Leipzig

 

 

     Een fraai ooggetuigeverslag van het Leipzig uit de jaren 1860 en van zijn conservatorium vinden we in Musings & Memories of a Musician (publ. 1918) van Sir George Henschel (1850-1934).

     Deze arriveerde in 1867 als Georg Henschel uit Breslau in Leipzig om er piano te studeren bij Ignace Moscheles. Later werd hij zanger en tenslotte dirigent. In deze hoedanigheid was hij werkzaam in de Verenigde Staten (onder meer als medeoprichter en eerste dirigent van de Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1881) en in het Verenigd Koninkrijk (onder meer als oprichter en eerste dirigent van het Royal Scottish National Orchestra, 1893, en organisator van de London Symphony Concerts). In 1914 werd hij in de Engelse adelstand verheven.
     Henschel behoorde tot Schlegels netwerk, al weet ik op dit ogenblik niet hoe goed ze elkaar kenden. Schlegel zelf was, 17 jaar oud, in 1861 in Leipzig gearriveerd.

het befaamde portret van George Henschel

door Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1879)

 

     To go from Breslau to Leipsic, that is from one country, Prussia, to another, Saxony, was, before 1870, quite an event. In Prussia the silbergroschen (one penny) had twelve, in Saxony, ten pfennige; the postage stamps, too, were different, and the boy about to undertake so interesting a journey into foreign lands was quite a traveller, and very enviable in the eyes of his comrades. It was during the Easter holidays of the year 1867 that my father and I arrived in Leipsic. The multitude of foreigners of all parts of the world who had come to buy and sell at the celebrated Oster-Messe (Easter Fair), the hundreds of wooden booths temporarily erected in the Rossplatz, displaying merchandise of every description, the thousands of people who thronged the brilliantly, albeit pre-electrically, illumed avenues of the huge bazaar at night, the strains of merry music emanating from some subterranean abode of conviviality, all this made the famous old town appear even more gay than I had afterwards occasion to find it, and I distinctly remember the anxious look in my father’s eyes as he bade me good-bye on his return home, evidently not quite reassured as to the wisdom of leaving alone in that “little Paris”, as Goethe has called it, a boy of seventeen on the point of throwing off, for the first time, the yoke of paternal vigilance and control. Who could foretell the result of the experiment? Was my talent sufficient to “make a living” of music? Would I prove morally strong enough to be alone among strangers, free from every restraint, exposed to temptations of all sorts?… Dear old father, how well now I understand that troubled face!  

     In due time I was matriculated as a student of the Conservatory, situated in a dingy old building in a kind of courtyard at the back of the old “Gewandhaus” in the “Neumarkt”. The professors to whom I was consigned were Ignace Moscheles for pianoforte, Goetze for singing, Richter – no relation to Dr. Hans – for theory and composition, Papperitz for organ. Goetze, an excellent, painstaking, patient teacher, had as a young man been the original impersonator of “Lohengrin” when that opera was first given in Weimar under the direction of Liszt; Moscheles’ name had been familiar to me from his studies for the pianoforte, and in being introduced to him I felt a certain
sensation of awe on shaking the hand of one who had seen Beethoven face to face, and been commissioned by the master to prepare the vocal score of his Fidelio.
     I found him, however, most kind and sociable, and soon became an almost daily guest at his house, the presiding angel of which was his accomplished, beautiful, and charming wife, a relative of Heinrich Heine’s, who remained a motherly friend to me until the end of her life.
     My lessons with Moscheles proved highly interesting and profitable, and sometimes amusing as well. He had been trained in, and was the foremost exponent then of, a school of pianoforte-playing as far removed from the modern sledge-hammer clavier technique as Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “one-horse-shay” from a sixty-horse-power motor. I think the dear old gentleman would have had a fit if any of us pupils had forgotten ourselves so far as to lift our hands as much as two inches above the keyboard. Chopin and Schumann were the most advanced composers he admitted for study in his lessons, and I remember well, playing once a phrase of Beethoven’s in a somewhat rubato style, his gently chiding me and innocently saying, “My dear sir, you may do that with Schumann or Chopin, but not when you play Beethoven or me!” [pp. 20-23]

 

     Uit Leanders briefwisseling met zijn vader blijkt dat zijn verblijf in Leipzig bepaald niet als een succes opgevat kan worden. Hij voelde er zich totaal niet op zijn gemak, miste veel lessen en deed niet één examen. Waar het de bedoeling was geweest zich vooral als violist verder te bekwamen, liet hij zich ontmoedigen door het talent en het spel van zijn medestudent August Wilhelmj. Na drie jaar keert hij naar Leiden terug. Hij is nu in de eerste plaats pianist, maar krijgt wel een aanstelling als vioolleraar aan de Leidse Muziekschool. Opvallend is dat hij, wanneer hij zich in de jaren 1880 steeds meer als componist gaat profileren, zijn opus 1 opdraagt aan de Leipziger muziekdirecteur Salomon Jadassohn.. Over de instrumentatielessen van Carl Reinecke zal hij zich decennia later in een brief aan Richard Hol nogal negatief uitlaten.