Charles Hallé on Kalkbrenner, Chopin, Liszt & Thalberg

Lisztian anecdotes and eyewitness accounts has been my bed reading over the last few days, and my latest find is a reminiscence by British pianist Charles Hallé (1819-1895) about his days in Paris which I thoroughly enjoyed, especially since it contains both comparative and descriptive remarks. I have read excerpts from his tale before, but never the complete text; the relevant portion of which is reproduced below and which begins in late 1836 as he arrived in Paris by diligence from Darmstadt.


Arrived in Paris, and settled in a small German
hotel in the Eue Vivienne, I began after a few days
to deliver the letters of introduction I had brought
with me, one of my first visits being to Kalkbrenner.
Kalkbrenner and Hummel were at that time con-
sidered the greatest pianists, and even Chopin had
come to Paris a few years before to learn from Kalk-
brenner. I therefore approached him with considerable
trepidation, and great was my disappoint-
ment when he told me that he no longer took pupils.
He, however, kindly invited me to play something,
to which he listened carefully, and then made some
unpleasant remarks and advised me to take lessons
from one of his pupils. As I was about to leave him
he offered to play for me, saying that it might prove
useful to me to hear him. I accepted eagerly and
was full of expectation, when he sat down and played
a new piece of his composition, entitled ’ Le Fou,’
one of the most reasonable and dullest pieces ever
perpetrated. I admired the elegance and neatness
of his scales and legato playing, but was not other-
wise struck by his performance, having expected
more, and wondering at some wrong notes which I
had detected.

I did not at once follow his advice with regard to
the teacher he had recommended, and two or three
days later I received an invitation to dinner from
the banker Mallet, to whom an uncle of mine,
Harkort of Leipzig, had recommended me, and found
myself sitting beside Chopin. The same evening I
heard him play, and was fascinated beyond expres-
sion. It seemed to me as if I had got into another
world, and all thought of Kalkbrenner was driven
out of my mind. I sat entranced, filled with won-
derment, and if the room had suddenly been peopled
with fairies, I should not have been astonished. The
marvellous charm, the poetry and originality, the
perfect freedom and absolute lucidity of Chopin’s
playing at that time cannot be described. It was
perfection in every sense. He seemed to be pleased
with the evident impression he had produced, for I
could only stammer a few broken words of admira-
tion, and he played again and again, each time
revealing new beauties, until I could have dropped
on my knees to worship him. I returned home in a
state of complete bewilderment, and it was only the
next day that I began to realise what was before me
how much study and hard work, in order to get
that technical command over the keyboard, without
which I knew now that no good result could be
achieved. Strange to say, the idea of taking lessons
did not occur to me then ; I felt that what I had to
do could be done without a master ; lessons of style
might be more useful later on. I shut myself up and
practised twelve hours and more a day, until one day
my left hand was swollen to about twice its usual
size, causing me considerable anxiety. For some
months I hardly ever left my rooms, and only when
I received invitations to houses where I knew I
should meet, and perhaps hear, Chopin. There
were not many of them in Paris, for Chopin, impelled
by growing weakness, began even then to lead a very
retired life. He used still to visit principally Count
de Perthuis, the banker August Leo, Mallet, and a
few other houses. Fortunately for me I had been
introduced by letters to the above three gentlemen,
and enjoyed the privilege of being invited to their
’ reunions intimes,’ when Chopin, who avoided large
parties, was to be present. With greater familiarity
my admiration increased, for I learned to appreciate
what before had principally dazzled me. In personal
appearance he was also most striking, his clear-cut
features, diaphanous complexion, beautiful brown
waving hair, the fragility of his frame, his aristocratic
bearing, and his princelike manners, singling him
out, and making one feel the presence of a superior
man. Meeting often, we came into closer contact,
and although at that time I never exhibited what
small powers I might possess as a pianist, he knew
me as an ardent student, and divined that I not
merely admired but understood him. With time our
acquaintance developed into real friendship, which I
am happy to say remained undisturbed until the end
of his too short life.

From the year 1830 to 1848, a period during
which he created many of his most remarkable works,
it was my good fortune to hear him play them succes-
sively as they appeared, and each seemed a new reve-
lation. It is impossible at the present day, when
Chopin’s music has become the property of every
schoolgirl, when there is hardly a concert-programme
without his name, to realise the impression which
these works produced upon musicians when they first
appeared, and especially when they were played by
himself. I can confidently assert that nobody has
ever been able to reproduce them as they sounded
under his magical fingers. In listening to him you
lost all power of analysis ; you did not for a moment
think how perfect was his execution of this or that
difficulty ; you listened, as it were, to the improvisa-
tion of a poem and were under the charm as long as
it lasted. A remarkable feature of his playing was
the entire freedom with which he treated the rhythm,
but which appeared so natural that for years it had
never struck me. It must have been in 1845 or 1846
that I once ventured to observe to him that most of
his mazurkas (those dainty jewels), when played by
himself, appeared to be written, not in 3-4, but in
4-4 time, the result of his dwelling so much longer
on the first note in the bar. He denied it strenuously,
until I made him play one of them and counted
audibly four in the bar, which fitted perfectly.
Then he laughed and explained that it was the
national character of the dance which created the
oddity. The more remarkable fact was that you
received the impression of a 3-4 rhythm whilst listen-
ing to common time. Of course this was not the case
with every mazurka, but with many. I understood
later how ill-advised I had been to make that observa-
tion to him and how well disposed towards me he
must have been to have taken it with such good
humour, for a similar remark made by Meyerbeer,
perhaps in a somewhat supercilious manner, on
another occasion, led to a serious quarrel, and I
believe Chopin never forgave him. Any deliberate
misreading of his compositions he resented sharply.
I remember how, on one occasion, in his gentle way
he laid his hand upon my shoulder, saying how un-
happy he felt, because he had heard his ’ Grande
Polonaise,’ in A flat, jouée vite [played fast]
thereby destroying all the grandeur, the majesty,
of this noble inspiration. Poor Chopin must be rolling
round and round in his grave nowadays, for this
misreading has unfortunately become the fashion.

I may as well continue to speak about Chopin
here and take up the thread of my narrative later on,
all the more as it will fill little space. His public
appearances were few and far between, and consisted
in concerts given in the ’ Salon Pleyel,’ when he pro-
duced his newest compositions, the programme open-
ing, I think, invariably with Mozart’s Trio in E
major, the only work by another composer which I
ever heard him play. He was so entirely identified
with his own music that it occurred to no one to
inquire or even to wish to know how he would play,
say. Beethoven’s sonatas. If he was well acquainted
with them remains a moot point. One day, long
after I had emerged from my retirement and achieved
some notoriety as a pianist, I played at his request,
in his own room, the sonata in E flat, Op. 30, No. 3,
and after the finale he said that it was the first time
he had liked it, that it had always appeared to him
very vulgar. I felt flattered, but was much struck
by the oddity of the remark. In another direction,
he did not admire Mendelssohn’s ’ Lieder ohne Worte,’
with the exception of the first of the first book, which
he called a song of the purest virginal beauty. When
one reflects on the wonderful originality of his genius,
the striking difference of his works from any written
before him, without making comparison as to their
respective worth, one feels it natural that he should
have lived in his own world, and that other music, even
the very greatest, did not touch all his sympathies.

When I first knew him he was still a charming
companion, gay and full of life; a few years later his
bodily decline began ; he grew weaker and weaker,
to such a degree, that when we dined together at
Leo’s or at other friends’ houses, he had to be carried
upstairs, even to the first floor. His spirits and his
mental energy remained, nevertheless, unimpaired,
a proof of which he gave one evening, when, after
having written his sonata for piano and violoncello,
he invited a small circle of friends to hear it played by
himself and Franchomme. On our arrival we found
him hardly able to move, bent like a half opened pen-
knife, and evidently in great pain. We entreated him to
postpone the performance, but he would not hear of
it ; soon he sat down to the piano, and as he warmed
to his work, his body gradually resumed its normal
position, the spirit having mastered the flesh. In
spite of his declining physical strength, the charm of
his playing remained as great as ever, some of the
new readings he was compelled to adopt having a
peculiar interest. Thus at the last public concert he
gave in Paris, at the end of the year 1847 or the
beginning of 1848, he played the latter part of his
‘Barcarolle,’ from the point where it demands the
utmost energy, in the most opposite style, pianissimo,
but with such wonderful nuances, that one remained
in doubt if this new reading were not preferable to the
accustomed one. Nobody but Chopin could have
accomplished such a feat. The last time I saw him
was in England ; he had come to London a few weeks
after my arrival there in 1848, and I had the privilege
and the happiness to hear him several times at Mrs.
Sartoris’s and Henry F. Chorley’s houses. The admi-
ration which he elicited knew no bounds ; there w r e
heard for the first time the beautiful valses, Op. 62,
recently composed and published, which since have
become the most popular of his smaller pieces. I had
the pleasure afterwards to welcome him to Manchester,
where he played at one of the concerts of the society
called the Gentlemen’s Concerts in the month of
August. It was then painfully evident that his end
was drawing near; a year later he was no more.

