
deservedly remained the most celebrated ; and was
it not with justice that he was named ” Couperin
the Great ” ?

Though the dates place him in the reign of Louis
XIV, Couperin the Great has not quite the spirit
of the Grand Siede. A true Parisian of Paris,
inclined to raillery and humour, jesting and irony,
yet fastidious and full of feeling, he calls to our
minds much more a certain air of the period of the
Pr&cieuses, and at the same time some features of
the reign of.Loiiis XV.

He is a unique figure in our ancestry. We shall
not meet again with that airy grace. Others will
appear with more melancholy, deeper expression,
or more emotional intensity, but we shall not see
again such penetrating charm, such knowledge of
the art of pleasing, the ingenuous skill of a smiling
nature. Let none be misled. His art is not only

1 C/. P6re Mersenne : Universal Harmony (1636) ; and Le
Gallois : Letter to Mile. Reygnaut de Saltier (1680).


on the surface, and there are witnesses to record for
us that, in his own day, Couperin was considered a
profound composer. 1

We are nowadays too accustomed to see depth
only in weighty treatises, and in intellects that are
somewhat heavy. Throughout the works of Coupe-
rin there is present a fastidious revelation of intelli-
gent psychology, with evidence of an ingenious power
of observation, and of a satisfaction in living and
feeling that is fairly common among Frenchmen.

Moreover, life in those days was less arduous for
musicians than it is apt to be at present.

In those days, musicians were petted. Many
great nobles considered themselves in honour bound
to maintain a small orchestra in their suite, and
there was rivalry between great houses. Some of
them even engaged servants only on the condition
that they were musical.

There raged among the highest classes, a veritable
fever for music. Constantly associated with the
diversions of society, music was scarcely com-
mencing to part company with the dance, and was
at first limited to gathering up the forms shed by
the latter : Allemande, CouranU, Sarabande, Galli-
arde. For some time yet we shall see persist the
Gavotte, Passepied, and Gigue. Allemande, Cour-
ante, and Sarabande will constitute the elements
of the suite which Bach and Handel will raise to a
dignity from which proceeds the entire aesthetic
of the musical forms of the nineteenth century.
As has been discerningly said by M. Jules ficorche-
* Abb6 de Fontenay : Dictionary of Artists. (Paris, 1776.)


ville : ” Music was not then the Tristanesque art
which tears us from the world, but, on the contrary,
a manifest sign of worldly preoccupations, and a
manner of adorning and enlivening the pleasures
of society.” 1

What charming discourses these clavecin pieces
hold forth to us ! How fragrant are their
titles and their subjects with elegance and wit,
and with the amiable and fastidious spirit that can
speak of all things without fuss.

And do we not cut a somewhat sorry figure in
neglecting music which gave pleasure to great men,
Bach among others ?

It goes without saying that Bach took a deep
interest in the French performance of these works,
for the French instrumental executants had already
given proof, in their performance of the native ele-
gance that still qualifies many of our modern inter-
preters. But Bach took an even greater interest
in the musical substance of French compositions for
organ and clavecin. He investigates their melodic
quality. He borrows themes from French masters,
notably from Couperin.

That does not prevent Voltaire, who was often
more accurately informed, from writing : ” In the
century of Louis XIV, music was still in the cradle.
A few languishing songs ; a few tunes, mostly
composed in Spain, for violin, guitar, and the theorbo,
were all that was known.” 2

1 Jules ficorche ville : Twenty Orchestral Suites of the Seven-
teenth Century in France.

a Voltaire : The Century of Louis XIV,


We will not say, as Mme. de Sevign6 said of Lully,
” I do not believe that there exists any other music
under heaven,” but it really is delicate and durable

This musical literature is at present, more than
ever, an educational necessity, Am6d<e Mreaux
himself wrote in The Clavecinists : ” This musical
literature was, a few years ago, still regarded as a
curiosity. In our day it has acquired usefulness. It
has become an indispensable element of education/’ 1

Its necessity has not yet been sufficiently realised
by the ma j ority . There are stiU too many who refuse
to see in it more than a curiosity for archaeologists ;
who are unaware that in all these works there is a
grace and an expression of feeling that are not
behind those of our day.

The works of Couperin are copious and varied.
Four volumes of exquisite pieces cannot reveal
their quality merely in a few familiar numbers.
There are too many that remain unknown: Le
Bavolet flottant ; Les Musettes ; the Badine in which
runs a mincing affectation, a portrait which we
cannot recall without the smile that is awakened
in the heart of the fastidious by the elegance, the
wit, and the thousand piquant and elusive tricks of
f e ninine coquetry ; the purity of the Lys naissants ;
the delightful and ingenious variety of The Dominos,
variegated to the most delicate and mysterious
Domino couleur d’invisible ; and the Bergeries ;
and so many more pieces in which the feeling for
nature, which had almost completely vanished from

1 Am6d6e M6reaux : The Clwecinists, p.i.


literature, appears with a healthy and attractive
freshness, amid which thecult of the dance-forms finds
a favourable setting ; and Le Rossignol en amour,
in which is found one of the most graceful themes
fashioned by Couperin, that king of grace ; and the
Carillon de Cythere, which does not sound the de-
parture, the ” embarking ” of which Watteau was
to evoke the unconstraint tinged with sadness,
together with the reticences of a soul that seems
already to doubt the lasting of love, it sounds the
charm of the exquisite hour under the softness of
skies indulgent to harmonious tenderness ; the
witty exaggeration of the Pastes de la Grande et
Ancienne Menestrandise ; the Arlequin for which
Couperin wrote the direction : grotesquement ; and
ever so many more pieces.

Fastidious, enchanting, observant, witty, mocking,
slily malicious, ironic, biting, the clavecin assumes
with Couperin every variety of accent in turn.

Freshness needs to have a rare quality if it is
not to be tarnished after two centuries. Works
claimed to be more profound will have passed away
while these will still have life, echoing the soul of
Franfois Couperin, immortal and smiling figure of
immortal French grace.

The distance from Couperin to Rameau is not
only that between two somewhat remarkable
personalities, or between two differently constituted
societies, but it also includes all that divides, one
from another, two great periods of musical history ;
and the very characters of these two men display
at once the divergencies and the respective tendencies

MtfSIC OF f 0-

of these periods, without thereby ceasing to remain,
by the features they possess in common, two
essentially French figures.

– Couperin is the sum of amiable Parisian grace,
the sum of the sociable spirit, the love of dancing,
of company, of elegant suppers, of amusement, of
bonds in which love is less important than pleasure
and than the delight one finds in turning gallant
phrases in their honour.

Rameau is the French spirit of reason awakening.
He is the solitude that reflects, the patience that
learns. His is the enquiring spirit of the Ency-
cloptdie: the circumspect intelligence applying
itself to the study of the human heart and of the
means of expression at its disposal.

Couperin is the musician as he appears to Guez
de Balzac, to Voiture, to Saint-Evremond. Rameau
is the equal and the colleague of Voltaire, Diderot,
and d’Alembert ; and in more than one instance his
effort precedes theirs in the same direction.

We are enabled to inform ourselves of the evolu-
tion of the musical spirit in French society of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the agree-
ably written volume of M. Jules ficorcheville en-
titled From Lully to Rameau, in which this remarkable
evolution, and the conflicts to which it gave rise,
are studied in detail.

An absorbing concern with music then makes
itself felt in the smallest writings, even those which
seem by their nature the furthest removed from such

After the obsession with music came the time for


reflection upon the subject . An attempt was made
to confine the obsession within the limits of reason
and of definitions.

Unable to accomplish this, the Encyclopedistes
had the presumption to reject music with its limita-
tions as a mere art of imitation, amenable to
charm but not to reason ; and that is how they came
to attack the very composer who was doing naught
else but apply to music the method and spirit which
they brought to science and literature.

A strange and massive figure was Rameau, per-
haps the greatest in the whole of French music ;
for Colossus as Berlioz is, he unfortunately possesses
feet of clay that cannot always be concealed.

Rameau embodies the most astonishing balance
of science, will-power, and inspiration. Nothing
extravagant characterises him. It may be that he is
crabbed and savage, because the obsession of the
problems on which he aspires to throw light com-
pels him to solitude ; but how much the more
thoroughly does the most vivid feeling pierce through
in a thousand places 1

Plasticity of the rhythms, a sense of orderly life,
delicacy, and care to maintain the balance of ex-
pression, these are the features of Rameau. Do
there exist other essential qualities to which our
national genius can lay claim with better right,
or which are more suitable to define our French
tradition, whether it be studied in the sixteenth,
the eighteenth, or the twentieth century ?

When Rameau died, at the beginning of Sep-
tember, 1764, it was discovered that nothing was


known of him, at all events in the period in which
he developed ; for the honours and privileges which
were heaped upon him during the latter part of his
life made of him one of the principal figures of his
day. Little by little, the life of Rameau has been
unravelled, though not all the desired information
is available concerning it. But of greater import-
ance to us are the principal features of the man and
his character, and among them his love of solitude,
and the slowness and conscientiousness of his

Let us especially bear in mind that this man, who
raised French opera to a level which even Gluck
did not surpass, had not at fifty years of age com-
posed a single opera. With admirable patience and
determination he awaited the hour when, confident
of his powers, he should be able to carry out his

Before the age of fifty he had published only his
theoretical books and his volume of pieces for the
clavecin, but the latter alone would suffice to make
his fame secure.

In the eyes of certain minds of his day Rameau
passed for a scholar, a pedagogue, and no more :
a musician with a curious interest in the bizarre
grouping of chords. He is a mathematician, a
geometrician who has taken it into his head to write
music and naturally succeeds in constructing sonor-
ous patterns in which the proportions are accurate,
but soul and ear are disappointed.

Thus thinks Grimm ; and Diderot, in Le Neveu
de Rameau, writes :


” This musician who delivered us from the plain-
song of Lully ; who has written so many unintellig-
ible visions and so many apocalyptic truths on the
theory of music . . . and from whose pen we have
a certain number of operas in which are harmony,
‘ odds and ends of song, disconnected ideas, clashes,
thefts, triumphs, lances, glories, murmurs, breath-
less victories, dance tunes that will last for ever,
and who, after burying the Florentine, will himself
be buried by the Italian virtuosi.’ 1

Jean Baptiste Rousseau goes so far as to insult
him :

Distillateur d ‘accords baroques
Dont tant d’idiots sont f&rus,
Chez les Thraces et les Iroques
Portez vos op&ras bourrus. 1


not such expressions, coming as they do
from intelligences that were concerned with music
induce those who are in revolt against new works
to-day to proceed with caution ?

Can we believe to-day that it is Rameau, who is
clearness itself, Rameau, harmony and melody per-
sonified, of whom such things were said ? Vol-
taire has shown greater sagacity in saying ; ” Rameau
has made of music a new art.”

Yet Rameau, in the care he takes to give his

1 Free translation

Coiner of the strange, ^eird chorda
Hearts of idiots let them, ravage,
Take your uncouth operas
To the Hottentot and savage.




(To Cyprien X. Godebski)

IN the world, writes Chamfort, 1 we have three kinds
of friends: those who loyejis, those who 4
those whohate us.

Like ourselves, music possesses in the world three
kinds of friends. Those who do not trouble about
it are the people who go to concerts to meet their
acquaintances and to arrange for the employment
of their week ; those who applaud virtuosi, however
bad the quality of the compositions they perform ;
those who, after dinner, insist on asking for a piece
of music or a song, the opening of which, by some
mischance, always happens to coincide with their
conversation ; those who applaud only in batches,
and if the work performed bears the name of a
composer on whom one may safely depend ; and
those critics who find in music no more than an
.opportunity of writing : in a word, those who are
always ready to hear music, and never ready to listen
to it.

The friends who hate music are those who profess
to love it, and appreciate only its dead bones. They
speak volubly of it, and despise those who do not
love it. They constantly embrace music only to

1 Born 1741; died 1794*


stifle it. They dissect it, unaware of their prelimin-
ary murder of it, and without understanding that
the work they have pulled to pieces lacks only one
thing, but that the most important : life.

Those people have always a theory in readiness.
If a new composition is brought to them it does not
take them long to break its limbs, open its body,
correct its shape and prove to you that it is not
formed in accordance with the rules and principles.

With the friends of this kind, no fancy is possible.
They have a mould, press it down on the composi-
tions, and clip away all that protrudes. Their
musical life is spent with a magnifying glass, an
eraser, and a pair of scissors.

The supreme quality of a work, for them, is to
be fashioned according to their rules. Only on
that condition is it music. They found schools
.in which the art of writing a sonata or the manner of
treating a symphony is taught in twenty lessons.
They know all the recipes, which they have classified
in their musical cookery-books. They spend their
lives in the kitchen.

They teach how to develop an idea mathematically
without giving a moment’s attention to its intrinsic
quality, believing, as they do, that the sauce will
make the fish palatable even when it is not fresh.
They expand and discuss, perorate, and place
restrictions upon what is music and what is not.
Really, Moltere would still find plenty to do.
“- Never, perhaps, has music been infested more
than to-day with these friends who hate it. Gradu*
ates without taste, journalists without culture,


decrepit porers over archives, have intruded
themselves into music like rats into a ship. They
imagine that they cause it to travel, when it
is much more likely that they can only defile or
infect it.

For what do they care about feeling, grace, charm,
emotion, or all that from first to last goes to make the
unrivalled power of music, all that causes music
to be not merely the diversion of well-fed stomachs,
or a pretext for theories, but the unique confidant
of our hours of joy and pain, evoking earthly land-
scapes of inner horizons ? What do they care for
all that music contains of tenderness, of faith, of
voluptuousness, of elevation, or of rapture ? They
occupy themselves with the measurement of master-
pieces. They accumulate anthropometric records.
They possess the art of making everything they touch
intolerably boring.

They have thus taken possession of certain masters,
and, in the first place, Bach, the supreme genius
who assumes every aspect. Of this eighteenth-
century man, who possesses the secret of meditating
and of smiling, who knows, according to the moment,
how to be grave or joyops, how to compel or to
charm, they have made an old college prefect, an
ill-humoured censor, a musical-box, a metronome :
boredom in order, and order in boredom.

Under the rod of these people generations have
trembled, and young girls can be met who ought to
be all feeling, grace, and joy of living, and who say
to you, “Schumann, Mozart, Chopin” in a dis-
dainful tone and raise their eyes to heaven with


ecstasy in pronouncing the name of Bach. But
what a Bach is theirs I Good heavens !

Then one catches oneself wishing to meet and
associate with people who have less assurance in the
knowledge of the rules, people unable to write a page
and capable of confusing the numbers of Beethoven’s
symphonies, but who love the “works with more
candour and spontaneity, and who seek to improve
their knowledge of them only in order to control
their emotion and imbue it with more lasting ele-
ments. Such people may sometimes allow them-
selves to be led astray by a mediocre work, but will
never approach a musical composition save to seek
in it the satisfaction of the ear or of the heart, and
to find what the composer expressed in it, whether
joy or sorrow, aspiration or serenity -in one word

The friends who love music are not always dis-
posed to listen to that of the most serious purport.
They appreciate, according to the moment, immense
works, or such as are more minute. They are able
to derive, according to the hour, as much satis ac-
tion from a song as from a music-drama. They
are no more given to the idolatry of large works
than to the predilection “for small ones. They do
not believe that the word symphony followed by
three-quarters of an hour’s music necessarily reveals
an important work, nor that one need despise two
pages of piano music in which refined writing is
associated with humour or with feeling.

They sometimes feel tired to exhaustion by what
they hav$ mpst IpvedL They abandon


only the more eagerly to return to them. There
are days on which they are weary of Schumann’s
romanticism, of Wagner’s aesthetic ideas, of C6sar
Franck’s soaring, and they make no attempt to
conceal that they do not feel compelled to worship
every genius, or to heap invective on those who leave
them unmoved.

They conform within a certain measure to the
fundamental tastes inherent to their nature, and
to the sum of all that contributes to form the culture
of a period. They maintain equal distance from
pedants and from snobs. If they have enjoyed
Pelleas, Boris, or The Rite of Spring, if these works
have given them occasion for experiencing emotion
or pleasure, they have not assumed the conviction
that music had its beginning in these works and that
by them the entire past was cancelled.

They endeavour to be ready to reject nothing that
they have not proved, and to accept nothing on the
strength of its label. They do not profess their
love of music or announce it to all comers as if they
truly did music great honour, and it coald not exist
without them.

The true friends of music sometimes appear to
forget it. They know that there is something un-
lovely in the parade of one’s affections, and that
there is no love but demands silence if it is to endure.
They do not speak only of music. They do not
slay for its sake. They admit that one may not
love it, and tnat there is no incomparable merit
in loving it, though it is an infirmity not to be sus-
ceptible to it. They do not throw themselves upon


works, like the wolf upon Little Red Riding-Hood.

They apply a better sense of proportion ; their
ecstasies are intimate, and their joys are deep
enough not to require so many incoherent words.
They find a thousand unutterable pleasures in tir’ng
of certain works, and in finding their affection re-
kindled for others. They look back with a kind of
tenderness to the time when they surfeited them-
selves with Chopin through exclusive devotion to the
Nocturnes and Polonaises, and remember how the
Preludes and Etudes gradually restored them to an
unclouded affection. Their choice is slow among
those they love, and they sometimes see predilec-
tions, that had seemed indispensable to them, fade
away suddenly. For life, too, presses upon them.
Their soul is subject to change, also their heart, and
esteem is an insufficient protection against being

They have their days, for nothing is fixed, and
they have to reaccustom themselves. They even
have days when all music is intolerable to them,
except that which is said to be bad.

They are not ashamed to confess it and readily
agree that sometimes this valse lente> or that worth-
less tune, is not unbearable to them. More than
that, they will admit that it gives them a certain
pleasure, if the surroundings are favourable to it,
or if their own state of mind desires it. They
obstinately believe that a good czardas is worth
more than a bad quartet.

19 In France we are passing through a period that
fs incomparable for m^iQ, We rave about it, we


discuss it, we compose it, certainly in too great
profusion, but the elect will recognise their own.
There is no need to be anxious about it. Let us on
the contrary admire how, among so many musical
works, those which possess merit have quickly
reached the little group of amateurs which, from
the very first, decides what is to endure of a period.

There is as much to discover in the past as in the
future. Let us look to the right or the left, before
us or behind, as fancy dictates. The important
thing is to discover, to start on excursions with
eyes that are free from fatigue, and to find in the
most familiar subjects a little of ourselves in a new

The chief aim is to pursue thus our journey with
love, and to arrive at music, not as the fulfilment of
an ungrateful and uninspired task, but, according
to the moment, with tender feeling, with firm con-
fidence, or with eager desire.

There is a time for confidences and a time for
prayer. There is a time for conversation and for
charming and frivolous discourse. Music has all
these moments. The essential is to learn to yield
to the forms that it is pleased to assume, and not
to flatter ourselves that we may subject it to our
own caprice.


IT seems to be very difficult to come to an under-
standing on this subject. Can we not, however,
Attempt to agree once and for all, now that a t&oi*sapc!


matters of debate are disposed of which incited envy
or contempt during his lifetime ?

There was a time when, in our concern for pure
music and for less facile developments, we rose
against Massenet, and especially against the
aesthetics for which he stood in the eyes of his
uncompromising admirers. There is no occasion
to-day to retract our former opinion in full, but we
need to understand one another. The strength
of the opposition to be offered to certain works must
be measured by the extent of their influence. The
death of Massenet and the evolution of music in
France render superfluous ^the energetic manifesta-
tions of which our youth was not the sole cause.

Formerly Auber, who knew what he was talking
about, said that nothing fades so quickly as music.
He intended to refer to that of the theatre, since
that was almost the only music that met with
appreciation in his day. It is true that nothing
loses its colour so much as the charm of the lyric
drama, even when it is of excellent quality. To be
sincere, we cannot deny that we experience a certain
feeling of tedium even in listening to Dardanus or
Alceste. The charm of the Barber of Seville, however
attractive it still may be, has lost some of its colour.
There is in reality only Mozart who survives the
passing centuries. He had the genius of youth, and
so big a heart that we have not exhausted it.

Besides points of issue which are dimmed by the
passage of time, there are the passions which a work
may have let loose, for reasons, strictly speaking,
connected with aesthetics.


Thus the same minds which, twenty years ago,
were passionately Wagnerian, found themselves
compelled to modify their ardour ten years later,
and even to develop a new resistance, the reason
being that the young French school had no further
need to seek guidance in Wagnerism, having ex-
hausted those of its elements which lent themselves
to assimilation, and was ripe, in its turn, to lead its
own life. A continued affection, nourished on such
fare, would have incurred a very real danger of
develop’ng into servility.

The movement of which Massenet is the leader is
equally capable of explanation, although it cannot
be compared to that to which Wagner gave rise.
The antipathy aroused ten years ago by the rabid
and wide-spread cult of an insipid melodic style
must give way to-day to a moderate degree of
sympathy, qualified with reservations here and there,
yet sincere and devoid of unnecessary indulgence.

There is really no need to make use of a man or
a work as a weapon against innovators, and there
is something rather humorous in seeing ignorant
fanatics attack the composer of Pelleas et M&isande
in the name of the composer of Werther, when Claude
Debussy himself, unlike the Debussyists, has never
feared to bear witness that he retained much more
than an idle esteem for Massenet’s music.

We are certainly not going to agree with those for
whom Massenet represents the summit of lyrical
sincerity and musical intelligence. But why
should the warm affection and deep admiration we
feel for Debussy and Dukas, for PelUas and Arwne


et Barbe Bleue, deprive us of the right to continue
to take pleasure in Werther and Esclarmonde, or
in certain passages of Gristtidis, and to consider
Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame as one of the master-
pieces of opera-comique of the last century in France ?
When it is desired to extol to us the sincerity of
Thais, or the atmospheric truth of Herodiade, we
really can no longer follow, for the absence of all
fundamental truth, the unbridled desire to please,
the languorous insipidity of a conventional emotion
are to be felt in every part of such works. Massenet
had the theatrical sense developed to a degree the
more rare, insomuch as he makes no use of the more
blatant means. He is always able to retain a degree
of distinction that is indisputable even when it is
only relative. He has yielded no more to noisy
realism than he has attempted to attain to lofty
grandeur. He was aware of what must be termed
his own mediocrity. None knew its limitations
better than he. He has rarely attempted to trans-
cend his own powers except in Ariane and in Bacchus,
and again in Roma, but that was when age had
already affected him, though he did not visibly
show it. When he concerned himself with the Faith
he selected Marie-Madeleine. His conception has,
however, little that is religious, and suggests the
courtesan of modern Paris rather than of the his-
toric Gospels. To realise his dream of Mary Mag-
dalen he went to the quartier de I’ Europe and left
to others the little shops of Saint-Sulpice.
+ The tedium of certain bombastic works that some
are seeking to set up in opposition to these


caused a less restive sympathy to revive in us.
Our affection is relative, as was our antipathy.

It is easy to foresee a near future in which his
works will have little more interest than those ,of
Meyerbeer to-day ; but they will not have less, and
they will possess in addition a certain charm, and
a really musical feeling that was always lacking in
the composer of Les Huguenots.

Their merits differ, but, for reasons equally
governed by the stage, they will meet with the same

When one remarks that in the French provinces^
out of twenty performances in an operatic season,
no less than ten are devoted exclusively to Mas-
senet’s operas, one is entitled to conclude that it is
really going too far. But when it is desired to
slaughter us with dramas that are gloomy, languid,
and musically tedious, and when a writer is only
admitted to the lyric drama on condition that he
dons the shoes of Wagner, or even only his slippers,
then we say with emphasis : ” We prefer Massenet.”

When it is attempted to reduce him to the level
of a Leoncavallo, or a Puccini, we must rebel at all
cost. We do not demand for him the throne of the
true Immortals, but a stool is too little.

His works can no longer exercise a disastrous
influence on the new generation. Those who wish
to imitate him achieve only insipidity where he
infused charm, and they outdo unbearable defects.
Massenet produced some Massenet that was too
bad for us to need more of it. As for good Mas-
senet, he alone knew how to write it. To others


belong the exquisite, the rare, and the powerful,
but he had a delectable supineness.

To sum up, even if we have lost the desire to hear
them again, let us admit that some of his works are
excellent of their kind.


NONE stands nearer to the masters by whom we
are most deeply stirred : Chopin, Schumann, or
Schubert ; yet none is more French. His emotional
quality retains a sense of proportion that always
reveals his ability to discriminate. That is not to
say that it contracts. On the contrary, it is the
highest quality of this inspiration that it always
gives an impression of freedom and yet never
transgresses the limits set by the most exacting

At a time when the majority of musicians have
given their attention for preference to orchestral
innovations, to discovering new resources of sound,
or to resuscitating in more vivid form the French
inclination towards the picturesque in music,
Gabriel Faure has remained chiefly attached to the
riches of the piano or of song, and to the inexhaust-
ible inflections of the melodic line. To the latter
he has given a shape that bears his obvious stamp,
however varied its sensitive traceries.
* Faur’s melody is always safeguarded from
banality no less than from oddity. It breathes
irresistible freshness and youth. Others there may


be of greater suavity, suggesting an angelic approach,
but among us there is none who makes us feel so
well the charm of earth and of life.

The strong fragrance of the mornings, the languor
and sweet serenity of the evenings nourish his
emotional confidences. He has furnished more than
a hundred poems, selected from the best of our
time, with irreproachably appropriate commentary.
He is able to penetrate to the heart of the poet him-
self and transmute his most secret intentions for
the purposes of music.

The songs of Gabriel Faure are caskets which are
devoid of glitter, but retain within them the per-
fume of the most fastidiously refined soul, inspired
with frank emotions and with discreet melancholy.
Open them a little and we ,are penetrated with
their charm. Reopen them often and we can realise
how inexhaustible is that charm.

This quality of charm, the highest because it is
truly the most complete in OUF nation ; this quality,
of which some have believed that Massenet alone
had the secret, so far as music is concerned, we well
know Faure to possess to a degree to which none
since Couperin or Dandrieu has been able to attain
in France. & In Massenet the charm had too much
languor, too many affectations, and it often skirted
doubtful contacts. He was always too well aware
of what he was coming to. In his coquetry the
paint was often visible, and, as compared with a few
enduring accents, how much has he become aged
already by this desire to please that obsessed him
beyond all measure 1

64 fr&feNCH Music 6

The charm of Faure is that he does not trouble
so much about winning our approval as about
satisfying his own heart and his own mind, which
is unconcerned with what is popular. He has no
disdain for others, nothing that is scornful or strained,
but he is always able, with intention, to disclose or
withhold himself.

The delight of this charm consists precisely in the
absence of all feeling of constraint, and he makes
no greater effort to beguile us at all cost than he
does to evade the wishes of the vulgar. No touch
could be more sure, nor could one impart the feeling
of a more unconfined, voluptuous pleasure.

There are impulses, revulsions, affections and
avowals, insinuations and troubled sighs, as of a
conscience unburdening itself, youthful joys and
radiant awakenings. Which of us can hear, without
being overwhelmed with youthful feeling, the open-
ing of the sonata, or the last song of La Bonne
Chanson, and who can listen to Le Don Silencieux
without being gently touched to the quick in the
innermost of his dearest memories ?

Had he no other merit, would it not be a consider-
able one to have endowed French music with an
accurate and profound conception of the true song ?
If we possess to-day a marvellous flower-garden
wherein music and poetry mingle their imperishable
perfumes for our delectation, let us not forget that
it was Gabriel Faure who opened the gate and dis-
closed to our wonder-stricken gaze the fragrant
beauty of this French garden. Each of these sonj^s
is perfectly constructed, but, even more than in


their design and in their colour, does their value
consist in the subtlety of their atmosphere, varied
according to the subject treated. Clair de Lune,
Les Roses d’lspahan, Presents, Automne, Soir,
create, without the paltry study of local colour,
the desired frame for our emotions. It is from the
sentiment itself that the appropriate atmosphere
radiates and suavely envelops the subject, thanks
to an exhaustible wealth of harmony.

Even when cast in the utmost simplicity, the ful-
ness of these musical poems is ever present. The
picture is never dwarfed by the frame. Their
shape and their dimensions are so accurate that at
first they pass unnoticed, Faure’s art proceeds
by infinitesimal nuances. The most minute inflec-
tion suffices with him to give a varied impression
of himself. Most of all do his conclusions beguile
us. They are seldom categorical. The manner in
which they are reached is sometimes the last we
should have expected, but this is contrived, not for
the pleasure of taking us by surprise, but rather in
order to leave us regretting the end, and for the
secret joy of a precarious conclusion. There is no
musician who knows so well how to close without
concluding, and yet not leave the mind irritated,
but, on the contrary, offer it the enjoyment of
agreeable sounds gently lapsing into silence.

It is an art imbued with unfailing elegance of the
kind that is born not merely of fashion, but of an
intimate distinction, and which makes no parade
of its novel refinements but wears them as a habit
in^de of niceties, discretion, and charm.


Some there were who doubted whether such art
was capable of attaining to greatness. They had
failed to grasp that true elegance needs little more
than this to display itself in the form of the truest
nobility, of which Penelope furnishes the proof.

By means as simple as those of Racine himself,
and therefore by paths other than those by which
power is sought, he unfolded before us a drama of
unique quality, which is without any of the coldness
of those who tax their ingenuity to make tracings
of Homer or Euripides without regard for the
vitality that is the first essential. There was an
austere splendour in this evocation, whose greatness
came from a mind that borrows no powers save from
the emotion that radiates from within towards all
things suited to it.

The sure touch of Gabriel Faure moves us because
it has never the pretension to provoke our wonder.
It never adopts with us the accents of peremptory
assurance* With how much greater ardour do
we, feeling ourselves free, follow such music than
that of the imperious kind, of which there is so

This music leads us towards unforeseen revolu-
tions, but with such ease that it gives us only en-
joyment, and never lets us feel the insidious tone
of a sarcasm, or of a perverse satisfaction in leading
us where we did not expect. We follow it without
4gar as without fluster.

*”* Inhere is no music that is more French. It fuses
delightfully the elements of a skilful spontaneity.
It is animated with smiles and perfumed with tender


tears. It is modelled on the heart which directs
and controls it. It never shouts, and we hear it all
the better; and sometimes it has much humour,
of the purest kind.

One need only hear the sonata to be convinced
of it. There is no sonata that is less dogmatic.
From this point of view it can be compared only
to those of Grieg, but Faure’s is French and does us
much belated honour. There is no sonata that is
less a sonata in the sense insisted upon by the gentle-
men of the gauge and the ruler. One might take
it for a divertissement, a phantasy. It has not the
pretension, like some others, of containing a treatise
of metaphysics, or the solution of the social problem.
It is simply music. That is a miracle which is far
from happening to all sonatas.

Already thirty-five years have passed over the
Quartet in C minor without lessening its charm or
dissipating its fragrance. By this work chamber-
music in France won, at the time of its first efforts,
its right to endure. It still appears to us to-day
decked in exquisite youth and in the bloom of its
first novelty. Of such works are also the other
Quartet, the Quintet , and the Ballade.

In each of these works, all holds together with a
mysterious cohesion. The reason is that nothing
in them is done to seize our attention. Everything
fulfils its form. There are no excrescences to aston-
ish or stupefy. I doubt if even Rameau’s great
principle of concealing art by means of art itself
has ever been more thoroughly applied. No further
example is required than the touching Requiem*


But there is in the works of Gabriel Faur6 air
entire section that is less familiar, and yet fully t
impregnated with his highest qualities. It is that
of his compositions for the piano. Their difficulty
may have curbed unskilled ardour. Yet our day,
is one in which difficulties are made light of, and 1
even abused. The true reason of the lack of ap-j
preciation they have met with is that they have
not the picturesque allurement of so many happy
examples of modern French music in which the
piano serves as a favourable stage for evocations,
for fairy-like scenes, for enchanted sights. Gabriel
Faure has written only Preludes, Nocturnes, Im-
promptus, Barcarolles, according to the custom con-
secrated by the genius of the masters of the piano.
But he has succeeded in enclosing in them a feeling
of the present. That is not so well known as it ought
to be. Wko in France really suspects that, for
example, the sixth and seventh Nocturnes are
masterpieces worthy to rank with the most beautiful
movements in music ? None others can surpass
them in skill. All in them is achieved with adroit
sureness, and all unfailingly serves to express
powerfully, or delicately, the richest emotions.

