Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

(From the "Courier des Etate Unis.")

"Thalberg, returned to New York from his triumphant tour in the interior, is reposing gracefully and quietly on his laurels. At the present, he dreams only of a far niete season at the seaside, and if, from the force of habit, he must indulge in some musical recreation, it is not with the piano-forte.

" 'Not the piano-forte?' do you ask? 'And what, then, may it be?'

"We give you ten, yes, a hundred guesses, but we counsel you, as you value your comfort, to "give it up" at once. Know that Thalberg, the great Thalberg, reposes from his royal sovereignty in cultivating--the banjo! We have written it--the banjo!

"Here are the facts. Entering his apartments the other day at the St. Nicholas, in place of the magnificent Erard we were accustomed to find there, there appeared to be a suspicious box of somewhat musical form, and bearing the significant address: S. Thalberg, New York.

" 'In the name of St. Cecilia, is it not a banjo case?'

" 'It is nothing else,' replies Thalberg, in his usual quiet and modest tones.

" 'And,' we continued, 'You play on this odd instrument?'

" 'I have taken ten lessons,' responded, most humbly, the celebrated man; and encouraged, doubtless, by the admiration plainly depicted in our countenance, he added:

" 'And I will acknowledge that I have made considerable progress already.'

" 'Pray let us have the special favor of judging for ourselves! All the world has heard Thalberg upon the piano-forte; let us have the privilege of hearing him on the banjo!'

"With uniform kindness, he at once opened the case. It was empty. Thalberg, with the enthusiasm of all young sutdents, had attacked with too much warmthy the melody

" 'Oh Susannah, don't you cry for me,
I come from Alabama, with my banjo on my knee.'

and, alas! the instrument was now gone to the shop for repair.

"Thus we have not yet heard Thalberg on the banjo! When we have that honor, the world shall surely know it. Oh! that we could be in Paris when, on the artist's return, this new accomplishment is made known to the public of that city! Nothing of the like has been dreamed of there, and all the little eccentricities of Viver will be entirely eclipsed. Every man will be button-holed in the streets, not for the salutation, 'How do you do?' but with the query: 'Have you heard Thalberg's banjo?'

" 'The banjo! What in the name of Saxe is that?'

" 'A primary affair; the national instrument of America, (the black part of it at least;) a guitar finger-board, attached to a gourd drum.'

"For a week Paris will think of nothing else. Government may, if it pleases, make a new coup-d'etat; no one will pay the slightest attention to it, for the great affair of the hour will be to hear Thalberg's banjo!"

_________________________

from The Musical World, Aug. 8, 1857.

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Such puffery! I love it.

Thalberg must have been some kinda maestro. Do we have those any more? I guess it would be like finding out that Itzak Perlman just took up banjo lessons. Well, maybe that ain't it...Perlman is well known for his sense of humor.

Hmmm. Maybe it would be like some famous Lutenist taking up the banjo. Nah, they're usually addled by all those strings...it would be too believeable. ;-)

I guess we just don't have such things any more. The rampant, egotistical 'monarch of the xxxxxx' is the unicorn of the music world...gone online to troll the various fora for newbies to spear.

Alas!
Oh yes, Thalberg and Liszt were the regarded as the two best piano-"fortists" of their century.

I think this article is a bit of a tease. How hard can you play "Oh Susannah" to require a repairman's services? I looked at future issues but no more about Sigismond Thalberg on the banjo.

Trapdoor2 said:
Such puffery! I love it.

Thalberg must have been some kinda maestro. Do we have those any more? I guess it would be like finding out that Itzak Perlman just took up banjo lessons. Well, maybe that ain't it...Perlman is well known for his sense of humor.

Hmmm. Maybe it would be like some famous Lutenist taking up the banjo. Nah, they're usually addled by all those strings...it would be too believeable. ;-)

I guess we just don't have such things any more. The rampant, egotistical 'monarch of the xxxxxx' is the unicorn of the music world...gone online to troll the various fora for newbies to spear.

Alas!
I just received three stroke-style classics through the post:

1. Frank Converse's Banjo Without A Master, 1865 - mentions Thalberg in the second paragraph of the Preface
2. Buckley's New Banjo Method, 1860 - mentions Thalberg in the third paragraph of the Preface
3. Phil Rice's Method, 1858 - mentions Thalberg on the front cover and twice in the Preface. Rice was Thalberg's teacher, apparently.

I've heard a few of Thalberg's compositions for piano - awful stuff. A barage of meaningless drivel. The banjo clearly saved his sanity.

Marc - lutenists taking up the banjo??? Imagine!
No idea who the 'monarch of the xxxxxx' is...

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