Music Essays – Gretry

No MUSICIAN is better known to us. He has been de-scribed down to the least detail, according to the fashion of the time—the indiscreet fashion of his friend, Jean Jacques Rousseau. He has also described himself in his own charming Mémoires; ou Essais sur la musique, which were published in three volumes in 1797 by order of the Committee of Public Instruction, at the request of Méhul, Dalayrac, Cherubim, Lesueur, Gossec, and Lakanal. For ‘Gretry at that time was Citizen Gretry, superintendent of the Conservatory of Mu-sic; and his work claimed to aim at civic utility. Few books on music are so full of matter or so suggestive, and the reading is agreeable and easy—no small merit in a clever book. In prose as in music Gretry wrote for everyone, “even for fashionable people,” he said. His style, perhaps, is not very finished, and it does not do to look too closely into it. He is fond of periphrasis. He calls his parents “the authors of my days”; a surgeon is “a follower of Aesculapius”; and women are “the sex who have received their share of sensibility.” He is a sensitive man: “Let us ever seek delightful sensations,” he says, “but let them be seemly and pure. Those are the only kind that make us happy; and no man of sensibility, loving compassion, is ever feared by his fellow-creatures ”

Those sentiments, written in 1789, must have been approved by the sensitive Robespierre, who was fond of Grétry’s music.

The book is’ written in a rather desultory way, despite—or by reason of—its wealth of divisions, subdivisions, volumes, chapters, and so forth. Gretry mixes up metaphysical digressions with his narrative: he speaks of the unity of the world, of angels, of life, of death, and of eternity; he apostrophizes Love, Maternal Love, Modesty, Women—”O lovable sex! 0 source of all blessings! 0 sweet rest of life! 0 bewitching beings!

He also addresses Illusion, and thees and thous it for seven pages. Hereditary rank is treated in the same way.

And in spite of it all, he is charming because everything is natural and spontaneous, and there is so much humor about him. “You a musician, and yet you have humor!” was what Voltaire said to him, in scornful surprise.

Grétry’s Mémoires are remarkable doubly for his recollections and his ideas, both of which are equally interesting. He gives us minute descriptions of things and spares us nothing: we hear all about his physical constitution, his dreams, his indispositions, his diet, and some unexpected details about the more intimate parts of his toilet. The book forms one of the most precious documents we have; for it tells us about an artist’s temperament and is the rare autobiography of a musician who not only knows how to write but who is worth writing about.

The unpretending Grétry was the son of a poor violinist of Liege, where he was born February 8, 1741. He had German blood in him, for his paternal grandmother was German and one of his uncles was an Austrian prelate.

His first musical impressions came from a pot that was boiling on the fire. He was then four years old, and he danced to the saucepan’s song. He wanted to know where the song came from; but his curiosity caused the pot to upset, and his eyes were so badly burned that his sight was permanently injured. His grandmother took him away to live with her in the country; and there, again, it was the noise of water, the soft murmuring of a spring, that impressed itself upon his memory: “I still hear and see the limpid spring by the side of my grand-mother’s house….”

At six years old he fell in love: “it was but an indefinite emotion which was extended to several people; yet I loved them very much and was so shy that I dared not say anything about it.”

He had a fastidious but determined nature and suffered cruelly from ill treatment by a master, though his pride would not let him complain. On the day of his first communion he asked God to let him die if he was not to become an upright man and distinguished in music. The first part of the prayer was nearly fulfilled as a rafter fell on his head the same day and wounded him severely. When he came to himself, his first words were: “Then I shall be an upright man and a good musician after all.”

At that time he was a mystic and superstitious. His devotion to the Virgin amounted almost to idolatry. He was rather troubled about explaining this to the members of the National Convention who edited his book; but he did not hide these facts—a proof of his absolute sincerity. He was susceptible and vain and never forgot the injustices he had received. Long afterward he thought of the humiliations he had suffered as a child at the hands of his first master.