Though at the head of our national Conservatoire,
Gabriel Faur6 has not been given the prominence
which is his due. The wide extent of his work has
not yet been appreciated. Because he has devoted
himself to the composition of chamber music at a
time when above all the orchestra incites endeavours
and successes, there has been a temptation to see
in him a composer of less importance. Yet in the


sight of immortality in music, Chopin is the eqtiai
of Liszt.

He has not known the triumphs that theatrical
conquests award to some, and the indisputable suc-
cess of Penelope has happily kept within the precise
limits that were appropriate to the composer’s
record and to our grateful joy, but he is the real
master of the day. M. Saint-Saens, who was
Faure’s teacher, might have become that, but he
has too often proved how little appreciation he has
for French music apart from himself. It has pleased
him to take up a scowling or aggressive attitude
towards young musicians. He had the right to
adopt it. We have the right to take no notice of it,
and to find further pleasure in the knowledge that
Gabriel Faure’s pupils include Florent Schmitt,
Maurice Ravel, Roger-Ducasse, and that their
affectionate friendship for such a master agrees
with their varied temperaments, directed into
different channels.

Enamoured of youth and of life, he has seen youth
and life render him a homage which will be found
to increase as the years pass by.

His works are one of the clearest and most precious
of the mirrors in which may be seen reflected the
varied and touching features of French music,


THERE is, in French contemporary art, scarcely
an intellect in which are more clearly gathered”
together, or graven in deeper relief, the qualities


and characteristics most appropriate to our race.
Works more strongly stamped with the impression
of a French form of excellence do not exist in litera-
ture, or in painting ; and music, though revealing
more than one valid effort to give free expression
to our national spirit, could not put forth the mani-
festations of our essential qualitiqs with greater

When they are mental qualities they are not
always visible to everybody, and there are ui^for-
tunately more to be met with who mislead than who
enlighten us concerning our true characteristics.
That is how French criticism for a considerable
period, which has not yet come to an end, was
occupied in showing that it did not in the least
grasp the traditional aspect of Debussy’s music.

Truth to tell, never since Rameau has a French
work aroused so much passion as was displayed by
the French public in attacking or defending Debussy
during the last ten years. Ordinarily such ex-
plosions were reserved for foreign works, and many
blazed up on behalf of Rossini or Wagner who would
not have dreamed of becoming so busily active
concerning Chabrier or Lalo.

The obstinacy of Debussy’s adversaries, no less
than the tenacity of his partisans, proves to the
least informed mind from the outset that we are
not in the presence of a simple construction of fashion,
and that contemporary snobbism is not responsible
for such enthusiasm, as was very stupidly main-
tained by a certain ” thinker. ”

Let us at once take into consideration that


Debussy was of all people the least in a position to
lend his own support to the agitations that gathered
round his works and his theories. At a time when
friendships and social obligations appear to be the
factors not only of success but even of artistic activi-
ties, there are few who have succeeded so well in*
retaining their addiction to solitude, or who have
held so constantly aloof from all polemics, from all
discussion of the ideas of the present day or those
of to-morrow. The interested, sly, and at the
same time indifferent, relations which constitute
ordinary Parisian friendships are nothing to him.
Even in musical circles there are many who are
unfamiliar with his personal appearance and ac-
quainted only with the inaccurate representation
of it given by Jacques Blanche’s portrait.
‘ One could only be astonished at finding that his
habitual solitude had not given rise to more legends
and errors concerning him, as it has done for so many
others. But the quality of his music has diverted
from his person the untimely curiosity of the Press,
and Claude Debussy knows, from a brief passage
through journalism, that it is advisable to put some
distance between himself and the chatter of reporters.
In reality, no wit is more attractive than his,
for those who are not only interested in serious
matters, but who appreciate with enjoyment the
play of paradox. The articles which Claude Debussy
wrote formerly on music in the Revue Blanche*

1 A portion of these articles, slightly revised, forms the con-
tents of a little volume published by M. Dorbon, ami, under the
title, Entretiens aveo M. Croche.


are an interesting record of the paradoxical irony
of his thought. But if they are examined more
closely one cannot fail to discern in them the clear-
ness ofjss ^vision^ Jhe subtly
teund flashes of irony, ^^JS^^^^^^^^gg^
that Temanf TLia3en”lhro^gh a distoste /for, sell-,
assertion, and for words which use has rendered
commonplace. >

These traits are none other than those which set
a deep mark upon the least of his musical expressions, 1
and, having been some time in contact with him,
one cannot fail to appreciate the fine co-ordination
of his work with his mind.

It is true that some have found pleasure in re-
proaching this music with morbidness and neuras-
thenia. The neurasthenia of Debussy is another
suggestion as ridiculously stupid as the allegations
of decadence made against Henri de R6gnier or
Ftancis Jammes. This is not the place to quote
once again the classic preface written by Gautier
for the Fleurs du Mai, but one would seek in vain
in this subtle, delicate, sensuous, strong and impas-
sioned music for a trace of morbidness or suspicious
lassitude. Certainly Claude Debussy has not es-
caped the spirit of the times, or even certain fashions,
obsolete to-day, which constituted symbolism, but
these fashions themselves affect no more than the
surface of his earliest works, and the charm which
one can still enjoy in them to-day bears excellent
witness that they are unconcerned with an ephemeral

Claude Debussy was musically educated in the


precepts of the national Conservatoire. He achieved
distinction there in some of the tasks which fill the
modest ” work-basket ” of aspirants for the Prix
de Rome. He gained this prize in 1884, having been
prepared for it by the skilful and sceptical teaching
of Guiraud. It appears that^he^brotight back from
Rome only a more lively disdaST'”
favours,, ‘for3^^ i

and : .,for t the,, recipes apc,Qr^m|^fo* ^W!
^^^is-ioamilactured..to, gratify ^e

“”*”‘ “”*
1 The clearly defined personality which asserted

itself in Claude Debussy before his twentieth year,
and which acquired a sharper outline as time went
on, caused him to be considered, by most of those
who had wind of his earliest writings, an artist of
isolated type ; but the taste for mediocrity, which
is customary in the public, causes every strong and
individual artist to appear isolated until, with the
aid of years, it is discovered that by none was the
tradition better represented.

The same happens with tradition, as with certain
rivers whose course is lost for a time in some cleft
only to reappear unexpectedly further on. Some-
times its new direction seems to give ground for
denial that it is the same stream.

The French musical tradition is, in the history
of art, one of the most vivid examples of develop-
ments which circumstances combined to obstruct.
Ignorance of our past made the way easy for foreign
influences, alternately Italian and German. The
works of Gludk, Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Wagner

74 fcKENCH MUSIC 0& f 0-

in turn imposed inflections upon our music which
were not indigenous to it, and could only adapt
themselves to our musical thought by weakening
its character. For those who will come later to
study the movement of musical thought, the coali-
tion of efforts directed, towards 1875, to the re-
juvenation of French musical expression, or rather
the liberation of a truly French form of music
from .the midst of foreign importations which sub-
merged it, will- be one of the most singular and
engrossing spectacles.

We were reminded once that at the opening of
the performances, directed by Charles Bordes, at
which the singers of Saint-Gervais revived the
wonderful treasure of the French composers of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, one of the most
constant and most interested listeners was pre-
cisely Claude Debussy. Since then we have seen
in his works, by the Chansons de France for four
voices ; by the Hommage d Rameau ; by the em-
ployment of the modes of the Gregorian chant in
Pelleas ; by the articles in the Revue Blanche, that
Debussy held our old French masters to be much
more his predecessgrs than, for example, Schumann
or Wagner.

This was no mere archaistic taste or imitative
instinct. Among French composers of to-day he
is really one ,of those who take the least interest in
the historical study of music. His musical learning
and his curious studies were guided much more by
the demands of his feelings than by rausicographical


But, like these charming old masters, he has a
soul sensitive to the minutest harmonic vibrations:
Like them he has the sense of the picturesque, the
love of delicate polyphony, and a mode of expres-*
sion varied in accordance with the inner directions”
of his feelings and not with the strict precepts of
” development/’

Having .raised the cry of anarchy in presence of
the works of

a great part of his originality ,
and transferring the credit for it back to diverse
sources, particularly to the Russian composers.
The performances of Boris Godunoff gave rise to
suggestions of this kind, and, if it is permitted to
recall a personal anecdote, I shall relate how, one
evening when I was leaving Claude Debussy’s house
in a hurry, on purpose to go and hear Boris, the
composer said to me with an expression of ironic
pleasantry : ” You are going to hear Boris. Ah !
you will see. There is the whole of Pelleas in it.”

He said that to me with a serious air ; and the
habitual irony of his glance, further enhanced at
the moment, showed that he had full knowledge of
the jealousies which surrounded him.

One ought, however, to have remembered that
Claude Debussy had been one of the first in France
to praise the masterpieces of the Russian School.
One evening he even appeared on their behalf as
pianist at a concert of the Societe Nationale.

When he was still young, circumstances caused
him to spend some time in Russia. Already fas-
cinated by sonorities^his soul was attracted and


charmed by the curious modulations of the popular
themes from which all the beauty of that which
we call to-day the Russian School drew its nourish-
ment. ^IJ^CQ!^^

was Jated to captivate him. The mode of vocal
expression adopted by the popular singers attracted

It was impossible that the novelty of all this
should fail to make a considerable impression upon
this young brain. But it


It would be as absurd to deny the Russian
influence in the foundation of the Debussyist mode
of expression as it is to say, as some do, that all
Debussy is in Musorgsky.

Before even going to Russia, Debussy had com-
posed works which gave proof of an original mind
and a truly personal style, among others, The
Blessed Damozel, and some songs. Let us merely
recall that the Institut rebelled against the harmonic
innovations of the young ” prix de Rome ” as far
back as Le Printemps, the symphonic poem which
he sent from Rome in 1887, and which was refused
a hearing by the academicians then deputed to
preside over the evolution of art in France.

>It would be interesting to be enabled to know
certain unpublished works, such as Almanzor, the
first work sent from Rome in 1889 immediately after
The Blessed Damozel. But there are songs, like
L’Ombre des arbres dans la rivi&re (in the Anettes
], composed long before it was published.


which prove that Claude Debussy’s originality stood
in no need of foreign aid for its distinctive

From that day to the time of writing this chapter,
the composer has merely given definite shape, little
by little, to qualities that were revealed in his earliest
pages. Are not the delicacy, the discretion, the
colour, and the feeling that are displayed in The
Blessed Damozel, the same features that we shall
find reaffirmed and developed in Pelleas et Melisande,
in the Nocturnes, in La Mer f as well as in the Prelude
a I’apres-midi d’un Faune, or in the songs ?

If Pelleas et Melisande has contributed the most
to the fame of Claude Debussy, and if in truth that
lyric drama is one of the composer’s most lasting
works, it is especially by his chamber music that the
Debussyist enthusiasm was nourished and estab-
lished at the very beginning.

Long before the appearance of Pelleas (1902)
certain restricted groups of new music-lovers were
studying the Cinq Poemes de Baudelaire, the Fetes
Galantes, the Chansons de Bilitis, and the Proses
Lyriques, which already represented nearly the
whole output of the composer in song-form. The
Ariettes oubliees and the second book of the F&tes
Galantes remained to be published soon after

Even to-day, when Claude Debussy-has emerged
as one of the foremost, and certainly one of the most
alluring, symphonists in Europe, there are some who
find joy in seeing him continue writing in the song
form in which there are pages, old or recent, which


count among the finest blossoms of a period rich
above all others.

For thirty years we have assisted, in France, at a
most marvellous efflorescence of songs. Art such
as that of Gabriel Faure, Castillon, Chausson,
Henri Duparc, Pierre de Breville, Charles Bordcs,
and, later on, Maurice Ravel, Deodat de S6v6rac,
‘Albert Roussel, Florent Schmitt, and Gabriel
Grovlez, has endowed France with an aggregate of
songs revealing the best aspects of French feeling,
and permitting a delectable and charming union of
poetry with music.

The thirty odd songs which constitute Debussy’s
output in this form remain among the finest, most
subtle, and most varied productions of this period.

First of all, the simple^oa^ideration of the poems~
to which they were written reveals in the musician
a well-informed literary^ sense, and an artistic taste
more certain than had long governed composers in
their choice of poems to set to music. But Debussy
does not belong solely to the musical movement of
his day. At the time of his first efforts, he moved
in the circles in which was formed the literary
aesthetic that vouchsafed us the most beautiful
works of the close of the nineteenth century. .He
lived among young authors whose masters were
Verlaine, and Mallarm<, whose gods were Baude-
laire, and VilUers de 1’Isle-Adam. His first com-
positions were issued by a literary publisher, at the
Libmirie de I’ Art Independent, where Henri de
Rgnier, Pierre Louys, Andr6 Gide, and others met.
The delicate mind of the composer, and his sensitive


and refined nature, could not fail to feel itself
attracted by the artistic aristocratism of the
intellectual disciples of Mallarme, Thus he came
to apply himself to interpret in music the literary
thoughts of only the best authors. These were
Verlaine in the Fetes Galantes and the Ariettzs
oubliees ; Rossetti in The Blessed Damozel ; Mai-
larme in the Prelude a I’aprh-midi d’un Ftwne ;
and, finally, Maeterlinck in Pelleas et Melisande.

Moreover, none was better quaMed than Claude
Debussy to interpret the thoughts of these writers,
which were qS&B*^^ musical

^d^gi^estive. The proofs he has given us of his
comprehension are really astonishing. When one
examines the musical interpretations of the Cinq
Poemes or the Fetes Galantes, one immediately
realises the care with which the composer has
endeavoured to transform the quality and the
substance of his music in accordance with the mind
of the poet. It is a wide distance from the gravity,
the strong and rich musical substance of Recueille-
ment, or of La Mort des Amants, to the tender or
witty delicacies of the Faune, or Fantoches.

Some superficially minded people are inclined to
say, almost without having heard it, that Debussy’s
music always resembles itself. To begin with, one
might retort that it thus retains the merit of not
resembling any other. But there is no reproach
less merited to be made against it than the charge of
monotony. One might as well accuse Baudelaire,
Verlaine, of Mallarme. In reality, even taking into
consideration the great beauty of the songs of


composers like Chausson, Duparc, or Faur, one may
assert that none has surpassed Debussy in the
intelligence of the musical commentary to a poem.
No page of Baudelaire has been more subtly evoked
than Recueillement or Le Jet d’Eaw, and if one
listens to the ten or so poems of Verlaine which
the composer has illustrated, one cannot fail to
realise how the tender, languorous phrasing of C’est
I’extase, the rumbling and deep rhythm of Le
Faune, the impish spirit of the Fantoches, the
melancholy of the delightful theme in Spleen, the
rhythmic suppleness of Chevaux de Bois, all these
diverse themes and diverse atmospheres, created by
harmonic underlays how they all prove not only
the subtle intelligence of the composer, but the
musical resourcefulness of the personality that is
perhaps, the most responsive that has ever been
met with since the origins of music, and susceptible
to the least modulations of the universe.

All the sense of the play of atmospheric colour,
the feeling of the mysterious, the desire to suggest
rather than describe, the obsession with the infinite
mobility of light, that are covered by the word
” impressionism/’ are characteristic of his works, or
at least of the earliest of them.

It is thus not by mere technical gifts, by mere
harmonic innovations, that Claude Debussy has
justly deserved % to be regarded as one of the greatest
musicians of France, and the most alluring musical
genius of contemporary Europe, It is by qualities
of feeling, by the marvellous harmony between his
musical style and the goal to which he aspires, by


the most secure adaptation of Ms musical language
_to the emotions it is intended to excite.- No
musician has penetrated further on the path towards
the suggestion of the mysterious and the intangible.
His gentle, delicate, and often strange, harmonies
release within us a thousand secret springs- that no
other music could reach. In proof of this we need
only cite the emotion of all who have heard Pelleas
et Melisande, and felt the irresistible and ever
singular charm of several scenes, particularly that
in the castle vaults ; that of the tower where
Melisande smooths her hair at the window ; and
that poignant scene of the death of Pelleas, in which
there is no noisy shock to the ear, and whose
strength proceeds not from the volume of the
orchestra, but from the great accumulation of
emotion contained within that anguished atmosphere
of anxious passion, and of hatred whose conflict
finds its end in death.

As opposed to other musicians of our day, for
example, Richard Strauss or Gustav Mahler, Claude
Debussy does not overload his orchestra. He obeys
the French law of style which demands the maximum
of expressiveness with the minimum of means. We
have suffered the Wagnerian influence and the abuse
of its expressive violence so long in France, that we
can hardly disentangle the idea of power from the
notion of *” orchestral volume. The character of
Debussy’s work lies in the quality of the tone-
colours, in the infinite variety and extreme subtlety
of tonality, but also in its profoundly human
accents. For that even the orchestra is not



necessary. A few instruments suffice Debussy for the
adequate expression of his harmonic subtlety. He
does not need more than a single instrument to
prove his marvellous symphonic gift, and his piano-
writing reveals a colourist who, continuing the
French tradition of picturesque music, has given to
it a brilliance and a quality that surpass even the
delightful works of composers like Couperin or

It is especially in his three last sets of pieces 1 that
Debussy’s piano-writing shows itself original, strong,
and moving. The titles alone suffice to indicate
their descriptive and suggestive intentions: Pa-
godes, SoirSe dans Grenade, Jardins sous la plwie t
Reflets dans I’eau, ‘Cloches d travers les feuilles,
Poissons d’or, and so on. But only a frequent and
attentive hearing can reveal their full emotional

Its fluidity is the cause that his music lends itself
better than any other to the suggestion of water. It
is a theme which Claude Debussy holds in affection
and to which he owes some of his finest pages, such
as Jardins sous la Pluie, the symphonic sketches
La Mer, or the adorable scene at the spring in

It is impossible for minds, or even for feelings, that
are not enthralled by a narrow religion of the past,
to avoid yielding to all the charm, the suggestive
truth, and the intellectual sensuousness that is

1 The two books of ” Preludes/’ which comprise some of the
composer’s finest pages, were published more recently than the
date of this article.


contained in pieces like La Soiree dans Grenade or
that short but strangely impressive page that is
entitled Et la lime descend sur le temple qui

Claude Debussy’s music will ever be opposed by.
those who demand at all cost that a musical work
shall prove something, as if a work of art served
some end other than beauty for its own sake. Claude
Debussy has had the good fortune to free French
music once more from all these philosophical,
metaphysical, or moral pretensions upon which
German music is too often nourished. That such
aims conform to Teutonic genius is undeniable,
-but they are as remote as possible from French

French music has had no national character, or
nearly none, for a century. The nationalisation of
music in France is not the work of Debussy alone ;
it is a movement of ideas that has been taking place
for thirty years or more, and to which the best
musical intellects have contributed, but none has
approached the thesis of a truly French musical
spirit with more striking proofs and a more clear-
seeing conscience than Claude Debussy.

Through Irm there has been a return of clear,
delicate, expressive, and emotional feeling, of the
intellectual quality and supple spirit that is as
appropriate to tenderness as to a smile : in short,
all that is characteristic of the true precursors of
present-day music, the old minstrels equally with
our masters of the Renaissance, our clavecinists
from Chamboimieres to Dandrieu, and also Jean-


Philippe Rameau. There is between them and
Claude Debussy the difference that is inherent to
the evolution of centuries, but one and all give, as
do our works of literary and plastic art, the standard
of that which is commonly termed the French

This art is not lowered by being claimed as French.
Despite those who assert that music is a universal
art, it is permissible to believe that perhaps none
other has given better proof of race, and that does
not by any means exclude the universal interest or
affection that may accrue to it. In spite of all,
Schumann and Wagner are German musicians.
The soul of Norway vibrates in the music of Grieg,
as does that of Hungary in the music of Liszt.
Musorgsky asserts the Russian character as clearly
as Haydn, Schubert, and Mahler the various aspects
of the Viennese spirit, and we find in their presence
varied and deep enjoyment.

The reception that Claude Debussy encountered
out of France proves that this French spirit by its
genius touches the essence of the modern soul.
The success of Pelttas et MSlisande at Milan, New
York, Brussels, Cologne, and the triumph that
acclaimed it in London ; the discerning articles
written on his music in England, Germany, Italy,
and Spain ; the nearly always enthusiastic affection
that it arouses in different places ; and even the
adversaries this music has incited ; are they not so-
many unexceptionable admissions of its greatness
and of its beauty ?



WHILST articles, pamphlets, lectures, and books on
the composer of PelUas et Melisande were multiplying
abroad, particularly in England, no French volume
had yet been devoted in its entirety to our com-
patriot. Yet the abundance and the quality of his
works, the maturity and solidity of his best produc-
tions, had indicated for some time that it might be
legitimate and profitable to speak of Debussy’s
music, not in the terms of final analysis, but with
some certainty of his decisive directions.

Assuredly it is still too soon (and we cannot but
rejoice in the fact) to aim at giving a definite picture
of his work. Claude Debussy’s maturity is certainly
not yet in its decline. We still await La Chute de la
Maison Usher, Le DiaUe dans le Beffroi, and the
Histoire de Tristan, from which we hope, amid the
regrets of disillusioned Wagnerians, to acquire new
grounds for affectionate attachment to the genius of
our race. In the absence of a more complete picture
there was, however, need to dedicate to his fame
more than the somewhat furtive homage of our
review articles.

There is a charming moment in the fame of a great
mind that disdains fame, when his accomplishment
as yet includes among its admirers only fervent and
considered enthusiasm. It is the moment when the
solitude of almost unanimous failure to understand
is coming to an end, and when the era of unreasoned
and fashionably admiration is only dawning. Th


fame of Claude Debussy is commencing to traverse
this phase of transition. This is the moment when
Debussyists of the earliest days will feel some
irritation at hearing all and sundry speak at random
of a master who was long disparaged.

Already there are people of fashion who experience
that it is no longer advisable to deride, and that it is
seemly to add some sympathy for the composer of
Jardins sous la Pluie to their admiration for Puccini,
Massenet, or Rodolphe Berger.

Let us treat this kind of admiration with con-
tempt. We know how. much it is worth per yard.
And let us rejoice once more that the voluntarily
aloof personality of Debussy almost completely
silences the newspaper instinct for gossip. Already,
apart from certain circles where one truly lives on
beauty and on artistic curiosity, it has become
unbearable to speak of French music, because one
so invariably knocks against disconcerting forms of
eclecticism. Abroad, one may still find some
pleasure in it. In the course of giving lectures in
Switzerland, in Belgium, and especially in England,
I have been able to verify the ardour and sincerity of
foreign Debussyists. There are still others else-
where. Barcelona has a number of them. Ilde-
brando Pizzetti voiced in Italy the opinions of some
young men whom the aesthetics of M. Leoncavallo
or of M. Mascagni failed to satisfy. If they are more
rare in Germany, they are not less ardent, and I will
wager that M. Louis Laloy’s work on our composer
wil be welcomed with even greater benefit abroad
than in France,


M. Laloy ‘s personality justifies and gives authority
to this book. It is already long since he repeatedly
manifested his reasoned admiration for the composer
of the Estampes in the Mercure Musical, and later
in S. /. M. His articles, among others, on La Mer,
and on the New Manner of Claude Debussy, remain
among the best contributions to the Debussyist
bibliography. His intimacy with a musician in
no wise detracts from the value of a sagacious and
sure criticism, and permits, on the contrary, a
stricter survey of his work.

M. Laloy’s book appeared in a collection destined
not for professionals, but for cultivated and fas-
tidious amateurs. One would therefore look through
it in vain for any technical indication or formal
analysis. He has wisely preferred to set himself to
deduce the spirit that governs this alluring music,
raises it above its own period, and ensures its
survival. Besides, it would be an injustice were the
works of Debussy allowed to become a subject
exclusively for musicians. Most of these have been
the last to understand the work of their colleague.
I do not speak of the youngest, nearly all of whom
maintain a lively and sincere admiration for this
music. But, apart from Messager and Faure on the
one hand, and Vincent d’Indy on the other, most of
the composers of the preceding generation have
given this newcomer no more than a pitying smile.
Some endeavour to-day, not always without. clumsi-
ness, to repair their former error but who is
deceived ? %

The most sincere admirers of Claude Debussy


from his first appearance were writers and painters
who were not shocked by the technical liberties
contained in his works, but allowed themselves to be
captivated by their delicate and powerful charm
without carrying their analysis beyond the limits
of their intimate feelings.

Those who may attempt to consider Debussy’s
music independently of the literary period in which
it appeared will have only an incomplete and
mistaken idea of the composer. This explains why
his works still give much more general pleasure to
art-lovers than to musicians reared upon classicism.
The works of the German romantics, or those of
Berlioz, were not steeped to this extent in the
literary atmosphere of their day.

To-day, when the bonds of music and letters have
not relaxed, but rather the reverse, there is no music
that represents more fully an aesthetic period than
did in their own day the group formed by such sets
of song as Fetes Galantes (first book), Cinq Poemes,
and such symphonic pieces as the Prelude d I’apris-
midi d’un Faune, or the Nocturnes, j

The conversations held in Bailly’s shop, at the
Librairie de I’ Art Independent, where met the most
original spirits of the younger literature, did not fail
to determine, or rather pky their part in revealing,
the aesthetic soon afterwards displayed in Pelleas et
Afttisande. In this it is not so much a question of
an influence of literature on the composer, as of an
atmosphere which was, towards 1890, common to
all minds possessing artistic curiosity. Claude
Debussy’s originality was born at the same time %$


that of these writers, it developed from the same
causes, and its roots were deep and personal.

Many facts, moreover, prove the precocity with
which it was formed. To telllhe truth, it is not in
the prix de Rome cantata, L’Enfant Prodigue, that
one could discover the real Debussy. When one
recalls the true spirit of the young composer at this
date, one receives the impression of a clever hoax.
There are in L’Enfant Prodi gue only vague corners
in which a personal spirit is shown. Most of it has
a melodic facility that certainly sets one thinking
more of Massenet than of Pelleas et Melisande. The
airs of Azrael and of Lia strike the insipid note of a
commonplace musicality devoid of real emotion.

What causes one to think that this was only the
voluntary exercise of a well-informed student who
knew with what sauce one tickles the palate of
certain gentlemen of the Institut, is a very curious
song in the Ariettes oubliees : L’ ombre des arbres
dans la riviere. This song, which is already pene-
trated with the true Debussy spirit and has the
musical outlines dear to its author, was written four
years before the prix de Rome. Further proof is
that two years after the prix de Rome he wrote the
exquisite Blessed Damozel which, without being one
of his important works, none the less remains one of
the most characteristic.

Moreover, the second work that he sent home
from Rome, the symphonic suite Printemps (1887),
was considered by the Institut to be really in-
sufficiently orthodox, and its performance was
opposed, which led Debussy the following year to


refuse to allow a performance of The Blessed Damozel
unless Printemps were included in the programme.

M. Laloy gives another anecdote to confirm the
truth of this precocious formation. He informs us
that before the prix de Rome Claude Debussy, whilst
attending Guiraud’s class at the Conservatoire,
brought to the latter a small score composed after
Banville’s Diane au Bois. Guiraud said to him :
“Well, all that is very interesting, but you must
reserve it for later on, or you will never get the prix
de Rome!” May Guiraud’s name be rescued from
oblivion for that clear-seeing and sceptic remark !

No one will ever see this score of Diane au Bois.
It is to be regretted for the sake of the study of the
composer’s intellectual development, and because
one may be assured that, from that moment, Claude
Debussy* was already writing real Debussy music.

The character of his mind is so clearly impressed
that it could not fail to assert itself early, as the
independence of its intellectual attitude sheltered
him from taking counsel of the taste most in favour,
or making the slightest concession to it.

The mixture of assurance in the direction of his
work, and voluntary indolence in his opinions, is the
stamp of this uncommon figure. In him the most
sure and most refined sense of things is united to a
love ef paradox. Through his personal qualities of
acute feeling and irony in discourse and in writing,
by his emotional delicacy and his strong clarity in
his works, Claude Debussy is at present one of the
minds most representative of our secret aspirations.

TJie ignorant antagonists of this music continue


obstinately to speak of the process, implying that
there is in this only a fashion that will pass away,
like American shoes or inordinately large feminine
hats. It is inevitable that technical questions must
be frequently discussed in days of artistic revolu-
tions, but, unfortunately, the majority consider the
process as the essential and thus belittle the entire
work. For some time the same thing happened in
pictorial impressionism, and some are still met with
who think that the interest in the pictures of Monet
or Renoir consists chiefly in questions of pure tone
and the balance of complementaries, and who
similarly think that the interest in the coming of
Debussy arises from sequences of fifths or of ninths.
Apart from the fact that no process can claim to be
new, the ” human ” question is too often lost sight
of. Works of art do not exist solely for the use of
the mandarins, even if it is true that they are not
made for the crowd. Whether the latter be, from
the art standpoint, middle-class or popular, matters
little. But there are minds unequal to discuss
questions of technique and none the less sensitive to
the beauty of Elemir Bourges or Andre Gide ; of
Degas, Cezanne, or Marquet ; of Rodin or Aristide
Maillol ; of Dukas or Debussy,

Which of us has not felt, on hearing a work by
this composer, that the minds that were nearest to
its comprehension, and in any case most sensitive to
the emotion and the charm diffused by it, were not
always musicians, if by that we understand people
who have acquired more or less familiarity with the
solfeggio or the piano, perhaps even with harmony


and counterpoint, and are nourished on German
classics. It was these who, failing to find their sign-
posts in these works, taxed their ingenuity to pass
off Debussy’s compositions as objects of curiosity,
lowering these sonorous constructions to the level
of mere bric-a-brac. Let us give credit to Louis
Laloy for having insisted with justice upon the
humanity of this music. Certainly Claude Debussy,
like his literary confreres in symbolism, may for a
time have inclined towards the somewhat exclusive
cult of the rare and the mysterious ; but let us bear
in mind that the sense of musical dandyism never
came to weaken within him the quality of sincere,
communicative, and deep emotion. Let us recall
the opening and closing phrases of Recueillement, the
pure atmosphere of The Blessed Damozel, the singular
ardour of La Chevelure, and that is only to cite-
works of remote date. Have we not repeatedly
experienced their penetrating and captivating charm,
devoid of bombast or of self-consciousness, or of
cosmetics ? If, now, this charm sometimes s^grns,
to us a little thin, it is only because of the proximity
in our memories of more powerful and more moving
pages, such as the Colloque Sentimental, the dialogues
in Pelleas et Melisande, or the delightful Promenoir
dt$ deux Amants.

One can but agree without reservation with the
following utterance of Louis Laloy : ” These works
were not only pages of beauty to be admired; but
they were friends always longed for, and endeared
to us by a secret melancholy. Born in deep soli-
they knew themselves to be offered up to the


impossible ; dedicated to absence ; and they ex-
pected no response to their tenderness. They were
thoughtful virgins exiled on this earth. It was they
who brought, and not to musicians alone, the mes-
sage of a new alliance. There was in them a faith
that exceeded the limits of a particular art, and there
is a generation alive to-day in whom the Nocturnes
and Pelleas have trained more than taste : the heart.”

The great merit of Debussy is to have cherished
grace, but not that form of it which was diffused
in facile tunes by Massenet and the Italians, beloved
of the crowd. It needed a sure taste, and more than
the desire to please. But it was, in itself, a feat of
daring, at a time of musical gravity that attained
toth to grandeur and to boredom, to think chiefly
of pleasure ; and in doing so, to restore the link
with the tradition of Couperin, Dandrieu, and Ra-
meau, whose force consists of grace, whose evoca-
tions have not the pretension to do more than
satisfy the taste of fastidious spirits, and prolong in
our souls the simple and sincere emotion of their
harmonious avowal.

