Something must be said of a little known score, Struensee, which was written for a drama which was so weak that it prevented the music gaining the success it deserved. The composer showed himself in this more artistic than in anything else he did. It should have been heard at the Odeon with another piece written by Jules Barbier on the same subject. The overture used to appear in the concerts as did the polonnaise, but like the overture to Guillaume Tell, they have disappeared. These overtures are not negligible. The overture to Guillaume Tell is notable for the unusual invention of the five violoncellos and its storm with its original beginning, to say nothing of its pretty pastoral. The fine depth of tone in the exordium of Struensee and the fugue development in the main theme are also not to be despised. But all that, we are told, is lacking in elevation and depth. Possibly; but it is not always necessary to descend to Hell and go up to Heaven. There is certainly more music in these overtures than in Grieg’s Peer Gynt which has been dinned into our ears so much.
But enough of this. I must stop with the operas, for to consider the rest of his music would necessitate a study of its own and that would take us too far afield. My hope is that these lines may repair an unnecessary injustice and redirect the fastidious who may read them to a great musician whom the general public has never ceased to listen to and applaud.
It is dangerous to prophesy. Not long ago I was speaking of Offenbach, trying to do justice to his marvellous natural gifts and deploring his squandering them. And I was imprudent enough to say that posterity would never know him. Now posterity is proving that I was wrong, for Offenbach is coming back into fashion. Our contemporaneous composers forget that Mozart, Beethoven and Sebastian Bach knew how to laugh at times. They distrust all gaiety and declare it unesthetic. As the good public cannot resign itself to getting along without gaiety, it goes to operetta and turns naturally to Offenbach who created it and furnished an inexhaustible supply. My phrase is not exaggerated, for Offenbach hardly dreamed of creating an art. He was endowed with a genius for the comic and an abundance of melody, but he had no thought of doing anything beyond providing material for the theatre he managed at the time. As a matter of fact he was almost its only author.