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Friday, 2 November 2012

Musical evening

Thursday, November 2nd., Paris

"Carmen" on Tuesday night with J.D. I thought it as fine as ever. Yesterday was All Saints Day, and I walked in the Montmartre Cemetery.

Montmartre cemetery
It was rather like a City of the Dead. certainly as much a relic of barbarism as anything one is likely to see in Paris, with its tons of flowers and ugly wreaths ornamenting the most deplorable monuments and houses of corpses. vast crowds of people, many in black, but not all; many, if not most, out for an airing: moonstruck crowds before certain monstrous momentos of surpassing vulgarity.

A very few women here and there with moist eyes. A file of soldiers (seasoned) at the gates, made to supply the absence of an iron railing to separate incoming from outgoing crowds - and naturally looking stupid. Also policemen and officials. In the street flower shops and stalls, and wreath shops and stalls and quantities of cabs.

At night I went to Calvocoressi's, and met Vignes the pianist, and extraordinary enthusiast for Russian music and an exceedingly fine player. The two first played a duet, and then Vignes had the piano to himself. What struck me was the fine pure quality of the pleasure we obtained, all of us, the simplicity of the enthusiasm; and yet what years of cultivation had gone to provide it, in all of us. Calvocoressi's mother sat upright, on an ordinary cane chair, half blind with cataract, and encouraged our enthusiasm. I expressed my pleasure. "Mais croyez-vous que nous sommes pas heureux comme tout, tous les quatre!" said Calvocoressi, his face beaming.

Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi (1877, Marseille, France – 1944,London, England) was a multilingual music writer and critic who promoted musicians such as Franz Liszt and Modest Mussorgsky. Calvocoressi was born in France of Greek parents. At first, he studied law at the Lycée Janson de Sailly, and then studied music at the Conservatoire de Paris with Xavier Leroux. He became friends with Maurice Ravel. As a talented polyglot, Calvocoressi began a career in 1902 as a music critic and correspondent for several English, American, German and Russian periodicals. He also translated song texts, opera librettos and books from Russian and Hungarian into French and English. The subject of his first book was Liszt, but he was a strong proponent of Mussorgsky and other Russian musicians.

Vignes, having played a piece, would usually turn back the pages to find some particular passage and would end by playing the whole thing again. When explaining the beauties of passages while he played them he became quite incomprehensible to me, what with his bad accent and his rapidity. Yes, what struck me as I came away was the singular "purity" of it all, the absence of sex, of anything in the nature of an aftertaste. It reminded me of fine musical evenings in London.

Ricardo Viñes (1875 – 1943) was a Spanish pianist. He first publicly performed many important works by Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Manuel de Falla, Déodat de Séverac and Isaac Albéniz. He was born in Lleida, Catalonia, and studied piano at the Paris Conservatoire under Charles-Wilfrid de Bériot, and composition and harmony with Benjamin Godard and Albert Lavignac. He was influential as a close associate of Ravel. Viñes was effeminate, and both he and Ravel were eternal bachelors. These facts have led many to suspect that there was more to their friendship, although Viñes's ten-year diary of their times together makes no confirmation of this. Viñes became known for presenting new music, especially of French and Spanish origin. Viñes died in Barcelona in 1943.

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