To return to my own experiences in 1836, I have
to relate that a few days after having made the
acquaintance of Chopin, I heard Liszt for the first time
at one of his concerts, and went home with a feeling
of thorough dejection. Such marvels of executive
skill and power I could never have imagined. He
was a giant, and Rubinstein spoke the truth when, at
the time when his own triumphs were greatest, he
said that, in comparison with Liszt, all other pianists
were children. Chopin carried you with him into a
dreamland, in which you would have liked to dwell
for ever ; Liszt was all sunshine and dazzling splendour,
subjugating his hearers with a power that none could
withstand. For him there were no difficulties of
execution, the most incredible seeming child’s play
under his fingers. One of the transcendent merits of
his playing was the crystal-like clearness which never
failed for a moment even in the most complicated
and, to anybody else, impossible passages ; it was as
if he had photographed them in their minutest detail
upon the ear of his listener. The power he drew
from his instrument was such as I have never heard
since, but never harsh, never suggesting ’ thumping.’
His daring was as extraordinary as his talent. At
an orchestral concert given by him and conducted by
Berlioz, the ‘March au Supplice,’ from the hitter’s
’ Symphonie Fantastique,’ that most gorgeously instru-
mented piece, was performed, at the conclusion of
which Liszt sat down and played his own arrangement,
for the piano alone, of the same movement, with an
effect even surpassing that of the full orchestra, and
creating an indescribable furore. The feat had been
duly announced in the programme beforehand, a
proof of his indomitable courage.

If, before his marvellous execution, one had only
to bow in admiration, there were some peculiarities
of style, or rather of musicianship, which could not
be approved. I was very young and most impres-
sionable, but still his tacking on the finale of the
C sharp minor sonata (Beethoven’s) to the variations
of the one in A flat, Op. 26, gave me a shock, in spite
of the perfection with which both movements were
played. Another example : he was fond at that time
of playing in public his arrangement for piano of the
’ Scherzo,’ ’ The Storm,’ and the finale from Beet-
hoven’s ’ Pastoral Symphony ; '‘The Storm’ was simply
magnificent, and no orchestra could produce a more
telling or effective tempest. The peculiarity, the
oddity, of the performance, consisted in his playing
the first eight bars of the ’ Scherzo ’ rather quicker
than they are usually taken, and the following eight
bars, the B major phrase, in a slow andante time ;
ce sont les vieux’, he said to me on one occasion.

With Thalberg there came a new sensation in the
same year. Totally unlike in style to either Chopin
or Liszt, he was admirable and unimpeachable in his
own way. His performances were wonderfully
finished and accurate, giving the impression that a
wrong note was an impossibility. His tone was
round and beautiful, the clearness of his passage-
playing crystal-like, and he had brought to the
utmost perfection the method, identified with his
name, of making a melody stand out distinctly through
a maze of brilliant passages. He did not appeal to
the emotions, except those of wonder, for his playing
was statuesque ; cold, but beautiful and so masterly
that it was said of him with reason he would play
with the same care and finish if roused out of the
deepest sleep in the middle of the night. He created
a great sensation in Paris, and became the idol of the
public, principally, perhaps, because it was felt that
he could be imitated, even successfully, which with
Chopin and Liszt was out of the question.


There’s a marvelous account of his first meeting with Liszt (Chopin too) among his letters too incidentally, but I can’t conjure it up at this moment. I probably can tonight though.

Fuckkkkkkkkkkkkk da MALTEMPO kickin himzelf fo avoidin da CHOP all deze yrz when

He cud be da moz authendick chop interptah of all fuckin tym :sunglasses:


Hahahaha dis WIMTEMPO cumpromize cg combo ov first beat in “authentic tempo” and next two in single beat.


