Kuhe on Ernst

The pianist and composer Wilhelm Kuhe (1823-1912) has some thoughtful reflections about Ernst in his memoirs. The final anecdote shows that the violinist, as well as being tactful himself, could benefit from the tact of others:

I should here allude to Ernst. I first heard him in Prague in 1839. His playing struck me as being singularly poetical, but he often performed under great disadvantages, by reason of his indifferent health. Often when ill he would attempt overpowering difficulties, and consequently fail. When, in later years, Ernst visited England, we became intimate friends. In 1849 – ten years after my first introduction to him – he organized a tour of leading provincial cities, and engaged me as pianist. With Ernst, too, I used to play the Kreutzer Sonata, but his was a very different version to that given by Ole Bull. Sims Reeves, and the lady who afterwards became his wife (Miss Emma Lucombe), were of that party.

In after-years I saw Ernst in Germany. Poor fellow! He was then in the worst stage of paralysis and had to be carried about. He died universally loved and respected. But before concluding my recollections of this great and highly-esteemed artist, I should like to mention an anecdote, showing in what warm regard he was held by his friend Lord Lytton. The famous novelist became acquainted with Ernst in Italy [i.e., Nice]. The artist, then in failing health, was anxious to leave that country, but was too proud to confess his inability to defray the expenses of a long journey. Lord Lytton knew of Ernst’s poverty, but he did not wish to wound his sensitive feelings, so he begged him ‘as a favour’ to accompany him to Paris and England as his guest, on the ground that he detested travelling with strangers, and consequently always secured a carriage for himself. The kindly offer enabled the great virtuoso to make the journey free of cost.

Wilhelm Kuhe, My Musical Recollections (London: Bentley and Son, 1896), pp.241-2

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