A company of Italian singers decided his vocation. They came to Liege to play in Pergolesi’s and Buranello’s operas. Grétry, though still a boy, had free access to the theater, and for a whole year he was present at all the performances and often at the rehearsals as well. “It was there,” he says, “that I developed a passionate love of music.” He learned to sing and was able to do it “in the Italian style with as much skill as the best singers in the opera.” All the Italian company came to hear him sing in church, where he had a great success. Each one of them looked upon him as his pupil. So, even in his childhood, this little Walloon’s musical education was purely Italian.

When he was fifteen or sixteen years old, he was seized with internal hemorrhage; it troubled him thereafter every time he composed anything. “I vomited,” he says, “even six or eight cupfuls of blood at periodic intervals—twice during the day and twice during the night This hemorrhage did not leave him until he became an old man.

Gretry’s debut in dramatic music was made at Rome where he had some intermezzi performed with success, these little pieces being like La Serva Padrona in style. He left Rome in 1767 in spite of offers that were made to induce him to remain. Paris had attracted him ever since he had read the score of Monsigny’s opéra-comique, Rose et Colas. He saw this piece played when he was in Geneva, where he stayed for six months. It was the first time that he had seen a French opéra-comique, and his pleasure was not unmixed. It took him a little time to get used to hearing French sung, for at first he thought it disagreeable.

While in Geneva he did not omit paying his respects at Ferney, where Voltaire welcomed this chosen one among musicians who was no fool even outside his art.

Then he came to Paris:

“I entered the town with a strange emotion I could not ac-count for; but it was somehow connected with the resolution I had made not to leave the place before I had conquered every difficulty that could stand in the way of my making a name.”

The struggle was short and sharp; it lasted two years. Both theatrical managers and actors urged Gretry to take Monsigny’s romances as his model. However, in his rivals he had nothing of which to complain. Philidor and Duni showed him great kindness, and he had the good luck to have friends and counselors in people like Diderot, Suard, the Abbe Arnaud, and the painter Vernet, all of whom were musical enthusiasts. Gretry says:

“It was the first time that I had heard anyone speak about my art with true understanding. Diderot and the Abbé Arnaud used their utmost powers of eloquence on every festal occasion, and by their vehemence filled people with a splendid eagerness to write, or paint, or compose music. . . . It was impossible to resist the glowing enthusiasm that sprang from the company of these famous men.”

Grétry also had the strange good fortune of disarming that great enemy of French music, Jean Jacques Rousseau. It is true that the friendship between the two was of short duration, for Rousseau’s suspicious independence took offense at Grétry’s overeager and perhaps rather obsequious advances, so Rousseau suddenly severed the acquaintanceship and never saw him again.

The scene is perhaps worth recalling. It took place at a performance of La fausse magie. Rousseau was present, and word was brought to Grétry that the great man wished to see him. Gretry says:

“I hurried to him and looked at him with emotion.

” `I am so glad to see you,’ he said; `for a long time I thought my heart was insensible to the pleasant sensations your music arouses. I would like to know you, sir; or, rather, I would like to be your friend, since I already know you through your work.’

`Ah, sir,’ I said, `to please you by my work is the best reward I could have.’

`Are you married?’


” `Have you married what is called une femme d’esprit (a clever wife)?’

” `No.

” I thought as much!”

” `She is an artist’s daughter; she does not say what she feels, and nature is her guide.’

” `I thought so. Oh, but I like artists; they are nature’s own children. I should like to see your wife; and I hope I shall see you often.’

“I stayed beside Rousseau until the end of the performance; and he pressed my hand two or three times. Then we went out together. I was far from thinking that that would be the last time I should speak to him! As we were going down the Rue Francaise he wished to clamber over some stones that the workmen had left.