Hehe yeah, or something. I wonder who is the most Chopinesque pianist on record incidentally, from these descriptions? “A dreamland you’d never want to leave”, “elves and fairies”, charm, poetry, freedom, lucidity… :lib: It’s at least clear both Chopin and Liszt were romantic pianists with great imagination and evocation in their playing, while Thalberg comes across more as someone in line with Michelangeli, Malcuzynski, etc. Tausig apparently was a bit like that too.

Kalkbrenner again isn’t portrayed too flatteringly here, but Hallé does so in more favourable terms elsewhere in the book. His playing almost seems to have had a pedantic quality, with great care to legatos, perfection of runs etc, but which could easily spill over in to plain boredom. de Pachmann had a bit of that in him, Cherkassky too, although that’s not mentioning SC’s tremendous colour palette and mastery of sound. From the description here I at least doubt Kalkbrenner ever was a dramatic pianist, and surely classically schooled & rooted, although he must have been admirable in his particular way.

HAHAHAHAH tru i can eazily imagine da PIMP unleazhin hiz full girth on da ZTORM mvmt of da paztoral

but da queztion iz

can he beat

ORGAZMO KAT FACE? :sunglasses:

1 Like

ahahahah da zepp’z readin of dat part (da chop firzt meetin wiz da enchanted fairiez etc) iz zimply dat diz brit mofo

haff nevah zeen a fuckin impro b4 :sunglasses:

Yeah, Katsaris is brilliant. The Scherzo description is really interesting too, where Liszt apparently played the opening faster and the response Andante. I can’t make it work in my head, but it does show how Liszt always kept an eye out for effect and contrasts.

Also, incidentally… Hallé mentioned elsewhere in his memoirs an afternoon much later where he and Liszt sat and remembered these times in Paris, and Liszt exclaimed of his own behavior at the time “How can one be so stupid!”. :slight_smile: I think he was very caught up with the competitive climate and all attention he was receiving at the time, even having to hold bi-weekly receptions for several hours for the scores of people who just came and wanted to meet him. There’s a much later letter where he writes that he “asks for simplicity, sincerity, and truth in a work of art, and in its artistic interpretation, in whatever style it may be” - which seems a bit at odds with what you read about him in the 30s and 40s, where effect and impact appears to have been the order of the day.

Maybe, it is the words of a 17 yo kid, but note that he doesn’t describe either Kalkbrenner, Liszt or Thalberg anything like that. I think his characterisations are very valuable, and convey that “impression” you have immediately after hearing a really good pianist.

ahahahah part of da GENSUI of da PIMP iz hiz ability to inztantly zwitch campz fo hiz own benefit :snail: :icon_stopw_sdc_473:

much lyk da

ZTALIN :ww2: :sunglasses:


I’m absolutely convinced that Kalkbrenner, Thalberg and Herz were, fundamentally, classicists within a period in which the sonority capabilities of the piano expanded massively. Thalberg was the one who most fully exploited the increased sustaining capacity, most obviously through the three-hand effect, but also his chordal effects are of interest here, and very different in nature from Liszt’s. Liszt clearly looked at piano sonority in a completely different way to what had gone before: only in Beethoven do we sometimes hear a precursor to Liszt’s writing. I’ve often argued that Thalberg is the final evolution of Mozart and first Viennese style writing, amplified and expanded through the developments in the piano’s capabilities, whereas Liszt’s writing is an evolution from Beethoven, with his own attributes thrown in for good measure.


“I remember how, on one occasion, in his gentle way
he laid his hand upon my shoulder, saying how un-
happy he felt, because he had heard his ’ Grande
Polonaise,’ in A flat, jouée vite [played fast]
thereby destroying all the grandeur, the majesty,
of this noble inspiration. Poor Chopin must be rolling
round and round in his grave nowadays, for this
misreading has unfortunately become the fashion.”



Yes, damn, I thought that passage looked glued on :lib:

HAHAHAHA da XMOFO inadvertently makin da caze fo da WIM :sunglasses:

Here are the letters I mentioned above (the text in the OP was from his memoirs, written decades later - these letters were penned just a few days after he had first met the three composers).

First meeting with Kalkbrenner (1836-10-??)

