November 20, 1915
Page 31
Origin and Development of the Flozaley Quartet

The Story of the Attainment of a Noble Artistic Ideal—The Members Now in the Eleventh Year of Their Association

FOR years many artists of every nationality have sought to live part of the year in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Leman or, as it is more often called, Lake Geneva. Byron and Shelley had a great love for this charming lake, and numbers of poets, painters and musicians have gone there in search of rest, health or inspiration. Little by little, some have settled there, more or less permanently, and to-day, among musicians alone, there can easily be counted a dozen familiar names. Paderewski has made his home in the Canton de Vaud, as also have Sembrich and Josef Hofmann. Farther west one finds Schelling, Dalmorès, the tenor; Theophile Ysaye, brother of the violinist; Emanuel Moor, the Hungarian composer; Weingartner, Hugo Hermann, Rudolf Ganz and a host of others. Many, in quest of a distinctive name for their villas, have had recourse to the picturesque dialect of the Canton de Vaud, a sort of corrupt Italian interspersed with some words of Old French, a dialect which now, unfortunately, is rapidly disappearing. When E. J. de Coppet of New York built his villa near Lausanne, he too chose the language of the country-side and called it “Flonzaley,” the original name of the property upon·which it was built. “Flon,” in the Vaudois dialect, means “river” and “Flonzaley,” being the diminutive, might then be translated “brooklet.”
For years Mr. de Coppet, at his home in New York, had given informal evenings of chamber music, in which a string quartet engaged for the purpose, and Mrs. de Coppet, a pianist of marked ability, took part. The first violin of this organization gave up his position in 1902, and Mr. de Coppet, being in Switzerland, asked his friend, Alfred Pochon, to take the place thus vacated. Thereupon Mr. Pochon relinquished his position at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, and on arrival in America found himself associated with three musicians of high rank—J. Spargur, second violin; Arnold Volpe, viola, and Modest Altschuler, 'cellist, all of whom have since become well-known conductors. Quartet chamber music of the highest class makes most exacting demands, and these artists had so many other calls upon their time that they could not hold a sufficient number of rehearsals to produce entirely satisfactory results.
Mr. Pochon advised Mr. de Coppet to find four men who could devote their entire time to quartet playing. It was no easy task, for each man must be a fine musician, master of his instrument, young, willing to exchange a sure position for one of high artistic ideals though somewhat uncertain of financial success. It was likewise necessary to find four men of similar education and training. In short, there was much to do before reaching a final result. Mr. de Coppet promised to pay the expenses of the enterprise and, in the spring of 1903, Mr. Pochon, filled with hope, wrote his friends in the Conservatory of Music and other great artists of his acquaintance, asking their help in securing the proper men for his organization. Joachim, Ysaye, Thomson, Casals, Jacques Thibaud and other of that type were enthusiastic over the plan, and gave their best advice and encouragement.
The result was that Adolfo Betti, at that time instructor under César Thomas, and professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, relinquished his post to devote himself exclusively to quartet playing with the new organization, and Ugo Ara, who was working at composition in Vienna, permanently gave up his instrument, the violin, to take the viola part. Searching for a 'cellist, the three appealed to Victor Vreuls, also a classmate, and now a well-known composer and director at the Conservatory of Luxemburg. He warmly recommended his fellow countryman, Iwan d'Archambeau, who was, he said, “as good a 'cellist as he was good fellow,” which is saying a great deal.
The four musicians having been found, it was decided that they should meet at “Flonzaley,” Mr. “de Coppet's Swiss home, in the summer of 1903. There, among numerous things discussed and decided, the quartet took the name of the place where they first foregathered and arranged to spend the ensuing winter in Vienna. Nov. 1, 1903, found them together in the Austrian capital. In the fall of 1904, after its first European tour, the quartet arrived for the first time in the United States, and continued to work daily with great ardor, playing only for Mr. de Coppet and his friends, or giving occasional charity concerts at Mr. de Coppet's request, it being one of his ideas that so long as the quartet existed, it should play only for charity. But in 1906 there came a change in the business relations between Mr. de Coppet and the organization, and since then the quartet has stood on its own responsibility, with an engagement from Mr. de Coppet for a certain period each winter in New York and each summer in Switzerland at “Flonzaley,” where every Sunday a chosen few among the neighbors are invited to hear works, both old and new, presented.
The members of the quartet all belong to the Belgian school of music, a fact that has materially helped them in gaining the unity of execution and smoothness of expression that is characteristic of their art.
“If work is nothing without talent, talent is certainly nothing without work.” For nearly eleven years the Flonzaleys have proved the truth of this old saying, and it is not only because of their various natural gifts, but because of their persistent work, and the fact that they are only stimulated by the manifold difficulties which they still meet on the arduous climb toward their high goal that they have attained the reputation they enjoy in Europe and the United States. It was a clear understanding of their lofty ideals that prompted a close friend and admirer of theirs in New York, in giving them a loving cup a few years since, to have engraved thereon: “Per Aspera ad Astra.” (“Through hardships to the stars”)


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