MUSIC AND MUSICIANS
AN ADDRESS BY
ETTORE MAZZOLENI, B.A., Mus.D. PRINCIPAL, THE ROYAL CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC OF TORONTO
Chairman: The President, Mr. H. G. Colebrook
Thursday, December 15th, 1949
Honoured Guests and Ladies and Gentlemen: It is a great pleasure to again have the ladies with us for our Christmas meeting. No doubt, our large attendance today, is due in no small measure to the happy memories of two years ago, when our Distinguished Guest of today, spoke to us on the needs of cultural and spiritual values in the building of peace.
Today Doctor Mazzoleni is not only with us again in person to give us a talk on Music and Musicians, but he has very kindly arranged through Mr. Hodgins, to bring with him a group of Choristers from Grace Church-on-The-Hill, to whom we extend a very hearty welcome. Just a few remarks regarding our Guest of Honour, other than those recited on your announcement cards In 1929 Doctor Mazzoleni was appointed to the faculty of Upper Canada College and immediately took an active part in the musical life of Toronto; being shortly afterwards appointed lecturer and examiner at the Royal Conservatory of Music and Director of its Symphony Orchestra.
In 1943 he was, appointed Associate Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
In 1945 he was appointed Principal of the Royal Conservatory, and in 1948 he resigned his post with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to devote his time to the administration of the rapidly expanding Conservatory Organization.
In June, 1949, he received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Rochester.
We are indeed delighted to have with us againDoctor Mazzoleni whom I will now call upon to address us on--MUSIC AND MUSICIANS!
To begin with I must thank you, Sir, for your gracious invitation to speak to the Empire Club today. It is always flattering to be invited to speak to so representative a gathering--but in this case so much more flattering when I recall that the last time you were good enough to extend a similar invitation to me, I accepted.
That was three years ago, and I remember with great pleasure the warm and friendly reception you gave me on that occasion. I also remember with particular pleasure that it was Ladies Day. I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I suspect that each Fall there comes a critical moment when you turn to your Speakers' committee and say, 'Gentlemen, Christmas is coming. That means the ladies will be coming to lunch and we must entertain them. Let's ring up the Principal of the Conservatory.'
You see, I am a musician--not a speaker--and my job is putting into what I believe to be their rightful place musical notes and sounds, not words. For that reason, you must forgive me if I am somewhat diffident. Every time I am called on to speak, I feel rather like the conductor in a story the great English composer Edward Elgar used to tell. In his youth, Elgar was a violinist. On one occasion he was playing a concerto with the local orchestra. After the final rehearsal the conductor, as usual, thanked the members of the orchestra for their co-operation and attention, and the help they had given him in preparing the concert. "There is one favour I would ask of you to-night" he said. "You know your part and I know mine. Please, none of you look at me to-night. It makes me nervous."
My subject, on which I am going to speak to you very briefly and very informally, is 'Music and Musicians'. Now musicians may be composers, performers, teachers, even critics-but not verv often-and I feel that I cannot use my time more profitably than by speaking about composers, the most respected and the most underpaid members of the musical profession-although I remember the story of an exchange between the very popular young American composer, George Gershwin, who was visiting Paris in the Spring of 1928, and the Russian composer Stravinsky, who was then living in Paris and was noted for his brilliant orchestral scores. Being very anxious to learn something about orchestration Gershwin got in touch with Stravinsky to ask how much he would charge for lessons in orchestration. "How much do you make a year?" asked Stravinsky in reply. "About $100,000." said Gershwin. There was a pause, and then Stravinsky said, "How about your giving me lessons?"
The position of the composer today, as I read history, is vastly different from his position in the days of church and court patronage, and in the days of the great romantic movement of the 1800s, and it might be interesting to point out briefly how the composer has changed through the centuries in his typical character, and how the present-day musician compares in temperament and social grace with his forerunners.
In the first place, the composer generally works in solitude and quiet. Perhaps for that reason, and because the attitude of his audience has always profoundly affected his work-even when he has claimed to ignore his audience or to be far in advance of it-the composer particularly seems to enjoy the fun of making music with others when he is at rest from his own labours.
