Release Date: 01 March 2007
Red PAPERS ON MUSICAL SUBJECTS fbe Works of Qarl Van Vechten NOVELS PETER WHIFFLE HIS LIFE AND WORKS THE BLIND BOW-BOY THE TATTOOED COUNTESS BOOKS ABOUT CATS THE TIGER IN THE HOUSE LORDS OF THE HOUSETOPS BOOKS ABOUT MUSIC INTERPRETERS RED rw rv rw r5 rvxs Qarl Van Vechten PAPERS ON MUSICAL SUBJECTS, yjfw Tork 1915 ALFRED A KNOPF For Ralph Barton, with my admiration, this superfluous pigment for his irnmarcescible palette Red is the colour of youth. Oxen and turkeys are always enraged when they see it. ROBERT SCHUMANN. A Valedictory Some ill-considered author once formulated a theory, which since has gained considerably more currency than it deserves, that the corps of critics is recruited from the ranks of unsuccessful novel ists. It would be more easy to credit the con verse of this fantastic supposition. Indeed, if nine-tenths of our novelists were critics it would not be possible for them to write such bad novels. Speaking for myself, I may say that I was both a dramatic and a music critic before I had conceived the idea that I should ever write a novel. Ten or twelve years ago, Miss Geraldine Far rar remarked to an interviewer that singers should retire at the age of forty. In conversa tion, at any rate, I remember often to have ex pressed myself similarly in regard to critics of music. When I was younger I held the firm be lief that after forty the cells hardened and that prejudices were formed which precluded the pos sibility of the welcoming of novelty. From almost the moment I began to write on the sub ject of music, therefore, I took it upon myself to ix A Valedictory attack the older men who had closed their minds to new ideas. However that may be, Miss Far rar did not retire, and I did. For twenty years, with a fringe of months at either end of this period, I attended a concert or an opera or a play nearly every evening, and, for long stretches, nearly every afternoon as well. There have been countless occasions on which I have heard parts of three or four operas and concerts during the same evening. This con sistent activity was carried on in several cities Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Munich, and elsewhere, and for at least sixteen of the twenty years I not only attended these entertainments, I also wrote about them. Towards the end I grew very tired of this routine. Music, the drama, singers and actors, began to have precious little new to say to me, and I began to have precious little new to say about them. Had I continued, I should have been obliged to repeat myself, besides boring my self to death and running the by no means un likely risk of catching a series of colds in draughty halls. Also, I recognized the symp toms of age creeping upon me. I began to pre fer Johann Strauss waltzes to the last sonatas of Beethoven Chopin pleased me more than Brahms. I determined, therefore, to step aside to make way for the younger generation, who are A Valedictory hereby given permission to transfer what I said ten years ago about Stravinsky and Satie to Darius Milhaud and the young Italians. There was a still more pregnant reason for my desertion of the camp of musical criticism. I seemed always to be about ten years ahead of most of the other critics and the orchestral con ductors who make out programs. I missed the reviling of Wagner in New York, but I have watched the pundits of the press revile, in turn, Richard Strauss, Debussy, and Stravinsky, only, inthe end, after their ears, through repeated hearings, had grown accustomed to the new clang tints, to accept these composers as part of the sacred hierarchy. My orchestral education was carried on under Theodore Thomas in Chicago. Now Thomas was not a great conductor, al though he always gave honest musical readings of his scores, but he had one great virtue he believed that new music should be heard. He performed, therefore, every important European composition as soon as possible after it had been performed abroad...
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