MUSICAL MEMORY - online book

A System To Cultivate The Musical Memory For Musicians.

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about a century, he found, stepping to the conductor's desk, that a score, similar in binding and thickness, but of another work, had been brought by mistake. He conducted this amazingly complicated work by heart, turning leaf after leaf of the book he had before him, in order not to create any feeling of uneasiness on the part of the executants." Another story, which bears witness to the wonderful accuracy with which he knew the scores of works he studied, is related by Ferdinand Hiller in his " Mendelssohn." At a weekly musical gathering at the Abbe Bardin's, when both Hiller and Mendelssohn were present, Hiller writes, " I had just been playing Beethoven's E flat Concerto in public, and they asked for it again on one of these afternoons. The parts were all there, and the string quartet too, but no players for the wind. ' I will do the wind,' said Mendelssohn, and sitting down to a small piano which stood near the grand one, he filled in the wind parts from memory so completely, that I don't believe even a note of the second horn was wanting, and all as simply and naturally done as if it were nothing."
123. All the above, however, are quite eclipsed by the following, which is recorded by Max Miiller in his " Auld Lang Syne," and took place on the occasion of Liszt's first appearance in Leipzig. " Mendelssohn," says the writer, " gave a matinee musicale at his house, all the best known musicians of the place being present. I remember, though vaguely, David, Kalliwoda, Hiller; 1 doubt whether Schumann and Clara Wieck were present Well, Liszt appeared in his Hungarian costume, wild and magnificent. He told Mendelssohn that he had written something special for him. He sat down, and swaying right and left on his music stool, played a Hungarian melody, and then three or four variations, one more incredible than the other. We stood amazed, and after everybody had paid his compliments to the hero of the day, some of Mendelssohn's friends gathered round him and said, 'Ah, Felix, now we can pack up. No one can do that; it is over with us !' Mendelssohn smiled; and when Liszt came up to him, asking him to play something in turn he laughed and said that he never played now; and this to a certain extent was true. He did not give much time to practising then, but worked chiefly at composing and directing his concerts. However, Liszt would take no refusal, and so at last little Mendelssohn with his own charming playfulness said, ' Well, I'll play, but you must promise me not to be angry.' And what did he play ? He sat down and played first of all Liszt's Hungarian melody, and then one variation after another, so that none but Liszt himself could have told the difference. We all trembled lest Liszt should be offended, for Mendelssohn could not keep himself from slightly imitating Liszt's movements and raptures. However, Mendelssohn managed never to offend man, woman, or child ; Liszt laughed, applauded, and admitted that no one, not he himself, could have performed such a bravura." How far Mendelssohn's powers of execution would meet the demands of a piece written by Liszt, probably with the express object of displaying his own marvellous powers upon an occasion of exceptional importance, must remain an unanswered question, but after making allowance for large deficiences, this feat is perhaps the most wonderful of its kind on record.
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