Up to about the end of the 16th century the chief patron of music was the Church. Music was then one of the many factors in the religious atmosphere with which the Church tried to surround her followers, and the Church musician, nurtured in the faith and often protected by his office from outside influences, gave the best that was in him. Those were the days of the purest choral traditions.
But we know that at the same time madrigal singing was one of the favorite pastimes of musicians as well as of wealthy musical amateurs. Thomas Morley describes a typical scene in an Elizabethan home when, after dinner, the hostess would bring out the part-books, and family and guests would all join in the singing of madrigals. It was the part of every gentleman's education, at that time, to sing at sight.
Much of the music which was sung at these sessions was never intended for posterity: in fact much of it has been lost, most of the magnificent poems have remained anonymous, and those scores which have survived have been reconstructed from the singers' parts, since the composers did not take the trouble to preserve their works for anyone but their own circle.
This was home music, not concert music, and very often the parts were marked "apt for viols or voices", so that stringed instruments could be used in place of voices or in combination with them.
Although this singing of madrigals was apparently not indulged in by the lower classes, it meant a very democratic principle among the upper circles, because everyone could take part and no one had a more interesting part than his neighbour. It was not like the barber shop quartet which I once heard described as consisting of three singers and a tenor. As for the composer, he was one with the company, whether it was made up of fellow-musicians or music lovers.
When we come to the following century, the Comrnonwealth period in England, we find this type of merry music-making exemplified by the following extract from the writings of the Puritan composer, Roger l'Estrange 'Being in St. James His Parke, I heard.an Organ Touched in a little low Room of one Mr. Hinckson's. I went in, and found a Private Company of some five or six Persons. They desired me to take up a Viole, and bear a Part. I did so . . . By and by (without the least colour of Design or Expectation) in comes Cromwell., He found us Playing-and so he left us.' A commentary on the healthy state of music at the time, and also on the sad lack of musical appreciation in British statesmen which has lasted right up to the present day.
At Oxford and Cambridge group singing and playing were popular from the earliest times, and "musique meetings", originating in the universities, developed into the famous catch and glee clubs of the eighteenth century, many of which are still in existence today.
The most prominent of these was the Noblemen's and Gentlemen's Catch Club, founded in 1761 and still holding regular monthly meetings. In its early days the famous Dr. Charles Burney was a frequent visitor, and Haydn dropped in at one of the meetings on his visit to England. The meetings were not entirely musical, or so one gathers from the early minute-books, where it is stated that at each meeting one bottle of sherry was to be provided for every three members, and one bottle of madeira for every seven members, and further that politics or religion were not to be talked during meetings.
Smoking and drinking were evidently a part of all the glee club sessions: the Canterbury Catch Club, one of the earliest of its kind, mentions the serving of gin punch and mutton pies during meetings. And the Catch Club of Calcutta, whose weekly meetings began at 10 o'clock at night and continued until dawn, were always broken by an interval for "a kettle of burnt champagne as soon as the clock struck two."
No wonder musicians occasionally long for a return to the good old days.
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, during which the aristocratic patron paid the piper and therefore called the tune produced a great mass of music, much of it of merely passing interest but also much of real value. In those days a composer was socially of no account. Either he was a court musician, in which case he was a lackey; or he was a church organist, in which case his pay was wretchedly poor. If his employer were an enthusiast he might be lucky, but too often the princely employers were imitating, so far as their means would allow, the Court of Versailles, and very often they were doing things 'on the cheap' since they were rarely as rich as they pretended to be.
The conditions under which the great school of German symphonic writers developed were remarkable. Central Europe was divided into a multitude of small states, each with its own Prince trying to maintain his own band of musicians for the entertainment of his guests. Small wonder then that composers did not always bother to lavish their best talents on audiences which often paid very little attention to their works. Opera, in particular, was a social rather than an artistic event, and audiences thought nothing of chatting freely during the evening when their favourite singers were not on the stage. And yet there was some sort of security for the composer, as a paid servant, which must have left him free in the matter of composition. To this, I suppose, we can owe much of the elegance and charm which belong to the music of Haydn and Mozart.
