May 22, 1915
Page 1

Famous Composer Shuns Reporters During New York Stay, But “Musical America” Representative Succeeds in Interviewing Him as He Departs for San Francisco—Has Written Two Works for the Exposition, “Hail California” and a New March—Despite His Eighty Years, Composer Stands in Rain to Watch New York Naval Parade and Salute the President

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS arrived in New York on the Rochambeau on Wednesday morning of last week. The veteran composer of “Samson and De:ilah” (now in his eightieth year) made a brief concert tour of this country in 1906, but his travels on that occasion did not take him as far as will the mission on which he is now bound. He will appear at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco as first delegate of the Franco-American Commission for the Development of Political, Economic, Literary and Artistic Relations, and is also to visit Los Angeles and other coast cities during his California sojourn, which will cover a period of several months.
Accompanying Saint-Saëns on his ocean trip were General Hovaleque, Inspector General of Education in France and Hugues le Roux, editor of the Paris Matin. At the pier the composer turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of newspaper reporters for a few words, spurned a prima donna because of her Germanic origin (the incident is treated more fully in another column) and effusively greeted Leopold Godowsky, the pianist, who was once his pupil. He declined vehemently to discuss the war, for news of the Lusitania outrage had further deepened the bitterness of his feelings toward all things German. Nor did the customs inspection contribute to the kindliness of his sentiments for the time being. On leaving the dock he went to the Biltmore Hotel and was guest of honor that evening at a dinner given at the University Club by the Franco-American Society. In a brief after-dinner speech, the composer spoke of his appreciation of America and of his own work, diplomatically scouting all reference to the war and the French expectations of this country.
The following evening Saint-Saëns was tendered a dinner by Dr. Marafioti, of the Metropolitan Opera House, the guests including Messrs. Godowsky and Busoni, the party afterwards attending the benefit performance of “Carmen” at the Metropolitan.
Departure for the West
Saint-Saëns left for the West at five-thirty Monday evening, having spent his last day in New York paying calls, regardless of the rain and watching the naval parade. During the full extent of his stay he denied himself to newspapermen absolutely and neither entreaties nor subterfuges could induce him to lift the ban. A representative of MUSICAL AMERICA managed, through the kindness of Dr. Marafioti, to spend a few minutes with him before the train left, after having been solemnly admonished not to divulge his own identity by word or act. A few casual questions concerning his trip quickly aroused the composer’s suspicions, however, and he put an abrupt check to the efforts of his interrogator by inquiring sharply “why this individual was asking him so many questions.”
Thus chastened in spirit, “this individual” collapsed into deferential silence while the cher maître became proportionately voluble. He walked briskly down the platform informing Dr. Marafioti that he was looking forward with great expectations to his California visit , inasmuch as he had never seen California before, and since various postal cards from friends in 'Los Angeles showed him pictures of tropical flowers and fruits in luxuriant bloom. He did not know just how long he was going to stay there, he averred; but he did know that he was going to deliver a lecture in San Francisco on the execution of ancient music. Then, turning to his meekly silent “interviewer,” and_ suddenly changing the subject, Saint-Saëns exclaimed that he was “not a mathematician.” “No, no, not in any sense,” he insisted, “although the newspapers here have said I was En voila une idée! Un mathématicien, moi! If only I were!”
“But an astronomer—?” feebly ventured the odious individu.
The composer abjured his reputed skill in this scientific direction quite as relentlessly.
Star-Gazer, Not Astronomer
Pas astronome non plus! Parceque j'aime regarder les astres ne signifie pas que je suis astronome! What if I do like to gaze at the planets? That proves nothing—no, I'm not an astronomer, interested as I may be in that and any other science.”
Reaching his drawing room on the Pullman, the composer instituted an immediate search for une place où se débarbouiller—which, being translated, signifies a washstand. Two conductors, a colored porter, a baggage carrier and Dr. Marafioti started simultaneously in divers directions in search of this necessity of existence. The first exploring party discovered one at the opposite end of the car, which location was not to the composer’s taste. There were suggestions of changing the stateroom. Then another was found in the nearer end of the preceding car but this was likewise repudiated, because of the lengthy promenade its use involved.
Then as the “dear master” inclined to wax genuinely wroth someone discovered the necessary adjunct in a recess of the wall in his very stateroom and was blest by seeing the child-like petulance of the composer yield to an equally child-like enthusiasm as he walked out onto the station platform and related how he had watched the morning’s parade in spite of the weather. “I could see the President from where I was,” he said, and after a pause added with a sort of grave satisfaction: “et je l'ai même salué—and I even saluted him. Do you know,” he suddenly exclaimed in Italian to Dr. Marafioti, “that once, when I was in Italy in the days of Crispi, I was cheered on the streets just because I was a Frenchman, though no one had any idea of my name, or my work. And now Italy is going to war at last! A la bonheur! And the Germans, the barbarians, are beginning to be nervous over your President’s note! Ah! that is well!
Two Exposition Pieces
“Do you know I have written two works just for the Exposition. One is called ‘Hail California,’ and the other is a new march. Schirmer is going to bring it out soon and I have been arranging the first for two pianos. Shall I write music out there? Possibly—probably, though I don't know just how long I’m going to stay. They say the Winter climate in New York is getting milder. That is interesting, but how does it happen—this Winter was so mild in Paris, too.”
Dr. Mara'fioti spoke of deviations in the course of the Gulf Stream which stimulated the scientific interest of the composer. He would doubtless have discoursed further on the subject (he was back in his compartment by this time), had any more than a half minute remained before starting time. As his visitors beat desperately against the locked door of the car after hasty exhortations for a bon voyage Saint-Saëns for the first time remained cool and almost cynically collected while his friends scrambled from car to car in most undignified quest of the nearest unlocked exit. —H. F. P.


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