22 MAY 1920, Page 18


M.R. DAVID BISPHAM, whom many of us remember as a singer of varied gifts, great intelligence, and strong personality, has

written an excellent volume of reminiscences.' It is- largely-a story of self-help ; - his main motive being to help those who follow him " to realize that nothing can be- done at all unless one sets out to do it oneself, relying upon nobody at all, yet

,scorning no assistance." Mr. Bispham comes of old Lancashire Quaker stook, and traces his family back through Bisoopham in

Domesday Book to Benedict Biscop, who introduced Gre- gorians and Venetian glass into England. Incidentally he men- tions that the -variants in the spelling of his name are as numerous -as in that of Shakespeare. Born in Philadelphia, and a graduate of Haverford—which conferred an Honorary LL.D. on-him in 1914—he began life in the wool trade, but was soon distracted from commercial pursuits by the double lure of music and the drama. As an amateur actor he gained useful experience in an extensive repertory, but his musical education, out of defer- ence to his mother's wishes, was almost entirely confined to church music and oratorio. Here also he achieved considerable success ; but it was not until he had twice visited Europe that

he finally extricated himself from the wool business, and, after a brief but unsatisfactory engagement as a railway clerk, adopted music as his career. The experts whom he consulted on this side of the Atlantic gave him little encouragement. He was nearly thirty when he went to Italy to study under Vannueoini and Lamperti ; his chance did not come till five years later, when he made his operatic debut in The Baeoche on November 3rd, 1891, at the Royal English Opera House, now the Palace Theatre. Three months later at a seance at his house he was advised by Planchette, operated by a Swedish nobleman, who was "neither a musician nor a spiritist," to study four operatic parts, including that of Beokmesser, with a view to events that would occur in a couple of months ; and on June 25th, 1892, having followed this advice, he was engaged and appeared as Beckmesser under Mahler at Covent Garden. The sequel is well known to all middle-aged musicians. A late start was followed by a long, strenuous, and brilliant career on the operatic stage and the concert platform, in which he undertook all the great bass baritone parts in Wagnerian opera with the exception of Hans Sachs, with Gounod, the later Verdi, and many other composers thrown in ; and, apart from frequent tours and festivals, gave 800 concerts and recitals of his own. Curiously enough, he never fulfilled a professional engagement on the Continent, being con- stantly retained either in England or America ; but he sang as occasion required—and with admirable efficiency, as the present writer can testify—in French, Italian, German, and Rnglish. His beet part, to our way of thinking, was Kurwenal. With Jean de Reszke as Tristan, Ternina as Isolde, and Edouard de Reszke as King Mark, it was an altogether unforgettable cast. In this context we may quote the interesting anecdote of Mme. Wagner's visi to Covent Garden in the early " nineties," when she heard the de Reszkes, Mme. Schumann-Heink, Mme. Nordica, and Mr. Bispham—" two Poles, one German, and two Americans, all of whom had learned to sing in the best Italian manner. We were much pleased when Mme. Wagner said of us on the stage after the performance, that for the first time in her life she had that evening heard the music of her husband rendered from a melodious standpoint." Mr. Bispham is a genial raconteur. He has known and worked with almost all the great singers and conductors of the time ; his reminiscences are friendly even when -he is dealing with emotional colleagues or commercial composers. -Musicians -do not altogether dominate the scene; Mr. Bispham remembers Lincoln, met General Grant, and enjoyed the friendship of Mr. Roosevelt, He has interesting reminiscences of Walt Whitman, " Guide," George Meredith, Joseph Jefferson, and St. Gaudens. He confesses to having been twice thoroughly scared—once when he was on the deck of an " unflying Dutchman " which stuck fast, and again when he forgot his words while reciting " Enoch Arden " to Strauss's setting. " Moments like these," be observes, " have contributed to the whiteness of my naturally red hair." He has much admirable comment on the apostolic text, " I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might • (1) A Quaker Singer's Recatedions. By David Bispham. London : Macmillan. [21s. net.)—(2) Confession* of an Opera Singer. By Kathleen Howard. London : Kegan Paul. [7e. 8d. net.]—(3) A Book of Opera* : A Second Book of Operas. By Henry Edward Krehbiel. 2 vols. in one. London : Macmillan. [14a. net..)—(4) Short Studies in the Nature of Mimic. By Herbert Antcliffe. London : Kagan Panl. 6d. net.]—(5) The Music of Spain. By Carl van Vechten. Preface and Notes by Pedro G. Morales. Same publishers and price.—(6) The Foundations of Music. By Henry J. Watt, D.Phil. Qacabridge: at ths.University Press. Ulla. rwd.1

beach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown 'tongue." He is generous in acknowledging the help and advice of obscure and forgotten, as well as eminent musicians. And it is encouraging to find him proclaiming his belief, " now as it was in the beginning, that the artist with courage to sing or

play or act the finest things- he knows will more quickly gain the ear of the pu.blic and more lastingly retain its respect."

