Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cyril de Valemency

I do rather hold a small mental grudge that hangs on the entry wall of my brain in a nice gilded frame, rather too big for it's content, regarding authors who mention a person in a biography and give no indication of who they are, what they do, did or failed to have done, wherein lay their span of years or worst of all, fail to supply even a whiff of a notion of why they should be mentioned at all. It is a thing of which (in my book) I don not want to be guilty. Some authors, I understand are writing for a captive audience, but neglect to reason out the fact that readers read for reasons various and that a neat corralling for the purposes of demography is asinine. 'Always write for a reader a thousand years hence' (my apologies to the man who penned 'Samarkand')

Cyril de Valmency, the rubrique of this emblogation is once such neglected personage. He was a painist whom I first encountered performing in the 1880s in Brisbane with Horace Poussard the french violinist about whom much is known. I tried in vain to find the merest jot regarding Valmency and did manage to contact a descendant and historian of a famous piano teacher named Richard de Valmency from whom the Cyril surely must have been related. He had never heard of him. Indeed, outside the Brisbane papers and a little wafer of gossip in Sydney's Tabletalk I had never heard about him again.

But this week, my knowledge regarding him exploded, beyond knowing he had red-hair and played Chopin quite well. I chanced upon an article in New Zealand that mentioned him to be Ralph Hood, a veteran of concert going in the land of the long white cloud ever since he had arrived there 'for his health' after a heavy course of piano learning under the German system. He was a Dartmouth born man of the year 1864 and so was Devonshire born and bred and his full name was Ralph Stewart Thomas Mitchell Hood, son of Army Surgeon and amateur archaelogue, Cpt. Stewart Thomas Mitchell Hood (brother to the Factor, which is Scot's for Land Steward, of the then Lord Airlie, to whom Ralph was a distant relation via a great grandmother). Ralphie boy was sent to Germany to further his piano talent and was very likely at some stage a student of Richard de Valmency (or relations thereof) in London or Paris.

Le voilà! He came to Australia as Ralph Hood, briefly emblazoned himself with the name Cyril de Valmency and went to England in that odd period between Victorian and Edwardian, Chopin-ing himself all over under the name Ralph Stuart. After that he disappears but that is enough. The papers in NZ further note that at each change of name he changed his appearance, being brunette, blonde and russet at various stages of his career.

Ralph my boy, here at least, and in my book, you will be given some modicum of noteworthiness for at least having devoted yourself to the sowing of Chopin.

No comments:

Post a Comment