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Chats on Violoncellos

Chats on Violoncellos
Category: Cello
Author: Racster Olga
Title: Chats on Violoncellos
Release Date: 2018-05-10
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Chats on Violoncellos, by Olga Racster

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Title: Chats on Violoncellos

Author: Olga Racster

Release Date: May 10, 2018 [eBook #57130]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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The
Music Lover’s Library

CHATS ON VIOLONCELLOS


The Music Lover’s Library

CHATS ON VIOLINS
OLGA RACSTER

STORIES FROM THE OPERAS
First Series
GLADYS DAVIDSON

STORIES FROM THE OPERAS
Second Series
GLADYS DAVIDSON

CHATS ON VIOLONCELLOS
OLGA RACSTER

CHATS WITH MUSIC LOVERS
ANNIE W. PATTERSON, Mus.Doc., B.A.


THE ARTIST’S WIFE.
A. van Dyck.



CHATS
ON
VIOLONCELLOS

BY
OLGA RACSTER
AUTHOR OF “CHATS ON VIOLINS”

With 18 Illustrations

LONDON
T. WERNER LAURIE
CLIFFORD’S INN


TO
MY FRIEND
Mrs Blackett of Arbigland
THIS VOLUME IS
AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED BY
The Authoress

London, 1907


[Pg vii]

PREFACE

No prefatory remarks are necessary to introducethe reader to the following pages. They emanated,in the first place, from a desire for personalinstruction, and what the French term le soulagementdu cœur, a combination—according toVauvenargues—calculated to prove useful toone’s fellows, car personne est seul de son espce.Those who live on my plane of thought willwelcome this volume, and those who do not, willeasily find a way out of the difficulty presentedto them by their attempted perusal of its pages:most modern houses are now provided withwastepaper baskets of ample proportions!

My true reason for allowing myself to wanderinto the paths of a preamble, springs from adesire to thank my friends and colleagues fortheir assistance in supplying me with manyinteresting facts.

In particular I am indebted to Sir GeorgeDonaldson for permission to reproduce hisDuiffoproucart Viol; to Dr William H. Cummingsfor the use of his interesting old engraving ofBenjamin Hallet; to Mr W. E. Whitehouse for[Pg viii]notes concerning Signor Piatti; to Mr EdwardHeron Allen for courteous admittance to his valuablelibrary, and for permission to reproduce thehandsome carved violoncello by Galli; to MrJohn Bridges for his photographs of “The King”Amati, and for supplying me with many pointsrelating to its history; and to Miss GertrudeRoberts for helpful research at the BritishMuseum.

Also I waft hearty acknowledgments to thatgreat host of musical historians—my predecessors—towhose various records from century tocentury we owe our present knowledge.

Olga Racster.


[Pg ix]

CONTENTS

CHAT THE FIRST
 PAGE
Fog—The South Kensington Museum—The Ravanastron—Arabia—TheKemangeh Gouze—Egyptand the Rabab1
 
CHAT THE SECOND
Lunch, and the Emperor Albinus—The Crwth—Theimmature Bow Instruments which precededthe Fifteenth-century Viol—M. Coutagne andGaspard Duiffoproucart43
 
CHAT THE THIRD
The Renaissance—The Influence of the NetherlandsSchool—A brief Outline of the growing Use ofthe Viol in Germany, Italy, England, France81
 
CHAT THE FOURTH
Andrea Amati—“The King” and its History—Gasparoda Salo—Woods employed by AncientLuthiers—Paolo Maggini and the “Dumas”Bass—Monsieur Savart’s Experiments—Freaks—StradivariusVioloncellos—Signor Piatti’sVioloncellos—The Bass of Spain—Davidoff’s[Pg x]Violoncello—Herr Klengel’s Amati—A neatSwindle—Stradivarius’ Contemporaries—Ownersof Rugger Violoncellos—George IV.’spseudo Stradivarius—The earliest Treatise onthe Violoncello as a Solo Instrument—MrAndrew Forster’s Gamba—The Prince Consort’s“Ancient Instruments” Concert—Developmentof the Technique of VioloncelloPlaying109
 