Paris: October 18, 1836

Dearest Parents,

I did not expect a letter from you so soon, and my delight is therefore so much the greater; although Uncle Koch gave me a terrible fright by writing on the outside, ‘This letter to be sent forward with the utmost despatch’ When I read this, I could not bat think that it contained the news of some misfortune, but happily it was not so, and, on the contrary, I found that you were, God be thanked and praised, all in good health (only you told me nothing of Mino’s doings; please do not forget in your next letter to speak of him).

First I must tell you of my own doings; that is easily done. I practise nearly the whole day long, and hardly anything but exercises, shakes, scales, and so on, and the rest of the time, for it is impossible to play without ceasing, I go over, and put into order, the work I did with Rinck, or, if ever it stops raining for a moment, I take a run through Paris and visit its sights. So far I have taken no lessons, but hope to do so in a few days, but not from Kalkbrenner. I shall tell you the whole story. The day after Kalkbrenner’s return I went to see him at eleven o’clock; he happened to be at home, and I was shown into an ante-room, where there were several people already assembled; when he had kept us waiting a considerable time, he appeared, wrapped in an ample dressing-gown. After he had spoken for a short time to the persons standing nearest to him. he came towards me; I stepped forward and was beginning to explain my business, but as soon as he heard I intended to become a musician, and had studied composition with Rinck, he asked me to wait until he had dismissed the rest of the company. I was pleased at this, as it would enable me to speak to him undisturbed. It lasted a good long time, but finally he had despatched them all, and I was able to make my request. When I had done speaking, he said he regretted very much that it was at present impossible for him to comply with my wish; he had been seriously ill, had only just returned from the Baths, and was still so weak that his doctor had strictly forbidden him to talk much, a thing quite unavoidable in giving lessons - in fact, he did look very ill. He had his class at the Conservatoire, which he could not give up, and that tired him so, that he had been obliged to give up all other lessons. It was now my turn to express regret. Then he said he would like to hear me play, to see how far I had got on, and that he could perhaps recommend a teacher to me. lie took me into his sitting-room, where there was a most beautiful grand piano, and I played him his own Effusio Musica. He made several remarks about the tempo, and said several times, ‘very good’ ‘first rate,’ until I got to a part where both hands had scales in octaves during several pages; when I had finished them he stopped me, and asked why I played the octaves with my arms and not from my wrists? ‘You are quite out of breath,’ he said (which was the case); he could play scales in octaves for an hour without the least fatigue; and why had God given us wrists? He was sure, if the Almighty had ever played the piano, He would play from the wrist! He made several other remarks; he said I held my fingers rather too high, I must hold them closer to the keys, especially in legato passages, to make them more finished, and obtain altogether a rounder and more ringing tone; arid as to the expression, he gave me a good deal of advice, all very good, and worthy to be followed. He then played part of the piece I had played, to make it clear to me; after this, he began another, and altogether played for me more than half-an-hour. You can imagine my delight; it was the first time I had ever heard a celebrated musician, and this half-hour has been of the greatest use to me. In Kalkbrermer’s playing there reigns a clearness, a distinctness, and neatness that are astonishing; in octave scales he has an immense facility and precision, especially in the left hand; then he has a special mode of handling the piano, particularly in melodious passages, which makes a great impression, but which I cannot describe to you; the reason of it lies merely in that he keeps his finders so closelv over the keys. When he had finished, he told me to be very industrious, to avoid the mistakes he had pointed out, and that I would become a first-rate pianist; at present I should go to Osborne, his best pupil, and who had quite his method of teaching (Mr. Elbers and I have played something of Osborne’s, and, as far as I recollect, we liked it very much); I should tell him that Kalkbrenner had sent me to him and begged him, to give me lessons; when I had worked with him for some time then he, Kalkbrenner, would give me some lessons with the greatest pleasure. As often as I had studied a piece with Osborne should come and play it to him, and if there was still anything wanting, he would point it out to me. I must also come and see him from time to time. That was kind, was it not? and I shall certainly not fail to take him at his word.

