While the same atmosphere of thought and feeling is felt in the spiritual life of Robert Franz which colored the artistic being of Schubert and Schumann, there is a certain repose and balance all his own. We get the idea of one never carried away by his genius, or delivering passionate utterances from the Delphic tripod, but the master of all his powers, the conscious and skillful ruler of his own inspirations. If the sense of spontaneous freshness is sometimes lost, perhaps there is a gain in breadth and finish. If Schubert has unequaled melody and dramatic force, Schumann drastic and pointed intensity, Robert Franz deserves the palm for the finish and symmetry of his work.
Of the great song composers, Franz Schubert is the unquestioned master. To him the modern artistic song owes its birth, and, as in the myth of Pallas, we find birth and maturity simultaneous. It bloomed at once into perfect flower, and the wrorld will probably never see any essential advances in it. It is this form of music which appeals most widely to the human heart, to old and young, high and low, learned and ignorant. It has “the one touch of Nature which makes the whole world kin.” Even the mind not attuned to sympathy with the more elaborate forms of music is soothed and delighted by it; for—
“It is old and
The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,
And the free maids that weave their thread with bones,
Do use to chant it; it is silly sooth,
And dallies with the innocence of love
Like the old age.”
Never has Paris, the Mecca of European art, genius, and culture, presented a more brilliant social spectacle than it did in 1832. Hither ward came pilgrims from all countries, poets, painters, and musicians, anxious to breathe the inspiring air of the French capital, where society laid its warmest homage at the feet of the artist. Here came, too, in dazzling crowds, the rich nobles and the beautiful women of Europe to find the pleasure, the freedom, the joyous unrestraint, with which Paris offers its banquet of sensuous and intellectual delights to the hungry epicure. Then as now the queen of the art-world, Paris absorbed and assimilated to herself the most brilliant influences in civilization.
In all of brilliant Paris there was no more charming and gifted circle than that which gathered around the young Polish pianist and composer, Chopin, then a recent arrival in the gay city. His peculiarly original genius, his weird and poetic style of playing, which transported his hearers into a mystic fairy-land of sunlight and shadow, his strangely delicate beauty, the alternating reticence and enthusiasm of his manners, made him the idol of the clever men and women, who courted the society of the shy and sensitive musician; for to them he was a fresh revelation. Dr. Franz Liszt gives the world some charming pictures of this art-coterie, which was wont often to assemble at Chopin’s rooms in the Chaussee d’Antin.