Art is never so useless as when it sets out to be
utilitarian and to serve another cause than that of
freedom in life and that of beauty. Through having
aimed at being social, metaphysical, or religious,
with Wagner and Cesar Franck, music was decking
itself more and more in a depressing pedantry,
reducing itself to the limits of a thesis, and to the
narrowest processes of development. The art of
pleasing cannot, however, be taught in twenty
lessons. One cannot imagine without regret, or


without profound irritation, the music that Ernest
Chausson, for example, would have bequeathed us
had he been able to emancipate himself from the
scruples of the commandments which he imposed
upon himself during the whole of his life. He had
exquisite feeling, and was one of the first to under-
stand in what degree literature and the graphic arts
could influence present-day music. None shows
more clearly than he the transition from Franckism
and Wagnerism to our present-day music. But he
lacked the courage to abandon himself to the
intellectual sensuousness he possessed within him,
and which preserved a strong and delicate beauty in
certa : n pages of his music.

An obsession of intellectual chastity, if one may
speak thus, weighed upon French music. Its
influence was doubly guilty, for music is the most
sensuous of the arts, and French music, moreover,
has never swerved from a sensuousness which may
perhaps constitute its weakness in the eyes of
German professors, but which, in our eyes, gives it
its grace, its truth, and its vitality, and preserves,
as fresh after two or three centuries as on the first
day, the pages of composers like Costeley, Couperin,
or Daquin.

There is not in the whole of music a more voluptu-
ous mind than that of Claude Debussy. Always his
thought is bathed in the pleasures of sensations
Sensitive to the least call of life, of nature, or of joy,
lie skilfully prolongs within us the sometimes
melancholy sweetness of being conscious of our own
feelings, of our own life.


However, the element of strength has since then
increased in his work with progressive sureness.
Those who have followed the composer’s develop-
ment during the past ten years have rejoiced to see
the traces of this melancholy, and all that it implied
of a transitory nature, gradually diminish, and a
real strength assert itself, which is always able to
remain harmonious and true, and which constitutes
the greatness of the last act of Pelleas as well as of
the triptych La Mer.

Among French musicians there is none who has
succeeded so well in balancing these two musical
elements : ^j^rn^^ the one

from weakening into archn^STand the other from
lashing itself into violence. If it is true that one
would seek in vain in his work for the will-power of
Salome or the gripping force of Boris Godunoff, at
least one feels in it nothing that is vulgar or in-
significant. At least we feel within ourselves that
this work comes from beyond the region of formulas
and processes, however original these may be, and
that it is born of the most perspicacious and refined
sensibility, and, for us, the sensibility which cor-
responds the most to its object.
r It is not easy to find, even among our authors,
except perhaps in Henri de Regnier, a mind which
reflects more accurately our race, or a more truly
French figure. There is in it nothing that protrudes
enormously ; all is delicately proportioned. It has
unconstraint without vulgarity, emotion without
grandiloquence. Let us not seek in this music for
what can have no place in it by reason of its


intentions, but, at this hour of revival in Frencli
music, is it truly possible to discover another mind
capable of giving to our senses the measure of our
qualities with greater charm or veracity ?

And yet there is occasion to think that all aspects
of his work have not yet been revealed. I am of
those who are astonished at not yet finding more
strongly accentuated in it the ,i

characteristic of him when expressing himself r^
literary form. The conucinj^^
are modes of expression in which it seems to us that
Claude Debussy should be equally capable of
excelling, and forms of music which his qualities
might with profit restore. Perhaps some day he
will reward our expectation. Let us await Le
Diable dans Je Beffroi. Let us also await that
Histoire de Tristan which, without diminishing the
glory of Wagner’s Teutonic Tristan, will restore to a
French atmosphere, for our benefit, our beautiful
and national legend, as was done in literature by
Joseph Bedier.

We still have much to expect from a fertile and
powerful mind which has already given us so much,
and we must be grateful to those who, like Louis
Laloy, by fixing for a moment our attention on this
music, have given us sound reasons to cherish such



MAURICE RAVEL’S L’Heure Espagnole
(To Leon-Paul Fargue)

WHATEVER may be the future of this charming and
witty work, whateve fate will be meted out to it by
a public that is perhaps too accustomed to gravity,
and that has too often acquired the spirit of
geometry at the expense of that of finesse, the per-
formance of UHewre Espagnole, which we had so
long awaited and desired, will have stood for some-
thing more than a new opportunity of admiring one
of the best musicians of to-da^; It has furnished
the occasion for considering the absorbing question
of the comic spirit in music, absorbing, that is, at
least for those whom the religion of seriousness at all
costs has not deprived of some qualities that have
at all times constituted the advantage and the
charm of our race.

Long enough has a foreign sense of gravity
influenced music in France, Nearly thirty years of
effort are gradually liberating to-day our musical
expression. The study of our true traditions
haunts our writers on music, whilst the works of the
finest intelligences in present-day music prove that
its aims are justified.

Some years ago an enquiry on Wagner clearly
revealed the spirit that governs music in France ;
and how right we are to rejoice to-day in a
rivalry that endeavours to recreate a style of music
appropriate to ourselves, such as we possessed in the



splendid time of the masters of the Renaissance,
the delicate and sensitive period of our finest

It is not easy to disentangle oneself from foreign
influences that have prevailed for more than a
century. The tradition that had been broken by
the Italianism of Rossini and the Germanism of
Meyerbeer completed its submission to the genius
of the great Germans. The romanticism of Schu-
mann, rendered insipid by the excessive facility of
Mendelssohn, aspired to represent French feeling and
clearness. Liszt’s sense of the picturesque, and the
concentrated sensitiveness of Chopin, would surely
have been better lible to defend our essential
qualities if these two masters had been better
understood from the beginning.

A blow from the club of the Bayreuth Hercules
imposed silence for a time on these legitimate
claims. The spirit of the innovators could not
disregard the merit of Wagner’s works and the
attractiveness of their aesthetic design. Gradually
dramas like Tristan and Parsifal were discovered to
have the quality inherent to masterpieces, but at
the same time it was realised that the aesthetic
revolution they were intended to assert was pure

The^ genius of Cesar Franck, profoundly ingenu-
ous, rallied round him an assemblage of young
musicians* fascinated with abstract music and
contemptuous of scenic conventions. But the
Wagner-Fianddst influence, in spite of being
momentarily necessary, could not, without danger,


continue to impose the weight of its metaphysics
and of its instinctive religiousness. Debussyism, by
its conscious spontaneity, its intellectual sensuous-
ness, and the freshness of its impressions, naturally
attracted those spirits” that were anxious to hear
music that would at least satisfy their desire to be

Too long had the taste for giving pleasure been
despised and abandoned to facile manufacturers.
We had turned aside from grace in the desire to be,
above all, serious; we seemed on the point of
believing that, in music, the word ” grace ” should
henceforth signify only a theological virtue.

The partisans of serious music, of theories, and of
the “art of composing a sonata taught in twenty
lessons/’ claimed that preciosity was the most
terrible of all evils. In music the most terrible is
boredom, and especially in France.

Unconcerned with these theorists, French feeling
and the spirit and sense of the picturesque which
govern its moods have created valid works which
prove to the least prejudiced mind that the words
” French music ” are not vain, and that the qualiti- s
and defects oi these musical works constitute
perhaps the most national expression that the
different arts can put forward at present in
France, v

The historian will assuredly have to rise above the
petty quarrels, the rivalries, the rancours, or simply
the temperamental divergences, which repeatedly
rear themselves between the fanatics of the Schola
and those who have discovered virtue in the


Conservatoire only after being formerly in contact
with its narrow-mindedness.

In their essence, moreover, these divergences and
conflicts only reveal a movement of ideas in search
of more secure rules for its guidance.

It is undeniable, even for those who are the least
informed on musical matters, that interest in music
has never been so great in France as it is in our day,
even if one xecalls how great it was in the sixteenth
century, or during the second half of the eighteenth.

On all sides we are assisting to-day at a reawaken-
ing of nationalities in music. To what cause are we
to attribute it ? In th& first place, perhaps, the
organisation of musicographical research and the
study of musical history may have led composers
and audiences to a more adequate notion of our
musical patrimony. Moreover, the spectacle of the
national and popular character in Russian music
may not have been without influence in inducing
composers to consider the almost indefinite extent
to which the personal quality in composition can
derive sustenance from the songs of its native soil.

After Russia, England and Spain furnish us to-day
with undeniable proofs of this reawakening of
musical nationalities, of which there is already a
suggestion also in Italy.

The sense of the picturesque, joined to the
expression of a vivid and fastidious sensibility, and
sometimes to evidences of a sense of humour, are the
common measure of the works of Debussy, Ravel,
Sev&ac, Roussel, Schmitt, Roger-Ducasse, Grovlezi
Caplet, Raoul Bardac, and others/ At no other


time, perhaps, has France been so rich in dis-
interested effort and in ardent talent devoted to all
that has a relation to music. Some peevish minds,
after having denied all interest to the works of
Debussy, endeavour to represent the younger
French composers as so many emanations from the
master who composed Pelleas. Such tactics can
serve neither Debussy nor truth.

If Debussy’s technical revolution could not fail to
impress its stamp upon our music of to-day, that
does not prevent individual feeling or intelligence
from expressing itself with originality.

It is true that one no longer feels between them
the existence of links such as those which for a time
created Wagnerism or Franckism. Are such links
really necessary ? In music, schools are of even less
utility than in the other arts.

Emanating more directly than any other art from
intimate feeling, music lends itself less readily to the
dogmatism of scholastic criticism. It reflects at
present, more fully even than literature or the
graphic arts, the individualism and the indepen-
dence, or intellectual anarchy of our period, its
uncertainty, its anxiety, but also its vitality. For
that very reason it is the more difficult to determine,
as some would wish, whither tends our music.

During the whole of the time that the Wagnerian
influence lasted, we had the impression of knowing
whither we went, because the destiny and possi-
bilities of music had been circumscribed by the
aesthetics of Bayreuth.

The personality of Cesar Franck, in surrounding


itself with the best efforts of the younger composers
about 1880-1890, had the appearance of containing
the elements of a new aesthetic, whereas his teaching
was, more accurately, limited to the noble example
furnished by a fine artistic conscience. But could
this religious genius, of such limited culture, aspire
to direct for long the secret aspirations of a genera-
tion that was born in the full efflorescence of
symbolism ?

Ernest Chausson seems to have been one of the
first to have a presentiment of the extent to which
the literature and painting of our period were about
to penetrate musical expression, but the deplorable
accident that cut short his life, in the fulness of its
maturity, left us with this refined spirit represented
only by works in which the feeling, which in him was
original and subtle, was of ten thwarted by a certain
dogmatism imposed upon it by exaggerated rever-
ence. Since then musical works have shown a
constant concern with literary or pictorial elements.
This seems to conform closely to the genius of our
race, since it is equally manifested in Goudimel or
Jannequin, and in Couperin, Rameau, or Dandrieu.
It is characteristic of nearly all the attractive works
at whose unfolding we have assisted for more than
ten years.

In default of knowing, as some demand, whither
our music is progressing, we can at present enlighten
ourselves more effectively concerning its true origins.
One may have feared for a moment that the cult of
the picturesque might dwindle into too exiguous
curiosities, and that the fastidiousness of some


might, in their imitators, develop into superfluous
finicalities. Does not the presence of spirits like
Schmitt or Severac, were there no others, prove that
our music is also capable of strength ?

After having succumbed to the excess of Wag-
nerian ponderosity, assuredly we must not reduce
our music to no more than an article de Paris ; but,
truly, a school that is capable of giving us La Mer,
the Rapsodie Espagnole, the Poeme de la Foret, and
the XLVIth Psalm is not a manufactory of ” sonor-
ous bric-d-brac.”

In this campaign against sonorous curiosities and
bric-a-brac it is Maurice Ravel who has been the
most frequently attacked.

It is on him that the peevish spirits, offspring of
those who formerly vilified Debussy, visit the sins
of musical France. Though we thought it exquisite,
L’Heure Espagnole cannot constitute a date in the
history of French music, as was the case with Pelleas,
but this amusing work, conceived in a profoundly
French spirit, by a musician of extremely marked
individuality, merits more attention, and is more
suggestive of side-issues than some heavy sym-
phonies, or some too-well-written quartets.

Certainly a supple, precious, witty, and undulating
mind like that of Maurice Ravel cannot be success-
fully imitated. Just as in literature those who copy
the stamp of Jules Laforgue will never attain to his
cultivated spontaneity, imitators of the composer
of the Miroirs and the Rapsodie Espagnole will only
incur the risk of arriving at tricks that are less
fascinating and of less value than his, for lack


of a naturally complex sensibility to sustain

There is in present-day music no composer in
whom are blended with better results certain
attitudes of the mind that are at once irreverent and
charming, sensitive and inconsiderate, and that
delicately indicate the aversion from romanticism
which is the most constant feature in the true
sensibility of modern art,

The aspect of our race is discernible in this mirror.
The clear-cut traits of which it is composed are
reflected in its flowing water, animated by a vivacity
that combines our most intimate predilections in
subtle play. If one is slow to discover this, one must
not be surprised. A like fate is the lot of all who
perpetuate under our very eyes the qualities of our

When the Histoires Naturettes appeared, the
pundits set up a cry of sacrilege. Then, tired of
shouting or hissing, they denounced them with
contempt as a joke. Well, let us have more jokes !
We have been bored no other word will serve
long enough by mighty contraptions. Often enough
has the stock scenery of the Tetralogy been re-
furbished for our benefit. So much the worse for
the pundits ! They are robust and numerous
enough to defend themselves, and there will always
be too many of them. One of the merits of the
younger French School, one of its most constant
aspirations, and the spirit that best establishes its
French character, is precisely this cult of clearness
combined with the fear of boredom. The works of


Debussy, Ravel, Roger-Ducasse, Rousse 1 , Sev&ac,
and others are clear and take good care not to be
tedious. They contain nothing heavy or pedantic.
They are not preoccupied with making se*ious
music at all costs. They make music in accordance
with their temperaments and their tastes. They
have the advantage to possess temperament and
taste. Whatever their music may be associated
with, it will always be music in which one can take

Careless of the respect due to the hierarchy of
styles, Maurice Ravel came to think that, even for a
musician who knows his business, lyric drama was
not necessarily the only purpose of the theatre, and
that the amusing aspect of things, of situations and
of characters, could furnish adequate musical
material, with renewed and attractive occasions to
prove itself.

We have, as it happens, in France, an establish-
ment subsidised by the State, which bears the
obsolete, but perhaps ironical, name of Opera-
Comique, Recent works performed there, be they
Manon or WertJier, Aphrodite or Madam Butterfly,
Loiiise or Pelleas et Melisande, conclude in the
manner of drama without the comic element being,
in fact, associated with them for a moment.

The opinion has long prevailed among musicians
that op&ra-comique is a negligible species. It is not
certain that the opinion does not still persist with
most of them, and the absence of modern examples
would certainly lend colour to it. Before decreeing
that opra-comique was a negligible species, worn


through to the last thread, incompatible with high-
class music, it would perhaps have been as well to
attempt it. The attempt would have had the result
of proving, first of all, how many qualities need to
be shown in it, and that it is perhaps easier to write
a passably tedious opera than an amusing opera-

It is not that no one thought of it. We have had
in France a man who would have been able to give
new life to opera-comique had he met with more
support, had he not appeared at a time when gravity
was more indispensable than ever, and had he further
had the good fortune to discover a libretto worthy of
him. That was Emmanuel Chabrier. With the
libretto (oh, how badly written, and often ridiculous
without being comic !) of Le Roi malgre lui Chabrier
nevertheless succeeded in writing numbers that have
survived and have nearly retained their first fresh-
ness. They were experiments destined to have no
sequel, and in which, owing to the libretto, were
perpetuated decaying traces of ancient forms of
opera-comique t in which we can take no more

And yet a good opera-comique runs no more risk
of becoming out-of-date than a good, or a passable,
opera. All in all, The Barber of Seville remains more
fresh than Les Huguenots, and The Marriage of
Figaro more fragrant than William Tell.
– It is not a question of reviving the forms of
op&ra-comique such as we should find them in
Rameau’s Plat&e, Dalayrac’s I’ Eclipse, or Mon-
signy’s Le Deserteur. It is a question of applying


to op&ra-comique form the same ingenuity and the
same comprehension of the actual requirements as
were applied by Wagner *in writing Tristan, or
Debussy in composing Pelleas.

It is against the view that such a task is unworthy
of a musician that we must protest, and precisely in
L’Heure Espagnole is its proof. And yet L’Heure
Espagnole, with its limited dimensions, and its buffo
character, does not solve the problem. It only
proves that in this direction a musician can do work
as useful in the artistic sense as when writing a
symphonic poem, or a quartet. What this new
form may be called, whether it be called ” musical
comedy/’ is of little consequence. But that the
combination of literary and musical elements be
effected with more ingenuity and more subtlety,
that, it appears to me, is of unquestionable im-
portance. In what proportion ? That is for the
musician’s own genius to decide. Desire alone will
not write an opera-comique or a musical comedy.
But it seems that our period in art is sufficiently
nourished with irony and culture, independence, and
aloofness from obligatory gravity, to adapt itself to
a less tragic form of musical composition in the


Much would akeady be accomplished if one were
to be good enough to cultivate the habit of not
regarding that path as too insignificant for the
broad steps of musical dramatists.

It is from this point of view that Maurice Ravel is
to be congratulated. Those who did not wait until
the opera-comique made up its mind to perform


UHetire Espagnole before learning to appreciate the
spirit and the quality of its music are aware that the
merit of the work in itself justifies satisfaction a

Maurice Ravel has found here material to give a
full rein to his sense of the comic, and of amusing and
refined exaggeration. In this work are found again,
but extended, the vocal methods that made the
fortunate and merited success of the Histoires
Naturelles. The contrast of characters is carried
out with rare sureness. The part of Gonzalve is, in
its entirety, one of the best examples of musical
caricature that has succeeded in remaining delicate
and truly musical. Those of Ramiro and of Con-
cepcion suggest how much Maurice Ravel could
accomplish for the stage if he were to devote himself
to a work of greater development.

But what transpires above all from this L’Heure
Espagnole, besides the vivacious personality of the
composer, is the delicacy and tact with which he has
contrived to avoid the insipid flavour of operetta
and the heavy humour of opera-bouffe.

Equally distant from vulgarity and from bombast,
this musical comedy pursues its course with spirit,
combined with the twofold pleasant charm of a
piquant vocal substance, and of the subtly coloured
orchestration with which the Rapsodiehzd made us
acquainted, and of which Daphnis et CMoe was
afterwards to furnish the most exquisite of proofs.
The kck of eagerness displayed in mounting this
work of a composer, of whom some disapprove, but
whose rare worth none will dare to deny, is certainly


not encouraging. The difficulty of performing a
work which does not suffice to fill a programme, and
which requires great accomplishments in singers and
orchestra, and the impossibility of translating
Franc-Nohain’s libretto into a foreign language
without robbing it of most of its flavour, combine to
make L’Heure Espagnole assured, if one may say
so, of no more than a restricted career. The
importance of works of art is not indicated so much
by the frequency of our contact with them as by
the reflections they suggest.

At a time when true musicians are more than ever
nourished on literature, when literature and music
in France permeate each other more intimately than
ever before, is one not in a better position than at
any other period to produce musical works that will
be to the lyric drama what Les Plaideurs or Le
BarUer de Seville continue to be to the literary
stage ? Of course we do not demand that all com-
posers shall proceed to produce a musical comedy
for an exercise, as twenty years ago it was necessary
to produce a drama with armour and Valkyries in
it. We do not demand that works sent from the
Villa Medici shall take the form of an operetta
instead of a mass. But it seems to us that there
are at present in France young composers whose
nature is sufficiently acute and amusing, whose taste
for irony and humour is sufficiently lively to enable
them to endow music with new and charming sound-
pictures, Is there not Severac ? Is there not
Roger-Ducasse ? Is there not Caplet ? Are there
not many others ?


Assuredly the thorny question will continue to be
that of the libretto, for, if it is possible to write a
good opera on a bad libretto, the feat is impossible
where a musical comedy is concerned. But, if a
wide search be made, according to the personalities
of the composers and in accordance with their
indications, it will be possible to find, among the
comic treasures of humanity, themes of inspiration
that will prove favourable to their vivacious spirit.
These are only so many hypotheses and reflections
suggested by a perusal of L’Heure Espagnole, and by
an acquaintance with the minds of some of the young
composers we love, and by the thought of the past of
French music. Whatever foundation and justifica-
tion they may possess, L’Heure Espagnole proves
to-day that the comic sense and the musical sense are
not so remote from each other as certain Puritans of
music would have us believe.


WHEN, on board the gunboat Le Styx, long ago, mid-
shipman Albert Roussel watched the coming of the
dawn on the banks of some Oriental and sacred
river, within his sensitive and musical soul he was
perhaps already dreaming confusedly of these
Evocations of to-day. Perhaps in these Evocations
there linger, revived by a recent journey, in Asia,
some of the impressions of that young naval officer
of the past. Between those older impressions and
their recent realisation lies a noble and serious life,


and works of purity and beauty, fragrant with
French charm and revealing a French soul.

It is not easy to know in what terms to speak of
Albert Roussel. Those that one might use seem so
much too blatant to attune themselves to a mind
that delights in a discretion and a delicacy surpassed
by none in these days. His work is created in his
own image. It reflects him as the most faithful
mirror, with his love of life without loudness, his
restrained but lively ardour, his exquisite sense of
pleasure, a thousand refinements without affecta-
tion, and, beneath this delicacy and this smiling
nature, a gentle and firm power, with occasional

With a slow sureness, over whose anxieties and
hesitations he drew a jealous veil, he realised himself
without stir, without attempting to attract anyone’s
curiosity, relying solely on his works.

To him came gradually those who collected the
manifestations of the younger French music, and
here they found some of the purest. They have
loved his Trio, and the Sonata, which is the most
alluring and the most ardent of our modern sonatas
for piano and violin. When gathered together, or
when alone, we have had sung to us again and again
these songs, some ten in number, each of which lives
again with more perfect charm at every fresh
experience- Delights of the Odelette and the Nuit
d’Automne, voluptuousness of the Jardin Mouille,
unassuming drama of melancholy farewells ; , which
of us, in seven or eight years, has ever tired of
hearing and rehearing them ? Le Poeme de la Foret


voiced for us the soul enamoured of landscape that
had a T ready manifested itself in the three pieces
R^siiques, and the sense of the picturesque that the
form of a trio or a sonata contrived not to efface,
and which thus renovated dogmas that are often too
austere. When one follows the development of all
these mus’cal works, it seems as if one’s mind were
broadened by measuring their horizon, that widens
from day to day. The view reveals, little by little,
a more spacious domain, without taking one by
surprise, but by imperceptible progress.

There is no composer who speaks less of his works
than Albert Roussel, and there are no works behind
wMch their composer effaces himself more completely
than these. Yet they express themselves as much
one way as the other, by discreet self -revelations and
efficacious reticences.

In the Evocations, the same purpose has led him
to tell his impressions regardless of theses, of
ethnographic references, of geographical descriptions,
and of all the apparatus that, in order to suggest
authenticity, causes even truth to crumble and
vanish from the heart. In his vision, dreams play
as much part as realities. If his impressions were
inspired by India, the country remains, at least in
these Evocations, voluntarily undefined. Whether
India, Tibet, Indo-China, or China, is of little
consequence. Only the quality of the dream is to
be considered, and that of Albert Roussel is suave
and voluptuous. Darkness gradually disperses, in
the distance appears the rosy City, which then fades
away as in a mirage or a dream, an<J the choirs on the


banks of the sacred river see night dissolve at the
light touch of the sun, whom their united voices
greet with love.

The painter and the poet, who are present in this
musician from his earliest compositions, have been .
able to combine with renewed strength in this work.
But, however Oriental or Hindu may be the purport
of such a dream in sound, the same ardour, the same
inborn elegance, and the same delicate sensuousness
are revealed in it as those which, in his preceding
works, made known to us in Albert Roussel one of
the most truly French souls of to-day.

The Evocations have been decisive in placing their
author in the foremost rank. Not for a long time
had so pure a work been heard, and it was a profound
joy to see manifested in this musical triptych aU the
hopes that we had based upon a mind tjiat knows
how to combine with a sure skill the “more rare*
qualities of communicative emotion.
* The work’s three sections: Les Dieux dans
I’ ombre des cavemes, La Ville rose, and Au% bords du
fleuve sacre, follow, with inimitable sureness and
discretion, a combined plan whose contrasts only
strengthen its balance, and which concludes, without
undue emphasis, in the peroration, with a choral
symphony in which the voices are handled with a
precision so skilful that it is unsuspected.

Its ingenious orchestration nowhere reveals the
obstinate desire to attract attention that has too
often lessened the merit of modern works. The
employment of the instruments is governed by no
desire to master a theorem, but, more justifiably, by



the play of their colours and nuances, for the
awakening of the imagination or the feelings of the
listener. From the outset one is not confronted
with an extravagant method. One thinks only of
the pleasure of listening and being charmed, and of
feeling at the same time all that such charm contains
of rare and delightfully human elements. A sensa-
tion of completeness fills the mind with a satisfaction
that is prolonged. One feels everywhere that grace
and strength are combined without ever contradict-
ing or colliding with each other. That is the merit
of these supple architectures, which are durable and,
as it were, relieved of part of their weight, and in’
which the mind that is penetrated with the voluptu-
ousness of the earth is already steeped in an aerial

Albert Roussel’s Evocations are one of the seven
or eight symphonic works composed during twenty
years which will ensure, for a long time to come, the
future of French music.




(To Edouard Risk?)

HE had all the gifts of the mind, and yet how im-
placably is fate against him, even after death !
Will not the bad luck, as Baudelaire says, that did
not cease to torment him in his lifetime, give way
before the affection we bear him, through his works ?
Of this much we really must be convinced : there is
no French musician to whom fate has been more
unjust. Laurels have fallen to him with insulting
parsimony. And yet who could claim to have been
more of a musician than this fat, exuberant, en-
thusiastic, jesting, deep-feeling man who bequeathed
to us Gwendoline, the Bourrte fantasque and the
Pieces pittoresques, as well as songs whose pleasant
musicality has not been surpassed ?

So much unconstraint sometimes offends the taste
of the over-refined, but these fastidious people can
have had no inkling of the warmth and generosity of
his heart, animated by a many-shaded charm, which
is everywhere revealed in his music. At first one
finds it pleasant to follow this music. It has an air
of rnirth ; a frank, and somewhat boisterous, manner
of presenting itself. There are some who stop at
that and say, ” How funny ! ” as they might of some
artist’s prank, and they seek no further And yet
he is a man who endeavours to conceal his heart


with a laugh, who loves life, and finds in it a
manifold enjoyment.

What do most of them know of him ? It is much
if their knowledge extends beyond inaccurate
transcriptions of his works.

Who can hear the duet from Gwendoline without
thrilling with pleasure, and what soulful merit there
must be in the Ode d la Musique for it to relegate to
the background a text of such unfortunate quality !

How many arguments have there not been
advanced to cover him with oblivion ? There are
musical writers, not learned in the matter of dates,
who reproached him with having commenced too
late to compose : there are so many who begin too
soon, and do naught else ail their lives. Others
there are who, on the strength of a memory of
Espana, distorted by some commonplace Wald-
teufel, smile with indulgent pity when his name is
cited. There are even some who say that he is
tedious, for it is really necessary that all be said, by
Bouvard, and by Pecuchet.

Even Lalo, in spite of Le.Roi d’Ys, has failed to
receive all the recognition that is his due ; but
Chabrier does not yet receive the quarter of that to
which his merits entitle him. It is high time that
we become convinced of this, and that we no longer
perpetuate an injustice for which we ought to blush.
He had all the French virtues : good-humour,
vivid sensibility, the sense of charm without
affectation, and an inclination to tenderness that is
interrupted by wit, only in order the better to
Then* is thus nothing that he fails to


elevate, even when at first vulgarity appeared in
prospect. He is often on the borderline of vulgarity,
but he never crosses it. If he approaches the vulgar
it is only in order to raise it, for he has health in
grace, and sureness in joy.

Entrusted to the hands of another, his subjects
would have yielded nothing but the commonest
accents. See how the theme of the clarinets in the
Joyeuse Marche, with its quaintly awkward gait,
insensibly begins to tease the listener, and then
dissolves in a smile, to reappear with grace. He
loves to puzzle our ears- They think they know
whither they are being led, for the paths are well
trodden, but an unexpected accident intervenes, an
accident that contains no risk beyond that of giving
pleasure. At the other end of his domain he draws
out, nearly to a drawing-room ballad, the languor of
a sentimental motif ; the line waves along and one
expects the heart-rending eloquence of love-music
for homely company. But a nervous movement
insinuates itself, a nervous tremor slips in, and the
melodic line is inflected into true tenderness. At the
very heart of the Bourrtefantasque there passes with
a sudden tremor an adorable emotion. He does not
desire that it should linger unduly. Others would
have caused the themes to exhaust themselves in
frenzied passion and shamelessly display the excite-
ment of rubato.

Such cheap scent is not to his liking. His music
is redolent of fresh grass and hay, and of the joy of
fine fruit that is proud of its golden pulp and its
juicy flesh. He embraces it like a healthy girl of


buxom figurp, and whispers in its ear some amusing
phrase that tickles it and imbues it with the freshness
of real sensuous laughter. He loves the unambigu-
ous sensuality that it exhales. And the time comes
also when it takes his arm, perturbed as a maiden
and tender as a poor human heart steeped in silence,
in sweet echoes and in memories of love.

Are we then so wealthy that we can afford to
treat with such neglect these ten Pieces pittoresques,
with the exception of the scherzo-valse, that some find
pleasure in distorting ? The Idytte and the Milan-
colie are worthy of the most noble hands. As for
the Improvisation, there is not, perhaps, in the whole
of the French literature of the piano, a page of finer
swing, of more delightful, or richer, form. We, to
whom his pianistic performance is a legend, known
only through the memories of the actual listeners,
we can find its stamp on his pianistic style. He has
impressed it on everything he has touched.

Le Roi malgre lui lacks nothing but a libretto
worthy of the music. Why did he not persevere in
this path of musical comedy instead of following the
Munich road all the way to Bayreuth ? He could
have given us that for which we are still waiting :
a theatrical work that would be what The Marriage
of Figaro is for Vienna and The Barber of Seville for

He had every requisite for it : a sense of true life,
a genius for comic music that none has surpassed,
unremitting fancy in the handling of the orchestra,’
overflowing imagination, and, above all these, a
taste that remained surest in his most ardent mirth.


We measure our regrets by what he might have
done, but let us give, to what he did, the affectionate
melancholy of our dethroned joy. Is it possible
that he is dead, who generously fashioned for as the
Cigales, the Petits Canards, the Cochons Roses, the
Gros Dindons, a diminutive Noah’s ark, jovial and
mocking, sailing towards Vile Heweuse ?

Who in the domain of tones possessed, as he did,
the abundant quality of true French gaiety ? Ah !
let us not suffer it to be lost. Above all, let us not
disdain it in favour of accents that are more grave,
and are often only the sinister voice of the dead who
could find nothing to cherish.

Eternal joy of hearts, and of these French hearts,
surpassed by none other because they are able to
love suffering without caring to show it, and
because- they sing their tenderness under ‘their
breath in a smile !


(To Octave Maus)

DIGNITY become music. The pursuit of a dream
whose melancholy is enhanced by the feeling of
being out of its own environment, and which carries
within itself the regret of so many silent ancestors,
of so many racial memories, and of mysterious words
comprehensible only to his own advertence A
homesick aristocrat without disdain, he deploys
ithe present time, is surprised that it should be hi*
own, and pursues his work with faith,


Intimately bound to his forefathers and to his
native Cevennes, the respect of traditions established
itself in strength only to enable his mere existence
to prove the vanity of tradition according to
academic dogma.

No official sanction attended the first efforts of
this tenacity of purpose. None would have en-
hanced its nobility.

The roots of this mind go far beyond the Italian-
ism of the Conservatoires. Of what use would so
futile a tutor have been to such an oak ?