The " confessions " of Miss Kathleen Howard2 are a useful- antidote to rose-coloured views of the operatic career. "Con-

temporary action," as she observes, " is full of opera-singing heroines who jump into fame in a single night, like Minerva springing full armed from the head of Jupiter." Miss Howard knows better. Her reminiscences prove that talent must be reinforced by industry, courage, a good physique, and above all by dogged determination to achieve success. Financial family disasters determined her to adopt the musical profession ; she, began her studies in New York, continued them under the famous Jacques Bouhy in Paris, obtained her first engagement, at Metz, where during several seasons she sang the entire oon- traito repertory of a typical German opera house, went on to Darmstadt, thence to Covent Garden, and finally reached the goal of her ambition at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The record bears out the, writer's statement that few succesaful singers have been through so severe a, school ; " few American singers, at, any rate, have made a career in- a foreign country exactly as if they had been.a native of it." It was truly a case of per aspera ad astra. Nowhere have we read a more realistic account of the Agoura and squalors of modem operatic life than iu the chapters devoted to the organization, equipment, and etiquette of a small German municipal opera house, She met in the main with good comradeship, from her colleagues. " All the really great people I have ever met are unpretentious and absolutely charming to work with. Only the near-great seam. to consider it necessary to remind you all the time that they are other than you." The operatic stage, in Germany at any rate, is no place for the fastidious, and what Miss Howard endured from the propinquity of perspiring tenors, " smelling at best of onions," is forcibly expressed in her own words : "It may be honest sweat, but it is a demned moist unpleasant' kind of ,honesty in my. opinion." In between her engagements in Ger- many she studied with Jean de Reszke in Paris, and agrees with Mr. Bispham in pronouncing his interpretation of Wagner better than.that of any Wagnerian singer she ever heard. We may also note her tribute to the assistance of theatrical costumiers, and, best of all, her affectionate recognition of the constant and in- spiring companionship of her sister and g od genius, to whom this volume is dedicated.

Mr. Krehbiel's Book of Operass is a reprint of two volumes in which he gives an account of the history, plot, and music of famous works in this genre., from Mozart down to Moussorg- sky, Strauss, and Wolf-Ferrari. The Inclusion of Berlioz's Faust, which was not turned into an opera until more than thirty years after the composer's death, and of the already for- gotten Biblical operas of Rubinstein, is open to criticism, all the more so that. Carmen and the later and greater Verdi are excluded. The omission of the Ring is doubtless intentional. The lack of an index is a serious blemish. With these deduc- tions, this is a most useful volume, full of information, and pro- fusely illustrated with excellent portraits, facsimiles, &c.

The two latest additions to the " Library of Music and Musi-

cians," edited by Dr. Eaglefieki Hull, are poles apart in subject and treatment. Mr. Herbert Antcliffe has collected in his Short Studies in the. Nature of Music' six,essays, most of which have already appeared in various musical periodicals.. Each is dedicated to a different musician and the,whole book to a seventh. Mr. Antcliffe may be described as a moderate modernist, who, even where he inclines to emancipated views and advances the most disputable propositions, expresses them with the utmost sobriety. His habitually non-committal attitude is beautifully expressed in the following paragraph :- " A very thoughtful and thought-provoking writer has de- clared that the music composed in any age, being the expression of the spirit. of that age, is for the time being and for contem- porary musicians the most important of all music. This state- ment is true in some respects and to a certain, extent. Unless and until music of any particular type is adoptable and adopted by a considerable section of the community as a natural means of expression, however, it is of little or no importance. If and when it is so adopted it immediately rises to a first-class impOrtance ; for good or for ill."

Mr. Antcliffe is a very thoughtful but also a very provoking writer. Judged by the canon laid down in the sentences quoted,

Bach was of no importance for about a hundred years; though the greatest musicians recognized him as " the father of us all." But if this volume would gain by the admixture of a little

" judicious levity," Mr. Carl van Vechten's volume on The Music of Spainb carries disregard for the judicious and the judicial' to riotous lengths. The title, as Mr. Pedro Morales frankly

admits in his Preface, is-a misnomer. There is much more about Spanish dancing and dancers than- about Spanish musicians-;

for the rest, " the present work appears to embrace everything relating to music, provided it affects or is affected by Spain in some degree, no matter how' small or insignificant." Thus Carmen, a work of undoubted genius, but of French genius, and emphatieally not-the national opera of Spain, is treated in far greater detail than any Spanish work. A long chapter traces the fortunes of Bizet's opera from its production down to 1917, with descriptions of every prima donna who essayed that role, from Galli-Marie down to Mary Garden, There is also far too, much about the Spanish variety stage, far too little about Granados, Purina, and the -othev lights of the new Spanish seltooL Mx.. van Vechten writes in a breathless, hectic style, and draws freely from authors who.have celebrated the orgiastic quality of Spanish dancing. His English, or that of his trans- lator, is peculiar. but he is enthusiastic, rhapsodic, and at times.

entertaining. As, a fantasia on Nietzsehe's saying,. " II faun mediterraniser in musique," his, book has merits. But its character and arrangement reveal a curious laxity of editorial supervision.

By way. of antidote to the inflammatory and uncritical enthu- siasm of ,Mr. van Vechten, we can imagine nothing better than the perusal -of-Mr. Watt's treatise on The Foundations of Music.* His previous work op The Psychology of Sound was addressed_ to psychologists and physiologists ; in the present volume ho seeks to serve the perposes of both the psychologist and the musician. The main thesis is

" that the fount and origin of probably all music is melodia movement. or simply melody. Ptiinitive music is monomeledie.

• • • Modern music,. whether classed as polyphonic or har- monic, belongs to a great envoi polyphony, of which the essential problem is the construction. of concurrent melodic streams• that will leave each other's motions unimpaired and produce effects of arrest as they may be desired."

Thesolution of.this problem involves an analysis of the relations between the functions.of melody and consonance. " The latter is the principle of arrest, inimical to the free course of melody. Music has been created rather.in.spite of consonance than by Its help." We may note that while the author admits rhythm to be a most important element in the art, it is deliberately excluded from the present investigation ; also that he deplores Helm- holtz's. " very unsatisfactory distinction between natural law and aesthetic principles " as tending to discredit the science of aesthetics amongst those " who are struck most of all by the innovations of each master and have not the patience to follow out the great purpose that is common to them all and that each merely carries on to finer and finer issues." Considerations of space oblige us to deal-cursorily with a learned and interesting work, fortified by citations from upwards of eighty books on acoustics, harmony, and the philosophy and psychology of music from. Aristoxenus to Stumpf.