Next day I went to Osborne (Tuesday, this day week); he also was out of town, and only returned on Saturday. On Sundays in Paris no one is ever to be found at home, so I went on Monday, yesterday, and luckily found him at home. He received me very amiably, and when I had told him my tale, he said I put him in a great perplexity; that he gave lessons from early morning till night, and still he was most unwilling to refuse me. After a little more conversation he asked me to play something; I did so, and he praised and blamed exactly in the same way as Kalkbrenner had done; then he asked my address, and said he would write to me in a few days to say whether he had found it possible to arrange to give me lessons, and in this letter he would give me all particulars; should there be any evening parties with music, he would introduce me with pleasure. I am therefore awaiting this letter; should he delay too long, which I do not expect, I shall go to some one else. I have been here more than a fortnight, and have only been able to study by myself; but soon after my arrival, Mr. Probst of Leipzig, who lives here, and whose acquaintance I made through Mr. Tilemann’s uncle, told me that if I had not learnt patience before, I should learn it here, and, in truth, it seems so. Neither Meyerbeer nor Hiller are in Paris, so I cannot deliver my letters to them. As to hearing many good works, it is not as we expected; at all the theatres there are only small operettas and ballets, even at the Grand Opera, where all the best and newest operas are generally given. A new ballet, La Fille du Danube, will probably have a hundred successive performances, so much does it please the Parisians; so there is but a poor prospect of hearing good music. All these things are not calculated to banish my bad humour; on the contrary, my longing for you and for my beautiful, peaceful birthplace grows ever stronger. Christmas and New Year! Gott!

The only thing I am looking forward to is that Mainzer has promised to procure me the opportunity of often hearing Chopin and Liszt. I hope he will keep his word, for it would be of the greatest use to me.


First meeting with Chopin (1836-12-01)

Paris: December 2, 1836

Beloved Parents,

Selttinghaus’s departure has taken me so much by surprise that it is quite impossible for me to give him several letters to take with him to Hagen. I went to Rumpe’s yesterday, the 1st of the month, to get some money, and then learnt that Selttinghaus was leaving today at mid-day. As I have a lesson this afternoon and must practise for it, I have barely time for a short supplement to my letter of two days ago.

The morning after having written to you I went again to Meyerbeer, and was at once admitted. As I expected, Meyerbeer was extremely kind and amiable. He kept me more than half an hour, inquired after Rinck and as to all my studies, asked if I had yet composed anything, how I got on in Paris, if I had heard the most eminent pianists, of whom Liszt was the very first, and so on. When I told him that I had neither seen nor heard Liszt, he said I must call again in a few days, in the morning, and he would give me an introduction to him; Liszt was a very nice young man, who would certainly receive me very kindly. How pleased I am that Meyerbeer should give me an introduction to that original fellow Liszt I cannot describe. This also is all very good and satisfactory.

The same evening I went to dine with Baron Eichthal, where I was very cordially treated, and where I heard Chopin. That was beyond all words. The few senses I had have quite left me. I could have jumped into the Seine. Everything I hear now seems so insignificant, that I would rather not hear it at all. Chopin! He is no man, he is an angel, a god (or what can I say more?). Chopin’s compositions played by Chopin! That is a joy never to be surpassed. I shall describe his plaving another time. Kalkbrenner compared to Chopin is a child. I say this with the completest conviction. During Chopin’s playing I could think of nothing but elves and fairy dances, such a wonderful impression do his compositions make. There is nothing to remind one that it is a human being who produces this music. It seems to descend from heaven so pure, and clear, and spiritual. I feel a thrill each time I think of it. If Liszt plays still better, then the devil take me if I don’t shoot myself on the spot. Chopin is moreover a charming, delightful creature. He talked to me a long time, gave me his address and the permission to go and see him often, a permission he will not have given in vain.

But now, best of parents, I must stop, or Mr. Selttinghaus will be running away without my letter. Farewell. Mr. Selttinghaus will tell you how I am and how I live here. Greet all my friends and relations, and be assured of the lasting love of your son,


First meeting with Liszt (1836-12-12)

Paris: December 19, 1836

Dearest Parents,

For the last time this year I sit down to write to you, but this time you must be content with little; my letter to Uncle Harkort gives me some trouble, and I must also write to my old Rinck, to whom, of course, I wrote soon after my arrival here, but as yet have had no answer, so do not know if he is in good health, or dead, or if my letter never reached him, which I should greatly regret, for what would the good man have thought of me? With all this writing I must not neglect my studies, so you must rest satisfied with a single sheet; there is, in fact, no need for our writing much to each other, as I expect and hope to be with you in nine or ten weeks, and how soon they will pass! But first let me thank you, dear father, for having granted me another month. I know that it will be difficult for you, and therefore my gratitude is all the greater. I shall do my utmost to make the month of great profit to me. Of what shall I write? As I know that musical matters interest you most, I shall begin with them, and tell you that I have heard Liszt.

