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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Criticism
By Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1847)
 
From a Letter to his Sister, of September 2d, 1831. From the ‘Letters from Italy and Switzerland’: Translation of Grace Wallace

TELL me, Fanny, do you know Auber’s ‘Parisienne’? I consider it the very worst thing he has ever produced; perhaps because the subject was really sublime, and for other reasons also. Auber alone could have been guilty of composing for a great nation, in the most violent state of excitement, a cold, insignificant piece, quite commonplace and trivial. The refrain revolts me every time I think of it: it is as if children were playing with a drum, and singing to it—only more objectionable. The words also are worthless: little antitheses and points are quite out of place here. Then the emptiness of the music! a march for acrobats, and at the end a mere miserable imitation of the ‘Marseillaise.’ Woe to us if it be indeed what suits this epoch,—if a mere copy of the ‘Marseillaise Hymn’ be all that is required. What in the latter is full of fire and spirit and impetus, is in the former ostentatious, cold, calculated, and artificial. The ‘Marseillaise’ is as superior to the ‘Parisienne’ as everything produced by genuine enthusiasm must be to what is made for a purpose, even if it be with a view to promote enthusiasm: it will never reach the heart, because it does not come from the heart.  1
  By the way, I never saw such a striking identity between a poet and a musician as between Auber and Clauren. Auber faithfully renders note for note what the other writes word for word,—braggadocio, degrading sensuality, pedantry, epicurism, and parodies of foreign nationality. But why should Clauren be effaced from the literature of the day? Is it prejudicial to any one that he should remain where he is? and do you read what is really good with less interest? Any young poet must indeed be degenerate, if he does not cordially hate and despise such trash: but it is only too true that the people like him; so it is all very well—it is only the people’s loss. Write me your opinion of the ‘Parisienne.’ I sometimes sing it to myself as I go along: it makes a man walk like a chorister in a procession.  2
 
 
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