A certain ruggedness of character, a hunger for
solidity first drew him towards German culture, as
much in literature as in music. It was an injustice
at the time to observe in this only imitation or
bondage. It was an essential sympathy, a search
for equivalency. In this unconscious deviation, the
logic of attraction was in operation.

It was Uhland who furnished the subject of his
symphonic legend of La Foret enchantee (1878).
From Schiller he borrowed in turn the theme of his
two symphonic poems : Wallenstein (1880), and Le
Chant de la Cloche (1886).

^ At the same time his inclination towards large
orchestral masses, towards the power of the sym-
phony and the concentration of the lyric drama,
urged him quite naturally to the study of the
reforming genius who was already the author of
Parsifal; and, by an inevitable attraction, the
obsession of the Bayreuth master made itself felt
by tMs ardent and sombre mind, full at the same
time of discipline and of revolt,


Even in his Christian beliefs, which have since
remained unweakened, he found himself at ease in
Wagner’s music, and Parsifal contained at this time
the young composter’s mysticism, at once anxious
and robust.

But the brain alone was at work, and the Wag-
nerian influence or attraction could not entirely
satisfy a sensibility that was the more durable and
acute for screening itself behind this desire for
knowledge, this preoccupation, with technique, this
aspiration towards an original form to which he
could attain only by becoming profoundly conscious
of himself.

Perhaps these ardent, sombre souls, wholly
animated by an inner fire and by violence exerted
upon themselves, reveal themselves only in contact
with gentleness.

At the approach of Cesar Franck, the personal
inspiration of Vincent d’Indy emerged entirely.
Then the keen, pungent scent of his home in the
Cevennes deeply impregnated with a strong emotion
the noble succession of his compositions. It was
much less an influence than a meeting face to face.
The influence of Cesar Franck affects in d’Indy not
so much the writing in the works, as the moral
atmosphere in which they live. It diverts the
author of the Chant de la Cloche from the often
indigestible and doubtful aesthetic theories of the
Bayreuth master, in order to replunge him in the
very sources of his least sentiments : the native soil,
the ancestral influences which inevitably constitute
the essentials of every personality.


Csar Franck was not concerned with impressing
his mould upon soft wax that had no future destiny,
but by the contagion of his serenity he delivered
from their disturbing uncertainties the consciences
that had rallied to him.

Henceforth the mind of the composer has found
itself, and the Symphonic sur un theme montagnard
proves his own recognition of his own antecedents
and the undeniable indices of his personality, rooted
in the rugged and massive Cevennes.

From that moment the home-sickness of this soul
from the Cevennes will constitute his real and pro-
found originality, as much in the warm and earnest
Trio, in the two Quartets, as in the two Sonatas.

Thus the best of him was in himself. His labour
in search of his own genius, in directing itself to his
native country, revealed the soul which animated

Among his works, which are now numerous and
diverse, comprising lyric dramas, quartets, sym-
phonies, lyric poems, and sonatas, one is entitled to
believe that these, especially, will endure : the
pieces in which his mind, rooted in the country, has
reconstituted the fresh impressions of his childhood
and his youth, the time when he was still unaware
of the demon of Bayreuth, the time, perhaps, when
he was not yet dreaming of composing music the
numerous pages in which are revealed that sense of
the picturesque which is not in Wagner, and whose
eloquence the skill of the author of Fervaal can only

His nostalgia is rugged and melancholy, but prou4


and dignified. In his music it raises itself, with
soul refreshed, above our consolations, which it does
not invite.

Yet he does not disdain action, and does not shut
himself up in his concern with a past that is forever
abolished. Action always arouses him, and his
taste for lyric drama is but one form of such incite-
ment. He alone of the Franckist generation had
truly the love of the theatre. It is in Fervaal and
in L’fitranger that he succeeded in combining his
Wagnerian sympathies with the affection he has for
his native country.

Henri Duparc once said with some reason : ” In
France we have too great a love for dramatic music.
Dramatic music is an extension and inferior species
which does not allow the artist to express himself
directly, to reveal freely the beautiful soul, the
great soul that he ought to be, at the risk of being

Neither in Fervaal nor in L’Efranger has the
dramatic nature of the music prevented d’Indy’s
strong character from expressing itself freely, and
this robust and proud soul, sure of its skill, speaks
there a moving language.

In his works, in his writings, in his sentiments is
displayed a constant feeling of grandeur that puts
fear into our contemporary meannesses wherever
they encounter it.

When he is aroused to action, it is to defend or
impose, not his own works, but those of the past
which he considers the most worthy to put before
the musicians of his day as models, and the modem


works which are doubly dear to him for their own
beauty, and for the ties which bound him to those
who created them and are no more : Cesar Franck,
Castillon, GuiUaume, Lekeu, Ernest Chausson,
Charles Bordes. t

The meeting of Bordes and d’Indy was especially
and necessarily to result on the creation of a per-
manent undertaking. The same ardour, more grave
in the one, more passionate and more devouring in
the other, gave birth to the Schola Canfomm.
Among all the composers of their day there were
perhaps no two whose minds inclined them more to
devote themselves with such persistence to the
defence of neglected or misunderstood works, So
far as music is concerned, Charles Bordes was
possessed by the demon of enterprise, and filled with
apostolic fury and with a self-denial that, in dis-
regard of all reason, restrained his interest in his
own works in favour of those of his friends, of which
he was the untiring advocate and champion.
And Vincent d’Indy was animated with the same
ardour, but more concentrated and tenacious, and
concerned at the same time with the fame of his
masters and with outlining the beauties of newworks,
even of those most remote from his own predilections.
Thus he will write in turn a standard work on
C6sar Franck, an ardent book on Beethoven, as
readily as, on the morrow of the production of
Petttas et Melisande, he wrote one of the most
penetrating, accurate, and just articles upon Debussy
sgid his tendencies.

Such application and such perspicacity. are proof


ol a high conscience. One may not appreciate all
its expressions or all its features. One may even
tolerate with regret this or that of its aspects. But,
it is impossible not to honour this proud, melancholy
and lofty mind.

The present is not always constituted to satisfy
him, but his faith preserves for him an untroubled
future. He does not disdain the time he lives in,
but is a little remote from it, as if he pursued a dream,
or distant memories amid which our presence gives
him a sensation of incongruity. He is grave, as if
feeling the weight of a moral solitude which is the
heavier the more numerous the admirers by whom
he is surrounded ; he maintains in his thoughts, in
his reserves, and even in his kindliness, an obsession,
as it were, whose nature one is not tempted to
unravel, so innate does one feel it to be ; and in the
music of to-day he is dignified and serene, with
something in and about him that is somewhat like
an exiled monarch.

Of this gravity and this vigorous conscience is born
an authority that is, as it were, involuntary, and the
more assured-

In this intellect there is a feeling of command.
There are none in whom he does not command at
least respect.


(To Camille Mauclair]

A SOUL from the Round Table, from the time of
elves, of water-fays, of rides through legendary
forests, of love-lays and of attachments devoid of


pretence, sustained upon ardour and respect. It is
not by accident that Ernest Chausson made Le Roi
Arthus the subject of his only theatrical work. That
was exactly the atmosphere in which he was most
at ease, and which one may find in many pages of
his music. All that Le Roi Arthus needed is to have
been born a little later, when emancipation was
really beginning and when, breaking its Wagnerian
shackles, musical art took the paths that, in the
theatre, were to lead it to Pelleas et Melisande, to
Ariane et Barbe Bleue, and to Penelope.

All that Ernest Chausson needed was to have less
humility, less respect for masters who were lacking
in the qualities which he possessed. Even in the
little suite for The Tempest, composed, at the outset
of his career, for a puppet-theatre, it- is surprising
how marked is the fluid and moving originality that
was to display itself to better advantage afterwards,
in the Quartet, the Poeme for violin, in the Concerto,
and in twenty lyrics that will long be remembered
among the pages of the immortal album of the French
song at the dawn of this century,

It is impossible to avoid remarking in Chausson’s
music the influence of Cesar Franck. The master of
the Beatitudes included the young composer among
his most beloved disciples. But if it is true that
Ernest Chausson yields the first place to C6sar
Franck, at least in genius, he surpasses him in the
attribute of taste.

In order of time, Ernest Chausson was the first of
his generation, after Lalo, Faure, and Chabrier, to
give proof of the most fundamentally French


qualities, and the one who felt the most deeply the
support that literature and the graphic arts could
furnish to music in the search of its national

Even before they were appreciated in the world
of artists, Chausson found delight in CarriSre and
Besnard and even in Odilon Redon, the prodigious
and admirable. In literature he knew Moreas and
Maeterlinck, MaUarm6, and Mauclair, at a time
when many musicians gave every indication of the
most restricted critical sense.

He had at his disposal every means of security,
being possessed of taste, material independence, and
a thousand interests in life^ But his soul was
at moments beset with scruples. He did not always
dare to be entirely himself. When one penetrates
somewhat deeply into his music, and into the soul
of which it still gives the reflection, one can come
into contact with the bitter struggle of a mind that
does not believe sufficiently in itself, and that still
desires to be given its directions by others, when he
could have relied for them solely upon himself.

Where he is himself, Chausson is nearly un-
equalled. Others have more charm, more power,
more refinement ; others succeed better in investing
our minds by all the avenues of our curiosity, Itrat
none has greater purity than he, not even Charles
Bardes, who was often exquisite, and whose nature
was so fresh. Chausson’s scrupulous soul is in-
capable of evasion* At every moment we see it face
to face in its entirety. It is only out of modesty
that sometimes one of its aspects veils itself in


shadow. Though nourished, as he was, upon the
literature and the painting of his day, this musician
has the secret of youthful ingenuousness . His music
has patches of white, as of a peaceful dawn rising
upon the fairy ring in the forest of charm and

Where he is himself, his emotion is pure and
noble, with nothing to make us feel that it claims
to outrange us On the contrary, it is there, at our
side, in a discreet attitrde, waiting gently medita-
tive for us to pay attention to the simple, lasting
words it utters. Beside certain songs like La
Chanson Perpetuelle, Le Temps des Lilas, and
especially Les Heures, which count to-day with
justice many faithful admirers, there are others by
Chausson which deserve to be more freely enjoyed
than appears to be the case. Such are L’Aveu,
Dans la foret du Charme, Le Cantique d l’pouse,
Apaisement, Nocturne, and Le Colibri. Chausson’s
soul is revealed in them, diverse in its constant
purity, passing from juvenile and serious freshness
to the melancholy to which his natural mood was
more conducive.

But even his melancholy has no moments of
excessive insistence. None has appreciated better
than he the sense of discreet proportions.

Where he is himself, one can only cherish him ; and
even when he is not himself, as in the symphony,
where the figures of Wagner and of Franck are too
closely indicated, he still succeeds in infusing a
charm that is his only, and which makes bearable
the Avowal of such discernible influences


He doubted himself a little too much, and the
stupid accident of his death cut short his career
whilst we were still hoping to derive from it so much
personal and vivid emotion. He could have given
to the French theatre a work of which Le Roi Arihus,
in spite of its merits, was no more than a sketch,
stifl entangled in the bushes of a past that is glorious
but no longer serviceable to us.

This severance by a premature death, and the
lamentable end of Chabrier, are the two gravest
losses that French music has suffered in our time.
But Ernest Chausson has bequeathed enough to
preserve his name for a long time from oblivion, and
to increase the number of his upholders.

In France, chamber music numbers few works of
the quality of the Quartet in A major, and the
Concerto for piano, violin, and string quartet.
Together with Gabriel Faure’s Quartet in C, the first
of these two works holds among piano quartets the
same rank in the music of all periods as is held
among string quartets by those of Claude Debussy
and Maurice Ravel. In emotion the andante of
Chausson’s quartet does not even stand behind that
of Debussy. The Franckist tendency of other
works finds here, in this beautiful, full, and ardent
phrase, a more serene sonority, and one of the
warmest outpourings in the whole of modern music.
And in the Concerto the whole personality of Chaus-
son is unreservedly revealed, at once solid and
delicate, serene and anxious, filling the classic frame
and sometimes, happily, breaking its narrow restric-
tions with the effort of an eager, radiant heart*


His music is full of murmurs, of the swaying of
branches, of fresh flowers suddenly scattered on his
stealthy passage full of freshness and of life, of
nature, and of calls uttered through foliage whose
shady density opens at times in the path of a warm
ray. It is at once ingenuous and skilful music, and
resembles the fairies, the water-fays, the elves, and
Merlin the magician, expert in philtres and in the
gathering of simples.

It is a path in the forest of legends, of lovers’ rides,
and of invincible vows. It is at once a new and a
traditional avenue in the French forest.

(To Rent Martineau]

WHILST some are piling up symphonies upon lyric
dramas, and quartets upon songs, there is a man to
be met with whose work, famous for all time, is more
or less limited to a book of a dozen songs. He seems
to have taken the most jealous care to disclose
nothing of his personality, and to restrict his work,
at a time when it is the custom rather to make a
noisy display of both. In spite of a fame that,
spreading beyond strictly musical circles, has
readied those in which music is a distraction, it
remains none the less the fact that scarcely anything
is known ef his life. It is not easy to ascertain the
date of Ms birth, or even.his outward appearance.

Them is, however, na need to dwell upon the
exterior, pears&nslity that clothes his mind, when. our


concern is to speak of his work. Hie most indiscreet
curiosity would not reveal the mystery of a life of
which solitude and silence are the incorruptible

All that is known is that he was a pupil of Cesar
Franck at the Vaugirard college, and that, long
afterwards, he continued to find pleasure in associat-
ing with his master, who held him in particular
affection. However, Henri Duparc was more the
intellectual disciple than the pupil of Cesar Franck.
Of all those who followed the teaching or the advice
of the composer of the Beatitudes, he is, perhaps,
precisely the one who was least subject to his
influence, and this despite the fact that Cesar Franck
influenced the fninds of those who approached him
all the more that his activities were devoid of all
authoritative spirit, and wholly impregnated with

The communicative faith of C6sar Franck revived
the beliefs of most of his disciples. One must set
aside Paul Dukas, whom other hereditary influences
endowed with an inquiring miiki and a vivacity to
which we owe the inimitable and delightful UAp-
prenti Sorcier, far removed from Franckist ardour
and aspirations. In Vincent d’Indy will be found
again Franck’s fervent spirit, sometimes a little
strained, and always more austere. In the work of
Chausson, whose line is sometimes inflected with a
deeper melancholy, serenity frays a path through
wavering anxiety ; for, however strange such a
coupling of terms may at first appear, it is possible
to assert that the Franckist school is held together


by an obsession of ” serene anxiety ” ; the aspiration
of minds over-excited by the consciousness of earthly
imperfections, and at the same time appeased by
the certainty of a definite redemption.

The soul of the Franckist school is free from
lassitude. In the master, the triumph of faith ; in
d’lndy, Charles Bordes, or Guy Ropartz, the spirit
of propaganda ; in Alb&ic Magnard a constant
gravity ; in Ernest Chausson, an attraction towards
all the arts and their new resources ; in all of them
is a passion that animates and upholds them,
leaving no loophole for discouragement to enter.
Lassitude is the soul of Henri Duparc’s music.
Comprised between lassitude of all movement,
Repose, Phidyle, and the desire for other countries
that is inspired by the tediousness of all sojourn,
Invitation au Voyage, Henri Duparc’s music reveals
almost continually a penetrating nostalgia whose
theme is renewed by minute movements.

There is perhaps no expression more apt to throw

light on the nature of Henri Duparc’s work than the

sentence in which Baudelaire says : j ‘ I have found

the definition of the beautiful, of that which, to me,

is beauty ; it is something ardent and sad, something

a little vague, leaving scope for conjecture/}

For Henri Duparc, beauty is of the same nature.

It is something ardent and sad, but this ardour is

not set free, this sadness is not spoken, but is exhaled

with poignant simplicity.

The art of these works is not complex, although
the substance of the musical dream contained in
them is rich. This art is not complex if the writing


is “considered in general. From the first moment, a
line is revealed that is noble and of wholly classical
purity. It is not until afterwards that we are
struck with the delicate undulations of this line, in
which is discovered a power of expression that
cannot be surpassed by methods of refinement.

For example, the slowly swinging opening of the
Invitation au Voyage, where two bars alternating,
varied only by a semitone, depict an atmosphere of
lassitude and of sweetness, until the moment when
the idea of a possible ” elsewhere ” (d’aller Id-bas
mvre ensemble] is expressed by liberating the
accompaniment from its initial monotony, whilst
continuing to maintain the inflections of the melodic
phrase in an atmosphere of uncertainty. This is
Baudelaire’s ” something a little vague,” and it does
not cease to be expressed by the accompaniment,
which remains unchanged until the moment where
the recitative, ” L& tout n’est quordre et beaute,
luxe calme et volupte,” rests upon chords modulating
by semitones and devoid of all ornament.

It is nearly always thus, by means of nuances,
that Henri Duparc gives accents to his dreams.
Nothing is further from romanticism and from
verbal lyricism, but perhaps nothing is nearer to the
modern soul, whose deepest anxieties are betrayed,
outwardly, only by almost imperceptible waves.

Ordinarily, his songs commence in the same calm
atmosphere. The opening of Phidyle, marked
” slow and calm,” its chords gently modulating
whilst the vocal phrase evolves ” softly and without
nuances” round the initial B flat, which acquires


a delicate value, evanescent, as it were, on its final
return when it illustrates with precision the idea of
unseen springs.

It would be possible to multiply such examples
the first phrase of Extase and the last of Lamento.
Devoid of artifice, this art thus attains to an ampli-
tude that is scarcely met with in any other French
lied, for such vocal lyrics as Chausson’s Chanson
Perpetuelle or d } Indy ‘s Lied Maritime are great works,
of nobility and power, but conceived quite differently
from the point of view of the method of writing.

Lassitude is the soul of Henri Duparc’s art, but it
is a special lassitude. Rather would one call it
nostalgia. In it the soul neither complains nor
revolts, but plunges entirely into the dark waters of
spleen, which reflect the mirages of unattainable
” elsewheres.”

Not even Debussy, in his marvellous Cinq Pdemes,
has understood better than Duparc to interpret
the soul of Baudelaire. It is with the same
soul that he has interpreted in music the nostalgic
words of the poet of Fleurs du Mai. It is the
same self-contained mode of expression, and the
almost unconscious evolution of thought ; the same
sense of imperceptible nuance, and the surprising
perspicacity of modulation in the inner life, expressed
by minute musical modulations.

Henri Duparc’s choice of texts reveals his pre-
dilections : Invitation au Voyage or Vie Anterieure,
La Vague et la Cloche, Extase, Lamento, or Testament,
or even Phidyle ; poems of Baudelaire, Lahor, or
Leconte de Lisle ; it is nearly always a nostalgic


thought, a longing for rest, an obsession with
lassitude or with death that attracts him.

Yet great romantic outpourings are not suited to
his mind : as with Baudelaire, bitterness always
maintains with him a constraint that forbids all
transports, whilst the essential strength of character
in both natures preserves them from effeminate and
vain lamentations.

There is in Duparc’s songs a modesty of expression
and a discretion of accent which, in him alone, are
associated with such constancy and such dignity.
He says exactly what he wishes to say and travels
no further, but he says sufficient to prompt the mind
which is impressed by his utterance to further dreams
of that ” something a little vague that leaves scope
for conjecture/’

Why should the utterances of such a mind be so
few ? And yet those he has sent forth contain too
many motives of emotions and of dreams for us to
flatter ourselves that we can ever exhaust them.

(To Ildebrando Pizzetti)

ALL is exultation. All is efflorescence. The rapture
of swift movement seizes upon all things. All seems
to be abandoned to its arbitrament, but suddenly
each object falls into a place assigned to it by a secret
will. Behind each movement is revealed a serene
control. Chance plays no part in it. At first,
however, it seems as if the workings of chance were


to be betrayed somewhere. At times one would
think that disorder were going to spread ; but soon
all falls back into order, as if under the impetus of
some mysterious power.

There is no more beautiful festival than that
which is regulated in a manner at once assured, and
yet discreet enough to impart an impression of
complete liberty ; to unchain the forces of joy,
remaining able to restrain them at will, and to adapt
them to a dominating design. An intimate struggle
without violence. The sounds burst forth and
subside as the water of a cascade that lets itself fall
without respite, happy in its own play.

In th music of to-day there is no soul more
enamoured of joy, but there is none better able to
restrain itself. The evocations it suggests resolve
themselves into silence at its will. Like the old
magician in Goethe’s ballad, “the master animates
them only to make them serve his designs/’

Yet no constraint is felt in them. Everything in
them moves as by a natural play whose law is

All Paul Dukas’s music is animated by a constant
desire of movement. The joy he pursues and
attains is revealed as the unfolding, as the crowning
of an efflorescence of effort. All in it confesses to
an unquenchable thirst for rhythm, that derives
satisfaction solely from itself. No music asserts
more decisively the delight in movement. Im-
mobility wearies it, and everything in it revolts
against it.

Others are profoundly alive to the charm of


meditation and of indolent looking-on. Dukas does
not remain satisfied with inaction. One must prove
to oneself, by movement, that one is alive.

It is a marvellous spectacle, the intimate union of
this desire of expansion and this force of reserve.
The former gives to all his works the character and
the accent that makes them inimitable, whilst the
other makes him discover, with unfailing sureness,
the frames best suited to contain his thoughts. f*j

It seems as if his choice of subjects were intended
to show, from the outset, the constant design that
guides him. In this choice all betrays a hunger for
movement, as much the play of Variations on a
theme by Rameau as the Apprenti Border with which
nothing can compare for the intensity of its mettle,
the impish vivacity of its accent, and the discreetly
comic spirit of its rhythms ; and again the adventure
of Ariane et Barbe Bleue in which is concentrated, in
legendary form, the struggle of the fulness and
boldness of life against the surrounding indolence.
This idea persistently haunts the composer’s
thoughts. It is as evident in his sonata as it is in
the allegro spiritoso of his beautiful symphony.

Yet the animation that directs them is not
feverish. Though modern, his music escapes the
unrest of our day. There is none more serene, in
spite of its prodigious life. His pages reveal them-
selves to us in all the splendour of their freshness,
and assume already in some places the assuaging
quality of the past.

There is no composer alive to-day who can
communicate to us in the same degree the impression


of a classic ; and of all Paul Dukas’s works the
Sonata in E flat bears this stamp most deeply
impressed upon it.

The power expressed in it is not out of proportion.
It is not of the kind that lifts and carries one away
beyond worlds, but it penetrates into us with
confidence and communicates a lasting rapture, a
reassured cheerfulness. It satisfies at once the
demands of our thoughts and the vibrations of the
senses, for the sagacious treatment of the themes,
their permutations and their workings attest a
constant affection for rhythm and all that it com-
prises of life-giving clearness.

Clearness and simplicity are the virtues of this
mind. Its constant obsession with rhythm enumer-
ates the complexities and necessarily reduces them.
The study of each of his works shows the extent to
which his will plays its part, and then one is surprised
at having been so little struck with this at the outset.

In another so much will-power, such dominating
preordination would entail a certain coldness. In
him there is assuredly nothing of the sort. The
ever-present emotion gives life to these constructions
and ensures their survival. Already the scherzo,
L’Apprenti Border, has captivated the most diverse
spirits and called forth everywhere unreserved
approbation. Though less frequently heard, the
other works present similar merits and deserve
equal affection. Like all works that are rich in
contents, they demand more time than most are
prepared togive, in our too hasty day, to productions
of the mind.


Despite its efflorescence of beautiful and engaging
works, French music cannot offer many manifesta-
tions that, for nobility of the mind, rival those pages
on which Paul Dukas has deeply impressed the
coloured and vibrating reflections of his soul, which
is fascinated with life, rhythm, strength, and joy.

What an impassionating sight, what an elating
expression is the smile that denotes power 1

(To Deodat df Severac)

THE forest is bathed in mystery and in tbe light of
a hesitating dawn. A gentle joy awakens among
the trees, and roams at large ; and the summer mist,
that still girdles the foliage with fleeting scarves,
wraps in a harmonious silence the confidence of the
dryads. And, as a sylvan ravisher of the smallest
secrets of the nymphs, of their words of joy and of
the raucous, burning cries of the fauns pursuing
feminine forms, Albert Roussel evokes the amorous
charm of imaginary bucolics.

It is not by a delicate subterfuge, or by some
attitude of thought, nor for the sole purpose of
musical description, that his mind has become
attached to sylvan themes. His poet’s soul inclines
to spectacles in which reality and dreaming meet,
where thought and the senses joyfully unite. It
takes this direction whole-heartedly and with

Concerned, in his visions, with atmosphere, he


evokes sometimes the real and vaporous landscapes
of Corot. The colouring is, however, more brilliant
in the musician. Albert Roussel’s fauns have
observed, on a suave afternoon, ” upright and alone,
under a modern flow of light,” the faun of Claude

It should occasion no surprise if one calls to mind
painters, for preference, when speaking of Albert
Roussel. The art of this musician is that of a
landscape painter. He is absorbed in the desire to
describe the aspects of a site, the rhythms it reveals,
the light that plays on it, and its manifold murmurs

Danse au lord de Veau, Promenade sentimentale
enforet, Vendanges, Le Poeme de la Foret, Le Jar din
Mouille, Nuit d’Automne . . . it is an obsession
with landscapes that Is a feature of this soul,* con-
genitally attracted to such sights. Thus the
numerous hours spent formerly on the decks of
ships seem to have left in him no traces deep enough
to desire expression. The sea does not yet appear
in his music, and there is nothing to give a presenti-
ment of it whilst he is attracted by the capricious
charm of nymphs.

Influences, sometimes contradictory, made them-
selves felt in his first expressions. His soul, divided
between his varied ardours, and for a moment
confused, hesitated, but disquietude was not his
innate attitude, and his soul was only estranged by
its surroundings.

Perhaps the deeper roots of his race did not come
from French Flanders. Yet, on observing him, one
is not surprised that he was born there. One does


not easily escape from a set purpose to father tlie
quality of his style upon the sensitive elegances of
Watteau, the undulating line of Carpeaux, and the
sweet, ardent, and weary charm of the poet who
wrote the Jardin de V Infante.

Again the same grace and the same smile, which
in the musician is without lassitude or sadness.
But at the very heart of this grace is the same
French sensuousness. It is present in Watteau, in
Carpeaux, in Samain, as it is here, this sensuous
delicacy whose ardour no brutality comes to disturb.
The abstract idea is not of their race. They do not
understand beauty unless they feel it deeply, and
enjoy it long. The universe is for them the in-
exhaustible sustenance of their fastidious avidity.

From his first utterances Albert Roussel is led by
it. Since then he has applied himself to refining
them at the same time that he was succeeding in
making them firmer. Gradually the aspect of his
thought betrays personal traits, captivating and

He venerates the clearness and discretion of our
race. His works have never ceased to bear its
affecting stamp. Enamoured of literature and of
nature, he establishes the equilibrium of a pic-
turesquenesl that fascinates the most fastidious,
without there being in it anything intended to
attract one especially.

He knows how to refresh his spirit at the sources
of vegietal life. One dreams of those discreet
ponds which reflect the beauty of the trees and a
glimpse of the sky, and which, from the bosom of


their meditative beauty, bring forth, slowly to
germinate and blossom upon their surface, like a
desirable ecstasy, the unsullied calyces of water-

At a time that is lacking in ingenuousness, he
prolongs the virtue of freshness and, without
effusion, opposes to the heavy burden of doctoral
theses the most acute taste for life. There is in it
neither trace of fever nor discouragement. Being
sensitive, he has not escaped experiencing the pain
of things, but he insists upon finding in it no more
than a new pretext for more fondly cherishing

Yet there is nothing insipid. His songs remain
limpid, but succeed in avoiding banality. He does
not retire within himself in order to express himself
as ever the same. On the alert for new aspects, he
listens to murmurs ; he spies upon the unexpected
rhythms of groups that dance by ; he observes the
affecting curve of his universe, the new traits that
indicate its seasons, and, a sylvan enraptured with,
his booty of pictures, he retires to some haven and
occupies himself in mating sonorities to express the
outlines and the very heart of his dream.

Its outlines are full of grace. Its heart is sensitive
and pure, and swells with voluptuous terMerness like
a buncLof fruit wrapped in the twilight of the first
autumn evenings.

He is loved, because, though skilled in his art, he
does not care to weight his works with science.
They are f ruit* which he has long surrounded with
every care, but he relies solely upon their- intimate


charm, and the original savour that they com-
municate to those able to enjoy them.

He does not wish to disturb with cries and roars
the woods inhabited by the dryads. The disputes
of theorists do not seem* desirable to him. He
tarries, reads a poem, listens to a spring, observes a
smiling nymph, sings of his dreams, and, like a
dream, plunges into the heart of the forest.


(To Gabriel Grovlez)

FLORENT SCHMITT is one of the most important
figures in French music of to-day. Not that he is
considered as the leader of a school, on equality with
Vincent d’Indy, Claude Debussy, or even Maurice
Ravel. Florent Schmitt concerns himself little with
schools, and his sensitive independence would not
care for the bond of possessing disciples. He
traverses French music of to-day like a wild boar of
the Vosges, with the healthy robustness of a sensitive
and crabbed nature, disdaining all coteries, dogmas,
and ready-made religions or organised enthusiasms.

Born in Lorraine, he stands on the musical
frontier of France and Germany. There is to be
found in him that French refinement, that in-
tellectual taste, mingled with rigorous preoccupa-
tions, and an appetite for greatness, that is not
unconnected with Teutonic musical obsessions.

Florent Schmitt is a singular character in con-



temporary music. Whilst all are endeavouring to
surpass their neighbours in originality, and often
even sensibility runs the risk of being compromised
to the sole advantage of singularity, he does not
defend himself, in his works, from an addiction to
forms reputed classical, although he is better
acquainted than most with all the latest improve-
ments in musical technique.

His Quintet is, in this respect, a highly charac-
teristic work, at once classical and resolutely
modern. He displays no more amenability to the
past than to the future, but no less.

He submits to a strong discipline, but desires to
accept it from none but himself, and therefore
mingles, at his convenience, his recent predilections
with the lessons of the past. He is a singular
mixture of a passion for independence and an innate
respect for rules. His choice tends wholly towards
freedom, one might almost say towards anarchy ;
and his nature inclines him towards submission to

Florent Schmitt’s originality lies in this rugged
conflict fought with ardour.

From the teaching of the Conservatoire, where he
reaped the supreme distinctions, he has succeeded
in emancipating the quiet strength of his per-
sonality. No French composer of to-day, nor
perhaps of any other day, can rival him in regard to
strength, unless it be Berlioz.

The XLVlth Psalm and the Quintet are important
works. Hie latter makes a vigorous pendant to
Gabriel Faur6’s delightful quintet, and these two


works furnish sufficient proof of the variety of
intonations the music of France can assume.

Florent Schmitt’s genius remains always sym-
phonic even in his songs, or in his Musiqites Intimes
for piano. However attractive his chamber works
may be, it is not in them, the Quintet excepted, that
resides the sphere of his emotional power.

At a period that comprises the quartets of Faure,
Chausson, Debussy and Ravel, the sonatas of Albert
Koussel and Paul Dukas, and the trios of Vincent
d’Indy and Maurice Ravel, Schmitt’s quintet takes
a preponderating place. It is one of the most
important works in European music of the last forty


With Florent Schmitt, power is not accompanied
by grandiloquence, and by this his critical mind
reveals its French sources. In the Psalm, which is
animated by a great inspiration and a devouring
ardour, there is no room for rhetoric, nor for that
hollow and bloated metaphysic which may satisfy
more northerly races but which Latin genius cannot
find to its liking. _ .

The Tragedie de Salome, in its conception and in
its realisation, is a manifestation of the complex art
of Florent Schmitt, and of all that it contains at
once of allurement and of violence, of ruggedness
and of refinement, of solidity and of rich colour.

To those who would persist in believing, on the
faith of ignorant reporters or relaxing melomaniacs,
that French music of to-day is no more than a game
of subtleties, a musical toy-shop, Florent Schmitt’s
music is an excellent and fierce retort.