In the musician of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries we see then a man who was fond of good music, good company, and good fun. But with the nineteenth century the character of the composer changed.
The French Revolution, involving a violent upheaval of European society, had a profound effect on the outlook of the musician, throwing him into contact with a wider public. Beethoven has been called the prophet of the Revolution, and there is no doubt his personal eccentricities helped to cast a further glamour over his name.
With the romantic movement in all the arts under way the musician was bound to become a man of exaggerated tastes and passions and a romantic view of life and art. One example that immediately springs to mind is, of course, Hector Berlioz.
At the age of fourteen Berlioz is reported to have been carried away by the charms of a local belle who wore pink shoes. Later he wooed a Shakespearean actress and a famous woman pianist, without much success in either case. Eventually he married the actress, but she died of a broken heart when he jilted her for a singer. When the singer died, Berlioz consoled himself by seeking out the lady with the pink shoes, by now a widow. She refused to marry him, but did allow him to stand as godfather to one of her grandchildren.
Liszt is another obvious example. Dazzling London society when he was only thirteen by his extraordinary performances on the 'New Grand Piano Forte invented by Sebastian Erard' he became one of the first great travelling virtuosi, living frenziedly between love-affairs and a desire to be a great saint and social reformer, but possibly at no time as unscrupulous a bounder in his private life as the great operatic composer Wagner.
The domestic paterfamilias and noble church-musician, Johann Sebastian Bach, the tidy and methodical court-musician, Joseph Haydn, had given way to the romantic novelist's stock types, the eccentric old recluse – Beethoven--and the theatrical gay young Lothario--Franz Liszt--whose lives were just as sensational as the public could desire.
But with the early years of this century the musician, somewhat unfortunately, tended to take too clinical a view of himself and his work. A number of European festivals sprang up where small cliques of avant-garde composers and performers gathered together to hear and praise each other's latest musical (or unmusical) outrages. The meetings were usually very sober and the atmosphere forbiddingly serious and hightoned. A disturbing note at one such session was the first participation of an English musician in the I.S.C.M. Festival, around 1921. The work was a Quartet by William Walton, and the English government being completely ignorant of the tenseness and serious professional air of the Festival had sent as their representative performers four prim young English schoolgirls. A regular commotion was caused when the 'cellist inadvertently placed the spoke of her 'cello on the latch of the stage's only trapdoor, and the four players descended from view before they had played a note of the music. The effect on the sober meeting may well be imagined.
In more recent years, musicians have come to see more and more the value of a sense of humour and of a regular, rational mode of life. Indeed, it is doubtful whether you could today tell a musician, if you met him on the street, from a plumber or an insurance salesman. The great change which has come over the face of music in recent years has had a lot to do with this. The spread of musical education through the schools, the invention of radio and recording, have created a larger audience for the musician than ever before existed. You possibly know that the largest capitalized industry on the North American continent today is entertainment, and music is the basis of entertainment. Musicians can no longer indulge too much in their own professional jargon, talking in terms to be understood only by the very few. They can no longer with cheerless souls and uplifted voices sing the allegedly good old Calvinistic psalm
We are the sweet elected few, Let all the rest be damned. There's room enough in Hell for you, We won't have Heaven crammed.
Composers must come down from their ivory towers. We are only now emerging from a period of overcleverness and complexity in music. The romantic composers were out for notoriety in their private lives-the modern composers have been out for notoriety in their music.
Music, if it is to have value and if it is to survive, must express the heart and soul of man, and the composer must search for a kind of simplicity where there will be no barrier between himself and his listener. His aim should not be to create a mental tangle for himself. He must have faith, and his music must interpret his faith. It must express the inarticulate hopes of man.
Humanity is the sacred soil of art.
We have much to love and have faith in, but our faith is too lukewarm, our thinking too shallow. Perhaps that is why we can no longer write great religious music.
If so, let us hope that some day a naive and simple belief may be restored so that the art of music may again be dedicated to a sublime task.