October 4, 1913
Page 17
An Interview "in Sonata Form" with Mr. and Mrs. David Mannes

AN interview in sonata form may seem a journalistic anomaly, but that is approximately the impression which is left on the musical newspaper man by a conversation with those exponents of the sonata, David and Clara Mannes. This was demonstrated last week at the West Side apartment of the Manneses, when a representative of MUSICALAMERICA sought to record their reminiscences of their recent debut in London.
To be sure, the ideas of Mr. Mannes and his musicianly wife were not consciously arranged in the correlated sequence of a sonata, but there were to be discerned, nevertheless, the exposition, development and recapitulation of certain themes. Naturally, the two musicians did not follow the style of their sonata recitals in the matter of giving expression to their ideas simultaneously, but they exhibited the same sympathetic understanding that marks these recitals, each carrying on the other's thoughts and reinforcing them with further opinions.
What the listener would have picked out as the chief theme of the conversation was a spirit which spoke more of the thing which the Manneses stand for than of the Manneses themselves. Although this artist couple had won a success in their London appearances such as could not help being gratifying to any musician, mention of this was kept entirely in the background. Instead, Mr. Mannes and his wife kept recurring to the subject of the delightful spirit of cooperation which they had observed among the artists in London.
"They are so receptive in their attitude toward newcomers," recalled Mr. Mannes.
"We found the London musicians very much interested in our work," added Mrs. Mannes, "and glad to come to hear us. And I noticed a helpful spirit among them all-interested in what the other person is doing, as well as in their own work. We had such a delightful taste of their social life, too. For instance, a luncheon was given for us by Lady Speyer, who was Leonora von Stosch. Although she has given up professional life, she is just the same fine artist as ever. Such musicians as Sir Henry Wood and Percy Grainger made up the guest list and after luncheon there was a charmingly impromptu hour of music, in which everyone joined." "You see we were all artists," supplemented Mr. Mannes; "there were no Philistines present."
Experience with London Musicians
"There was another such musical hour at Sir Edward Elgar's Hempstead house," continued Mrs. Mannes, "when Lady Maud Warrener sang some of the Elgar songs with Sir Edward as the accompanist and Lady Speyer playing a violin obbligato. Sir Edward had asked us if we would play for some of his friends and, of course, we were very glad to do so."
Mrs. Mannes here unearthed the invitation which the British composer had sent to his guests, which was as follows: "Severn House, Hempstead, N.W.—Mr. and Mrs. David Mannes (of New York) will kindly play Sonata in A, Cesar Franck. July 1,19J3." The walls of the Manneses' reception room bore a freshly autographed portrait of Sir Edward Elgar, resplendent in his court costume, and one of Mr. Grainger, looking much less an Australian than one of the Scandinavians whose music he has so ardently championed.
These two American artists are eager to have this country become personally acquainted with these and several other of the musicians whom they met in London. "I don't see how they ever have the courage to leave London, though," sighed Mrs. Mannes, "for their life is so comfortable there. For instance, Sir Edward Elgar is in the midst of London at his Hempstead place and yet the atmosphere is that of the country. It is the same with Katharine Goodson in her house in St. John's Wood Road. How could they possibly find the same home atmosphere in New York?"
One artist for whom Mr. and Mrs. Mannes predict certain success in America is Beatrice Harrison, the young 'cellist, who makes her debut this season. "Isn't she a beautiful girl!" enthused Mrs. Mannes. "And her art is as fine as her beauty," was the comment of Mr. Mannes.
Especially anxious are the Manneses to have Cyril Scott visit America. "He is coming the season after this, I believe," continued the violinist, "and the reaction between his individuality and that of our musicians will be good for both. In what capacity will Scott come over? As a lecturer, pianist and conductor, I imagine. He'll be interesting in the first capacity as he is a searching thinker and original talker. He has evolved his own style of piano playing to suit his music, and no doubt he will do the same as a conductor.
"As I said, he has evolved his own type of pianism and you have no idea how different his music sounds when he plays it. Things that seemed to be difficulties vanish entirely and one forgets technic in seeing the spirit that lies behind the composition. After all, what one brings to a composition counts just as much as what one gets from it."
"Wben one understands the spirit of Beethoven," instanced the pianist, "one is given the Beethoven technic to interpret it. It is the same with Brahms.
"Thus Cyril Scott's music is not less valuable because its message is best understood when interpreted by him," Mr. Mannes pointed out. "When he comes to America and gives us that personal touch I believe he will teach us many things. When we understand him, he may help us to understand Debussy the better, just as Brahms gives us a fuller insight into Beethoven."
"It has taken us all this time to see the true spirit of Bach," reminded Mrs, Mannes. "We have found out that he doesn't have to be played dryly and crisply, but that his music can be imbued with feeling quite as much as that of Brahms or Beethoven."
One sonata by an American was taken by the Manneses to England as a reciprocal offering, that of Daniel Gregory Mason, which won commendation from the Londoners. "As the names of Daniel Mason and David Mannes look somewhat similar on a program," chronicled Mrs. Mannes, "one or two of the critics were misled by their eyesight into thinking that the sonata was written by my husband and they complimented Mr. Mannes on his ability as a composer.
To Play Powell’s "Virginiaesque"
Another American sonata is to be played by Mr. and Mrs, Mannes, the "Virginiaesque" of John Powell, the pianist, who makes his headquarters in London. As M r. Mannes described it, this is founded on real Southern melodies, without any admixture of European atmosphere. That the sonata will reflect Mr. Powell's own observations in his native Virginia is evident from the titles given to the three movements: "In the Quarters," "In the Woods" and "In the Big House." "The last movement is based on what is practically a 'Virginia reel," explained Mrs. Mannes, "but that is to be accepted as a folk dance quite as legitimately as any of the European dance rhythms."
A second Mannes novelty this season is to be a sonata, op. 9, by Karol Szymanowski, a young Polish composer. "We heard some of Szymanowski's songs abroad," related Mr. Mannes, "and they impressed us so much that we asked if he had written anything for the violin, whereupon this sonata was shown to us."
Mrs. Mannes here submitted a Leipsic program of last season, which showed the performance of a symphony by this young Pole and of the sonata, played by Arthur Rubinstein, "who, I'm sure, would also be successful in America," interjected Mr. Mannes.
For the corning season, Mr. and Mrs. Mannes are considering an innovation in the form of extra programs of Beethoven at New York's Little Theater. They also have under advisability the question of giving their regular New York recitals on Tuesday afternoons, instead of the usual Sunday evenings. One of these programs, so they announced, will be devoted entirely to the Brahms sonatas.
"That is something that we've been wanting to do for a long time," exclaimed Mrs. Mannes, as her artist-husband nodded assent. —K. S. C.


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