Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reminiscences of an Active Life #16 -- May 9, 2009

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde was born in Nymegen, Holland in 1813. He went on to live a remarkable life of achievement in the sciences and the arts. He died in America in 1895.

While serving as editor of Manufacturer and Builder Magazine, he wrote many articles, including the ones which gave this blog its name. In 1893 and 1894, he published a 23-part (!) memoir in the same periodical. Here is the sixteenth part. He continues to talk about his interest in music.

"Wilhelmus van Nassauwe" refers to the "Het Wilhelmus", the national anthem of the Netherlands and the story of William of Orange. Piet Hein captured the Spanish treasure fleet in 1628 and became a folk hero.

The image comes from the Library of Congress' American Memory Project. It is the cover of sheet music for his "Anti Bloomer Scottisch for the Piano Forte, respectfully dedicated to the ladies who dislike the Bloomer Costume and are opposed to its adoption." What a title.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Part Ten

Part Eleven

Part Twelve

Part Thirteen

Part Fourteen

Part Fifteen

Reminiscences of an Active Life.


From Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 26, Issue 5, May1894

(Continued from page 88.)

9th. Career as a Musician.-- When my only sister, who was eight years my senior, had reached the age of twenty, and for a few years had frequented society, attracting admirers by her beauty, she saw the advantage possessed by young ladies who had received some musical training and could perform on the piano. She became then very anxious to learn music, and we formed a kind of conspiracy to attempt to overcome our father’s prejudices in this regard, and had soon secured the cooperation of our mother, when, with her consent, I bought a second-hand piano for 25 guldens ($10 United States coin), which I took from my little savings bank, of which my mother was the keeper, as well as three other savings banks -- those of my sister, father and herself. These banks were chiefly provided with rare coins that came to hand in my father’s business, and which he occasionally gave as a recompense.

This piano had an extent of four octaves from C, with two ledger lines below the bass staff to C, and two ledger lines above the treble staff. The alleged reason was that the human voice did not reach lower or higher, and that there was no reason to go beyond this instrument made by nature.

When the piano was in the house, and I played for my father the patriotic tunes of his boyhood, Wilhelmus van Nassauwe, and of Piet Hein, who captured the Spanish silver fleet, he became reconciled, as the latter name had been given him out of patriotism, and he gave it again to me.

Never perhaps did a greater change take place in the opinion of an old man than was the case with my father, who said: If it is settled that the boy must learn music, he will have the best teachers. As he found that my mathematical teacher had progressed with me through the harmonic proportions, he concluded that it was time to bring this knowledge to a practical application, and went himself to visit Prof. George Wilhelm Roehner, who had earned a great name in Germany as a teacher in the theory of music, and engaged him to instruct me in that branch. This instruction consisted in practice of thorough bass, contrepoint, canon, and the fugues, writing harmony to given melodies, and vice versa, evolving good melodies by transition of the constituent parts of a series of harmonical combinations, etc.

Such training is necessary for an organist in Holland, as the congregations sing all in unison and the organist plays from the single notes they sing, and selects the harmonies in accordance with the sentiment expressed by the words.

The next musical event for me was that a new organist was appointed in the cathedral to play the great organ before mentioned; and when my father heard that the new organist, named De Vries was a pupil of Hummel, who was a pupil of Mozart, he said, in a joking way, that he was going to make Mozart, musically, my grandfather. I never had a teacher in any branch whom I loved so dearly as De Vries, who was so kind and always so much encouraged me. He was a great and most finished improvisator, and to his criticism on my attempts in this line I am largely indebted for my success and the ease with which I still invent novel musical combinations. I have read complaints of old composers that they frequently fail to conceive new musical ideas, but I must say that, notwithstanding I have passed fourscore years and more, I invent a new melody as easily as ever, and think that my last compositions are the best.

(To be Continued.)

No comments: