Old Fogy

James Huneker
Old Fogy, by James Huneker

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Title: Old Fogy His Musical Opinions and Grotesques
Author: James Huneker
Release Date: December 19, 2006 [EBook #20139]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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Team at http://www.pgdp.net

With an Introduction and Edited

THEODORE PRESSER CO. 1712 Chestnut Street Philadelphia
London, Weekes & Co.
* * * * *
Copyright, 1913, by Theodore Presser Co.
International Copyright Secured.
Third Printing, 1923.
* * * * *
These Musical Opinions and Grotesques are dedicated to
Whose beautiful art was ever a source of delight to his
* * * * *

My friend the publisher has asked me to tell you what I know about
Old Fogy, whose letters aroused much curiosity and comment when
they appeared from time to time in the columns of The Etude. I confess
I do this rather unwillingly. When I attempted to assemble my
memories of the eccentric and irascible musician I found that, despite
his enormous volubility and surface-frankness, the old gentleman
seldom allowed us more than a peep at his personality. His was the
expansive temperament, or, to employ a modern phrase, the dynamic
temperament. Antiquated as were his modes of thought, he would

bewilder you with an excursion into latter-day literature, and like a rift
of light in a fogbank you then caught a gleam of an entirely different
mentality. One day I found him reading a book by the French writer
Huysmans, dealing with new art. And he confessed to me that he
admired Hauptmann's Hannele, though he despised the same
dramatist's Weavers. The truth is that no human being is made all of a
piece; we are, mentally at least, more of a mosaic than we believe.
Let me hasten to negative the report that I was ever a pupil of Old Fogy.
To be sure, I did play for him once a paraphrase of The Maiden's
Prayer (in double tenths by Dogowsky), but he laughed so heartily that
I feared apoplexy, and soon stopped. The man really existed. There are
a score of persons alive in Philadelphia today who still remember him
and could call him by his name--formerly an impossible Hungarian one,
with two or three syllables lopped off at the end, and for family reasons
not divulged here. He assented that he was a fellow-pupil of Liszt's
under the beneficent, iron rule of Carl Czerny. But he never looked his
age. Seemingly seventy, a very vital threescore-and-ten, by the way, he
was as light on his feet as were his fingers on the keyboard. A linguist,
speaking without a trace of foreign accent three or four tongues, he was
equally fluent in all. Once launched in an argument there was no
stopping him. Nor was he an agreeable opponent. Torrents and
cataracts of words poured from his mouth.
He pretended to hate modern music, but, as you will note after reading
his opinions, collected for the first time in this volume, he very often
contradicts himself. He abused Bach, then used the Well-tempered
Clavichord as a weapon of offense wherewith to pound Liszt and the
Lisztianer. He attacked Wagner and Wagnerism with inappeasable fury,
but I suspect that he was secretly much impressed by several of the
music-dramas, particularly Die Meistersinger. As for his severe
criticism of metropolitan orchestras, that may be set down to provincial
narrowness; certainly, he was unfair to the Philharmonic Society.
Therefore, I don't set much store on his harsh judgments of
Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, and other composers. He insisted on the
superiority of Chopin's piano music above all others; nevertheless he
devoted more time to Hummel, and I can personally vouch that he

adored the slightly banal compositions of the worthy Dussek. It is quite
true that he named his little villa on the Wissahickon Creek after
Nourished by the romantic writers of the past century, especially by
Hoffmann and his fantastic Kreisleriana, their influence upon the
writing of Old Fogy is not difficult to detect. He loved the fantastic, the
bizarre, the grotesque--for the latter quality he endured the literary
work of Berlioz, hating all the while his music. And this is a curious
crack in his mental make-up; his admiration for the exotic in literature
and his abhorrence of the same quality when it manifested
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