Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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78               STEPHEN COLLINS FOSTER
Ole Bull gave a concert in Pittsburgh in 1855, and with him appeared Adelina Patti, as a "Child Prodigy" of eight. In the opinion of the Pittsburgh critics, she was too sophisticated for a child.
The following editorial is taken from the Pittsburgh "Evening Chronicle" of March 11th, 1853:
A hobby of society at the present day is to be music-mad, and the adulation and toddyism lavished upon every Piano Forte player of any talent is enough to disgust all sensible people with the instru­ment forever. From the language of the musical critiques of the Eastern press, one would suppose that there was nothing else worth living for in this life but music, and Piano Forte playing especially, and the musical world, following the key-note, look for the advent of each fresher greater Signor Pound-the-keys with a devotion and religious constancy unparalleled. He makes his advent and the whole town talks. Pound-the-keys young ladies practice barications (?) and musical young gentlemen walk, talk and sit Pound-the-keys fashion, and Pound-the-keys himself, well fed, well dressed and well puffed, for a few nights extorts from a Piano such extraordinary combinations of sounds, to the delight of the young ladies and gentlemen with exquisitely cultivated musical ears and to the misery of all who have not, who may have been deluded into attending. And Signor Pound-the-keys, for having rattled and splurged and hammered and tinkled and growled through three or four musical compositions with long-line names, fills his pockets for one night's work with as many dollars as three-fourths of the community earn in a year, while the mustached gentleman who assists him by quaver­ing, quivering and shouting through three or four songs in as many different European languages, which is all gibberish to all of the audi­ence with perhaps the exception of some dozen, pockets one-half as much more.
We think music is an art which deserves fostering and cultivating as much as any other art among our people, but we feel no ways backward in saying that from a common-sense point of view, the musical furore which pervades this country for wonderful piano playing and extraordinary effects of vocal powers in foreign lan­guages, like what it is, is thorough humbug.
The Americans are a musical people, but we want to be educated up to the science and so long as nine-tenths of our people do not know even the A.B.C. of music, it is folly for them to listen to the most finished and eloquent combinations of it.
According to Robert P. Nevin, Stephen Foster enjoyed the friendship of artists of the highest distinction. "Herz, Sivori, Ole Bull and Thalberg were ready to approve his genius and to testify to their approval by the choice of his melodies about which to weave their witcheries of embellishment." Complimentary letters from men of literary note poured in upon him, among others one full







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