Last night, as soon as we arrived and had our dinner, we went to the Orangerie. This great park with myriads of walks is one of the most attractive things about Strasburg. A very good band was playing a Sousa march as we came in and took our seats at one of the little tables.
But just here let me record something which has surprised me all during my travels in Europe; and that is the small amount of good music one hears outside of opera. I have always imagined Germany to be distinguished equally by her music and her beer. I have not been disappointed in the beer, for it is there by the tub, but as to the music, there is not in my opinion in the whole of Germany or Austria one such as Sousa’s, and as to men choruses, not one that I have heard, and I have followed them closely wherever I heard of their existence, is to be compared with any of our College Glee Clubs. In my opinion the casual open-air music of Germany is another of the disappointments of Europe—to be set down in the same category with the linden trees of Berlin and the trousers of the French Army.
German music seems to be too universally indulged in to be good. It is performed with more earnestness than skill and the programme is gone through with with more fervour than taste. The musicians of a typical German band dig through the evening’s numbers with the same dogged perseverance and perspiration that they would exercise in tunnelling through a mountain. In this connection I am not speaking of any of the trained orchestras, but solely of the band music that one hears all through the Rhine land. It is only tradition that Germans are the most musical people in the world, for in my opinion the rank and file of Germans have no ear for key. That they listen well and perform earnestly is perfectly true. That they respect music and give it proper attention is equally true, but that they know the difference between a number performed with no expression, with one or two instruments or voices, as the case may be, entirely out of pitch, and the same number correctly rendered, is impossible to believe by one who has watched them as carefully as I.