The Revolution was not often mentioned in Gretry’s Memoires, for Grétry was a cautious man and did not like to commit himself. The few recollections of its terrors he gives us are generally connected with music and are set forth in striking fashion. I shall copy out a few extracts. There are in them touches worthy of Shakespeare; we need not trouble about that, however, for they are not Grétry’s own creation.

“During the four years of the Revolution whenever my nerves were tired, I had at night the monotonous sound of an alarm-bell going in my head. In order to assure myself that it was not really an alarm-bell, I used to stop up my ears; and if the sound continued (perhaps louder than ever), I came to the conclusion that it was only in my head.

“The military cortege that led Louis XVI to the scaffold passed under my windows, and the march in 6/8 time which the drums beat out in jerky rhythm affected me so keenly by its contrast to the mournful occasion that I trembled all over.”

“At this time . . . I was returning alone one evening from a garden in the Champs Elysées. I had been invited there to look at a beautiful lilac tree in bloom. As I drew near the Place de la Revolution, I suddenly heard the sound of music. I came a little nearer and could distinguish violins, a flute, a tambourin, and the happy cries of dancers. A man who was walking by my side drew my attention to the guillotine. I looked up and saw the deadly knife raised and lowered twelve or fifteen times without a pause. On one side were the rustic dancers, the scent of flowers, the soft air of spring, and the last rays of the setting sun; on the other side were the unhappy victims who would never know these delights again…. The picture was unforgettable. To avoid passing through the square I hurried down the Rue des Champs Elysees. But a cart with the corpses caught me up…. `Peace and silence, citizens,’ said the driver, with a laugh; `they sleep.’ ”

Other events occupied Gretry quite as much as the tragedies of his adopted country. Although wishing well to all, Grétry had not great breadth of sympathy; and I think in spite of his humanitarian protestations he did not much trouble himself about social questions. He was really made for “domestic happiness, so natural to a man born in a country of good people.” His affectionate nature, which gives a kind of bourgeois charm to much of his work, was lavished upon three daughters whom he adored. He lost all of them, and the record of their death is among the finest pages of his Mémoires.

The unhappy man accused himself of being the cause of their death. “The hardships of an artist,” he said, “are the death of his children. As a father he violates nature to attain perfection in his work; his lack of sleep and his difficulties sap his life; death claims his children before they are born.”

His daughters were called Jenni, Lucile, and Antoinette. Jenni, the eldest, was of a sweet and open nature, but she was so delicate that “she ought to have been left to vegetate in pleasant idleness.” However, she was made to work. Gretry reproached himself bitterly and believed that the work killed her:

“When she was fifteen she barely knew how to read and write, and she had some knowledge of geography, the harpsichord, solfeggio, and Italian. But she sang like an angel, and her style in singing was the only thing she had not been taught. … At the age of sixteen she quietly died, though she had believed that her failing health was a sign she was getting well.”

On the day of her death she wished to write to a friend to tell her that she was going to a ball.

“Then she fell into her last sleep, sitting on my knee. . . . I held her pressed against my aching heart for a quarter of an hour. . . . Every work I have produced is watered by my blood. I wished for glory, I wished to help my poor parents, to keep alive the mother so dear to me. Nature gave me what I so earnestly desired, only to avenge herself on my children.”

The second girl, Lucile, was quite the opposite of Jenni; she was so full of activity that “to stop her from working was enough to kill her. . . .” “She always went to extremes and was rebellious and irritable.” She composed music: among other things, two little pieces, Le mariage d’Antonio (which was written when she was thirteen and played at the Théatre des Italiens in 1786) and Louis et Toinette. Grétry tells us that Pergolesi praised the little bravura air in Le mariage d’Antonio. When Lucile was composing, she used to sing and cry and play her harp with feverish energy. Gretry says he nearly wept with pleasure and wonder to see this small child carried away by so fine an enthusiasm for her art. She became annoyed when inspirations would not come. “So much the better,” Gretry would reply; “that is proof that you do not want to do anything commonplace.” She trembled when her father looked at her work, and he indicated her faults very gently. She did not trouble much about dress; “all her happiness was found in reading and verse, and in the music she loved so passionately.” Her parents thought it well to marry her early. But her marriage was unhappy, and her husband did not treat her kindly. She died after two troubled years of suffering.

