September 3, 1921
Page 9
Walter Damrosch Finds Music Lamp Burns Dimly Abroad

Brings Few Novelties for New York Symphony from Europe—Accepts French and Italian Works—Not Impressed by Teuton Scores—Vincent d’Indy’s New Symphony to Be Conducted Here by Composer— “Gets Nowhere,” He Says of Recent Music—Stravinsky Beyond His Ideals—Declares English School Is Groveling in Ugliness—American Conservatory at Fontainebleau Successful—A· Debt to Francis Casadesus

ALL Europe is suffering from obliteration of ideals of beauty and the war, far from producing artistic results, has cut into creative energy by destroying conditions of tranquility which alone enable the mind to create. This according to the observations of Walter Damrosch who returned to New York recently from a summer spent in Europe. Mr. Damrosch was in France during the war and has been there every summer since the close of hostilities, so he has had ample opportunity to observe what developments have taken place.
“I do not believe,” said Mr. Damrosch, “that there will be any improvement for a long time to come. There has been no startling rise of genius anywhere that I can see, and in the matter of performance, with the orchestras specially, they simply have not the money to spend on rehearsals. All of our twelve great orchestras in the United States are heavily subsidized for one thing, rehearsals. The New York Symphony rehearses every day, the London Symphony only twice for each concert, and it gives only nine concerts during the season. Gabriel Pierné, conductor of the Lamoureux Orchestra, said to me this summer that he was so fatigued that he had to go to the country for a rest. ‘How many concerts have you conducted?’ I asked him. ‘Twenty-four!’ he replied. ‘My dear sir, I said,’ I conducted 115 last winter, and about 100 rehearsals!’ He nearly died of the shock!
“Their orchestras only cost about half what ours do, and the players·are all occupied with other things, so as far as the orchestra is concerned it is a side issue. With us, it is the other way about and if our men do anything on the outside, that is the side issue.
Brings Back Few Novelties
“The principal novelty for my orchestra for the coming season will be d’Indy’s new symphony, ‘Le Rivage’ which he will conduct himself during December. I have other things under consideration, but I am not ready at present to make any announcement. There are not many, but they are mostly French, and one is Italian. I did not find anything of the German composers that struck me particularly. It is not that I have the slightest feeling against German music, but simply that I was not impressed with the works I looked over.
“As a matter of fact, much of the recently composed music seems to me to get nowhere at all. Art, any art, must be a crystallization of dreams of beauty which cannot be realized in this world, but which we strive to achieve in art. If you merely seek to be original, to get into the fourth dimension just for the sake of getting there, the result is not apt to be a thing of beauty. Many of the contemporary composers seem to me to be doing just this and nothing else. Stravinsky, for instance, whom I greatly admire, reached his highest expression in ‘Petrouchka,’ and has now gone beyond ideals. The English school is merely groveling in ugliness.
“The old landmarks are gone and so far, no new ones have been set up. But the human ear, like the donkey’s back, is patient and after a while it accepts with fortitude or indifference what at first was painful. Debussy opened a door to perpetual modulation which should have made possible infinite beauties of composition. But what has happened? With such frequent dropping from key to key, the ear loses all sense of tonality. The thing becomes monotonous and too much monotony is obliteration. It is just as though when walking through a wood you have a chance to admire each tree and each shrub but if you whizz past at lightning speed, there is only a blur.
“Of course, one of the things that interested me most, was the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau which is meeting with the most tremendous success. It is astonishing what the French artists and the Government have done. What I want particularly to make plain is that the success is largely if not entirely due to the energy, the singleness of purpose and the ideas of Francis Casadesus, and to him be most of the credit!
“The idea, you know, was the result of a talk I had with Casadesus when I was in France with General Pershing establishing the Army music school at Chaumont. I asked Casadesus why the French had never done anything to attract the American music student as the Germans had done. I suggested a summer school where advanced students and teachers could have the advantage of contact with prominent French musicians, Casadesus liked the idea and talked of it to the mayor of Fontainebleau and with the prefect of the department who happened to be a friend of his, and the matter was finally placed before the Minister of Fine Arts who had the Palace of Fontainebleau under his jurisdiction.
“That is how it began. The wing of the palace which had been used for a hospital, was fitted up, electric lights installed, modern plumbing put in and the rooms furnished charmingly.
Open Conservatory with Fete
“The day of the opening was a real celebration. We drove up to the palace between lines of French soldiers in their tin hats. The formal opening was in the Pavilion Henri II. Later, in the Parc, Casadesus conducted a cantata he had composed for the occasion. It was sung by 200 voices and accompanied by a military band. And of course the evening ended with fireworks, without which no French celebration is a celebration!
“The pupils are all wildly enthusiastic about the school and about the work not only on account of its excellence but also its cheapness. For $100 a month they have their instruction, their living quarters and three splendid meals a day.
“It is, as I said in my speech, the only time in the world’s history that a nation has established a school exclusively for the students of one other friendly nation. The only approach to it was Mazarin’s Institute which was for Spain, England, Italy and Germany. If the Fontainebleau School interfered in any way with American standards I’d not do a thing to help it, but I think it is a splendid thing and I was greatly struck by the almost touching friendliness of the French shown there as elsewhere not only culturally but commercially and personally.” —JOHN ALAN HAUGHTON.


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