Vol. 9 No. 6 1942 - page 467

Canova, a couple of Corots and a Sisley; a hookah, which Ellen
told me he had sometimes used to smoke; a group of Chinese
gongs, with which dinner was still announced; a regal set of carved
ivory chessmen, brought back from a trip to the Orient, which had
elephants instead of bishops; an Australian bushman's boom–
erang; a Stradivarius and an eighteenth-century clavichord.
The Bristeads had been especially musical. The doctor had
mastered several instruments; and he had organized a family trio
which he had played the cello, his daughter the violin and Mrs.
Bristead the piano. Later, when the doctor's wife had died and his
daughter had come with Ellen to live with them, they had had the
trio again, with Ellen, at the age of twelve, taking over the cello.
When her mother had died a few years later and she was living
there alone with her grandfather, they had played an immense
amount of music; they had gone right through Beethoven and
Brahms, whom her grandfather had ended by detesting; had then
escaped backward into the eighteenth century, with Ellen's learning–
Boccherini's cello sonatas and the doctor's getting special transcrip·
tions made of Pergolesi's trios for violins and bass; and had from
there, in obedience to one of Dr. Bristead's peculiarly indomitable
manias, gone right back through the history of music. Ellen had
been obliged to retrace the elegance and restraint of Corelli at an
age when she told me she would very much rather have been pound–
ing Schubert and Schumann on the piano; and the doctor had had
a small organ installed and relentlessly insisted on their decipher–
ing the intricate masses of Palestrina, thence exploring medireval
motets, troubadour songs and Gregorian chants, and, finally experi–
menting with ancient Greek modes.
Ellen had thus had the advantage of an exceptional musical
training, and she had begun to compose early. By the time she got
out of the Conservatoire, where she had started in at eighteen, she
was producing work of real merit. She had been influenced in
Paris by Debussy; but, working with the whole-tone scale, she had
developed an impressionism distinctly her own. She was, in fact,
probably the first woman composer who had ever contributed to
music anything of authentic value. It is strange that, though women
have excelled as novelists and lyric poets, and though there are a
few women painters of interest, there should be no important
music by women. That is, unless Ellen Terhune is an exception,
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