Antoinette was now the only one left; and Gretry and his wife fearfully cherished their last happiness. When anything happened to Antoinette, both were terribly upset. “Very often she laughed at us and played us some trick in order to cure us of our excessive care for her.” Grétry vowed that she should do whatever she pleased. She was pretty, gay, and full of intelligence. She did not wish to be married; and often she used to think of her sisters without saying anything. All three girls had been devoted to one another. When Lucile was ill, she would often exclaim, “My poor Jenni!” And when Antoinette was dying, she would say, “Ah, poor Lucile!”

Gretry and his wife and Antoinette made several little expeditions from Paris. Once when they went to Lyons, she was nearly drowned in the Saône, and her father was nearly drowned, too, in his endeavor to save her. In the autumn of 1790 while at Lyons she began to lose her appetite and her high spirits. Her parents remarked this with terror and often wept in secret. They suggested that a return should be made to Paris. “Yes,” said Antoinette, “let us go back to Paris, for there I shall rejoin those I love.” These words alarmed Grétry, for he thought she was thinking of her sisters. Poor Antoinette felt she was dying and sought to hide the fact from those about her; she would talk gaily of her future and of the children she would have, or pretend to want to dance and put on pretty clothes.

“One day, one of my friends, Rouget de Lisle, happened to be at my house and remarked how happy I must be to have so beautiful a child. `Yes,’ I whispered; `she is beautiful, and she is going to a ball, and in a few weeks she will be in her grave.”

Not long afterward she was seized with fever; for a few days was delirious and thought she was at a ball, or out for a walk with her sisters; but she was quite happy, and she pitied her parents.

“She was in bed when she spoke to us of these things for the last time. Then she lay down and closed her beautiful eyes and left us and went to her sisters… .

“Out of pity for me, my wife summoned up courage to resume our ordinary existence. She returned to her painting, of which she had been fond, and painted the portraits of her daughters and other subjects in order to occupy herself, in order to live. . . .

“This went on for three years. . . . Twenty times I was on the point of throwing away my pen as I wrote this; but perhaps from parental weakness or in the hope my friends would shed a tear for the memory of my dear daughters, I sketched this sad picture; though I really should not have tried to do so for some years to come. . . .

“This is fame! Fancied immortality is won by actual sorrow. Unnatural happiness is bought at the price of real happiness….

I hope I may be forgiven for these quotations. The history of music may not have much to do with such things; but music itself is something more than a question of technique. If we really love music, it is because it is the most intimate utterance of the soul and its expression of joy and pain. I do not know which I like the better—Beethoven’s finest sonata, or the tragic Heiligenstadt Testament. The one is equal to the other. The passages I have quoted are the finest things that Grétry ever wrote, finer than his music; for the unhappy man put himself into them and forgot actors and their declamation. (Think of imitating actors! What a confession of weakness for a musician-poet! Why did he not let his heart do all the talking?) In these pages he really lets himself speak, so they have a peculiar value for us.

As for the rest of Grétry’s life, there is little to say about it. He made an honorable confession—and it must have been painful to his self-respect as an artist.

“After this terrible blow, the fever that had been consuming me abated. But I found that my love of music was less and that sorrow had nearly killed my imagination. And so I have written these books because the work in them meant using my will rather than my imagination.”

In spite of everything, this man pleased everybody—as he naïvely wished to—but by instinct rather than by calculation; and he had the good fortune to please, not only the king and the revolutionaries but Napoleon as well, although he was a man who had no great liking for French music. From him Gretry received a good pension and the Cross of the Legion of Honor, just after that order had been instituted. He lived to see a street in Paris named after him and his statue erected at the Opéra Comique. And lastly he had the happiness of buying L’Ermitage, which had belonged to his loved Jean Jacques Rousseau, and there he died on September 24, 1813.

