We went to hear Leopold de Meyer on Friday evening prepared for powers of execution entirely new to us, and our utmost expectations were realized. We have never taken much pleasure in hearing the piano. It ranks deservedly high among the instruments because it combines so much. It can give us the idea of any kind of music, but, in no kind, the full enjoyment. In rich and complicated music we want the orchestra to satisfy the sense as well as the mind; in simple, deep strains we feel its incompetency of tone to represent what is inmost. From its keys music may be studied and appreciated, but not really heard.
But this poverty disappeared beneath the hands of de Meyer, who draws from the piano surges and torrents of sound, and, by his wonderful energy and fire fills the ear as with twenty instruments.
It was magical when the delicate passages came sparkling like rills and jets to swell the torrent of the main stream. Each note fell like a spark, yet perfectly finished as a flower. The full passages were direct and strong as the storms of Nature herself; it seems as if human hands could hardly do more to subserve the will of a human mind.
But it seems to us not just to speak of the execution of this artist by itself, as if it were a mere knack, or acquired skill, while it is the expression of a powerful individuality, or at least of powerful instincts. There is no spirituality, no deep intellectual expression; those who always seek in music the expression of the more refined and elevated part of our nature, must, of course, go away disappointed. But the range of music is as wide as the world, and those who take pleasure in the flood of vital energy, rising to a very high point—in the triumphs of the will—in sensations of extraordinary richness, fullness and boldness, rapidly accumulated and vigorously dissipated, would find an exhilaration in de Meyer, such as attends the ascent of mountains, the whirl of the dance, or swift career upon a noble steed. In this age of half feelings and low, imperfect organizations, this impression of such fullness of vital energy is to us not oppressive, but refreshing. A whimsical introduction to such an entertainment was one of the most sentimental of Italian airs. It seemed when this great horse began to run, he would shake off regret and sadness in a moment, as the hawk might all memory of the song of the nightingale.
We never heard any thing so sustained as the excitement of the Danse du Serail. That dance danced itself dead before the last light went out. The Marche Marocaine is very bold and imposing; it seems like a French conception of savage things, but large in its grasp and crashing in its tread.—Thus does the tramp of cavalry break the silence of the wild caves and tombs of the desert and cymbals clang wild barbaric mourning and the change of eras on the march.
The air and gesture of the musician, as he plays, are as good as the music. His smile is bluff, cordial, a little vain, but not, we should say, with petty vanity. His whole body plays, and his hair sticks out, full of electricity. It is just the right length now; though, indeed, we doubt whether it ever grows any longer; it sympathizes too much with his playing to have time to grow.*
“Leopold de Meyer.” New-York Daily Tribune, 17 November 1845, p. 1.