French music, like Shakespeare’s drama, animates
charming spirits, and others of more rugged cha-
racter; anxious minds and others possessed of
greater assurance. It resembles the forest of the
Ardennes, so propitious to legends ; it can be the
sojourn of Ariel, who delights in the play of sunrays
on the foliage, but it can also shelter the robust
.Egypan ivho passes suddenly, like a harmonious
storm-wind, carrying away with him, without
seeming to be aware of it, our hearts and our minds.


(To Ricardo Vines)

HE is the enfant terrible of French music. His
music puts everything on trial, asks indiscreet
questions, manifests irreverent curiosities. It des-
pises hierarchies and is concerned with nothing
beyond being sincerely itself.

In his music life is a game that does not escape
bsing sometimes overtaken by melancholy, but which
an untiring ardour always preserves from tedious-
ness. None has carried so far the pleasure of being
fastidious whilst avoiding the danger of being
insipid. Without noisy clamour it has succeeded in
extending yet further the territory of tonal pleasure.

Everything in it conspires to provoke the longed-
for emotions that are communicated by the spirit of
finesse. This musical material, which is delightfully
personal, regulates itself in an atmosphere wherein
curiosity, irony, tenderness, sweetness, and even


preciosity are always at home, and describe, without
a false step, their spiritual arabesques.

Alborada del Gracioso is the title of one of the
pieces in his set of Miroirs. Morning song (Aubade)
of the gracioso a word that defies translation,
implying something like a buffoon full of finesse,
with mind always alert, and with irony ever in
readiness : something like Figaro Alborada, per-
petually renewed, of a delightful gracioso.

For his ever alert mind it would seem as if night
were never present, and for hiin it is ever the hour
of the aubade, always the hour of smiles and of
delicacy. He is skilled in pleasant mocking and is
loath to vociferate. He enjoys the sweetness of
living and is not unaware of its reflections. He
dreams of charming memories and, long since,
composed a pavane full of freshness, to the memory
of a defunct Infanta, and its delicacy &nd finesse are
such that the idea of death is screened behind them.

This early piece, as well as the two songs to
epigrams of Marot, D’Anne jouant de Vespinette and
D’Anne qui me jecta de la neige, revealed long ago
Maurice Ravel’s taste for delicately chiselled work,
and a slight leaning to witty affectation.

Blame him who will ! Those are to blame who
entrust to rancid songs the expression of their
doubtful sensibilities and who, having encountered
without effort the phrase adequate to tickle the
coarsest epidermis, make it the everlasting theme of
their output. Ravel is not a manufacturer of music,
but an artist enamoured of forms and ideas. Instead
qf accepted ideas he prefers those which 9-re rare, and


the forms whose coloured arabesque charms the
most fastidious minds.

It is impossible to deny that Ravel has an indefin-
able love of taking you by surprise, an inclination
to hoax you with finesse, a love of curious shapes ;
but it is not a matter of over-refined finicalities, of
soulless efforts of patience on the model of the tiny
ships that are constructed inside bottles, bottles
that are out of use and ships that never sailed.
Ravel takes pleasure in contriving new and un-
expected associations, in considering the elements
of the universe in the aspect of expressive and
sagacious deformations.

Most minds will never cease to regard the universe
in accordance with absolute plans, and in her-
metically-sealed compartments, in which diverse
sentiments, vices and virtues, ideas and forms,
cannot mingle. And when there appears a mind
concerned with thought and also concerned with
preserving its thought from a thousand daily
contacts ; one of the minds for which the idea is
reality and strangeness is habit ; for which a smile
is constantly a screen for the ardour of the heart ;
then, the incomprehension of others is the fatal
primary law, let those minds bear name, according
to their period, Gerard de Nerval, Turner, Edgar
Poe, Villiers de I’lsle-Adam, Mallarme, or Jules

Perhaps some dramatic work will increase the
number of the supporters of the composer of the
Miroirs, as Pelleas et M&lisande did for Debussy ; but
the most sincere of them were acquired from the


time of the Sonatine, the Miroirs, and the Histoires

It is an exquisite and rare sensation that is
imparted by musical works whose decorative line,
does not constitute their whole object, whose
emotion is not their sole purpose, and whose principal
attraction lies in concentrated allusions and un-
foreseen analogies.

These smiles conceal tenderness ; those uncon-
straints, ironic starts. None are so prone as mockers
to be deeply moved, without indulging in excess and
whilst preserving the necessary tact. These ironies
disclose anxious tenderness and a certain modesty
of the affections. Maurice Ravel is of the family of
Henri Heine, Jules Laf orgue, and Andre Gide.

But great is the indignation of those for whom
gravity is the only rule and who proclaim that art
is in danger the moment it has to do with smiling.
Common humanity needs a certain quantity of
avowed respect, and upsets itself if we seem not to
be taking seriously that which, at bottom, it does
not itself hold in respect.

This was seen when Maurice Ravel gave a hearing
of the Histoires Naturelles at the Societe Nationale.

The collection of little incisive pieces is well known
which established the fame of Jules Renard. Drawn,
by a similar mood towards this ironic zoology,
Maurice Ravel illustrated with a musical commen-
tary five of these biting texts.

He did this with a suppleness of mind and form
of which he alone is capable to-day, following, it is
scarcely necessary to say, each text, word for word,


with a musical transcription in which imitative
elegance acquires a strangely broadened value ; but
reproducing the very atmosphere of these brief
tales, and creating around these descriptions, which
words necessarily restrict in spite of their power of
allusion, a broad and floating power of suggestion,
at once accurate and minute, of the landscape in
which these personages evolve; and installing a
musical irony till then unsuspected.

It was a genuine scandal, and, in the eyes of some,
amounted almost to a crime of lese-majeste. This
young composer was scarcely loved, but he was, how-
ever, taken seriously. He was considered uninterest-
ing as a musician, but accepted in good society. And
here was he, by an intolerable frolic, offending
against the respect due to music itself, making the
art of Beethoven and Mozart serve for the expression
of boyish pranks. And the old, effete guardians of
the great principles veiled their faces, and, as it is
said in the Scriptures, every hair of their flesh stood
on end.

eternal hatred of the doctors of the Temple for
the delightfully inconsiderate spirit, that, born of
cultured brains, preserves throughout the ages the
most admirable resources of our race ! O musico-
graphers crouching behind dusty texts, who, in
every age, endeavour to interdict, in the name of
your indigestible trash, the life that is unceasingly
renewed !

Perhaps the defence of the Histoires Naturelles
was sometimes undertaken with excessive ardour,
but this is excused by the exasperation that arises


at the contact with those who have awarded them-
selves the monopoly of all that is serious.

Despite whether one liked or disliked this kind of
wit, there was in these five songs too much origin-
ality and too much skill for them to continue to be
disparaged without the risk of ridicule. Apart from
a few sectarians who remained fixed in their first
attitude, word was then passed round to declare,
with an air ot dismissing the subject, that it was
merely a jest.

Words are so supple that a mutual understanding
depends upon the sense in which one understands
them. Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles may be a jest ;
but then Laforgue’s Complaintes, or Andre Gide’s
Paludes are also jests.

Jests, if you like, but jests which are not within
the reach of the first comer. To handle this sort of
thing requires sureness, precision, and minuteness of
gesture, otherwise the exaggeration is betrayed and
caricature debases what was undertaken by the
finest intelligence.

Critics have been found to assert, with more
insistence than good faith, the close musical relation-
ship of Ravel with Claude Debussy, and to declare
that the composer of Miroirs is a mere imitator of
the master of the Estampes. Time is slowly dealing
justice to this contemptible allegation.

The harmonic emancipations which were innova-
tions by Debussy are to be found again in the
technique of Ravel. The contrary would be in-
conceivable, and one can no more be surprised at it
than at meeting their traces again in the works of


Albert Roussel and Florent Schmitt. At this time
of day one cannot contrive that Claude Debussy
never existed, and it would be somewhat ridiculous
to endeavour, with conscious effort, to write without
making use of the new resources brought to life by
Debussy’s art.

There is more in it than that. A renovation of
such extent is not the achievement of one solitary
will, even that of a genius like Debussy. It comes
to existence by the operation of latent desires which
accumulate and claim fulfilment. The influence of
Claude Debussy is felt in certain works of Maurice
Ravel (some will say in the Miroirs, and others in
the Quartet) ; that much is certain. Maurice Ravel
and all of his generation know and cannot forget
what they owe to the composer of the Images, and
the Prelude & Vapris-midi d*un Faune. But it must
not be forgotten that Jew* d’eau is, in point of date,
one of the earliest manifestations of French pianistic
art in our day, and that the Pavane, the Quartet, and
the earliest songs, such as Sainte, had already given
proof of the clearly original mind of Ravel, in whom
concentrated emotion, a tenderness repressed in
pleasantry, and an observant penetration, are
steeped in the affectionate irony that is the basis of
his views of the universe and the conclusion to which
his introspection has led him . Perturbing and witty
gracioso whose alborada leaves indifferent none who
hear it ! One is left to choose only between finding
it unbearably irritating or enjoying it, as I do, with
others, more and more, as one of the most adorable
victories of the modern musical spirit, as one of the


expressions in which are concentrated the sense of
observation and the sensibility that constitute the
best part of our genius since the fabliaux and the
early folk-songs ; since Villon and du Bellay ; since
Marot and Michel de Montaigne.

Ten years have passed since this sketch was
published. Since then Maurice Ravel has given us
in the Rapsodie Espagnole, in Ma Mere VOie, in
L’PIeure Espagnole, in Daphnis et Chloe, in Trois
Poemes, and in the Trio, new reasons to rejoice, and
added new riches to French music. The views
expressed in this sketch have been abundantly
justified. I take special delight in having insisted,
so far back as 1907, on the particular quality of
sensibility and of sentiment in Ravel, at a time when
he was denied all tenderness and only credited with
ingenuity. The sentimental freshness of Daphnis
et Chloe has only accentuated that which some of us
anticipated from the Pavane, the Sonatine, and the
Oiseaux Tristes.


(To Andre Caplef)

His is a strong and ardent soul, at once sensitive
and robust, wholly possessed by a fire that smoulders
and shows itself at moments in a pure flame, with
which it gives a pervading light to his noble and
affecting horizon.


This vigorous soul is, however, devoid of violence.
It does not appear compelled to restrain itself. It
slimes with a serenity in which his joy finds control
and his melancholy obtains firmness. Never is the
expression of the thought surprised into excess, but
never is it overtaken by mediocrity.

In music this man speaks seldom, and only when
the movements of his meditations have led him to it.
Thus he offers the astonishing spectacle of works that,
wholly bound up with describing the exterior aspect
of things, yet attain more surely than any others
to the essence of human sensibility and emotion.

Two sets of piano pieces, Le Chant de la Terre and
En Languedoc, and some ten songs, constitute at
present all that has revealed this mind to musicians.
They suffice to assert one of the strongest person-
alities erf to-day and one of the most powerful among
the writers who entrust to the piano the expression
of their thoughts ; not that he adapts himself to it
with all the ease in the world, but because tie
surpasses it. Others know the minute subtleties of
pianistic writing, and the embroideries of their style
come to light in constantly varied patterns, and are
refined away to vaporous trifles. His concern with
his style is limited to enclosing the major power with-
in the narrow space of a piano-poem, and it is from
the fire that animates him that his musical utterance
draws all its colour. It does not thrill so much as it
penetrates you with everything that is exhaled by
its aspects. Its charm derives not from arabesques
or from rich contrasts, but from a broad and new


The horizons described by these poems are not
smiling or flowery, but they bear always the stamp
of a secret gravity. Their lines are noble and
simple. In them the earth is not constantly con-
cealing itself under the pleasantness of the foliage.
All in them* reveals the fecundity and the virile
frankness of life.

Ardently attached to his natal soil, he has under-
stood it to the point of discovering the secret of
vaster landscapes even than those which lay before
him, and, whilst seeming to restrict himself to the
depiction of the Languedoc landscape, he was in
contact with the very essence of the French land-
scape wherever it is more grave than smiling and
more noble than graceful. And transcending even
our national borders, he seems in Les Moissons, in
Sur I’Etang le Soir, and in Coin de Cimeti&re au Prin-
temps, to have attained to the gentle nobility of the
earth itself.

Nature, broad and beautiful, sometimes rugged
and sometimes sweet, is the domain that suits him.
He has not ceased to live in it, making of it his
ordinary residence or, when circumstances detained
him at a distance, the habitual subject of his mus-
ings. His sojourns in towns have been short, and
limited to the requirements of his musical studies or
of his friendships. He is not at his ease in them,
and soon returns to Saint-Felix-de-Caraman, where
dwells his heart.

What virtue lies in a work in connection with
which one can use, without insipidity, that word, so
full of traps for the unwary : the heart ! I know of


nothing to equal these pages full of serene and at
once ardent affection in this limpid atmosphere,
alive with vigour and grave joy I know of
nothing to equal them but certain poems of Francis
Jammes, in the Elegies, particularly that which
commences :

Quand mon cceuy sera wioyt &’ aimer.

The same love of form at once dominates and
emancipates them. More minuteness in Jammes,
but in Severac more colour. An atmosphere
unceasingly renewed and favourable to their
thoughts enveloped their art-dreams, and, both
born in the midst of landscapes whose noble and
beautiful lines charmed their vision, they impart
to each page of their poems the aroma of healthy
life and of virile gentleness that cannot fail to
move us.

We must not carry this too far, and let a partial
analogy aspire to prove equivalence. The points of
resemblance of the poet and the musician are limited
to the matter of their rustic sensibility. Their
themes and their tastes diverge. They are different
flowers. The same atmosphere makes them to
bloom, and it is their roots that touch.

There is in Severac, as it were, a determination to
be healthy, and, even in melancholy, a robust
passion. Does not this title, Coin de Cimetiere an
Printemps reveal his mind ?

*i This churchyard corner, this familiar corner, does
not prompt him to express tender lassitude. It is
not his intention to be definite, and in the graveyard


he sees living flowers. He hears arising the universal
joy of effort that has not readied its summit. A
coin de cimetiere, but au primtempts ; and over the
rich and grave harmonies of the bass the fresh-
ness of living hopes is singing and asserting

In every page of these works that which strikes
one first and leaves a lasting impression is the feeling
of fulness in the form. Nothing is displayed as an
eventuality. All is achieved. The harmonies fer-
tilise each other mutually and do not resolve until
assured of complete maturity. It is the quality of
those who do not speak unless under the stimulus of
their fervour.

There exists, to describe this attitude of the mind,
no word more adequate than ” fervour/ 7

Besides, it is the keystone of the arch of meditative
criticism. It is the touchstone of minds which are
not solely of to-day. No word is more noble or
contains more of concentrated ardour or of radiant

(C Nathanael, I will teach thee fervour/’ says
Andre Gide, who knows fervour so well, at the
opening of his Nourritures Terrestres. Severac also
teaches it to us. He is a simple and strong picture
of it. In it is seen to reign that passion of love that
turns from blatant utterance. And behind the
joyously or gravely smiling face is so fertile an
amere-pensee I


(To W. G. Whittaker)

AT Honfleur, where Eric Alfred Leslie Satie, known
as Erik Satie, was born in 1855, one breathes of
necessity, and by a decree of divine fate, a love of
special and manifold phantasy, together with the
inconstant breeze of the, estuary and the beauty of
one of the most affecting views in the world. The
most vivid imagination and the most compact logic
mingle there in variable proportion. An unforeseen
chemical process is elaborated there and gives birth,
according to the dose, to minds like Albert Sorel,
Henri de Regnier, and Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, or
else like Alphonse Allais and Erik Satie.

The contempt for beaten paths, the hunger for
the unknown formerly led the mariners of Honfleur,
of set purpose, to seek suspected Arcadias x or
mysterious Africas. In the music of to-day Erik
Satie has given us its equivalent, perspicacious,
imperturbable, and bantering.

Others are revolted, I am told, by our pausing
over the works of Satie, our finding pleasure in them,
and, even further, holding them in esteem. I am
sorry for them, but Satie’s smile and his indifference
to superannuated dogmas have done music better
service than much pedantic assurance. It is
hazardous to conclude, from a man’s capacity to
smile, that what he says is only amusing and has, in
truth, no importance. The work of Satie is modest,

1 Arcadia is the old French name for Nova Scotia.


It does not aspire to be grandiose. It readily
consents to efface itself. It has long shared an
impenetrable remoteness with its author, who has
little inclination to confidences. His works waited
nearly twenty-five years after their creation for
Maurice Ravel to think of restoring them to the
light they deserved, in order that Satie should be
credited with the merit that is his due.

In the days when Erik, then eight years of age,
was being initiated in the musical arcana under the
direction of an organist of St. Catherine, a pic-
turesque wooden church on the Honfleur coast, he
surely had no thought of jevolutionising music.
Yet the familiarity with the plainsong to which his
professor accustomed him impelled his naturally
active mind to find pleasure in the most emancipated
sonorous combinations, and to travel away from

At the Conservatoire his circumspect indolence
led to his being sent down from a piano class.
Afterwards he was a fellow-pupil with Chevillard,
Paul Dukas, and Phillipp in the piano class taught
by Mathias, and his professor advised him to go and
study the violin, which was more likely to be of use
to him. Disdaining such specious advice, Erik
Satie attended a composition class as listener, but
henceforth, although a listener, he gave constant
preference to the more liberal teachings of medieval
religious polyphony.

He was scarcely more than twenty years of age
when he composed the Sarabandes, in 1887. It
would be possible to date from then an entire



history of the French colour in music, for, by means
of a conscious and wise disrespect of the principles
of the Conservatoire, Erik Satie was inaugurating
the musical methods towards which Claude Debussy
was tending at the same time, and to which he was
to give a personal stamp.

These early Sarabandes have recently been
reconstituted, as well as the Gymnopedies which
followed them. We are ravished to-day by their
charm which formerly and here formerly means
only yesterday caused stupefaction and gave
scandal to some, and made others shrug their

In order to discipline himself Erik Satie composed
his pieces three times over, nearly in the same
manner, but with subtle nuances. There are three
Sarabandes and three Gymnopedies, just as there
were later to be three Gnossiennes.

For self-justification and to test the measure of his
success, his attempts are made in threes : ” Us
deux marches et la belle,” as their author says with a
sly smile.

There have been some who believed that the
intention to give surprise, the inclination to freedom,
or the contempt of ordinary rules could alone hive
actuated Erik Satie when revolutionising the tonal
idea without appearing to touch it. But, much to
the “contrary, his phantasy was directed by a strict

He imposed upon himself slow dance-forms :
Spartan and sacred dances in the Gymnopedies, and
dances of Pelasgic Greece in the Gnossiennes,


mingling minute refinements with the pleasure of
barbaric sensations. One cannot escape the charm
of the third Sarabande or the suave gravity of the
second; and the form of pulsation that governs
the Gymnopedies is bathed in a delicate atmosphere
that has not tarnished its premonitory colouring. 1
Nowadays, the second Gnossienne might almost be
reproached with a too easy melody, but the barbaric
delicacy of the first has lost none of its accent.

When he wrote the Gnossiennes, in 1889, Erik
Satie had found two supports in his researches, or
rather two confirmations of their legitimateness :
the Javanese dances at the Exhibition of 1889, and,
more especially, the Greek choruses at Saint- Julien-
le-Pauvre. A little later, carried away by the
mystic symbolism that prevailed at the time, and
with which he was in sympathy, at least in his
obsession with plainsong, he composed the Sonneries
de la Rose + Croix (1891), and, the Prelude du Fils
des etoiles, a Wagnerie Kaldeenne by Josephin
Pladan, performed at Durand-Ruel’s house in
February, 1892. With the Prelude de la Porte
hfroique du del, composed in 1894, they con-
stituted, in the development of their author, the
second manner, in which the sentiment of mystic
purity is substituted for the more essentially
rhythmical direction of his earlier works.

It was about this time that, at the Auberge du
Clou, Avenue Trudaine, where he played the piano,
Erik Satie became intimate with a young musician

1 M. Claude Debussy has orchestrated with, consiwnmate art
the First and Third Gymnopidie*


who was enamoured of new or revived sonorities,
and who displayed curiosity about the author of the
Gymnopedies. It was the composer of The Blessed
Damozel and of Cinq Poemes, then styled Claude-
Achille Debussy.

It is not devoid of truth if one believes that the
conversation of these two young men, diversely
devoted to music, and Erik Satie’s emancipatory
studies in the question of tonality, contributed in
some measure to the aesthetic of Pelleas et Melisande.
That alone would entitle Erik Satie to notice for
the part he has played.

But, careless of obstacles, this fantastic and
methodical musician, whose very existence remained
unsuspected, was composing pieces in a style of
greater freedom. Wholly saturated with a humility
of which one can only assert that it is not assumed, he
infused into his titles the sense of humour fliat was
gradually to lead him on. Thus, as early as 1897,
he completed the Pieces Froides, whose six numbers,
three and three, according to his custom, are
grouped under the modest sub-titles of Airs a faire
fair, and Danses de trovers. Gradually the reins, he
had harnessed to his fancy were loosened, the
andantes of the outset tended to be replaced by more
rapid movements, and a smile came to give more
animation to a too constrained gravity. These new
views gave birth in 1903 to the Morceaux en Forme
de Poire, whose titles earned for them a contemptu-
ous attention, which was less than they deserved. *
The sense of method which does not leave Satie
and, in accordance with his Honfleur heredity,


actually leads him to the varied domains of fancy,
persuaded him to resume, when over forty years of
age, the way of the schools. From the Schola
Cantorum, which he attended, he derived the benefit
of two scholastic sets of pieces, the Aperpus desagre-
ables (Pastorale, Chorale, and Fugue), and En habit
de cheval (Chorale, Litanic Fugue, another Chorale,
and Paper Fugue), self-imposed tasks, respectfully
written to prove to himself and to others that it is
possible to write tedious works and yet to write them
with a sense of humour.

Since 1912 the composer of the GymnopSdies has
given us in succession : V&ritaUes preludes flasques
(pour un chieri) ; Descriptions zutomatiques (April),
1913); Embryons desseches (June, 1913); Croquis
et agaceries d’un gros bonhomme en bois (July, 1913) ;
Chapitres tournes . en tous sens (August, 1913) ;
Vieux sequins, meilles cuirasses ; Heures seculaires
et instantanSes ; Trois valses distinguees du Precieux
dgotite ; C hoses vues d drdite et & gauche (for violin),
the last three works being as yet unpublished.

A productiveness so suddenly become abundant,
on the part of a spirit diffident in itself, and
almost in its audacity, would not be compatible with
works of constant value, but their very abundance
indicates a happy generosity in their vivacity.

With all due respect to those who may regard
such inventions as useless, it is perhaps less difficult
to write a symphony,such as there are several, devoid
of true music, than to raise humoristic fancies above
the mere style of the music-hall and impart to them
a musical quality. It is Erik Satie’s merit to have


preserved in these amusing short sketches the
evidence of a skill that does not attempt to impose
upon itself.

The titles and the improbable indications of
nuance with which this humorist ornaments his
pieces (Tyrolienne turque ; Affolements gmnitigues ;
Fugues d tdtons . . .) must not be allowed to make
us lose sight of the musical quality of his works,
which these literary elements would not suffice to
sustain. Whether he engages in disconcerting
adaptations of familiar themes, as in the Tyrolienne
turque, Espanana, 1 Celle qui parle trop, z or Stir un
vaisseau,* or derives a comic effect from the gro-
tesquely expressive employment of serious means,
as in the theme of the two horns in De Podophtalma,*
he does not cease to be musical. In this respect the
books of Embryons dessiches and of Vieux sequins,
vieilles cuirasses remain affecting records of the
happy meeting that may occur between music and
the spirit of fantastic banter. n the second of
these sets the first piece, Chez le marchand d’or,
proves that Erik Satie knows how to write very
effectively for the piano, just as Seul a la maison in
the Veritables preludes flasques gives proof of an
emotion which generally forces itself not to appear,
but by which the composer sometimes allows
himself, without regret, to be betrayed.

To have had the intuition of the harmonic revival

1 From Croguis et agaceries <Vun gros bonbomwe en lois,

* From Chaptires tourn&s en fous sens.
8 From Descriptions Automatiques.

* From Embryons desstMs.


to which the name of Claude Debussy will remain
attached, to have succeeded in endowing French
music with little works that are full of agreeable
quality and will not age any sooner than do more
pretentious pages : is that not enougli for us to
honour Erik Satie, to have some gratitude for him
and to award him, in the music of to-day , the
modest place that he does not claim, but that
musicians like Debussy and Ravel have claimed on
his behalf, and that only those minds that are
burdened with relics, as in the fable, consider it
unseemly to grant him ?




(To Andre Gide]

LET us tarry on the banks of an attractive and
singular river that is impregnated with grandeur
and melancholy. The waters of this river are bitter.
Its banks are sombre and beautiful An internal
agitation animates its waters and clouds them.
Strange flowers torn from its banks are carried
down angry currents. None knows precisely where
this river has its source. Its surface is at times
rippled with a new tremor whose suddenness startles,
astonishes for a moment, and then attracts.

Yet no fury assails its languid or rapid course. In
places the water seems more limpid and reveals a
marvellous efflorescence. It betrays furtive comings
and goings which play in the light of an unforeseen
and distant horizon that seems to be reflected, at
unsuspected depths, into magic radiance.

Often the waters of this river are tinted with
metallic reflections. Fallen leaves float upon them.
Indolent and treacherous creeping plants suddenly
intertwine. An acrid perfume reveals that its
waters are tainted by decomposed fragments. Their
tints are then unimaginable.

Sometimes again these tints contract, and the
river seems like a tarnished mirror, concealing with


difficulty sumptuous landscapes. And this river
flows unceasingly on its royal course, with ardour,
or languidly; full of anxiety, or slowly, with an
indolent serenity. And always over its triumphant
and fateful course there reigns a misty atmosphere
which sometimes thickens to the point of concealing
from us its attractive curves.

Only now are the fogs beginning to lift with which
this river voluntarily enveloped its sources and
some of its aspects.

It is indeed only recently that the true light of
day has begun to be shed upon the physiognomy
of Charles Baudelaire. In the whole of French
literary history there is none whose features have
been distorted with less regard for truth. A legend
clings tenaciously to the memory of this poet.

There are legends that surround memories with
such halos that one regrets to probe them and
prefers not to advance too far for fear of seeing the
illusion one has preserved of them crumble away into
acrid and colourless dust. There are other legends
that one devotes oneself with some delight to
destroy, whereby historic truth is posthumously
avenged on the enthusiasm that makes reputations
hurriedly and is not always sufficiently well informed
to destroy them. The legend of Baudelaire is one
of those that should be pierced, for, although it does
not affect the poet’s admirers, it does not avoid
estranging from him, on the faith of perpetuated
gossip, certain desirable affections, and it prevents
one from appreciating the importance played by this
writer at the end of the last century*


Yet one cannot bear any grudge against those
who, whether through credulity, indolence, or
animosity, actively continued to give a doubtful
character to the destiny of his memory ; for the one
who was most active in this direction, and possessed
the most authority and the most zeal, the one who
constructed the most minutely this satanic, disturb-
ing, and perverse legend of Baudelaire, was none
other than Charles Baudelaire himself.

He has said somewhere : ” Chaste as paper,
sober as water, devout as a communicant, in-
offensive as a victim, it would not displease me to
pass for a profligate, a drunkard, a blasphemer, and
an assassin.”

He was born with a singular sensibility that was
only exasperated by circumstances. These even
appear to have been the most suited to irritate and
impress his nerves, which, from childhood, were
delicate, vibrating, and equally ready to relax and
to contract.

One of his diaries, which he entitled with such
accuracy ” Mon cceur mis a nu,” reveals him as he
was in childhood. Minds such as that of Baudelaire
are not shaped suddenly; their roots establish
themselves slowly. There are some whom solitude
attracts, as if in spite of themselves, and as if it were
their native atmosphere. Their senses are sharp-
ened to the point where every clash is to them a
wound, and where the compassion, the curiosity or
the authority of others can be, for them, no more
than so many further reasons to withdraw into


It is not that they are from the first palled with
what life offers them, but they need silence to enjoy
it at leisure. Their nerves make them sensitive to
everything, and the universe arouses their solicitude.
Their aptitudes are numerous and their curiosities
manifold. Their childhood is a succession of
enthusiasms and meditations, of desires and lassi-
tudes, without sufficient power of concentration to
hold them at any point. Authority, which satisfies
others, is necessarily unbearable to them ; not that
disorder is their kw, but because they obey their
own sense of order, whose origin lies behind that of
law, at the roots of their very being. They maintain
even in their excesses the measure of their dignity.
They are obstinate and timid, peaceful, yet always
in revolt. Their ordinary attitude is cairn, but in
their heart a disturbance is seething that they know
not to whom to confide, and they exasperate
themselves in the endeavour to find a responsive
echo to it.

They keep within themselves melancholies that
naught could appease, and throw themselves into
agitation to d’spel their obsession.

They are sensitive to the most minute accentua-
tions of the instant that passes. They watch the
modulations that vibrate around and within
themselves. One can understand what the youth
of such minds may have been, only when
tnaturity has permitted them to express it with
more precision.

Meanwhile, the love of silence in these reserved
souls, and the irony with which they surround


themselves, give a misleading impression of their

They are always animated by an unsatisfied
tenderness that knows not how to express itself, in
its fear of banal formality ; and this fear leads them
to studied refinement, and to the cult of the bizarre
or the unexpected. Those who are enamoured of
ordinary good sense, and of sentiments that find
expression so soon as felt, cannot understand these
taciturn children who are irritated by every question
and who derive strength in the same degree as they
do sadness from their irascible humour. All that
they do is to ask silently of those who surround
them to give them wise affection and undisturbed
peace, that they may attempt to answer the ques-
tions that crowd within them, and to appease the
tumult that has been let loose in their hearts by
an impulse communicated from without, and that
only death will interrupt,

Truly, the most regrettable event in the life of
Baudelaire seems to have been that he lost his
father at an early age. The misfortunes of his life
were to be aggravated by the accidents that followed
as consequences of that death.

Charles Baudelaire’s father had been a tutor in
the family of the Choiseul-Praslin, in the time of
the Revolution. Under the Terror he was able to
render numerous services to his friends. He was a
distinguished spirit, full at once of finesse and of
unassuming good nature. He was readily compared
to La Fontaine for the simplicity and originality of
his character.


Charles Baudelaire owed to him the love of
writing, and the passion for elegance that he retained
in the midst of vexations and difficulties. There is
no doubt that he would have met with encourage-
ment from his father in the inclinations that drew
him to literature and had been the means, in M.
Baudelaire senior, of ensuring refined associations
and some social standing. But when his father died
his mother was still quite a young woman, and at
the end of a year she married Colonel Aupick, then
in garrison at Lyons.

Baudelaire was destined to retain all his life the
bitterness of this remarriage. At the outset he
was little inclined to look upon his stepfather with
a kindly eye, and it happened that that otherwise
praiseworthy officer possessed precisely the char-
acter least suited to understand that of Baudelaire.
This commanding officer, born with the love of
action, could not understand the young man who
was haunted with dreaming and curious of the least
vibrations of a surprising sensibility, whilst preserv-
ing an appearance of impassiveness, irony, and
enthusiasm : a mind shaped too early and gradually
concentrating, to bloom afterwards in the unique
work of genius that is Les Fleurs du Mai.

The journey which he was compelled, by his
stepfather’s authority, to make to Mauritius and
India, left on his mind a most vivid impression. The
sight, however brief, of these tropical horizons, of
these countries with gorgeous vegetation, threw his
already nostalgic soul into prolonged and violent


Unlike other poets who were born there, such as
Leconte de Lisle, Lacaussade or Leon Dierx, he did
not depict these countries, but, by a wholly natural
mental transposition, he coloured with his memories
the eternal regret of ” elsewhere ” that was to be his
constant companion, like a sorrowful burden upon
the most disquieted, the most ardent, and the most
coldly passionate soul hitherto encountered in
French poetry.