One would need to write several tomes in order to examine all the clever, absurd, and interesting ideas which swarmed in Grétry’s active brain. His fertility of invention is incredible. After reading his books one wonders what there could be left to imagine. We get amusing inventions in physics and musical mechanics: a rhythmometer for marking time, a musical barometer worked by a single string of catgut which expanded or contracted according to the weather and, by means of two springs connected with a cylinder, set going some pipes which played two airs—a lively one in a major key for fine weather and a slow one in a minor key for rain. He had theories about occultism and telepathy; on the use of music in medicine, particularly in nervous maladies and madness; on heredity, and on diet, which he thought had a great influence on character:

“One could almost be sure of making a man bad-tempered, calm, foolish, or clever if regular attention were paid to his diet and his education.”

His conception of happiness anticipates Tolstoy’s:

“The wisest men come to see at last that by making sacrifices for others we deserve to have sacrifices made for us. But,’ you will say, `in that way we should live only to make sacrifices.’ Yes; in that lies one’s general happiness—there is no other.”

Let us turn to his thoughts on music. There are plenty of them—for the most part rough ideas thrown out in passing, though they are suggestive, deep, and often prophetic.

What he considered his most important discovery comes at the beginning and end of his Mémoires; it is the idea that the first principle of music is sincerity of declamation. For Grétry looked upon music as an expressive language, almost as an exact art, whose basis was psychology. We will consider this idea presently.

Then we get the idea of an overture with a program, of the psychological and dramatic entr’acte which epitomizes what has gone before or suggests what is to follow. We have also the notation of the emotions in music, which leads him to explain in two or three hundred pages the way in which a musician may express Friendship, Maternal Love, Shame, Anger, Avarice, Gaiety, Indolence, Jealousy, the Villain, the Hypocrite, the Boaster, the Absent-minded Man, the Hypochondriac, the Flatterer, the Sarcastic Man, the Simpleton, the Optimist, the Pessimist, and so forth—in short every variety in the Human Comedy. Thus he carved a way for a musical Moliere, whom we still await—a musician who ought to come, and who will come; for-all is ready for him, and only the genius is wanting:

Gretry also analyzed the materials for expression which music then had at its command. This included the psychology of tones and instrumental timbres; orchestration expressive of character; the agreement between color and sound; and the wonderful power that pure music, the symphony of the orchestra, had in uncovering hearts and disclosing emotions which the singing did not reveal.

The following quotation gives some idea of Grétry’s ideas about the psychology of tone:

“The scale of C major is fine and outspoken; that of C minor is pathetic. The scale of D major is brilliant; that of D minor is melancholy. The scale of E-flat major is noble and sad. The scale of E major is as bright as the preceding scale is noble and gloomy. The scale of E minor is slightly melancholy. That of F major is moderately sad; that of F in minor thirds is the saddest of all. The scale of F-sharp major is hard because it is full of accidentals, and the same scale in the minor has also some of that quality. The scale of G is warlike but has not the nobility of C major; the scale of G minor comes next to F in minor thirds for sadness. The scale of A major is brilliant, but in the minor it is the most graceful of all. That of B-flat is noble but not so great as that of C major and more pathetic than that of F in major thirds. That of B natural is brilliant and playful; that of B minor in thirds expresses simplicity. . . .”

If this psychological ladder of tones is compared with Rameau’s, it will be seen that the two do not correspond, and that, in consequence, the interest of the subject is a subjective one, concerned with each musician’s sensibilities and auditory reactions. If I may be permitted to make a personal observation, I venture to say that Grétry’s analysis is nearer to our own conception of tones than Rameau’s.