Meyerbeer gave me a kind, two-pages-long letter of introduction to him, which did not fail in its effect. When I went for the first time I did not find Liszt at home, and was told he only received on Monday and Friday afternoons from 2 to 5 o’clock. As I have a lesson on Fridays, I had to wait till Monday a week today when I went towards 3 o’clock. How curious I was to see this man, who has so remarkable a fame, you can easily imagine, especially as he has the reputation, even in his outward appearance, of being a most original creature; and so I found him. Liszt is the most original being in existence. When I entered I found an assembly of thirty or forty persons, among them many of the first artists of Paris, and even several ladies, who had come to pay him homage (I had noticed a great number of carriages at the door). He, the feted Liszt, came to me at once, and I gave him my letter. When he opened it he glanced at once at the signature, and seeing the name of Meyerbeer he shook me again by the hand and kindly bade me sit down. I did not accept the invitation, as there were forty persons in the room and only ten chairs, all of which were occupied. He did not notice it, spoke to me a little while, and then sprang off to someone else. I then had time to look at him carefully, and saw that I had not been told too much about the originality of his outward appearance. His aspect is truly remarkable. He is tall and very thin, his face very small and pale, his forehead remarkably high and beautiful; he wears his perfectly lank hair so long that it spreads over his shoulders, which looks very odd, for when he gets a bit excited and gesticulates, it falls right over his face and one sees nothing but his nose. He is very negligent in his attire, his coat looks as if it had just been thrown on, he wears no cravat, only a narrow white collar. This curious figure is in perpetual motion: now he stamps with his feet, now waves his arms in the air, now he does this, now that. My hope of hearing him play in his own house was deceived. He has no instrument! I remained a few hours with him, until one after another the guests had left, then (Donnerwetter! Here is a terrible blot! How it came I know not, but to copy the letter would be too tedious, so take blot and all!) I took my leave also. He accompanied me to the ante-room, and said that on Sunday (yesterday) he was giving a concert at the Conservatoire; that he would have given me a ticket with the greatest pleasure had he a single one left to dispose of, but he had given all his free tickets away, but if I cared to go to the rehearsal I must be there on Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, and that I must also come and see him very often.

I have now heard him twice: at the rehearsal, where he only played once, and at the concert three times, for I invested five francs in a ticket. When I heard him first I sat speechless for a quarter of an hour afterwards, in such a stupor of amazement had the man put me. Such execution, such limitless truly limitless execution no one else can possess. He plays sometimes so as to make your hair stand on end! He who has not heard Liszt can have no conception literally no conception of what his playing is. After having heard him my resolution was taken. ‘Now you go straight home,’ I said to myself, ’ and grind frightfully for a couple of years, and if at the end of the time you have accomplished anything fit, you may come back here.’ And so it shall be.

When I have worked very hard at home I shall certainly then return to Paris, I like it so well; so well, that already I could wish to stay here for ever; and Paris is also the place where one can earn money.

But now I must make a speedy end; time presses. Lebt recht wohl! Keep well; I am so, and hope to remain so. Spend a merry and happy Christmas, and think of me (poor wretch!). Quickly and joyfully as those days flew by formerly, so slowly and sadly will they crawl for me now!

Adieu! Lebt wohl! Greet my relations and friends for your true



“Carl”, “Lebt Wohl” etc btw - for our purpose here these letters were written by the young German pianist Carl Halle. He settled in London in his late 20s I think, and only then changed both name and nationality to become the British pianist Charles Hallé we know today.


haha a wikid piece

almozt FEZTIN impro level :sunglasses:

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Yes :zzz: Generic, pointless.

I’ve only played through a handful of his works, but my memory of my Kalkbrenner traversals as a music devouring teenager is that he was at his best in the early PCs, where you can clearly hear the Chopin vectors (only from before Chopin was Chopin). From around the mid 30s on here however he began to sound more and more like Liszt instead; it’s just that it’s “bad” Lisztian piano writing, and with no real music behind it.