Scarcely can a few poems of the Fleurs du Mai be
attributed, exactly and in their entirety, to the
memories of this journey, but its influence is every-
where in the warm perfume of these exotic countries
that returns constantly as a reminder. They are
not the flowers of our country, whose scent he loves
to breathe, but strange perfumes from distant

It is not that he preferred them, or would have
been happy to return to those regions. There is no
evidence that, during his life, he ever had the
intention of doing so. He seems to have been much
more attached to the modern manifestations of
artistic life in his day. But, in his mind abandoned
to dreams, these distant countries locate the
aspirations that he is not destined to realise.

There exists, in truth, a word that contains the
entire soul of Baudelaire, his whole genius and his
whole heart, a word that he seldom utters, but which
resides at the root of his desires, his regrets and his
lassitudes ; a word which constitutes the frame-
work of his writings, which explains his curiosity,
directs his criticism, and has made of this man th6



most surprising intelligence of all French poets,
That word is : nostalgia.

The dictionaries explain nostalgia as a melancholy
caused by the lively desire to revisit the home-
land, such as is colloquially termed home-sickness.
Baudelaire’s nostalgia cannot be defined otherwise,
but one must reflect that in him this desire to revisit
the homeland carried with it the certainty of never
attaining to satisfaction or appeasement, for he was
one of those minds whose home is not earthly, and
who seek in activity only an appeasement or a
distraction. Baudelaire is certainly not alone in
having borne the heavy burden of this malady of
the Infinite. But in his works it has achieved an
expression of such grandeur and beauty that it
seems little probable that they will ever be surpassed.
He will be found confessing to it on every page of
his works. In the Fleurs du Mai there are scarcely
any poems that do not reveal it. It forms their
sorrow-laden texture and their bitter obsession.

He dreams unceasingly of departures for indefinite
countries where the tedium of his ever-dissatisfied
soul could find distraction. He dreams unceasingly
of countries from which he appears to himself to be
returning, so clearly do they assume to his acute
senSe > the sharp relief of real life ; and, constantly
osculating between a regret and a desire, he can no
longer find repose but in an insatiable curiosity
interspersed with solitary, deceptive, and melancholy

The soul of romanticism, exasperated with
sentimentality, had experienced the bitterness of

MUSIC AND fcOETfcir 79

vague disquiet, attaining to suicide in Werther ; but
Baudelaire reveals with magic grandeur the new
form of human discontent. The mind acquires a
greater value in its sickness. It is in his intelligence
that this man suffers, as the romantics had
suffered from the deceptions of their sentimental

Thence comes it that the bitterness of Baudelaire
always preserves a restraint that forbids him all
exaltation. There had been others before him who
felt this insufficiency of the mind in the presence of
its own questions, but the proud yet pitiable
sensitiveness of Baudelaire gave to all this an
entirely different form. Without respite a new
vision constantly imposed itself on his outlook.
Without respite this ardent spirit, nourished on
beauty, thought to discover the object of a definite
attachment, but all his scruples arose in unison to
lessen every joy and deprive him of all rest.

He has stated it himself with great precision in one
of his prose-poems, Les Vocations : ” It has often
seemed to me that my pleasure would be to proceed
straight ahead, without knowing whither, without
anyone being concerned, and constantly to see new
countries. I am never at ease anywhere, and I
believe that I would always be better elsewhere
than where I am/’

And in another entitled N’importe ou hors du
monde he says : “It seems to me that I should
always be at ease there where I am not, and this
question of removal is one that I am constantly
debating with my soul.”


Others would have lyrically cursed life and
destiny, and sighed abundantly over such original
sin : but that is where the art of Baudelaire reveals
a character that is peculiarly its own.

As has been accurately said by Jules Laforgue :
” He was the first to express himself in a restrained
confessional-tone without assuming an air of in-
spiration/ 7 1 Where others would assuredly have
uttered imprecations, he has only an ironic word, in
which the wound in his heart is the more powerfully
revealed. From childhood he preserved to an
unimaginable degree the modesty of his sentiments.
The love of solitude never left him, as if the presence
of another might have disturbed his dream of
” elsewhere/’ Yet his heart was full of tenderness
held in check. His letters reveal it in spite of
himself. This man, athirst for solitude, was still
more athirst for a presence that might have brought
calm to his mind and have appeased the unceasing
disquiet of his heart.

And this man, to whose name was attached a
legendary reputation for perversity, reveals an
unimaginable ingenuousness of heart . This braggart
of vice reveals in his letters sentiments which he
endeavoured all his life to dissimulate, through a
haunting solicitude to escape from indiscretions,
the more to enjoy the charm of solitude. A thousand
instances betray that his impassive exterior veiled
a strange internal disquiet, in a singular association
that gives him the sorrowful aspect of Hamlet* All

* Jules laforgue : MManges Postkumes. Published by the
Mercure de France.


the evidence of contemporaries who were in close
touch with him, Gautier, Banville, Flaubert, and
many others, is in accord. It shows him moderate
in the choice of words, always conforming to the
strictest politeness, expressing paradoxical ideas in
a tone of great simplicity, and with a somewhat
British coldness. His gestures were rare and
moderate, and as if always controlled by a precise

No other writer was more aloof from artistic
Bohemia than Baudelaire. None other preserved a
greater self-control. All his life he endeavoured to
recover himself, to struggle against the forces that
cast his dream adrift. He had the desire to recreate
his soul, in order to owe it in some measure to him-
self, and to feel that he belonged to himself. But
his mind was constantly attracted by vain visions,
by insatiable curiosities, and by this splenetic state
of discontent. And it is this confession that is
constantly repeated in his works, with ever the same
nostalgia, in Les Hiboux, in the admirable Cygne,
and in so many other poems. And who could
suggest nostalgia when speaking of Baudelaire
without the evocative and melancholy title of
L’ Invitation au Voyage rising of its own accord to

the lips? *

The whole of nature, all things around Baudelaire,
solicit and invite him to travel towards that country
where ” tout n’est qu’ordre et beaute, luxe calme et
volupte” It is a journey without a destination,
that is constantly resumed because it is projected but
never accomplished save in dreams; and this


Invitation au Voyage returns as a sorrowful echo in
his works. Baudelaire has resumed this theme a
thousand times. Is it not in the Invitation au
Voyage of the prose-poems that one finds this
sentence : ” A musician has written L’Invitation d
la Valse ; where is he who will compose L’Invitation
au Voyage ” ?

This is an indication revealing his obsession with
music, his deep consciousness of the impossibility of
better expressing the idea that haunted him save
with the help of the evocations of tone. In vain he
resumes in words this desire to be elsewhere, which
is an obsession for him. He feels that no word will
ever express his longing to escape from his world and
to tear from it his tenderness in order the better to
reveal it whole. He feels that music alone might
perhaps advance a little further into the secret
avowal of his heart.

Music has not yet seen the birth of a composer
whose soul might correspond to that of Baudelaire.
Yet some have endeavoured to follow in music the
text of Baudelaire’s poems.

The contents of these poems are at once ample,
strong, and subtle. The music with which they are
accompanied runs the risk of detracting from their
dignity by overloading them beyond measure, or it
threatens to remain far from attaining their subtlety.
To realise their essential characteristics, qualities
are required similar to those of the mind which
composed them.

The lassitude, the gravity tinged with nostalgia,
of the mind of Henri Duparc enabled him to evoke


with dignity L f Invitation au Voyage and L& Vie
Anterieure. How many others have failed !

For inquisitive minds the works of Baudekire are
an inexhaustible source of themes for meditation.
In intellectual contents they rank among the most
important we possess in France, and if it is true that
his poems, especially, are infinite subjects for
meditations and dreams, how alluring is also all that
portion of his works in which Baudelaire reveals
himself as the first, the most alert, and often the
most prophetic of our art critics, even were it
limited to the long and masterly study of Richard
Wagner which he published as far back as 1861,

He was obsessed with everything belonging to this
world from which he sought to escape. At his
funeral Theodore de BanvUle rightly said : ” He
accepted all that is modern man, with his weaknesses,
with his morbid grace, and with his helpless
aspirations/ 1

No phrase can better sum up Baudelaire : ” He
accepted all that is modern man/’ To condense
one of the most acute revelations of modern man :
he knew all the deceptions, aspirations, nervous
disturbances, anxieties, triumphs and failures that
may be represented in a sensitive soul of our time.
He had so often paused at each of the cross-roads
which the modern soul offers and at which the
modern soul sometimes hesitates until it can no
longer act. Maybe those are happy, and, after all,
maybe not, who preserve the serenity of olden times
amid such a whirlwind of forces, amid such a
tempest of ideas as we ar confronted with in


day. It is not a question of unravelling whether
this is better or worse, but we shall never prevent a
soul athirst for certitude from seeking to inform
itself, to revert to principles, to realise the appeasing
unity of these raging forces. For in that lies the
sole effort and the sole tormented desire of every
conscious and meditative soul in our epoch : Unity.
It is this ” desire for unity ” * which haunts every
mind, exhausts it in the search for links to bind its
least thought to the rest of the universe, and leads
it to the discovery of new analogies.

” Analogy “and this is the other pole of Baude-
laire’s mind. Nostalgia in his inner being; and
analogy for his outlook on the universe analogy, or,
as Baudelaire often uses it, the word of mystics :
” correspondence/’

Some content themselves with approximations.
Their pretended analogies are merely verbal, and
dissolve at the breath of time. But others (and
these are the fertile minds of a race and an epoch),
penetrate words, seize them at the heart, and, in
drawing two ideas together with characteristic
violence, compel them, in spite of their sometimes
contrary design, to enter into the unforeseen plan
of a new analogy.

Baudelaire assumes this role, foresees its scope,
indicates some of its paths with the penetration to
which he was inclined by his temperament and
every attitude of his mind.

If nostalgia is the fundamental theme of his

A /’ On Sr?’? y profit b ?” readill S on thi s subject a fine book by
Adnen Mitiiouard, entitled Le fouyment $e V Unite.


works, analogy is their constant mode of expression.
The intelligence of a mind shows itself in the greater
number, appositeness, subtlety, and simultaneous
amplitude of the relations it establishes between the
elements of its universe. The relations which
Baudelaire establishes are infinite. His sensitive
soul made him penetrate to the very essence of
things. Always eager for definition, he retraced
thought, feeling, and life to their sources, which he
discovered to be a common source ; and his dream,
in which the elements of his vision were mingled,
revealed to him their mutual correspondence.

This burning desire for unity led him to give it
the most perfect literary expression it has yet had
since certain poems of Gerard de Nerval, in which
there already appears the feeling of mental reserva-
tion concerning all things in one* Baudelaire has
thrown in this direction a more accurate and com-
prehensive glance, and it is thus that he has ex-
pressed it in his sonnet Correspondances, which no
longer needs to be quoted, so completely has it
become established as a classic, and so often has it
provided a theme for artists and critics : a classic
sonnet quoted as much in musical works as in books
on philosophy, and containing within itself, if not
the whole outline of Baudelaire’s works, at least the
whole form of his art.

Thence have proceeded a thousand preoccupations
of contemporary French poetry, for the true
disciples of Baudelaire are not those who, like
Rollinat and others of his kind, have sought for
macabre effects which are not in Baudelaire, e When


Baudelaire evokes death, it is with profound
grandeur and profound bitterness, and as a philo-
sophic rallying theme. The true disciples of
Baudelaire are those who have endeavoured to
develop and to define the whole art-matter which
lies there, the whole of this new aspect which the
universe has for the soul that loves meditation and

Time has brought a revolution from the strict
division of styles. The modern soul, urged from all
sides, cannot withstand the different currents.
The modern soul, in its desire to live with ardour,
must see multiple aspects before it. All the dams
have burst one after another. The rules of Aristotle
are abolished. Poems in set forms have dis-
appeared. Verse itself has become emancipated in

The mind, carried away by the tempestuous
desire for unity, has understood that though its
aspects be multiple, the essence of all beauty is one,
that only the idea is essential, and that in our day
the beauty of expression may be equal to formal
beauty, revealing the reflection of the soul in the
spectacles of the universe.

The time has passed of the simplicity of lines in
the Greek conception of beauty. The time has
passed of the refined splendour of the Italian
renaissance. This age, to a greater degree than its
predecessors, is eager to attain to the heart of the
mystery, to reach, if not the reason of things, at
least the atmosphere of the inner life ; and it is this
“that has yielded for us the moving wealth of


essayists, Emerson as well as Novalis, Malkrme and
Meredith, Jules Laforgue or Villiers de F Isle-Adam

All these minds, with or after Baudelaire, have
felt, and we feel after them, how thin are the
partitions that separate things and ideas, how
thoughts are merged in one great stream, and how
near the mode of expression of, one art is to that of

Les couleurs, les parfums, et Us sons se rtpondent.

In the soul of him who yields to dreamy nostalgia,
landscapes have no deciding lines, and faces are
vague as those of the old pastels, or of paintings
blackened with age. Nostalgia has none other
theme than that of regret, but the regret itself is
vague, for it is regret not of a definite object but of
an aggregate of a thousand indistinct objects which
appear merged in the distance.

Baudelaire did not regret Calcutta more than
Reunion, but the imaginary transposition of these
places. He did not regret these places themselves,
but their analogies in his soul.. In this we discover
that the two elements in the soul of Baudelaire are
not elements of discord or of strife, but elements
consequent one upon the other. If the nostalgia is
vague, if it is in ignorance of the definite point,
whether that which arouses it is less the object
itself than the radiations of which it is the centre, it
is for this reason that it is conducive to the creation
of new analogies. By the bonds of vague memory
the mind links itself to places, to landscapes, to
faces, to the atmosphere. The nostalgic^ mind
listens to these confused suggestions which become


as the utterances of the Pythia, and present to the
mind the nearest, yet the most diverse, meanings.
They are the material of dreams, and of dreams that
are scarcely definite. And what art but music can
express the indefiniteness of the nostalgic dream ?
What art but music can lay claim to the greatest
power of suggestive analogy, a power greater than
that of words, though their evocative quality be
that of the words of Baudelaire ?

It is to music, always and without ceasing, that
the soul and the thought of Baudelaire incline.
The word ” music ” occurs frequently in his writings,
but its essence is everywhere in them, for its essence
consists in nostalgia, transposition, unutterable
relations, and analogies.

The works of Verlaine are musical, but melodically
rather than profoundly. Those of Baudelaire are
musical to their very heart. That is the secret of
their wealth and of their magic power.

On reading once again the poems of Baudelaire,
however often one may have read them before, one
suddenly discovers in them a new indication. It is
a new dream-portal opened to a multitude of
associations. We experience a similar sensation on
hearing again a sonata by Beethoven, a song by
Schumann, or a passage from Tristan, however dear
to our hearts and familiar to our minds ; but it
means that a new correspondence has been effected
between the musical theme and our present mood.

For the rest, Baudelaire’s preoccupation with
music betrays itself in a thousand places : this
Astonishing phrase in the Confiteor de r Artiste :


” Toutes ces choses pensent, tnais musicalement,” or
the sonnet, La Musique, which opens thus : ” La
musique souvent me prend comme une mer! 3

One might quote a score of penetrating passages
from his remarkable essay on Richard Wagner,
written when none of the musicians appeared to
foresee the importance of the Wagnerian will-power
and its desire to merge all the arts in the lyric drama.

This essay on Wagner has not been read suffi-
ciently. In it one may find this : ” It would be
truly surprising if sound were not capable of suggest-
ing colour, if colours could not give the idea of a
melody, and if sound and colour were inadequate to
express ideas, for things have ever found expression
in reciprocal analogies since that day when God put
forth the world as a complex and indivisible whole/*

Therein resides the very kernel of his aesthetic.
Therein lies the great strength that animates and
stirs his writings, making of them the unprecedented
evidence of a sensibility that is at once grand and
acute, a sensibility that is in the highest degree
musical, and concerned with the mystery of the

Music, the consolation of all nostalgia, and the
atmosphere wherein dwell all analogies, is un-
ceasingly and invisibly present in him. Think what
separates the admirable Alfred de Vigny, for
example, from Baudelaire, despite their belonging
to the same intellectual family: one remains a
sensitive thinker, but a descriptive thinker ;% the
other has the gift of evocation. He came at a time
when the symphony was beginning to offer to French


minds the inexhaustible resources of its moving

Baudelaire stands for the first occurrence in
French poetry of deep preoccupation with the
essence of jnusic. It was not only that the coinci-
dence of events drew him in this direction, but that
his entire nature led him thither. And the. musical
resources of Baudelairian sensibility are not yet

They have tempted more than one composer.
Whilst some, like Henri Duparc, were suggesting in
music the melancholy and ardent gravity of Baude-
laire’s thought, others sought to translate into music
his sense of infinite subtleties, and his taste for
refinement. Thus Claude Debussy in his Cinq
Poemes evokes with minute precision the thoughts
that dwell beyond the landscape, and the atmosphere
of mystery in which floats the intimacy of his mind.
With a care corresponding to that of the poet, he
seeks to liberate in the musical picture all the
emotional elements it contains. In Le Jet d’Eau,
in La Mori des Amants, and in the grave and touching
Resettlement he has succeeded in not betraying the
proud and yet fraternal sensibility of the poet who
had, in a higher degree than any other, the sorrowful
privilege of understanding the modern soul, and of
penetrating the human soul to its uttermost depths ;
those depths where, perhaps some day, all our
nostalgia will find appeasement, and where all
analogies will be combined the uttermost depths
of the human soul where all is music and poetry,



De la musique avant toute chose,
De la musique encore et toujours.

VERLAINE himself gives us the above advice, and in
that order. How, in truth, could one better honour
him, or better speak of him, than with the music
of his own verse, or with the music for which his
poems provided some of our greatest modern
musicians with subjects ?

Verlaine is not of those of whom one may speak in
scholastic terms. He does not lend himself to the
support of a thesis. One cannot find in him an
austere subject. Yet a grave subject is one that
enlists our affections, sometimes bitter, yet often
sweet. Verlaine is not one of those geniuses before
whom all sentiment, even pride, necessarily bows.
He was a man, simply a man, at once inferior and
superior to every one of us. One may remain in
complete ignorance of him, but if some day he has
touched us we shall be unable to forget him, and
inevitably compelled to love him.

” De la musique avant toute chose,
De la musique encore et toujours.”

Thus speaks Verlaine, and it is his entire soul.
Nothing is more characteristic of his writings, and
nothing expresses more fully their essence. ” De
la musique avant toute chose” but he is not con-
cerned here with what is commonly termed the
music of verse, euophny, eurhythmic, the sense of
metre and of stresses. He is concerned here with
the very nature of music. The writing of Verlaine


is of the same essential quality as music, and
infinitely closer to that art than to literature.

Words are in truth full of deceit and trickery.
Some men are skilled in imparting to them a thou-
sand different meanings. Words are of a soft and
resisting substance, stretched and moulded to suit
the moment. They are what one makes of them,
when they are not what they make of themselves.
They are hypocrites of whom one will never be
master, and Jisop’s apologue on the tongue, with a
hundred others, is irrefutable evidence of it.

But music is inevitably fated to be sincere. There
is no deceitful music, though it is true that there is
good and bad music. It is the means of giving
artistic expression to an emotion or a sensation.
Its essence, which is also the principal element in
the writing of Verlaine, is sincerity. It expresses
pain or tenderness, fear or anger, but always it
speaks with the voice of the soul, and not merely
with words that proceed only from the lips.

From the moment that music exists, good or bad,
it is sincere ; and thus it is with Verlaine : perverse
or mystical, it is the sincere cry of his soul, or of his

They are thus similar, music and Verlaine. They
are sincere, without intention, without conscious-
ness, because it must be so. It is a command of the
life universal which they obey. That is why they
are merged in life, which they express with un-
equalled intensity. That is why the poems of
Verlaine are not mere words, but songs, wails, sighs,
shoats, curses, or groans.


Verlaine was, and remains, a singular being whose
personality has always adhered so closely to his
work that death itself could not separate them. He
came at a time when the prevailing idea of a poet
was that of a man inspired, a man whose every
action appeared superior to those of average
humanity. Verlaine is a man who aspires, who
endeavours and who fails, who wills and no longer
dares, who rises and falls, and who sings his aspira-
tions and even his failures. He is an unfortunate
passer-by, something like a street-singer who might
sing the lieder of Schumann. He is a vagabond with

Even in his earliest poems one meets with this
singular mixture of tenderness and savage humour,
this drifting in style of which one cannot well say
whether it is dae more to neglect than intention;
this balance which unceasingly oscillates between
the joyful freshness of childhood and the lassitude of
a morose mind. Even then he gave proof of a
personal use of familiar terms, of everyday words to
which, by means of his marvellous musical instinct, he
gave a new meaning, or at least the impression of one.

At the time when Verlaine was writing his poems,
French music was extricating itself with difficulty
from the domination of the theatre. Whether the
official musicians applied themselves to the trills
and runs of Italian opera, or the more modern among
them felt the influence of Wagner’s genius heavily
upon them, the forces of musical France were
employed almost exclusively in dramatic music, or
concerned in fostering fashionable virtuosity.


Schubert had been dead for forty years, and
Schumann for ten, but the French public was still
ignorant of either, and musicians seemed unaware
of the almost infinite paths indicated by their works.
Both the French composers of the period, and the
public, had been too long engrossed in the external
aspects of the stage, and in mere effect, without
troubling to establish unity between the poetic and
musical intentions. They thus conspired together
to retard the development of a musical type that
ranks among the most admirable and the most
alluring : the lied or art-song.

At that time, towards 1866, nearly all the most
venturesome among young French musicians, for
instance, Saint-Saens, were addicted to the orna-
mental aria whenever it was a question of ” setting
words to music/* as the saying is. Let us turn for
preference even to the declamatory style which mars
the few songs which Wagner composed to French
words in his earliest days, and most of those of

This new poet, this refined and discreet sensibility,
this delicate art of infinite nuance, had need of a
musician with personality, an artist who, reared
upon Schumann and Schubert and retaining only
their essential nature and the form of their prosody,
if one may thus describe it, would express, within
the restricted and intimate frame of the lied (art-
song), an equivalent sensibility, original and wholly
French, uniting the same qualities of depth and
refinement. That was the rdle of Gabriel Faur,

It will never be sufficiently repeated to what


extent one must, in the history of the French art-
song, consider the works of Faure simultaneously as
a starting-point, and as one of its most admirable
achievements. It is, in fact, to Gabriel Faure,
concurrently with Castillon, Henri Duparc, and Rene
Lenormand, that we are indebted for the first
attempts in this musical art-form, which was new to
France and was destined to attain immediately to
a rare degree of perfection.

The history of the lied in France, even if con-

sidered only in its musical aspect, could not be

written omitting the name and the works of Paul

Verlaine. Certainly this poet did not alone deter-

mine the remarkable movement that took place from

1867 onwards to transform the romantic type ot

sons into the Ked aswe understand that form to-day,

but the publication of Fetes Gakmtes, La Bonne

Chanson, Romances sans Paroles, placed at the

disposal of musicians a series of excellently suitable

poems, suitable in a unique degree to this form of

song, and they perhaps hastened its definite con-

Stution. In any case, Gabriel Faure was one of the

first to realise the degree in which these poems were

susceptible to music.

* For thirty years numerous musicians have sought
themes in Verlaine, and yet, despite the best of ther^
such as Debussy, Ernest Chausson, and Charles
Bordes, Faure has remained the true musician for
Verlaine in all his more intimate aspects. Gabriel

Faure’s Verlaine songs are many.

has taken texts from nearly every volume of the

poet. He has even commented almost in its


entirety the collection La Bonne Chanson, and
always with a choice of harmony, and a depth and
clarity of expression, that equal the poem itself in
the intelligence of the commentary.

It is only to superficial minds that Verlaine’s
writing can appear monotonous and attenuated. In
truth there is none more diverse nor more complete.
A false conception of greatness* may have led some
to believe that, with him, it is a matter only of small
impressions and minute notes. In point of fact,
there are pages of Verlaine which attain to the very
essence of the heart, and their musical nature is
exhaled quite naturally.

It is strange that the author who has had the
most influence on the musical movement of his day,
or at least whose works are the most intimately
linked with it, was precisely the author least con-
cerned with it. Musical productivity has not been
for Verlaine what it was for Mallarme, or especially
Baudelaire, 6r for Villiers de FIsle-Adam. The
vagabond and Bohemian existence led by the poet
did not draw him into circles where efforts were
being made for the revival of French music. He
would have been estranged equally by the “good
form ” that prevailed there, and by the discussions
of musical technique.

There would, moreover, have been no advantage
to Verlaine in becoming interested in musical
technique. He carried in his mind the feeling of
the mysterious domain which is only half evoked by
words, and which overflows their rigid shapes.

Indefinite line, evasive and seemingly careless

Music ANi> POETIC 97

expression through which one divines, in spite of all,
the unxiotcs modern sensibility, are modes that are
naturally suited to musical commentary ; and thus it
seems in certain of Verlaine’s poems, when set to
music, as if the composer had done no more than
underline the inflections of the poet’s thought, and
follow its subtle and floating outline.

There is more than one example to be found in the
works of Gabriel Faure. Verlaine’s sensibility has
no more faithful translator. The French grace of
Faure is always happily combined with Verlaine
wherever the poet is ingenuously charming, with a
slight touch of melancholy that increases the

Thus certain songs of Faure have justly become
classics, such as Clair de Lune, in which the melody,
tenderly languishing as the listless lines of the poet,
is underlined with a minuet motif that effaces itself,
reappears, and vanishes once more, following the
slightest intentions of the poet and continuing them
amid the delightful mystery that music imparts to
the evocations suggested by it. But it is chiefly
in that admirable epithalamium, La Bonne Chanson,
that the meeting of musician and poet is happiest.
After La Bonne Chanson, Verlaine was perhaps to
have finer utterances, revolts of the heart or revolts
of the flesh, but he was never to make better songs,
or songs that expressed or gave more consolation, or
that were simpler or sweeter. And in the language
used by Verlaine, which is so devoid of artifice, tliis
acquires the value of confidences in which we
recognise the expression of all our best wishes.


There, more than anywhere, the soul of Verlaine,
and the atmosphere in which it floats, are musical.
There, more than anywhere, the poems are songs
which of their own accord call for music ; and if the
music they attracted to themselves was not always
worthy of them, at least some of it is of sufficient
excellence to obliterate the mediocre. Where the
soul of Verlaine qharms us, it has found none more
worthy to evoke it in music than Gabriel Faure, and
where this charm attains to the profound purity ever
met with in French poetry, it has no more worthy
fraternity of soul than with Ernest Chausson. This
composer’s modesty, and his sometimes over-
scrupulous conscience, did not permit him to offer
his work often enough in his lifetime to the admira-
tion which it deserved. Since, in 1899, a brutal and
stupid accident came to rob the cause of French
music of his life, his fame grows and rises, a slight
compensation for the void created by his death.

It is not that Verlaine has a large share in the
copious song-production of Chausson, but the two
poems he has set, Apaisement and Ecoutez la chanson
bien douce, give the standard of his unequalled

T The little poem to which Ernest Chausson gave
the title of Apaisement, and which opens with ” La
lune blanche . . .” has tempted many musicians.
None has rendered its exquisite melancholy or its
simple, ineffable purity more successfully than in
Apaisement, where the melodic phrase unfolds itself
to an accompaniment made of a few sweet chords
whose modulation is mysteriously resolved.


La Bonne Chanson represented but a brief spell of
calm in the vagabond soul of Verkine. He then
turned his back for ever on the tranquil happiness
of a peaceful life and entered upon the lamentable
existence of a vagabond, wandering, at the call of a
torturing curiosity, in ” chemins perfides, douloureuse-
ment incertains,” from which he henceforth lacked
will-power to redeem himself. As he then became,
so he was to remain all his life. Henceforth the
blue sky is darkened. It will ever be clouded,
though with occasional breaks, as in Sagesse.
Always there will be this combination of purity in
his work, and pollution in his life.

One need have no fear of belittling Verlaine’s work
by relating his pitiable life, without attempting to
conceal its repellence. His work remains for all to
enjoy its grandeur and charm. But truly, what a
powerful gift this wretch, this jailbird, this drunkard,
must have received from nature to have been able,
throughout his orgies, his vileness, and his misery,
to retain his ingenuousness of heart, his delicacy of
vision, and his impulsive power ! Who could have
withstood such a life ? He must have received as
his portion that which Catholics mean when they
speak of ” grace.”

This grace was Music ; it is the great purifier, the
great consoler, as Schopenhauer and Nietzsche
themselves have asserted. All the best that was in
Verlaine, that which appeals to us when we love him,
was Music. It was the natural expression of his
heart, the safeguard of his genius, and the guardian
of his fame. As he drifts at the mercy of circum-


stances, of his desires, his curiosities, his passions,
and his vices, he sings ; and these songs become
Romances sans paroles, Jadis et naguere, Parallele-
ment, Liturgies intimes. He sings his heart’s
regrets. He sings his heart’s desires. He sings the
landscapes in which his heart seeks eternally an
unattainable peace. He sets a personal stamp on
these landscapes, and the memories he has be-
queathed us of them are not the least interesting
portions of his works. It is even by these, es-
pecially, that some of Verlaine’s composers have
been attracted, among them Gustave Charpentier
and particularly Ckude Debussy.

There is formed in Debussy’s music an admirable
alliance between the sense of reality and the sense
of mystery. Its character is at once legendary and
authentic. It is both material and ethereal. It is
deeply intellectual^ and yet deeply sensuous. It
could not apply itself with more complete fitness
than to this poet.

There is here no question of evenly decorative
music. With Verlaine, as with Debussy, the
landscapes are not separated from the soul that
considers them and animates them. Spleen, L’Ombre
des arbres dans la riviere, and the ending of Chevaux
de bois prove to what degree sensibility plays a part
in their suggestions. It could not be otherwise in
the songs of one of the most sensitive musicians that
ever lived. Claude Debussy has long held in
affection the charming poet of the Fetes galantes,
and of the Ariettes oubliees. Some ten songs exist
to establish this special love which has persisted


from his earliest compositions to his last works.
Beyond the charm and the purity of Verlaine, or
rather apart from these, but side by side with them,
he has a picturesque side, careless and witty, that
also deserved to be translated into music. There is
in Le Faune, in Chevaux de bois, in Fantoches, a
rhythmic side, of which Claude Debussy has been
able to take lasting advantage. Some there have
been who have reproached Verlaine’s poetry with a
certain monotony. There will ever be some to
speak of things before they have even considered
them ; but to convince oneself of the injustice of the
charge one need only read the three sets of songs in
which Debussy has illustrated Verlaine’s sensibility.
One will see at once how varied are the nuances. In
the droll gait of Fanloches, the hammered rhythm of
Chevaux, de bois, the dull tambourines of Le Faune,
the admirably languorous phrases of C’est I’extase,
and the melancholy theme of Spleen or of // pleure
dans mon cceur, we shall find most of the diverse
aspects of Verlaine’s feeling, and the proof of their
engaging variety. The extraordinary musical in-
telligence that presided over all Claude Debussy’s
musical illustrations, of which Pelleas et MMisande
is not the least, has manifested itself in these songs
with singular felicity. There is not an indifferent
page in them, and, even among those who know how
to enjoy the rare quality of Verlaine’s verse by
itse’f, there are many who cannot fail to recognise
that this music has but further enhanced the charm
and the feeling that words are incapable of trans-v


The feeling of freshness that ever characterised
Verlaine’s personality and his work was destined to
assert itself even more fully in a unique book which
is perhaps the most beautiful he wrote, in pages
which constitute the most splendid confession of
Catholic faith that French literature possesses since
its very origin. Such ingenuousness, such sim-
plicity in faith, and such sincerity in expression,
have no equivalent in French literature, and can
only be compared with the works of Cesar Franck.

What a distance there is between the healthy life
of the one and the faun-like existence of the other !
Yet here Franck meets with Verlaine.

