TWICE AS NICE: HOW I WROTE THE “SPANISH DANCES”

BY MORITZ MOSZKOWSKI

I think it was about the middle of my seventeenth year that, as often happens to both old and young musicians, I was in sore need of money. I could think of only two ways to get what I wanted: to borrow or to compose something. After turning over, for several days, the advantages and disadvantages of both ways of bettering my circumstances, I concluded I would borrow. Therefore, I went to those two of my colleagues with whom I was on most familiar terms, Philipp and Xaver Scharwenka, in hope that I should not find their fortunes at so low an ebb as mine.

Philipp was at home, sitting on a sofa and smoking a pipe. I sat down by him and asked if he had a cigar. He said that he was out of cigars, but that I could smoke a pipe. So I took a pipe and looked around for tobacco, but sought and sought in vain. Finally Philipp said:

“You needn’t hunt any longer, Moritz; there is no tobacco here.”

Then I began to grow a little angry, and said:

“Do you know, Philipp, that is drawing it rather strong? You offer me an empty pipe, let me look for tobacco in vain, and then coolly tell me there is none here, and yet you yourself are smoking. Give me some tobacco.”

“If you will smoke what I am smoking, I am satisfied,” answered Philipp, who emptied his pipe and prepared it anew by drawing out of a hole in the sofa some of the seagrass used to stuff it, which he put in his pipe.

For a moment I was speechless with astonishment.

WHEN SCHARWENKA SMOKED HIS SOFA

Now it was clear that I could not borrow money from a man who was using his sofa for smoking.

I went back home, sat down at my table, and began to look through my sketch book. A motive of a Spanish character struck my eyes, and at the same moment arose the thought that I would write a set of Spanish dances.

I worked rapidly, and in several days had finished my Opus 12, the Spanish Dances for four hands. I had only the last few notes to write as Philipp Scharwenka stepped into my room.

“Good day, Moritz,” he said; “you may be glad that you need not go out, for it is wretched weather.”

“Since we are speaking of wretched things,” said I, “what are you composing now?”

“Oh, nothing,” said Xaver, who was accustomed to this kind of conversational tone from me; “but you appear to be at work; do you need money?”

“Right you are,” said I, “and you can do me a service by playing through these four-hand pieces and telling me what you think of them.”

We tried the dances, and then Xaver said:

“I would rather have lent you some money, so that you would not have had to compose.” But that was only a return thrust.

An hour later I called on Simon, the publisher, who promised to let me know in a few days if he would bring the pieces out. When I saw him several days later he said he had shown the pieces to several experienced critics and they had advised him to take them. The question now was what I wanted for them.

“I have a brilliant idea,” I said; “I propose that you pay me an exceptionally good price, which will get talked about in the papers and thus make a big stir about the pieces.”

But it made no impression on the publisher. He thought that so pretty pieces needed no such advertising, and besides that, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and others always had sold their compositions cheaply, and as a publisher he felt obliged to accept such traditions.

In vain I sought to change his mind by suggesting that he ought not to compare me with Beethoven; he would listen to no distinction between us in that respect, and paid me a small price, with which I finally withdrew, tolerably well satisfied, at least, to be relieved of my present necessities.

When the “Spanish Dances” were published, several weeks later, they found a good sale. Some years later they were known everywhere, being taken up in various editions and arrangements.

I consider this as one of the works which first made me known to the musical world in general. Of course, the publisher profited largely by it, and all because Philipp Scharwenka had no tobacco and could not lend me money…

**

Moszkowski, Moritz
Spanish Dance for piano 4 hands, Op.12, No.2, No.2 in G-

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About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Coordinator of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago 2012 & Edcamp Chile 2013, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago. Edcamp Chile 2013 was held at Universidad UCINF. Thomas is also a member of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile. Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of sixty one (61) books, all available on Amazon http://amzn.to/Qxmoec . The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.
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