CHAT THE FIFTH
Two Eighteenth-century Women Players of theViola da Gamba185
 
CHAT THE SIXTH
An Eighteenth-century Violoncello Prodigy211

[Pg xi]

ILLUSTRATIONS

The Artist’s Wife. A Van DyckFrontispiece
Sir George Donaldson’s Duiffoproucart Violada Gamba, sketched by D. FreebornRobertsTo face page     74
“The King” Violoncello by Andreas Amati110
“The King,” Side View114
Back of the “Vaslin” Violoncello126
Back of Carved Violoncello by Galli176
Viola di Bordone from the South KensingtonMuseum, from a Painting by D. FreebornRoberts184
Benjamin Hallet210
Ravanastron21
Ancient Egyptian Guitars22
Rabab29
Kemangeh Gouze32
The Rebec44
Spanish Minstrel45
Figure from St Georges de Boscerville49
Bas-relief, Cologne Cathedral50
Nun playing Marine Trumpet. Sketch by Author58
Example from Simpson’s “Division-Viol”80

[Pg xii]

The Opening bars of the Chant of Ab’oo Zeyd


[Pg 1]

Chats on Violoncellos

CHAT THE FIRST
Introduction

Fog—The South Kensington Museum—The Ravanastron—Arabia—TheKemangeh Gouze—Egypt, and the Rabab

Is there any city in the world that can—metaphoricallyspeaking—hold up its head beside thisplace of mystery—London in a fog? Paris,Berlin, Vienna, St Petersburg, New York—whatcan they do in the production of a bilious-green,murky-yellow species of hyperphysical abomination?Nothing! Yet we English are not inthe least proud of our prerogative. Perhapselation is impossible among such depressing surroundings,or, perhaps the true British spirit ofbeing satisfied with everything that is British,because it is British, predominates too utterly toadmit of any other emotion.

From whatever cause our inertia springs, theclue is too deeply locked away in every Cockney’sheart to be revealed. The effect, however,[Pg 2]is plainly seen in the total lack of epicpoetry, or chromatic musical depiction of thething. Our literature does not teem with suchlines as:

“The ’cellist stood in the empty hall,
Whence all but himself had fled,
‘’Tis the fog,’ he sighed, ‘that has tired them all
And sent them so early to bed!’”

No! genius ignores the subject, and fills in theweary hours of darkness with sighs, and gasps,and chokes, like ordinary mortals.

What an outlook greets us this dull Novemberday! Misty bricks and mortar emerge and disappearlike swiftly buried cities. Hazy, indefinite,dubious figures loom upon us out of thedarkness, like ancestral ghosts; dull thuds, faintcries, strange stampings and gratings are transmittedto our ears with telephonic minuteness;and all the while our throats are aching, oureyes are streaming, our noses are smarting, themotor bus is useless, and—we don’t know wherewe are.

Perhaps in all the gamut of human sensibilitythere can be no more creepy sensation than thatof being lost in familiar surroundings. Theruler of Hades himself, or Jupiter with histhunderbolts, could not invent a more refined[Pg 3]torture than that consummated in the paradox:“Here I am!—Where am I?” Yet, howordinary has this impression become to thedweller in London.

“Here, boy! can you tell me where I am? Ithought I was near the South Kensington Station,but—I begin to be horribly puzzled. That greatthing opposite looks just like the Parthenon!”

“Parth yer on!” exclaims a little urchin, apparentlyemerging from nowhere, and brandishinga torch as big as himself—“Parth, did yersay? Yer on the parth roight enough! Wanta loight, loidy?” he adds, reserving further informationuntil he is sure of a customer.

“Yes, yes, to be sure! Don’t leave mewhatever you do! Where am I?” distractedly.“What is that place opposite? I saw it amoment ago, but—it’s gone again!” A pause—similarto that which precedes each new slideat a magic-lantern show—follows this speech,then out of the darkness comes the excited exclamation:“There! there it is! Now, whatis it?”