The saint meets with the sinner on the path of
belief. What matters that the one may have come
to it from the high planes of grandeur, dignity, and
silent sacrifice, and that only an impulsive enthu-
siasm enabled the other to reach it, coming from
marshes and muddy brooks, his flesh torn by the
bushes and thorns of the road ! They have met at
the sacred fount. Each, for the moment, will look
no longer behind him, but towards the immaculate
snows where dwell the elect, and, as there falls upon
them the twilight of a century of which Le Genie du
Christianisme * was the dazzling dawn, they both
proffer, with the same gesture of brotherly kindliness,
the urns from which believers may quaff the in-
exhaustible and incomparable water, where even
those who are unable to admit its efficaciousness,
are yet able to quench their thirst in its limpid

1 By Chateaubriand.


We may surely regret tliat we do not possess a
song by Cesar Franck to a poem of Verlaine, Their
meeting could not have failed to be felicitous
Failing Franck, two of his pupils have sought there,
and not in vain, themes suited to their glowing
spirituality : Chausson, and Charles Bordes, the
delightful composer whose works are too little
known because this art-propagator who devoted
himself to music and gave up all his life to it, whilst
claiming justice for the past, for his contemporaries,
or for to-morrow, forgot only to ask a share of it
himself in his own lifetime. Yet his songs to poems
by Verlaine would alone suffice to secure him a
delicately beautiful place among the poet’s

Day by day the musical settings of Verlaine
increase (more or less worthily, it must be admitted).
Certain clear spaces of the soul, certain impulses,
seem necessarily to attract the notation of harmonies
and of melodic line.

In all its forms music is the soul of Verlaine’s
poetry, and that is why he has been, and will be,
passionately beloved of musicians. Faure, Lenor-
Hiand, Debussy, Charpentier, Bordes, Sylvio Lazzari,
Ravel, Severac, and yet others, have mingled their
voices with that of the vagabond singer.

For so large a number of musicians to have been
attracted by his poems, for such intimate cohesion
to exist between words and music in their songs, it
was truly necessary for him to be one of themselves,
for the genius of the composer alone could not have


French poetry and French music are indissolubly
linked at the heart of Verlaine’ s poetry, and around
his works, with as close a bond as that which unites
German poetry and German music in Heine and

The name of Paul Verlaine could not remain
associated only on the covers of songs with those of
the best among contemporary French musicians.
A study of French music of the present could not
without injustice omit the part that his presence has
involuntarily played in the development ,of the
French lied, and none who enjoy music may hence-
forth forget that it is in the garden of Paul Verlaine
that have grown some of the most beautiful flowers
of French musical sentiment.


THE French Academy is endowed with a Soussaye
prize destined as reward for the best operatic
libretto in prose or verse submitted to its judgment.
There is good reason to wager that this prize is
devoted to crowning the worst possible work ; one
of those that perpetuate the dramatic common-
places, and jingle qualities of which we have already
only too copious evidence. To speak the truth,
what have academic prizes to do with the destinies
of literature ? There are few academicians who can
perceive, the musical possibilities of verse or prose,
and the musical requisites of an operatic libretto.
Nevertheless, if there be a period when the


operatic libretto should, and might, recover the
dignity that belonged to it in the days of Quinault, 1
is it not the period when music and literature have
for thirty years and more become mutually pene-
trated, and have borrowed means of expression each
from the other ? Whilst the symphonic poem and
the {< programme ” were invading musical pre-
occupations, poets, in disjointing the romantic
alexandrine, were bringing into existence a free
verse that, in the hands of a Regnier, a Gustave
Kahn, a Viele-Griffin, a Verhaeren, or a Mauckir
acquired diversity of inflection and revealed un-
suspected qualities.

It is true that operatic poets have rare oppor-
tunities of meeting with a musician. The best of
the composers of our day devote only a small
proportion of their works to opera. As against one
tr anger t z one Pelleas, one Penelope, one Ariane et
Barbe Bleue, how many . . . Far too many ! More-
over, writers still regard the operatic libretto as a
negligible and uninteresting literary type, whether
it be that they do not care to study it deeply, in
spite of their musical taste, or that they hold the
share of the librettist to be too secondary.

Yet it will escape nobody that the efforts made by
Verlaine, and the poets who succeeded him, to
render verse more supple, to accentuate its lyrical
elements, and deliver poetry from simple, hollow
rhetoric, have aided the marvellous efflorescence of
French song since Faur6, Chabrier, Chausson,

1 1635-1688, the poet of Lnlli’s operas.
* Opeia by Vincent d’Indy.


Duparc, or Debussy. It is impossible to-day to have
accurate views on the evolution of French music in
the last quarter of a century if one is not sufficiently
informed of the evolution of French literature in the
same period. They hold together more closely than
ever, and they can only have profited from their
union. Musical works such as the Chansons de
Bilitis, Petteas et Melisatide, the Prelude d I’apres-
midi d’un Faune, as well as the Chanson Perpetuelle
or Les Heures, are not born from the momentary
meeting of a musician and a poet, but from the deep
and constant intimacy between music and literature.

Apart from one or two exceptions, the whole of
the best literature of this period is plunged in music,
whether we speak of prose-writers like Andr6 Gide
or Suars, or of poets like Henri de Regnier or
Caniille Mauclair. There have been failures enough,
stifled or notorious, to give proof of the emptiness
of the operatic style as manufactured in the work-
shops of licensed librettists. Only the monstrous
” oratorio ” book is more ridiculous. Present-day
composers, or at least those of them who have some
personality, have taken the course of preparing
their libretto themselves, whether they invent one
altogether, or seduce and transform to their con-
venience, in accordance with the musical require-
ments, the works to which they feel attracted.

It is, in truth, from the operatic libretto that
must come the solution of the opera problem. It is
the librettists, or rather the operatic poets, who wiH
bring about the escape from a style whose conven-
tions iiave reached the limits qf tediousness.


Perhaps the success of the Russian ballets and
the intelligent decorative and literary efforts of the
Theatre de$ Arts offer the indication that we must
resume the path of the old opera d divertissements as
it was in the time of Lulli, Rameau, and Campra,
or possibly modified to suit our present requirements .,
but carrying with it a similar union of music,
poetry, and dancing.

Opera has scarcely to do with classical tragedy,
from which our modern intentions are somewhat
removed, and the aesthetic of the open-air theatre,
suited to outbursts and roars, does not accord with
the present tendencies of French music, which are
infinitely more decorative and more subtle.

The operatic poet who will create the desired
libretto will not be he who will seek to impose upon
the music a libretto in contradiction to its ten-
dencies, but he who, having lived in the musical
atmosphere, having entered into relations with the
best minds in that art, will have grasped its aspira-
tions, whilst, at the same time, being sufficiently
master of the verbal harmonies of the language to
provide the composer with a text that is strictly
” musicable,”

– There is scarcely the possibility of a libretto to-day
apart from free verse or rhythmic prose. The
necessary incidence of the rhyme and the regular
.subdivision of the alexandrine cannot easily accord
with the music of our day. It was thus in the time
of Lulli, and Quinault had understood it. The
perusal of his operatic poems still holds charming and
delightful moments in store for inquiring readers.


The question of the operatic libretto cannot be a
secondary one for those who are passionately
devoted to music. It is the good librettists, the
true operatic poets, who will restore the interest of
music-lovers in an art-form that sometimes, and at
long intervals, is connected with music by works
like Boris Godunoff or PelUas et Melisande.

There are surely in these days some young poets,
skilled in the use of the delicate and supple instru-
ment of free verse, who at the same time do not tire
of rehearing the Images, Estampes, Miroirs or
Gaspard de la Nuit, and who follow with equal
diligence the independent exhibitions of decorative
art, and the Russian ballets. It is these who will
give back to opera its old-time dignity, whether by
giving it a new strength, or by restoring its lost
qualities of a fairy-play in sound and sentiment.

Which among them desires to be the saviour of
opera ? Quinault is to one style what Racine is to
another. Such writers as Louis Gallet, or Henri
Cain, are scarcely the equals of Campistron. 1

But when this operatic poet has written the pure

and beautiful libretto for which we are waiting, let

him not send it to the academicians, but take it to

a true musician. It will be at least a saving of time,






IF one truly loves music, it is difficult sometimes
not to execrate the performers, for the purposes to
which they apply it are often worse than base,
They employ it solely to gather the applause of the
crowd, without giving a thought to the dignity of
the works, or to their own.

Some attain to dazzling positions, attract eager
multitudes, and are overwhelmed with the weight
of floral tributes and eulogy, and, during their
whole lives, they have ministered only to their own
appetite for praise.

One could cite to-day more than one whose fame
deserves nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders.
Showmen and posers abound, and the refuges of
music have a mouldy odour of the Lower Empire I
Some, whose conscience admits of no compromise,
have set themselves to denounce this mob. Less for-
tunate in some of its other manifestations, the
vigorous perspicacity of Romain Rolland has de-
picted this Market-place l in sincere and vivid colours,
and one can read again and again with rugged enjoy-
ment the courageous writings of Nin directed
against the mountebanks and their retinue.

Among musical performers in France, few are to
be found who have not to blush for some of their

1 IE Jean-Christophe*



past or present programmes. Arrangements, and
other evils of virtuosity, find most of them always
ready to sacrifice with a light heart all care for their
musical salvation.

If, for the present, programmes have been a little
purified, there still remains much to be done, and
one must not measure one’s language or be at all
moderate when an instrumentalist reduces his art
to the most sordid trickery. The more famous the
clown, the more he must be attacked, though he be
given the rank of a minister or an ambassador. Let
him put up his trestles at the suitable spot, in the
circus or in the market-place of a county town.
Each thing in its place, and especially music.

For many years these people have been met with
at every cross-road, sniffing whence blows the wind,
raking up as many followers as they can, and in con-
stant pursuit of music to do it some injury. By every
means, and especially by that method which is most
dangerous because apparently the gentlest, their
coalition opposes the purging of programmes and
the education of the public. Between them and
ourselves war must be constant and without quarter,
without pity, without considerations of philan-
thropy, or of pauper relief.

” If we have any influence, let us use it to defend
those who do their duty. Let us bar the way of
those who flatter the basest instincts of the musical
crowd. Let us fight all “tenors/* and all those
Who are pleased to believe that the works were
made to serve them, whereas their sole duty is to
be the humble and respectful servants of the works.


There is a form of musical criticism that has made
itself the handmaiden of these parvenus. Such
people go together as the fox and the crow : we are
not dwellers in those woods.

Critics and performers alike, we owe it to our-
selves to endeavour to understand and to express ;
and the least creative artist takes precedence of us,
for he furnishes the opportunity of a new vibration,
since he brings to the world a little of real life, whilst
we critics and performers give only its reflection.

The Press distributes epithets to-day with shame-
ful prodigality, and these performers are well suited
with praise on the level of their mediocre character.
It is for who shall be the most talented, the most
delectable, the most eminent. When one sports
stripes one cannot assume too many. To read the
journals which print these encomiums, one would
imagine oneself to be in some nigger republic.
There are none but are generals. They are al the
grandsons of General Boom.

Sometimes their grotesque antics are diverting.
If one were to listen to peaceful people, one would
leave these puppets alone ; but they take up, in
truth, too much room. These marionettes are not
worth the string they dance on, and there is no need
to tolerate their usurpation. If truly the function
of the critic is to discover values and not mere
appearances, he should fulfil it with dignity.

Let us stand by the word of Chamfort : * “If
one has the lantern of Diogenes one must also have

his stick/’

t 1741-1794.


Fortunate are we when the spectacle is so lofty
and dignified that the stick only serves us to hang
the kntern upon it and throw light upon a worthy
subject, to its fullest extent.


EVEN if Ricardo Vines were an imperfect pianist,
the part he plays in modern music would still
remain an admirable one. But, in addition, he is
thoroughly competent in all that he does. One is
so accustomed to see him make light of difficulties,
store up without effort the most forbidding pages,’
lend himself with an inexhaustible good grace to
all musical experiments, that one ends by losing
sight of the particularly exquisite aspect of such a
personality. Yet, without detracting from other
pianists who are entitled to our sympathy, we must
recognise that none has accomplished a more
ungrateful task, contributed more lively enthusiasm,
or given more proofs of an assured taste, in spite of
all and of everyone. And none, in our day, and in
the musical sphere, has lived in such constant

Perhaps this heroism is less visible to-day, since
those on whose behalf he has fought have now
acquired celebrity. But, fifteen years ago, who
would have ventured to present to the public the
works of Debussy or Ravel and incurred the risk of
compromising his career in the attempt ? One must
recall the hisses that greeted. Vines when he inter-


preted, for the first time, Maurice Ravel s Miroirs.
As he was then, so he is to-day : in ambush behind
his moustache, careless of the smiles of the so-called
connaisseurs, he pursues, calmly and without
advertisement, his patient and assured fight to
impose that which is worthy.

Whilst others were employed in spreading their
monster posters throughout the world, and securing,
on the basis of safe works, a tumultuous celebrity,
Vines, hailing from Spain, while still a mere youth,
took up in turn the defence of the modern French,
Russian, and Spanish Schools with profound in-
telligence and warm affection.

A considerable number of works will have known
for many years no other interpreter than Vines, and
the young pianists who have since followed in his
footsteps are well aware that his was the more
difficult task. If they do not know it, or give it a
thought, it is expedient for us to repeat it to them.

He has been indefatigable, and he is still sought
whenever a new work is to be presented. He does
not think to-day, any more than he did yesterday,
that he has the right to deny his services to a work
of value. He puts as much heart into studying it,
understanding it, and defending it, as if it were a
question of the work of a genius of the past ; and
sometimes it reveals itself as the work of a new
genius of to-day.

In vain, after having disdained this ” pianist of
the modern school,” they have sought to confine his
taste to one style of music. He loves both the old
and the new, the serious and the amusing, and does


not think it beneath his dignity to lend the support
of his hands to the affectedly humorous pieces of
Erik Satie.

How often was he in request to learn from manu-
script, in a few days or hours, a complex and
refractory work ! At the stated time, unfailingly,
he was at the piano, appearing and disappearing,
hiding himself behind the author, asking for more
works, and, between two orchestral concerts,
labouring persistently at the music of an obscure

Rarely has such a task been accomplished with
more sustained modesty. He has performed it with
so much personal effacement that one would regard
his modesty as exaggerated, did one not find therein
ground for loving him the more.

Though he has devoted himself, more than most,
to difficult music, he has retained no trace of the
virtuoso in the objectionable sense of the word.
How many, in his place, would Jiave claimed merit
for having interpreted compositions of such diffi-
culty ! When he is playing, one does not give it a
thought. Without preliminaries or display he
presents the work. It is only right that one should
remember the prodigy of this great ease in perform-
ance. Often one does not even remark it. That
is as such a pianist would wish^
* For the young French School he has been even
more than an interpreter : truly an incentive, and
a collaborator. We should probably be the poorer
by several of the best piano works if he had not been
there to play them, eager for new music, an<J if


composers had not felt at their side Ms unrivalled
memory, his irresistible hands, and the enthusiasm
behind his smile.

The musical life of Ricardo Vines would furnish
sufficient activity for more than one man. Yet this
pianist will be seen at picture galleries, private views,
and exhibitions ; he reads the Fathers of the Church ;
knows by heart Villiers de T Isle-Adam, Mallarme,
Claudel, and Jammes ; is familiar with the best
English books, and does not forget, moreover, that
he is a Spaniard.

He is one of the few in our time to restore the full
dignity of the performer. He is aware how much
modesty and self-respect, how much sacrifice and
unwavering love, are involved in this function, and,
at the same time, he contrives to avoid assuming the
attitude of the prophet or the schoolmaster.

It would seem to be a mere diversion for him.
He plays with his piano, and his only care is to evoke
or transmit according to the intentions of the

For that there is no need to imitate the platform-
pounders ; a little quiet suffices him : intimacy, and a
few friends gathered round the piano. Or, in the
concert hall, with the orchestra, to embroider with
meticulous fingers the iridescent phantasy of Rimsky
or of LiapounoS. *

– He is not an ivory-tamer, like this or that pianist
of our acquaintance. When Vines pkys Chopin’s
Barcarolle, Faure’s Nocturne in A flat, or Albeniz’s
Triana, our heart is in his hands. When he sets
Ravel’s Jeux d’Eau rippling or Pebussy’s Poi$$o?%$


d’Or flashing their colours for our pleasure, the whole
picture is reproduced in its lights and shades, in its
nimbleness and its splendour. And when, with an
assumed seriousness that is betrayed by the joy in
his eyes, he interprets the verve of Chabrier, or the
smile of Satie, we are unable to withstand the lure
of this pleasant adventure.

He can assume all shapes. There are few more
varied than he. It is not yet sufficiently known
that he is not merely a pianist, but one of the
greatest artists of our times. He has conquered for
French music the best minds from North and South.
He carries on a peaceful struggle with the uncom-
prehending and the timid, wherever an alert
musician calls him. In our day there is none who
has macfe known more music or better.

t His repertory is prodigious. Perhaps no pianist
has ever had one like it. One wonders how he has
been able even to read all the music that he plays
from memory. He always appears as if he had
plenty of time. He finds enough of it to indicate to
you in which corner of Paris you may see a new
pastel by Redon, or a sumptuous Monticelli. He is
seen at all concerts. He reveals new things to us in
the poets we know the best. Coming from a recital
at which he has just performed a considerable feat
of memory, he goes, his arm linked in that of a
friend, to recite a few hundred lines of Baudelaire or
Verlaine. He devotes himself to everything wi thout
languor. He is never tired of admiring something.
There is nothing of which he is ignorant. We may
chat with him for l*ours> wd forget that he is a.


pianist. He knows all that is worth knowing in
order to give music higher rank than that of a mere

We owe it to him that we know and love many
things. He is an example of the rare but necessary
virtues one must have if one wishes to serve music.
We have not the right to remain in ignorance of one
who can give so much pleasure and is able to con-
vince the most sceptical that no compromise is forced
upon anyone who really knows the value of art.

Ricardo Vines is a peaceful prodigy.


WHO has not heard Jane Bathori sing has not
penetrated French song. There is no art more true
or more discreetly human. It is the perfection of
proportion. We can trace in her art all the French
qualities, and, whatever we may derive from it,
these touch us more deeply than all transports, how-
ever passionate. ,

There are few in these days to equal her in
restoring to song all its intimate values. In listening
to her it is not of herself or of her voice that we
think, but of what she suggests through the music.
Only afterwards can we measure the extent to which
art is concealed by art itself.

Who will ever sing like Bathori the Chansons d&
Bilitis and Le Pwmenoir des Deux Amants ? Who
will ever be able to put so much freshness, ingenuous-
ness, intelligence, and heart into them ?


As regards the heart, there may be some who will
perhaps contest this, as it is necessary for most
people that the whole body be agitated. For them,
if there be no fury or heart-rending cries, it is not
true that the heart is speaking. So much the worse
for them if they are hard of hearing. It is yet
another French quality to understand what is half

I listen to her singing the complaint of Melisande
or the youthful and fresh joy of La Bonne Chanson,
and I feel thoroughly that it is our heart that speaks
in her voice. I know, further, when hearing her
sing Chabrier or Ravel, that none other has done so
with more wit, more verve, or more impulse in
combination with all the requisite tact.

As compared with so many unfaithful interpreta-
tions, what rare magic resides in such an incanta-
tion ! But still more remarkable is the, presence
of such an interpreter simultaneously with such
an opportunity.

She is modern French song incarnate. For more
than ten years she has offered to all our young
composers of any merit the calm assurance of a
perfect collaboration.

Who would have cared to play that role, apart
from the resources it demands ? It needs more
than mere talent, and more than mere intelligence.
It also requires courage. In these days perhaps only
Ricardo Vines has displayed more courage. 1

1 Let us recall that for more than twenty years Ernile Engel
has displayed the^same courage, the same art, and the same,
5Lr<Jour in the service of French music,

‘That does hot lead to the noisy fame of virtuosity,
the vast posters, or the triumphal successes, but it
gains on behalf of yet unrecognised works interest,
a following, aind finally an ever-increasing

We ought to do homage to artists of such a rare
type, and, without employing in reference to them
the hollow eulogies of unabashed advertisement, it
is mere justice if we no longer keep for our inner
tribunal the recognition of the beauty that we owe
to them.

The first time that I heard Jane Bathori was on
an afternoon in October, in the early days of the
autumn Salon, in a small, rather uncomfortable hall
where nothing lent itself to enjoyment, and where
even the sparseness of the audience added an
indescribable lassitude.

Not even the name of the singer was known to me.
The memory of what she sang that day has left me,
but not the strange and deep impression she made of
an art till then unheard of, and yet ardently longed
for. Others had succeeded in charming us by the
mere beauty of tone, the broad dignity of line, or
the passionate richness of some tragic outburst.
But who was to interpret at last in a French manner
all that our favourite poets evoked in us : the
beloved Baudelaire poems read in the evening calm,
those of Verlaine as fresh as the smiles of children,
and all that intimacy of the soul, this ” chamber-
music ” for voice and heart ? And when would
song, emancipated from the theatre, consent to come
and speak to us between the four walls of retreats.


of our lay oratories, during the evenings lit v by the
firelight glow ?

I felt that day that this music had found for itself
an incomparable exponent . Since then each hearing
has furnished me with more certain proofs. Her
art is all of nuances, and cannot be seized by any
detail. One is unable to segregate any element
“that is peculiarly characteristic of it. It is the
great quality of true beauty that its ultimate springs
defy analysis.

It may well be that extreme penetration enables
Jane Bathori to attain to the summit of such an art,
that all in it is minutely calculated, that nothing is
left to chance. Nevertheless it is impossible to
surpass it in naturalness and in that apparent
spontaneity which alone has importance for the
listener, though it be the fruit of knowledge and

But, from the outset, the vivacity of her musical
sense fully discloses to her the true accent of the
most complex works. How often has she not
revealed the delicacy of songs whose interpretation,
at the cost of inevitable haste, appeared almost as
the performance of an impossible wager. Yet
she at once brought out all their light and shade, and
the full suavity of their nuances.

It is impossible to carry any further simplicity in
song, the comprehension of a poem, or the precision
of its accents. It works in the truest sense as a
charm. ? One cannot tire of it. When listening to
her the man of letters is as satisfied as the musician.
Her diction allows nothing to be lost. The bright


moments and the shadows are disposed in delightful

All is there, in right proportion, and this increases
the range of a voice which, in another, might
perhaps seem weak.

It is in similar terms that was praised, in the
eighteenth century, the singer Marie Fel, who
” created ” the works of Rameau, of Jean- Jacques
Rousseau, and of Mondonville, and of whom Latour
has bequeathed an admirable portrait. She is not
without a certain musical affinity with the singer
who has ” created ” the songs of Debussy, Ravel,
Roussel, and so many others.

In both are present the same artistic qualities, the
same knowledge, a similar inclination towards the
newest works that give occasion for discussion, the
same vocal simplicity, the same scrupulous care of
refinement, and the same absence of display even in
the most ardent passion.

In her day Marie Fel was justly named “the


IT is rare in our day to meet with a conscience like
his, without weakness, and, one might almost say,
without hesitations. Its merit is further enhanced
by the fact that the dignity of his mind is not
associated with any stiffness, and is able at all times
to preserve the engaging charm of sincere simplicity.
No mind stands more aloof than his from pedantry,


and from those immovable dogmas which give to
most only the illusion of a right to despise their
rivals and their period.

A feeling of freshness is in the atmosphere that
constantly surrounds his thoughts, and his whole
life is governed solely by the unceasing desire to
understand, more fully and more accurately, the
spectacle of beauty.

None who have met him can forget the extent to
which he was helpful to them, and, in the circum-
stances, we must restore to that word its full vitality.
There are some whose uncertainty concerning the
best direction to give to their endeavours found in
the spectacle of his actions and writings a peculiar
power and the solution of their doubts.

It is a strange power, that of youth, serious and
smiling together, full at once of knowledge and of
life. When one considers Joachim Nin’s age, one is
surprised that he should have such an ascendency
over less youthful minds. But when one draws
nearer for a moment to the forms assumed by his
thought, one quickly understands the attraction of
its purity and its grandeur. We live in a period in
which unreasoning eulogy is cultivated to excess.
There is as little moderation in this as in any other
matter, and one no longer knows how to express the
respect and affection due to those who perpetuate in
our day the virtues of a past which may perhaps be
imaginary, but whose domain consists for us in its
greatest achievements.

Strength of will and sensibility share his mind
equally and contribute to establish an unfailing


balance. The only enemies he knows are those who
Introduce into the kingdom of music the methods of

A remarkably gifted pianist, he could, like many
others, have aimed at the rewards of virtuosity, and
accumulated by means of conjurers’ tricks the
palms of public appreciation. It needs a soul
tempered as steel to resist the attraction of popu-
larity, without weakening at the alluring sound of
applause, and without inclining gradually towards
the charming social gratifications that fall to a
fashionable virtuoso.

J. Joachim Nin has always kept before his mind
that art is a grave responsibility, and that the
mission with which the performer Is entrusted
enjoins renunciations, strict duties, and continued
self-control. Rather than be at the service of
crowds and publics, he has employed himself in
the service of music,

That is not so common a choice as one might at
first suppose. When one examines the lives of
performers, when one examines their programmes
over a period of some years, it is rare that one fails
to find some concession, some avowal of weakness
indulged for the satisfaction of the public. If one
searches the musical past of Joachim Nin, one will
not find in it a single action that is not prompted by
a deep love of art, and by disinterested devotion in
the cause to which he has vowed his life, his strength
and his talent, and to which he has joyfully sacrificed
the ephemeral tributes of social favour.

One must have seen Joachim Nin interpret some



old master. His marble-like features reveal nothing
externally. There is no exaggerated gesture to
procure substantially the satisfaction of the listener.
All is concentrated, and, behind that immobile
mask, one feels vibrating the respect and enthusiasm
of the performer who is endeavouring to reveal, in
all its authentic, sensitive beauty, the page be-
queathed by genius.

His love for French culture and for the expression
of the French race has made him familiar with
French works of the present and the past. He has
devoted his talent to reviving for us the treasures,
too often despised, of our musical ancestry. 1

Chambonnieres, Couperin, Dandrieu, Daquin, all
our clavecinists of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, have received from him the most truthful

In the course of the programmes which I had the
pleasure of giving with Joachim Nin, I could judge
at leisure of the degree of conscientiousness in his
work. His concern is not restricted to the written
music, but, with untiring curiosity, he looks all
round it for everything that may determine with
more precision the real atmosphere of the composi-
tion. He knows the lives of the composers, their
thoughts and their circumstances, and everything
that may have influenced the form and the par-
ticular tendencies of their minds. He is interested

1 We may read again, with, added interest, the Letters jvom
Berlin* which Joachim Nin addressed to the Monde Musical
from December, 1908, to June, 1909, and in which he defended
the cause of Fiench music with ardour and with much useful-
ness, on enemy territory.


in the historical surroundings of the work, and ts
position in space and time. But he does not bring
to bear upon it the cold compulsion of a rigid
historian. It is living art that draws him, and the
past only attracts him that he may again strike from
it the spark that formerly lit it and that eternally
smoulders under the ashes of unmerited neglect.

The work performed by such a mind is consider-
able Thus understood, the preparation of musical
works demands unremitting toil, and it would be so
easy to avail oneself of science to the detriment of
beauty Joachim Nin considers erudition to be the
necessary basis of interpretation, but he then
endeavours to conceal it as well as possible m order
that the work itself may be allowed to speak with
the sole aid of its own beauty, the sole power of its
grandeur or its charm. .

He has not restricted to the teaching of the piano
the noble thoughts with which his mind is obsessed.
He has gathered in two booklets Pour I Art and Idtes
et Commentates the principles of conscience which
have always guided his conduct.

The first is a little pamphlet whose success was
well merited and which, translated into four
languages, has given useful indications, as stated in
the^edication,; to performers as they are and as

they should be.” . ,

“Play for the Muses and not for me, said
Antigenidas to one of his pupils who was troubled
at the indifference of the crowd. This <***
once haughty and melancholy, governs all

i A Theban musfcwn, Val. Max, III., 7.


Nin’s activity. As a pianist he is one of the few
who truly do honour to an instrument that is
ordinarily more propitious to juggling than to
confidences. By his actions he justifies his aversion
for those who, under the aegis of art, barter both
music and themselves.

In these days, which are at once the days of
scepticism and of small religions, it is rare that a
man dares to risk the isolation of the part played by
an apostle. Such a mission is no more enviable
than it is envied. The path is adorned for your
passage with awkward thorn-bushes. It is so easy
to deal out to you, stupidly, its supposed ridicule.
It is necessary that you hold yourself equally aloof
from the visionary and from levity. You are the
butt of the centurion’s sarcasm, when not of the
drunken helot. You run the risk of becoming
elated as much with vanity as with discouragement.

Joachim Nin has successfully escaped one danger
and the other. He is not the dupe of his soul,
however generous it be. He does not imagine that
he can alone contradict the efforts of so many slaves,
He knows that to be a free man one must also speak
in moderation, though with firmness and with faith.
* He has scarcely passed his thirtieth year. He
possesses marvellous gifts, an eager curiosity, and
a burning capacity for work. He has often known
^success of the rarest kind. He has every induce-
ment, or at least would have them all if he consented
to adopt the customs of performers. Instead of
doing so, he is at pains not to captivate. He retires
behind the \yorks. He wishes to hear no opinions


but theirs. He knows that the ways that captivate
the public are sown only with lies. He shakes false
idols, not with the fury of the neophyte, but with
the smiling ardour of a young sage among too
skilful scholars,

Pour I’Art brought him, on the one hand, the
sudden expression of reliable friendships and warm
affections, but on the other much rancour and much
enmity. Scarcely had these subsided when he
strove again to renew the struggle, as if he desired
to impose upon himself the ransom of his success
and of his joys.

Pour I’Art and Idees et Commentates reveal an
infinite love of music, a religion that nothing can
impair, a feeling composed at once of gravity and of
rare exuberance, and an unrelaxing contempt for
virtuosity, the idol of the crowd, the mistress of
false artists, whose reign has lasted only too long.

That is the rallying point of the varied pages of
these works, which follow less a literary plan than a
governing moral.

” Let us suppose/’ says Joachim Nin among
other things, “someone who would say that the
half of a musician’s life ought to be devoted to
cultivating his mind by contact with the master-
pieces of literature, poetry, and painting; to
becoming acquainted with the great problems of
science; to studying art in all its aspects; to
admiring nature, that unique and divine artist, who
paints, sings, models, constructs, rhymes, and dances
without end . , . that he ought to do this even at the
cost of writing fewer compositions, or allowing a


few wrong notes to slip past in playing,, He who
would advocate this would be a madman, a pedant,
a dotard, a dunce, a simpleton … or a freak !
Who would care to listen to such insane notions, or
read them ? Of course I shall take care not to
utter them. . . , But why must Truth remain
always at the bottom of the well ? . . . She is so
beautiful, so beautiful. . . /’

With calm and ironical courage Joachim Nin
denounces the abuses from which suffer together
the works and those who love music with a wise
passion. Even the degree of bitterness that betrays
itself in some of his pronouncements reveals the
deep energy and far-seeing serenity of such a mind.
There is profitable food for reflection in his ” ideas
and comments ” on L’Or et L’Art, La Critique, La
Veritable Grandeur, Les Bons Apostats, La Sim-
plicite, and L* Imposture. Yet the word “reflec-
tion ” must not be allowed to imply here the
suggestion of a somewhat preaching tone, or of a
thirst for dogmatism, but simply the grave fervour
with which a sincere man, and an artist knowing his
art and loving life, has meditated upon certain

Each of these short chapters is founded upon a
reference to the past, with a kind of coquetry of
erudition that seems to moderate his apostolic
ardour, and yet only strengthens it by giving it a
more secure foundation. One is thus made to feel
that everything supplies him with a pretext for the
defence of his cause.

” Five or six centuries before Jesus Christ,” he


Writes, ” it was said that the stars were equally
distant one from another, that they revolved round
the earth and that the sun was larger than the
Peloponnesus, and perhaps as large as the earth*
But, on the other hand, there was attributed to
music, at this same period, a civilising and educating
power, and a moral influence superior to that
accorded to the other arts.

