Dolmetsch, Arnold

1858-

Conspicuous archaeologist of music, who has been well-called an apostle of old music, and who is a decidedly interesting and unique personality, because of the work he has done in restoring old instruments and manufacturing new ones on the old models, beside reviving an interest in  the old tunes of the time of Queen Elizabeth. Mr. Dolmetsch was born at Le Mans, in the province of Maine, France, of a German-Swiss father and a French mother. His grandfather, Frederick Dolmetsch, born in Stuttgart, settled later in Zurich, was a prominent musician in that town and a close associate of Nageli, one of Beethoven's publishers. While a boy, Arnold Dolmetsch became an apprentice in his father's piano factory at Le Mans, and at an early age became familiar with every detail of piano construction and manufacture. This knowledge in later years proved of inestimable value to him. He was brought up on the works of Bach, Scarlatti and other early masters, and was extremely fond of the violin, taking up the study of it seriously, although playing it for his own amusement only. Finally deciding that his talents warranted further study he went to Brussels and worked at the Conservatory there under Vieuxtemps. A few years later he obtained a position as teacher of the violin at Dulwich College, in England. He remained there several years teaching, editing violin classics, and filling concert engagements. At the annual pupils' concerts, Dolmetsch made up the programs from the works of the early masters, and upon f one occasion, made up a program entirely from the works of Henry Purcell, and immediately the attention of musical London was drawn to him. By chance about this time, he took up the study of the viola d'amore, an instrument, which was rapidly becoming a rarity. His skill as a performer upon it soon made him in great demand, to illustrate lectures on musical history. From this instrument he turned to others, among them, the treble and tenor viols and the viola da gamba, and in pursuit of more music for these instruments, unearthed treasures of almost unknown music by English composers, among others, Simon Ives, Matthew Locke, John Jenkins, John Cooper, Christopher Simpsong, Giles Farnaby and others and also discovered some ingenious and fanciful compositions of Henry   VIII., who appears from these specimens to have been a composer of some skill. To properly interpret this old music, Dolmetsch soon found, would require considerable investigation of the virginal, spinet, harpsichord and clavichord, for which much of it was written, and he studied them as he had the instruments belonging to the viol family. He decided to lecture on the subject of old music and was so successful that he finally gave up his teaching to devote himself to his new work. He organized a series of concerts in London, playing upon the ancient instruments, in order to correctly interpret the music of their time.

In this venture Dolmetsch was aided and encouraged by Edward Burne-Jones, George Bernard Shaw, George Moore and others, but ultimately his pre-eminence in the unusual field of work he had chosen was acknowledged everywhere. Five years ago Mr. Dolmetsch came to America and traveled through the country, giving lectures and illustrated concerts. Assisted by Mrs. Dolmetsch and Miss Kathleen Salmon, he made a unique experiment at the time of the Ben Greet performances of Shakespearian plays in the Elizabethan manner. During the ent' acts, they played the original music of the time on oldjnstruments of the Elizabethan period, giving the settings of the songs, dances and incidental music written by Byrd, Giles Farnaby, and other musicians. Some of the tunes that were played were Dr. Bull's, Gilliard, written about 1595; Dr. Bull's Myself; a giggt written by Giles Farnaby about 1600; poynle for the organ, written about 1580, by John Sheppard; and a lively gigg by W. Byrd. Whenever Much Ado About Nothing was performed, Mr. Dolmetsch and his assistants gave the song, Light Us More, Laddies, which was set to music composed by Mrs. Dolmetsch, the original tune having been lost. In "discoursing the sweet sounds of other days," Mr. and Mrs. Dolmetsch used a number of old instruments, among them a lute made in Venice in 1550; a virginal made in North Italy about 1550; a harpsichord made in Antwerp in 1640; a viola de gamboys, (old English); a five-stringed treble viol (old French), and a seven-stringed viol d'amore. Mr. Dolmetsch was so successful that he was engaged by Chickering & Sons, the piano manufacturers of Boston, to superintend the manufacture of clavichords, harpsichords and other instruments, such as a psaltery, and a viola da gamba, and to restore some Sixteenth Century instruments, one of which was a virginal, by Hans Rückers, dated 1620. For this work of restoring old instruments, Mr. Dolmetsch is unusually well-fitted because of his thorough and first-hand knowledge of the old keyboard instruments and because of his practical apprenticeship in the past. He says musical instruments design themselves, and that he has no fixed mechanical rules for their construction. Some of the instruments which have been restored or manufactured by him have been elaborately decorated by hand.