Grétry examined in the same way the psychological effect of different musical instruments:

“The clarinet is suited to the expression of sorrow, and even when it plays a merry air there is a suggestion of sadness about it. If I were to dance in a prison, I should wish to do so to the accompaniment of a clarinet. The oboe with its rustic gaiety gives us a ray of hope in the midst of anguish. The German flute is tender and affectionate . . .” and so forth.

There are also observations on the differences of musical sensibility. Take, for instance, those connected with the bassoon:

“The bassoon is lugubrious and should be employed in what is sad, even when only a slight suggestion of sadness is desired; for it seems to me the opposite of all that is purely gay.”

“When Andromache sings (in the opera of that name) she is nearly always accompanied by three German flutes, forming a harmony. . . . I believe this is the first time that anyone has thought of accompanying some special part with one kind of instrument.”

As an example of the power of instruments to reveal what is not evident’ in song, Gretry says:

“A young girl assures her mother that she knows nothing about love, but while she is affecting indifference in her simple song, the orchestra expresses the anguish of love in her heart. Does a simpleton wish to express his love or his courage? If he is truly roused, his voice will be full of feeling; but the orchestra by its monotonous accompaniment will reveal his true character. Generally speaking, emotion should be shown in the song; but the accompaniment should express the mind, the gestures, and the aspect.”

Referring to a “color harpsichord” invented by Father Castel, a Jesuit, Gretry says:

“A sensitive musician will find all colors in the harmony of sounds. The solemn or minor keys will affect his ear in the same way that gloomy colors affect his eye, and the sharp keys will seem like bright and glaring colors. Between these two extremes one may find all the other colors, which are contained in music just as they are in painting and belong to the expression of different emotions and different characters.”

With Gretry, a scale common to colors and sounds was that of the emotions, different expressions of which bring different colors to the human face. “Purple red indicates anger; a paler red accompanies shyness … etc.”

All this is in Grétry’s own domain—the land of polished opéra-comique where he was able to put to such good use his talents and his mental ingenuity though at times they almost overreached themselves in a desire for excessive clearness. “Music,” he said, “is a thermometer which enables us to ascertain the degree of sensibility in either a race or an individual.”

But he had other ideas that were really outside the province. of his art. At the same time as Mozart ( though without knowing that Mozart’s thoughts were like his own) he dreamed of a “duodrama —of “a musical tragedy where the dialogue would be spoken,” a kind of “melodrama” with genius in it. He also thought of a hidden orchestra, of huge theaters for the people (which we have just begun to consider), of national games and great popular fetes, which we are now trying to institute after the fashion of those of ancient Greece and modern Switzerland. He thought of dramatic schools where actors and actresses could be taught, and of public musical lectures where unpublished scenes and fragments of new works by young and unknown dramatic composers could be submitted to the criticism of an audience. He worked to get music the place in education that it is getting now; and he insisted on the importance of singing in primary schools. He wanted to found an opera house where forgotten masterpieces should be played. He was—as one would expect in so sensitive a man–a feminist in art and vigorously encouraged women to apply themselves to musical composition.

A still more remarkable fact is that this musician who loved clearness to excess, who was especially fitted to write music to concisely worded verse, who seemed of all musicians to be furthest from the spirit of symphony, who sometimes spoke of symphonies with scorn and placed their composers far below dramatic authors, and who believed that if Hadyn had met Diderot he would have written operas instead of symphonies—this strange man felt, nevertheless, the beauty of symphonic music. He says:

“That gentle disquiet that good instrumental music causes us, that vague reproduction of our emotion, that aerial voyage which leaves us suspended in space without fatigue to our bodies, that mysterious language which speaks to our senses without using reasoning, and which is as good as reason, since it chain’s us—all this is a delight which is very good and pure.”

He quotes in this connection the famous passage from the Merchant of Venice about the power of music. For in passing I may remark that he loved Shakespeare and would go into raptures over Richard III. For Hadyn he had a great admiration and in his symphonies saw a store of musical expression which might be of inestimable value to composers of operas.