” To-day we know that the stars are separated
from each other by unequal distances, and that the
spaces dividing them are immense. We know that
their movements are independent of that of the
earth. Finally, we know that the sun is bigger
than the Peloponnesus,

” But we no longer attribute to music the beautiful
virtues which the ancients conceded to it with so
much generosity. . . . And there is cruel irony in
this, for of all the beliefs held in those ancient times,
perhaps the only one that has remained absolutely
true is precisely the one that we have hastened to
consign to the dust-heap. Yet we have found none
better to replace it. Why then renounce it ? ”

Joachim Nin can be angry without loss of gravity.
He can mock, but he can also smile, and even his
erudition is to him a pretext the better to smile.
Let one judge of it by this fragment of a chapter
which he aptly entitles ” Les Superflits ” :

” Among the divinities of the Veda, there is one,
Agni, who has the rare goc d fortune to possess three
legs and seven arms. He is represented to us as
riding upon a he-goat. In course of time this
charming little god might well develop into a


musical divinity, presiding, for instance, over the
fulfilment of the type of the perfect virtuoso of the
ivories, for it is certain that, in a very near future,
two hands and two feet will cease to suffice for the
imperative demands of the pianistic profession.

” It is said that the need creates the organ, and,
to justify this need, we have on the one hand the
multiple pedals of the clavecin, a defunct instrument
that it is sought to revive by means of wholly
modern devices . . . and, on the other, the six
keyboards of a strange and complicated .piano
the Janko clavier whose numerous and problematic
virtues have been vaunted in periodical literature.
Moreover, any self-respecting piano has nowadays
three pedals.

“Now the piano is scarcely two centuries old.
At the rate of six keyboards and three pedals every
two hundred years, and on the assumption that the
clavecin will disappear for the second time, weary of
the struggle, we shall have in six hundred years
which is really very little- twelve pedals for a piano
of twenty-four keyboards, that is to say, enough to
drive Agni himself mad in spite of his three legs and
his seven arms. We may therefore picture to
ourselves . . . with a little imaginative phantasy
. . . the silhouette of a pianist in the year 2500.
It will be charming.

” I forgot the billy-goat … but … how can
we ever know into what we may develop later on ?
Besides, there are nowadays famous pianists who,
very comfortably seated upon a chair, play two of
Chopin’s waltzes in combination. Why not admit


that there will be some later on who will be able to
play in quadruple octaves Debussy’s Prelude ct
I’apres-midi d’un Faune astride of a nice clean
billy-goat ? One feat is as good as another/’

The unfortunate, or rather, fortunate, thing about
these two books is that one truly cannot speak of
them without quoting. Although Nin rejects the
suggestion of having written here a book in the
ordinary sense in which that word is used, the
qualities of thought and soul fully earn the descrip-
tion for this collection of propositions that have
sprung from a fervent love of music.

Everything in the book reveals an ardent and
active mind, sincere and alive. Everywhere is
revealed a man and an artist in close union. Such
books are not numerous. They go against so many
opinions, avowed or dissembled.

As a pianist he has been, and is still, the most
enthusiastic propagator of old French music. He
has played it in, Germany, in Poland, in Austria, in
England, in Spain, in Switzerland, in Belgium, and
in France itself, where it was of no less service, and
he has restored the freshness of life to numbers of
delightful pieces which were undeservedly forgotten.

This needs more than talent. It also needs
courage, and that virtue is nowadays somewhat rare
in literature and in art.





WHEN one examines closely the development of
present-day French music and its projections into
various foreign countries during the past ten years
or so, one is ‘ not a little surprised to observe that
Engknd is precisely the part of Europe where has
been manifested the most lively sympathy with
even the most recent of our musical works. It is
there that the most active and numerous agencies of
concerted endeavour in favour of French art have
come into being, and it is an endeavour pursued
methodically, carrying with it a close study that has
proved most fortunate for the establshment of our
influence or of our suggestions.

Assuredly the aesthetic effect of our modem
musicians has not yet made itself felt as vividly in
England as it has proved on the young School of
Span’sh music, or on the Russian School that has
renewed the riches and the courage of the earlier
group of the Five ; l but the aggregate of mani-
festations and the number of books, essays, and
articles devoted to modern French music is more
abundant in England than anywhere else. There
are even points on which we might, as will be seen
later, borrow from England for the better know-
ledge of our present-day composers.

i Balalrireff , Cui, Borodin, Musorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakof >


There is no question that in England curiosity
concerning music is still almost entirely of German
origin, and it has even assured to Germany a degree
of influence the importance of which has been too
little understood.

In consideration of this fact it is important to
draw attention to the part that French music may
play in the diffusion of ideas in England, and to the
position to which it has already attained there ; and
to observe how the conditions which governed the
emancipation of our contemporary music can
contribute to give musical England the national
characteristics which it knew in, the times of Purcell
and Byrd.

Towards 1900 only one kind of music counted in
England: German^ music. At the opera it was
Wagner ; at orchestral concerts Beethoven, Brahms,
and Wagner; at chamber-concerts Beethoven,
Mozart, and Brahms. To these names French
music opposed at that time only those of
Gounod, Saint-Saens, and Massenet, represented
by a few songs. To tell the truth, France did
not count.

We must add that the Germans had contrived to
establish themselves as orchestral players, as pro-
fessors, and as conductors. German editions of
music were the only ones to be met with. The
German publishing houses had founded branch
establishments in London, which had gradually and
entirely monopolised the market. All young English
composers and performers, influenced by their
teachers, weal to Germany to conclude their studies,


and returned deeply impressed by ^ *****&
not only of German music, but of the German
rrmrention in its entirety.

EcSc reasons and commercial factors were
also at work, obviously with still greater. power to
penetrate England with the German virus , but so

the better able to

German influence was the better ame TO iua;
itself felt in England, inasmuch as the way had been
Spared for it It is only recently, for instance
Saf one could find in certain English musi^l
reviews critics who raised their voices against me
excessive share of attention given to Handel, ana
assSd rights of true English music against a


all the more ease that England failed to oppose it
with any serious national work.

The complete absence in England of theatres
devoted to opera or opera-comique afforded no
opportunity for either Italian or French influence to
make itself felt at a time when the musical resources
of France and Italy were almost entirely applied to
the lyric stage, as was the case during the whole of
the early nineteenth century.

Mendelssohn’s visits to England, the performance
of his oratorios and the melodic quality of his
works helped to renew, in favour of this composer,
the English sympathies with German music. The
place which Mendelssohn occupies in English
musical culture is still to-day a matter of surprise
for those who have received a Continental musical
culture; One can almost state that Mendelssohn
often occupies, in the taste of musicians, a superior
rank to that of Beethoven himself, or of Mozart.

If the influence of Handel still had a certain
grandeur and strength, one may say that Mendels-
sohn’s kifluence has been one of the most detri-
mental elements in the formation of English musical
taste, by its introduction of a sentimentality that
has become more and more insipid. It is in order
to react against this excessive sentimentality that
the agents of German culture brought into play the
works of Brahms, which have acquired in England a
domain that is far from having its equivalent in
France. One may say, in short, that it is round
these three great names, Handel, Mendelssohn, and
Brahms, that German musical influence has r$volv$<J


in England during the nineteenth century. It is
not necessary to add that the works of Beethoven
Schumann, and Schubert have played there the
same part as in France, and that Wagner inevitably
aroused vivid admiration ; but, so far as the latter
is concerned, the absence until recent years of a
theatre where the Tetralogy could be given neces-
sarily restricted his nfluence.

England was a country of choral and organ
music. On that side again Germany offered an
abundance of oratorios, and inexhaustible resources
for organists. Contrary to what happened in
France, musical England held completely aloof
from the stage. It was therefore quite natural that
she should be under the exclusive guidance of
Germany, which was for nearly a century the sole
sphere of abstract and symphonic music.

A few years will, therefore, not suffice to dream
of thwarting a movement of this kind, which has
struck its roots so far back. It is not even a
question of fighting against a comprehensible
respect or taste for the masterpieces of Germany’s
past. For those who, long before the war, were
preoccupied with the question of French culture,
the problem was to fight against a certain number
of dogmatic ideas imported under cover of this
admiration for Gferman classical music, and to
uproot from English minds the opinion, almost
generally held, that music was a German

The proximity of France, the rich unfolding of
her musical renascence, and the conditions, political



and sentimental, brought about by the entente
cordiale, combined to facilitate a course of action
whose extent is unsuspected by many Frenchmen,
and whose consequences may now be met with in
England at every step. Whilst securing warm and
widespread sympathies for our musical works, it has
also led many Englishmen to give more attention to
the features of French thought, and to find in them
yet deeper grounds for sympathy and affection.

After a long period of efforts, harshly debated and
resisted, even in France, by musicians who were too
firmly imbued either with the formulas of the
musical stage or the teachings of classical music,
French music had succeeded in securing a footing
by the opening years of this century. Towards 1900
it was beginning to be generally admitted, not only
that there existed a school of truly French music,
but also that the quality of this numerous, diverse,
and distinctive group of composers was quite

The appearance on the stage of Claude Debussy’s
Pelleas et Melisandc was the first evidence of the
crowning of these efforts, and made their existence
more patent to the public. But that was only one
important event in the admirable efflorescence that
yielded in turn the symphonic works of Cesar Franck,
Lalo, and d’Indy ; the piano pieces of Chabrier,
Debussy, and Ravel ; the chamber-music of Chaus-
son, Faure, Roussel, and Florent Schmitt, and many
other works. This movement continued to progress
day by day, unceasingly producing attractive new
works, giving proof of the deep vitalitv of French


musical genius, and exciting the curiosity of the
most alert minds in other countries.

Unt’l about 1905, with the exception of the efforts
of Sir Henry Wood as conductor of the Queen’s Hal!
concerts, and apart from the important position
attained by Saint-Saens in English musical circles,
French musical activity was limited to the rare
presence in England of a few artists belonging
rather to the category of virtuosi, seeking much
more to bring themselves into prominence than to
do service to a real cause, and repealing to the point
of satiety the works that were already the most
familiar, and generally German.

It was therefore impossible to accomplish in-
teresting results, save by co-ordinating efforts, and
establishing collective action, spread over several
years, for the purpose of developing methodically
among musicians, professional and amateur, a
knowledge of our national music. Led by con-
siderations of this kind, and having studied the
organisation of similar movements of propaganda in
the French provinces, a French amateur, then
residing in Newcastle, M. T J. Gueritte, developed
the plan of action in Great Britain of the Society des
Concerts Fmngais, which may claim to have effected,
prompted or assisted, directly or indirectly, all that
has been done in England for ten years in the sphere
of French chamber-music.

The first concert took place in 1907. From that
time its activities continued without a break, until
interrupted in the second year of the war, ^ ^

Naturally the principal centre of these activities


was in London, where the Society gave in its own
name thirty concerts (planned as four annually),
and succeeded in assembling gradually a considerable
body of faithful listeners.

Taking into account that decentralisation is much
more pronounced in England than in France, M.
Gueritte undertook to spread his activity throughout
the provinces. Whenever possible he endeavoured
to keep the Societe des Concerts Fran$ais, so to
speak, behind the scenes, and take advantage of the
existing organisations and societies to interpolate in
their schemes programmes similar to those of the
Societe des Concerts Fran^ais, and devoted, as the
name indicates, exclusively to French works, old or

Thanks to this judicious plan, the activity of the
Society spread to the Edinburgh Classical Concert
Society, directed by Mr. James Simpson, to the
Classical Concerts Society of Newcastle, to the
Southport Concerts, the Middlesbrough Union, the
Haslemere Classical Concerts, supplying these
societies with its own artists and programmes, and
thus enabling them to realise the importance of the

In London the Societe des Concerts Frangais
sought to induce the established musical organisa-
tions successively to utilise the services of the
artists it brought over from France. It did not
even hesitate to stand aside in favour of some of
these English societies when it judged that the
interests of French music would be better served by
their organisations. For instance, it several times


relinquished, in favour, among others, of the Classical
Concerts Society, the advantage of giving the first
performance in London of certain new works, which
the composers had reserved to it. Guided by such
principles, whose freedom from self-interest is all
too rare, M. Gueritte succeeded little by little in
introducing French chamber-music into all the
principal English organisations of this Mnd, such
as the Music Club, Concert-Goers Club, South Place
Sunday Concerts, etc.

The Society frequently collaborated in the
activities of the Incorporated Society of Musicians,
and even lent its artists for one of the latter’s annual
congresses. When it was not possible to make use
of the existing associations, it organised concerts on
its own initiative in the provinces, at Bournemouth,
Leeds, Sheffield, etc.

When the Society suspended its operations, its
record of activity to the end of the year 1915
aggregated to thirty chamber concerts in London,
and nine in the provinces, given directly under its
own auspices ; and forty-two concerts organised in
London and in the provinces for existing societies.
In addition, ten lectures were given on modem
French music. This represents, therefore, a total
of ninety programmes entirely devoted to French
music which this Society has prompted in the course
of eight years.

Wherever one goes in England to-day one be-
comes aware that the knowledge of French music of
to-day is entirely due to the activities of the Societe
des Concerts Fmngais or its connections.


It should be added that M. Gu6ritte did not limit
his activities to the Society which he had founded.
He strove in addition to reach the most advanced
teachers in the provinces, in order to keep them
informed not only of the Society’s plans, but also of
new additions to French music. By means of
copious private correspondence, he enabled these
teachers to become acquainted with the works,
facilitated the access to scores and the study of
documents necessary to a real knowledge of the
question, in case of need even forwarding manu-
scripts entrusted to him for the purpose by the
composers. He thus induced them to use their
influence on behalf of our cause by public or private
lectures, by including modern French works in their
pupils’ concerts, thereby accustoming the younger
generation in England to a knowledge of the names
and works of our most recent composers, their men-
talities, and their melodic and harmonic methods.

In this connection may be cited the instance of
W. G. Whittaker, professor at Newcastle. Associ-
ated with the activities of the Society from its
inception, and supplied with information by its
founder, he succeeded, by means of systematic
courses of lectures with music, in making of New-
castle a centre in which there is an intimate know-
ledge of modern French music in all its developments.
At a meeting in 1916 presided over by Mr. Hadow, 1
the eminent Principal of Armstrong College, I was
able to judge on the spot of the peculiarly happy
results of this campaign at Newcastle.

i Now Sir W. H. Hadow,


The English mind Is less quick than the French,
but more orderly and more persevering. Its natural
inclinations must be taken into account. The
French composers were systematically passed in
review at these functions, whether they were devoted
only to two or three composers, or to a group suited
to convey the meaning of a special movement of
French music of the past or the present.

The older French music served as a rallying point
to which one could refer for evidence that France
had an important musical past that was too little
appreciated, and for proof of the injustice of the
impression, that is too often perpetuated, of a French
lack of capacity for music.

It was also a happy inspiration to add to the
purely French works those of some composers of
other countries, but of French musical training,
including Spaniards like Albeniz ajid Manuel de
Falla, Italians like Alfredo Casella, Belgians like
Jongen, and others, in order to prove the extent to
which French culture is able to assist in the develop-
ment of the musical propensities of other

Side by side with the greatest names of the
musical efflorescence of our time, works by younger
composers were heard at these concerts, giving proof
of individual temperaments, and suited to give an
accurate and complete impression of this great
movement, inaugurated more than forty years ago,
whose development the war has interrupted but not

arrested. .

One of the features of this propaganda is the tact


that, of the four hundred and seven works which
have appeared in its programmes no less than two
hundred and forty received their first English
performance, and this was the case with many works
of outstanding importance for French chamber-
music, such as, among others, the Suite Basque of
Charles Bordes ; the Concerto and the two Quartets
of Ernest Chausson ; the Quartet, the Two Dances,
and most of the piano pieces and songs of Debussy ;
the Polme of Gabriel Dupont ; the Trio, the Sonata
in C, the Suite in D, and the Chansons et Danses of
Vincent d’Indy ; sonatas by Lekeu, Alberic Mag-
nard, Jongen, and Guy Ropartz ; the Quintet and
the Psalm of Florent Schmitt ; piano pieces and
songs by Deodat de Severac, etc.

It is easy to realise the educative value of such a
movement and the difficulties it surmounted, as the
purpose in view was to interest the English public
in the unknown works of composers of whose very
names it was in ignorance. It must not be forgotten
that before the efforts of the Societe des Concerts
Fmngais most of the names we have just enumerated
had never appeared in the programme of a chamber
concert in England.

The influence and the authority exercised by such
an undertaking can be acquired only in course of
time, and by the exercise of great taste and judgment
on the part of those presiding over its destinies. It
is in the highest degree important that only works of
rea 1 value be given, and that these be assured of an
irreproachable interpretat’on.

Concessions to composers or performers of


mediocre attainments would suffice in a short time
to accomplish, the moral ruin of such undertakings,
especially in a country like England, where critics
and professors have an authority in musical matters
1 such as we do not suspect in France.

From its first season the reputation of the SocUU
des Concerts Frangais as a serious movement was
established by criticisms whose thoroughness and
independence might often serve as a model to our
own. It became an accepted principle in the
English musical world that every work, even if due
to the pen of a French composer who was completely
unknown in England, was worth hearing, and
deserved attention.

I trust I may be allowed to quote a little incident
to show the application with which English critics
fulfil their functions. When the Societ6 des Concerts
Frangais, in 1907, gave its first concert, two critics
representing the most important newspapers asked
that they might attend the rehearsal in order to gain
a more complete knowledge of the works before
recording their impressions. They came to the
rehearsal and again to the concert. The composi-
tions were Faure’s Quartet in C, and Debussy’s
Quartet. These works, and especially the latter,
somewhat upset their previously held notions, based
on the German classics. This did not prevent them
from devoting to these works articles that were
attentive, respectful, and penetrating; and such
instances were multiplied as modern French music
made progress in arousing the sympathetic curiosity
of the English musical public.


Facilities were granted to English students
attending musical institutions such as the Royal
Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Guildhall
School of Music, London College of Music, and
Royal Normal College of Music for the Blind.
Tickets at reduced prices were placed at the disposal
of young applicants, and a number of invitations
were addressed to each of these great musical

Gradually excellent interpreters were discovered
in the country itself. There are to-day in England
many artists who can give admirable performances
of French music, thanks to their enthusiasm for it,
and to the study of which they have made it the

One may say without exaggeration that in the
domain of chamber-music all this has been accom-
plished on behalf of our art, directly or indirectly,
by the Societe des Concerts Fmngais. It is, however,
also necessary to render homage to those who have
so long contributed to spread an appreciation of our
orchestral works, and to those who to-day carry on
the same task in this wider sphere.

It is certain that the personal efforts of Sir Henry
Wood at the Queen’s Hall Concerts have largely –
assisted for over twenty years to establish in
England the symphonic works of Berlioz, Franck,
Charpentier, Debussy, and Vincent d’Indy. In-
spired by the very laudable desire to keep abreast
of the movement, he refused to limit himself to
accepted works, and opened wide the doors to the
most debated compositions of the young French


School as he has done also for the Russian

Several times he invited the composers them-
selves to participate in the concerts, from M. Camille
Saint-Saens to M. Claude Debussy, who came twice
to conduct his works, in 1908 and 1909, and these
visits contributed not a little to the quite special
celebrity enjoyed by this composer in England.

However restricted the activities of the lyric
stage in England, the operatic seasons at Covent
Garden had acquired a merited reputation, and, in
the last few years, those organised and directed by
Sir Thomas Beecham have given further support to
our lyric dramas. In turn Samson et Dalila, Louise,
and PelUas et M&lisande have acquired citizenship
in London and helped to spread the impression that,
though it does not attain to the dimensions of the
Wagnerian conceptions, our lyric stage, nevertheless,
is far from negligible.

* Ever on the alert for novelty, gifted with a
prodigious activity, and ambitious to make his
energy felt wherever possible, Sir Thomas Beecham
is a man whose musical culture is not German, but,
on the contrary, widely European.* He has an
exact appreciation of French resources ; he knows
and loves Russian music from Glinka to Stravinsky ;
he desires nothing more ardently than to assist in
setting English music free ; and he has around him
admirably gifted young composers who inspire the
greatest hopes, such as Eugene Goossens, among
others. Sir Thomas Beecham was naturally for
some time exposed to sarcasm and mockery, but the


English public is beginning now to understand
accurately the renovating power of such a man,
and, now that the events of the war have intervened
and led to a gradual reaction against German
productions, this same public has begun to take a
more kindly interest in symphonic works which hail
from other places than Leipzig, Dresden, or Munich.

It is not within a few years that one may expect
to see a complete transformation in a country where
German influence was so deep-rooted in all that
concerned the art of music, but the purely German
element has naturally disappeared from English
orchestras, and the influence of conductors like Sir
Henry Wood or Sir Thomas Beecham, and of young
English composers and performers, may within a
short time modify the musical aspect of the country.

The influence of several noted writers has also been
of some weight in the spread of French music in
England. The visits to England of Mallarme and
Verlaine, and the appreciation of the most polished
English literature constantly shown by French
writers like Baudelaire, Henri de Regnier, Marcel
Schwob, Stuart Merrill, Viele-Griffin, Andr6 Gide,
Gabriel Mourey, and Gabriel Sarazin, who praised or
translated its best productions, whilst English poets
and authors like Swinburne, Meredith, ” Edmund
Gosse, George Moore, Arthur Symons, and W. B.
Yeats were constantly affirming their predilection
for French culture ; all these circumstances have
collectively created, so to speak, a rich subsoil for
the intellectual and artistic intercourse that has
since arisen and expanded, whilst the brotherhood


of arms was being proved on the battlefield of
Flanders and the Somme.

Arthur Symons who, so far back as 1900, devoted
a remarkable book to French writers since Gerard
de Nerval, entitled The Symbolist Movement in
Literature, was one of the first to examine the
suggestions of modern French music in a series of
articles which appeared in the Saturday Review
during 1907 and 1908, I shall never forget the
emotion displayed to me by this subtle poet and
penetrating critic after the first performance in
England of Chausson’s quartet, some ten years ago.

As early as 1907, when there existed as yet in
France no book, however concise, on Debussy, the
series of ” Living Masters of Music ” published by
John Lane included one devoted to that composer
and his music, from the pen of Mrs. Leibich, a writer
for the Musical Standard.

Authors like George Moore, Bernard Shaw, and
Arnold Bennett assiduously attended concerts where
new French works were to be heard, and spread
around them their appreciation of this music.

A new generation of musical critics commenced to
fill the posts formerly occupied by men whose whole
artistic culture was of German origin. There is in
England a great diversity of natural inclination.
A large proportion inclines for ethnic reasons
towards Continental culture and, without dreaming
of becoming slavishly subservient, is naturally
predisposed to understand its forms and its innova-
tions, and to seek in them the reinvigoration of its
mind and of its artistic conceptions.


There have been known critics of German training
who endeavoured to do justice to French music and
who ceased to hold contemptuously aloof. The
attitude which formerly prevailed is the more
comprehensible if one recalls certain opinions
expressed some twenty years ago by some of the
most noteworthy French critics,

Mr. Edwin Evans, a man of enthusiastic and
courageous spirit, whose knowledge of France and of
the French language facilitated his penetration of
French music, and who takes a somewhat rare joy
in expressing his thoughts without reservation, was
the first to take up in London, by means of lectures
and articles, the campaign which was then being
conducted by M. Gueritte in Newcastle, a coinci-
dence of effort that inevitably brought them into
close association when . the French organisation
removed to London. It was he who lectured at the
annual conference of the Incorporated Society of
Musicians, referred to above, as well as to the
Musical Association and other musical bodies. On
the eve of the first performance in England of
Pelleas et Melisande he gave, in the hall of the Royal
Academy of Music, a lecture on that opera, which
was illustrated by Mme. Jane Bathori and M. Emile
Engel. It should further be remembered that,
feeling the need of reciprocity, he has also given
lectures before Parisian audiences on English
music, notably one on “Modern British Song/’
He now writes for several journals, and many
of his contributions, particularly to the English
Review, constitute documents of the* foremost


importance for the consideration of musical questions
in England, bes des being written with uncom-
promising clearness and lively spirit.

Soon Mr. H. C. Colles, whose alert and well-
informed mind is animated with youthful vigour,
began in the Times to do justice to French music,
without favour, but with an accurate loiowledge of
the works. In the Daily Telegraph Mr. Robin
Legge upheld the cause of French music with a degree
of impartiality, method, and logic that one cannot
honour too much, and placed it in the sphere of
study on an equal footing with other schools.

At the same time the English musical reviews
generously opened their columns to articles dealing
with diverse aspects of French music and its
different forms, particularly the Musical Times,
Musical Opinion, the Monthly Musical Record, and
the Music Student, which, for the first time in
England, devoted an entire issue to French

music. 1

The quality of the articles which these critics
have devoted, in Engknd, to French music, is often
of the highest order. If English criticism kcks the
brilliant splendour of French criticism, it often has
more depth and more knowledge. It is in any case

1 This account of the spread of French music in England
is by no means exhaustive. I have frequently lectured in many
parts of England and Wales on French music and have taken
part in many concerts devoted to French works, during the last
fifteen years ; and others have done likewise.

No account either is given of the numerous visits of the organists
Alexandre Guilmant and Joseph Bonnet, who have consistently
slaved early and modern French music, or of the propaganda at
Manchester by Dr. J. Kendrick Fyne. EDITOR.

256 FRE&cii MUSIC c# T

necessarily better adapted to the needs of the
British public. Especially during the last ten years
it has been a valuable aid to the spread of French
musical art in Great Britain.

When one has glanced at musical activity [in
England during these ten years ; when one has
travelled in the country and conversed, as has been
my good fortune, with critics, conductors, dealers,
amateurs, and writers, one arrives at the conclusion
that there is no country in the world where French
musical art has met with a more ready acceptance,
a more widely-spread or a wanner sympathy.

It would not be a paradox to say that the English
taste concerning French music is perhaps more
reliable than the idea which the French themselves
often form of their own music. When an English-
man speaks to you of French music, it means
that he knows it, and in that case he has
cautiously reviewed its elements and is in a position
to judge.

This is therefore not merely one of those hurried
enthusiasms which afterwards leave no trace,- even
if they are not exposed to the dangers of unfortunate
reactions, but, on the contrary, it is a positive
sympathy and admiration, acquired from actual
knowledge. Neither can it be ascribed simply to
reflected benevolence born from the contact of
L’Entente Cordiale and of the military alliance.
It is something greater.

If one reads recently in a London newspaper a
better from a reader protesting against the excessive
cult of Handel in England, and demanding the more


thorough study of a more truly English tradition,
one must not see in the incident simply an instance of
exasperated chauvinism. It is one of several
indications of the fact that England, after a period
of artistic indolence which Germany was only too
ready to turn to her advantage, and even helped to
maintain, is beginning to become more conscious of

For some years efforts have been made in England
to restore to honour the works of PurceH and Byrd.
Long-forgotten violin sonatas by Purcell and Babell
have been republished. There has been a revival of
all that delightful efflorescence of four-part madrigals
which would be a charming revektion for France.
Composers, feeling their way from the midst of the
German classical influence, have tried to emancipate
themselves by drawing once more upon the treasure
of folk-song that is so abundant in Scotland, Ireland,
and Wales. The war has only rendered more
appreciable and more necessary a movement that
has been in preparation for ten years.

And when the circumstances of this awakening are
examined, one finds almost everywhere the incite-
ment imparted by the French conscience and the
example given by the emancipation of the modem
French School from the trodden paths of classical

In this respect, as in others, the work of the
French musicians has been a work of emancipation.
The young English composers who are most con-
vinced of the national needs of English music are
also precisely those whose interest in French music



is most enthusiastic. -They are grateful to it not
only for the enjoyment they owe it, but for the
hopes it inspires in them for the musical future of
their own country.



jEsop, 192

Albeniz, n, 12, 217, 247
Alembert (d*), 42
AUais (Alphonse), 160
Anglebert (d’), 37
Antigenidas, 227
Aristotle, 186
Auber, 26, 58
Aupick (Colonel), 176


Bach, 6, 26, 38, 39 ,53, 54

Bailly, 88

Balakireft 237

Balzac, 42

Bantock, 11

Banville (Th. de), 90, 181, 183

Bardac (Raoul), 100

Bartok, n

Bathori-Engel (Jane), 219-223,


Baudelaire, 78, 79, 80, 117,
134. 135. 136, 137. 171-190,

196, 2l8, 221, 252

Bedier (Joseph), 96
Beecham (Sir Thomas), 251,


Beethoven, 5, 6, 26, 27, 28, 31,
54, 126, 152, 188, 233, 240,

Belleau (Remy), 29
Bellay (Joachim du), 29, jj5
Bennett (Arnold), 253
Berger (Rodolphe), 8.6.
Berlioz, 8, a6, 27; & fflS, M e *

194, 250

Besnard (Albert); ^29
Bizet, 28
Blanche (Jac^uesfEiml^ 7*

Bordes (Charles), 30, 74, 78,
126, 129, 134, 195, 203, 248
Borodin, 237
Bourges (Elemir), 91
Brahms, 8, 238, 240
BrSville (P. de), 78
Bu^ely, 24
5> 257


Cain (Henri), 208

Campistron, 208

Campra, 207

Caplet, 100, 109

Carpeaux, 143

Carriere, 129

Casella, 14, 247

Castillon, 78, 126, 195

Cezanne, 91

Chabrier, 28, 70, 106, 117-121,

128, 131, 205, 218, 220, 242
Chambonni&res, 36, 37, 83, 226
Chamfort, 51, 213
Charpentier (Guslave), 200,

203, 250

Chateaubriand, 202
Chausson, 78, 80, 94, 102, 126,

J27-I32, 133, 134. I3& ?47 ?

195, 198, 203, 520^ 242, 248,


Cheviliard, |$f
Oxopin f 3,


Oaud^l fflBfi^ 217
Oolies (H, Cr), ^5
Oam (Aagpste) 20

Cp>t. 142
Coatele>> 94


Ronsard, 29

Ropartz, 134, 248

Roselli (Cosimo), 10

Rossetti, 79

Rossini, 25, 28, 70, 73, 98

Rouche” (Jacques), 13

Rousseau (J.-B.), 45

Rousseau (J–J.), 223

Roussel (Albert), 12, 13, 23,
33. 7^ ioo* 105, 110-114,
141-145, 147, I54> 22 3> 24*

Royer, 25, 47

Saint-Saens, 4, 12, 13, 26, 27,

29,*3> 69, i94> 2 38 243, 251
Samain, 143
Sarraan (Gabriel), 252
Satie, 160-167, 216, 218
Schiller, 122
Schmitt, 12, 23, 69, 78, 100,

!03, 145-148, 154, 242, 248
Schopenhauer, 199
Schubert, 6, 26 5 62, 84, 194; 241
Schumann, 26, 27, 28, 46, 47,

53 55* 62 74′ 8 4 9 8 , *88,

193, 194, 204, 241
Schwob (Marcel), 252
SeVerac (D. de), 23, 33, 34> 7 8 ,

100, 102, 105, 109, 155-159*

203, 248

SeVigne (Mme. de), 40
Shakespeare, 31, 148
Shaw (Bernard), 253
Sibeliua n
Simpson (James), 244
Sorel (Albert), 160
Stanford (Sir Charles), n

Strauss ? (Richard), 3, 8, 9, 10,

ii, 12, 27, 81.

Stravinsky (Igor), 12, 14, 251
Suares, .206
Swinburne, 252
Symons (Arthur), 252, 253

Turner, 150



Verlaine, 78, 79, 80, 188, 191-

204, 218, 221, 252
Victoria, 35
VielS-Griflin, 205, 252
<Vigny (Alfred de), 189
Villiers de 1′ Isle- Adam, 78,

I5> 187, 196, 217
Villon, 155
Vifies, 214-219, 220
Voiture, 42
Voltaire, 39, 42, 45

WAGNER, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, ii, 26,
27, 28, 31, 55, 61, 70, 73, 74,
84, 93^ 96, 97> 98, 107, 123,
124, 130, 183, 189, 193, 194,
238, 241

Waldteufel, 118

Watteau, 41, 143

Weber, 26

Whittaker (W. G.), 246

Wood (Sir H.), 243, 250, 252

YKATS (W.B,), 252

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