Bloch 1915 (page 1)

Thursday, 6 O’Clock

My dear ones,

What a feast!
At dinner with Ysaÿe, face-to-face; chat about art, so cordial and so original, without any restraint; then by car to the Academie etc. Ysaÿe makes himself comfortable, looks at an engraving, lights his pipe, gets enthusiastic about my music-stand, asks me to send him one to Bruessels.

I give him the score to my Cello Concerto, he installs himself in the armchair next to me, and I dare not repeat to all the compliments he paid me for my Concerto! He varied them, found the orchestration, “delicious,” the form charming, etc.

Then I began the Symphony. In the first movement I had the immense pleasure to see Ysaÿe [can’t decipher next word, probably something like “involved”], emotionally touched, looking at me with amazement and saying: “Ah! But I never would have expected this! This is beautiful, grand, forceful, [and] it has an immense power.” The second movement also pleased him, particularly the ending, but the Scherzo grabbed him! He pressed my hand, and all the signs of admiration he gave me compensated me largely for all the troubles and irritations suffered in silence!

Finally, after the last movement, Ysaÿe thanked me warmly, gave me excellent advice, and assured me that my work was original, strong, full of skill, of color, of passion, [and that], “this is a beautiful work of an artist and a poet! You are establishing yourself with it. If you are now writing so well, what will it be in 10 years!”

Finally he keeps me another hour for a chat. Ysaÿe encouraged me to persevere in my convictions and my views as an artist. He does not doubt my success.

In a car, I accompanied him back to his hotel – he plays tonight at 7 o’clock – and in the car, the topic of our conversation was again my work! Ysaÿe prevails upon me to think of changing a bit [of] my milieu. One year in Berlin, in order to make myself known there, seems good to him, but then he tells to follow my inclinations: one year of Italy, Rome, and Florence, then a trip to the Orient, to the sun! To my objection that I would not find there a musical center, Ysaÿe replies, “Why? You don’t need it. Music is inside you!” This is so “startling,” as Rey says! And it will give me a vigorous push forward to compose my next works, which should be moreover stronger than the Symphony.

Now I know that I am not the only one to feel my music since Ysaÿe has vibrated with it! He does not talk to me about craft, of technique, which he finds “perfect,” but of the “poetry,” of the “color,” of the “warmth,” of all the joys, pains, hopes, passion that I put into my work. And he was emotionally moved by them!

I have fulfilled my purpose! I have said what I wanted to say, there is the essence, there is the compensation for my labor! The recognition by Knorr, by Thuille, by Jacques, by Schillings, and by Ysaÿe are of [adjective not deciphered] value to me. After vacillating for 5 years, I know at last where my path lies, and this is important because one needs a goal.

Hausegger will come soon, and I shall see him. I hope to have a performance in Frankfurt, I shall also write to Weingartner. Finally in Berlin, if Strauss can’t, Ysaÿe assures me that Busoni will perform my work.

That’s it.

For this evening I [can’t decipher the verb] because I am a bit feverish, as you can imagine.

Now to work! And if my life does not have human luck, it will have one that is purer and more exalted: Art.

I embrace you affectionately,

Ernest [Bloch]