“That there?” hoarsely mutters our impishguide with a grin. “Why, that there’s theKensin’ton Mooseum.”

“The Kensington Museum! Surely it can’t[Pg 4]be! Why, it is the very place I have been lookingfor for hours past. Do you think you canget me across?”

“Git yer across!” with an accent of scorn,“o’ corse I can git yer across. You just keepclose alonga me, loidy, and we’ll git over in twoticks.”

With torch held aloft and a hopeful heart hemakes a start and—returns to the comparativesafety of the pavement. Then he makes asecond hoppy trial—with the same result. Webegin to feel nervous, and search in our memoryfor some battle-cry or epic poem with which tofortify our courage, and drop upon Montrose’slines:

“He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch
To gain or lose it all.”

“Now then, ’ere you are, look sharp!” shoutsour familiar urchin, utterly ignoring our poeticmutterings. Straight away he plunges into thechaos like an arrow shot from a bow. Wefollow blindly, breathlessly, with the grace of apolar bear after a gadfly, and in an incrediblyshort space of time reach the safety of theMuseum doorway.

[Pg 5]What a transformation scene greets our eyeswhen we enter! Here is a little Paradiseindeed: food, warmth, light, and all thetreasures of the Universe besides. Without—weknow—are horrors worse than Bluebeard’sdungeons or the Underground Railway atGower Street. But what matter to us nowif the sky rains salt herrings and the streets befull of roaring bulls, for we are safe from thegreat Babel, although we can see its stir if wewill.

Come! sober scholar, gay flaneur, or ignoramus(it is all the same), rest, and drink in thefascinations of these armies of priceless china,silver, glass, pictures, and furniture which shine,and glint, and sparkle, and peep, in tantalisinginvitation! Here are rare editions: historicrelics: miniatures, lace, statuary—in short, abanquet to suit all tastes; and here, moreparticularly, in the least prominent position, isa unique collection of musical instruments,hiding their heads in remoteness. It is regrettablethat many of these interesting relics ofthe past are placed in such dark corners that agood deal of nose-flattening and eye-strainingis necessary to see them at all. Still, one iswell rewarded for any slight personal inconvenience[Pg 6]sustained in viewing them, for, apartfrom their special interest, do they not standbefore us as the mute historians of the past?

Look at this old virginal, encased in whatwas once rich red velvet, but now faded andworn with the touch of many a vanished hand!Behold those keys, brown with age! Yet thesewere once white and responsive to the taperfingers of that most consummate diplomatist,Queen Bess. Surely it was just here, on thisside, that my Lord of Leicester stood bendinghis proud head to eagerly plead an answer tohis oft-repeated suit! Or perhaps it was impulsiveEssex plucked and twitched the thing,while he sued for the pardon of an elderly,capricious coquette!

A little to the left of the historic virginal isthe harp of the ill-fated Marie Antoinette,brave owner of that empty title, Reine deFrance. What has been the history of thegraceful thing since that short space of calmwhen its tones resounded in the Queen’s Salonat the Tuileries? Was it also dragged after thepoor lady by a cruel infuriated mob, like theharp of her friend, Mademoiselle de Lamballe?Who knows! The tumbrels seem to rumbleby us as we gaze, and the sickening refrain:

[Pg 7]

“Madame Veto avait promis
De faire gorger tout Paris;
Mais son coup a manqu
Grce nos canonniers.
Dansans la Carmagnole
Vive le son,
Vive le son,
Dansans la Carmagnole
Vive le son du canon”

rings in our ears.

Close beside this melancholy relic is thecheering cast of Brian Borroimbe’s harp, whichwas played on by that versatile King of Irelandduring the eleventh century. A little farther—inan obscure corner—is the fiddle said tohave belonged to James I. of England, andalmost beneath it is a cast of the beautifullycarved violin which is generally supposed tohave been given to the

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