Thursday, 3 June 2010

Arthur Sullivan and Clara Rogers

I recently came across this interesting story published in Clara Rogers autobiography Memories of a Musical Career. It is one of those tales that certainly does not deserve to be lost for those enthusiast of the music of Sir Arthur Sullivan. Clara Kathleen Rogers was born in Cheltenham on January 14, 1844 and died at Boston, Massachusetts on March 8, 1931. She was an American composer, singer, writer and music educator.

A week or two after our return to Leipzig, and after parting with Papa, Mamma announced to us one day that we were to have an extra evening at home with some of our friends. This was a great surprise, as never before had Mamma let us have a party in the middle of the week. She said, by way of explanation, that Sullivan had begged and begged for it, and she had given in. Of course we were nothing loath, but there was something queer about it, I thought, though Rosamond and Domenico seemed not to take my view of it. When the time came, Sullivan appeared, followed by Carl Rosa, Paul David and two other fellow students who were not frequenters of our Sunday evenings. They all four brought their instruments and desks with them, an unusual proceeding, for the viola and the 'cello were not accustomed features at our musicals.
The strangers were duly welcomed to our supper table and initiated into the joys of jam tarts. After supper some excuse was made by Mamma to detain me in the dining room for a few minutes, after which I hastened into the music room to see what was going on. What was my bewilderment when I saw the four players seated gravely at their desks, Sullivan near them in a convenient position to turn the leaves and what I heard, as in a dream, was the introduction
to the first movement of my Quartet! It was too much! My sensations cannot be described; I
only know that I burst into tears, and that I sat listening to my composition, my face hidden from view to hide an emotion which I could not control! It was so wonderful to hear played what had existed only in my imagination!
Meanwhile Mamma was beaming at the success of her little conspiracy with Sullivan, and so were the others at having kept the secret so that not even a suspicion of the truth had entered my mind. As soon as my thoughts got out of their tangle, I began to do some wondering. I had not taken the trouble to write out the parts of my Quartet, why should I as there was no chance of ever having it played? Now where did those parts come from? Nothing had existed
but my score, which I had left among our music on the piano when we closed our apartment before leaving for Schandau. I now approached Sullivan very humbly, for I had been very nasty to him ever since we parted at Schandau, begging him to tell me how it all came about.
His story, which he told with a sweet reproachfulness, was that when he came to bid us goodbye the night before we left Leipzig, he fumbled among our music until he found my manuscript; this he managed to secrete when I was not looking, having already conceived the idea that it would be nice to give me the surprise of hearing my Quartet played, and reflecting that during the holidays he could take the time to write out the four parts from my score. Having completed that task before he joined us at Schandau, the next step was to get together four of the best players as soon as the Conservatorium opened its doors for the new session. He had, of course, to get permission to use one of the classrooms for rehearsal, which led to some curiosity on the part of both teachers and students, as they heard unwonted strains issuing from the classroom. "What were they about? Whose Quartet was it? " and so forth. When the answer came that it was a Streichquartett by the youngest Fraulein Barnett, some surprise and interest were shown, and Sullivan added, "I shouldn't be surprised if you were told to send it up for inspection, at the next examination."

Memories of a Musical Career Clara Rogers (The Plumpton Press 1932)

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