Heller, Stephen. (1833-1888)

Two Autograph Letters Signed - "whenever I play a piece to a publisher I feel some kind of nausea"

Pair of ALS from the Hungarian-born pianist and composer, who lived in Paris from 1837. Both to an unidentified female recipient (possibly a writer, addressed "ma chère amie" in the second letter). Both in French, as follows:

4 pp. Bifolium. Paris, September 15; year "1841" added in pencil in an unknown hand as Heller refers to himself as 28 years old in the letter. The young musician reports his struggles to make a living in Paris: "Today when I played to him the 4 pieces Schulz [?], I thought how much I would like to play them to you and other ladies, including Mme. Galline. I also played them to Benacci; but whenever I play a piece to a publisher I feel some kind of nausea... A feeling as if I wanted to read a fine novella by Bernard to a female fishmonger." He asks his correspondent, who likewise has trouble making ends meet, "Why don't you write one or two articles for Le Salon musical? That would be very nice. You would not do damage to you if you were willing to make a complaint, but ... no journal could boast a better contributor if you deigned to devote a few lines to Le Salon musical." Besides the four pieces, the letter mentions a book of etudes by Heller and an encounter with Charles Hallé, who told Heller about his plans to travel to Bordeaux and Lyon. 8.25 x 5.25 inches (21 x 13.3 cm). 

2 pp. Bifolium. Dated "Saturday." "...It seems to me as if you indicated to me a deadline somewhat more distant although I am very much pressed to submit my Etudes, admittedly because I need money. Because of that, I am asking you, my dear friend, to give me two hours, and if you prefer come to me whenever you like, but announcing the hour before. This will be as you like, at your place or at mine, during the day or in the evening, only, if possible, on Monday or Tuesday, and I would prefer the evening. Surely the preface must be very succinct and well-crafted throughout, telling much in few words. And also, no one but you who could help me in crafting it – I would even nominate you as editor-in-chief and responsible." 8.25 x 5.25 inches (21 x 13.3 cm).

"A good friend of Berlioz, Heller was described by him in his Mémoires as a delightful humourist and learned musican, praising his melancholy spirit and devotion to the true gods of art. He enjoyed considerable esteem as a composer in his own time, sometimes at the expense of composers like Chopin, and was praised above all as the poet of the piano, and in this respect represented a movement away from technical virtuosity towards a more intimate and sensitive treatment of the instrument, leading directly to the piano music of Debussy and of Fauré. To many, of course, he was and is known as the composer of studies, for which there was a considerable demand after the success of his first pedagogical work on phrasing in 1840. Schumann in particular perceptively praised Heller for his natural emotions and the clarity of their expression, comparing the feelings aroused by his music to the strange aspect of otherwise definite figures in the half-light of dawn. Heller, in fact, was deeply respected by more sensitive musicians in his own time. The temporary eclipse of his reputation is due in part to the association of his name with pedagogy and in part to the prevailing tendency to favour the ostentation of technical virtuosity over the less pretentious and more intimate." (Jean Martin, Naxos 8.223434 notes) (21800)

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