That is not all. Although Grétry wrote neither symphonies nor chamber music, he speaks of both with the insight of an innovator and a genius. He demands freedom for instrumental forms and the liberty of the sonata:

“A sonata is a discourse. What should we think of a man who, cutting his discourse in half, repeated each part of it twice over? That is how these repetitions in music affect me.”

He shows how the archaic symmetry of these forms may be broken and more life put into them. In this way he anticipates Beethoven’s efforts. He also anticipates Tchaikovsky’s Symphonie pathétique, which finishes with a slow movement. And he is not far from foreseeing Saint-Saëns’ Symphonie avec orgue. Further still, he prophesies the dramatic symphonies of Berlioz, Liszt, and Richard Strauss—works of art which were at the opposite end of the pole to his own compositions.

“What I am about to suggest bids fair to achieve a dramatic revolution. . . . May not music be given liberty to soar as it pleases, to make finished pictures, and, in using its advantages to the full, not be forced to follow verse through all its shades of meaning? . . . What musical amateur has not felt admiration for Haydn’s beautiful symphonies? A hundred times have I put words to them, for it was what they seemed to demand. Why should a musician be a prisoner and follow his imagination in fetters? . . If a dramatic scene were given to Haydn, his spirit would kindle over each part of it, but he would follow only its general sentiment and exercise entire liberty in the composition of his music. . . . When a musician has written out his score . . . his work is performed by the full orchestra… . Then the poet reads the meaning of his words in the music, and the auditors must often say to themselves, `I guessed that,’ or `I felt as much. . . .’ Such a work succeeds beyond one’s expectations. . I am pointing out a way by which composers of instrumental music may equal if not surpass us in dramatic art.”

Grétry has without doubt spoiled his conception by wishing to graft new operas onto dramatic symphonies and by asking that poets should adapt words to works of pure music, which are already poems in themselves. But in a flash of genius he had a glimpse of the astonishing development during the last three-quarters of a century of poems and sound-paintings Tondichtung and Tonmalerei.

If Grétry’s own powers of musical creation had equaled his intellectual insight, he might have been one of the finest composers in the world; for in this spirit of ancient France we find one side of the musical evolution of the nineteenth century, and the meeting of Pergolesi’s art with the art of Wagner, Liszt, and Richard Strauss.

Toward the end of his life, this pleasant musician with his Louis XVI style took fright at the new ideas which began to appear in music. Along with his rivals, Méhul, Cherubini, and Lesueur, he was alarmed at the growing romanticism, the eruption of noise and passion, of overloaded harmonies, of jerky rhythms, of boisterous orchestration, of “unintermittent fever,” of chaos—in short, “of music,” as, he said, “fired off like cannon balls.” ” He believed that a reaction toward simplicity was pending. However, this restlessness, instead of abating, grew worse; and the public grew kindly disposed toward it. Out of the chaos Beethoven was to come, and Lesueur was to have Berlioz as his pupil.

Grétry did not foresee anyone like Beethoven. All his hopes were set on quite another kind of genius; I shall give a last quotation from his writings in which with passionate faith he foretells the advent of this genius and bids him welcome:

“What will he who comes after us be like? In imagination I see a man endowed with a delightful talent for melody, with a head and soul filled with musical ideas; a man who will not violate the rules of drama that are so well known to musicians today, but unite a splendid naturalness with the harmonic richness of our young champions. I long for this being with greater earnestness than Abraham’s son longed for his Messiah of deliverance; I open my arms to him, and in my old age the manly sincerity of his utterance shall comfort me.”

We know this musical Messiah. Gretry was sure that he was already in existence. And so he was; he died not far away. His name was Mozart, but he is not once mentioned in Gretry’s writings. We need not be surprised, for, alas, in the history of art such things are common. Kindred souls may live close to one another without knowing it, and it is left to us to discover the lost friendships of the dead.