Tuesday (21 January 1919)

Spent the forenoon completing those wan diagrams of beds, an indelible image of which, crudely coloured in crayons, is now imprinted upon my pericranium.  Made myself scarce (sans pass) and hovered about the door of the Concert Hall, being informed on all sides that it was quite impossible to obtain admission.  I was not ass enough to give up, but sufficiently mulish to wait the commencement of the performance before mounting the breach, i.e. the gallery; where I was promptly handed a ticket in exchange for 3 M: so heard entire concert anew.

Of the Beethoven “Pastoral” I feel that it has an effect similar to the greatest passages of Wordsworth’s poetry.

The Brahms (as a neighbouring fraulein, who informed me that she “spoke too, the English, but not many”, remarked) was more “difficult to comprehend”, but a banquet of sound nevertheless.  There is a subtlety about even the simplest themes employed by the great composers.  One was repeated in a hundred hues in the “Pastoral”, yet on leaving it had eluded me – how different from a music-hall tune, which usually defies all attempts to be rid of it!  I am uncritical – I become intoxicated with music – I am the “audience par excellence”.  (I no sooner talk of intoxicants than I am forcibly reminded that today was pay-day by the uproarious entry of a bevy of boozed and boisterous Bohemians).

Have discovered all about the “Konzert Gesellschaft” of Coln.  It is a Society with a municipal subsidy.  They give 12 performances during the winter, some purely instrumental, some choral.  Every performer has to pass an examination before he is allowed to give his services free, and benefit as a teacher by an advertisement.

Monday, 20th (1919)

Glorious bath and swim, also change of clothes.  J. has obtained tickets for the rehearsal of the symphonies.  I have to spend the afternoon doing 9 copies of a drawing of a soldier’s bed and kit for the billets – horrible job, and the sort of thing I can’t draw a bit, but no one else would try it.

9 p.m.  The drawings were a blessing in disguise for I found that I had been released from picquet to do them.  I have experienced the greatest musical treat of my life.  The Concert Hall was a large and ornate place, quite near the Cathedral, with seating room for about 1500.  Though a rehearsal, there was very little interruption by the conductor.  His methods were more subtle and serpentine than ferocious.

The Mozart symphony was played in perfect style by what appeared to me an immense orchestra, and was, as might be expected, a graceful, fresh and charming work: but, after that the number of instrumentalists was almost doubled.

I wish I could describe my first experience of the glorious “Pastoral” symphony. An orchestra that played like one instrument in the hands of a master – music of a power of delineation and an appeal beyond everything I have ever desired.  I could not but sympathise with several Germans who left after it was over, saying “After Beethoven – nothing!”  Bravo the deaf giant!

Sabbath, 19th January (1919)

Sermon on the Bible – really must read it!  Good menu – rissoles for breakfast, duff and rum sauce for lunch, ham and spuds for tea – to say nothing of the half-rissole and crust I have just toasted for supper.

Humperdink’s “Konigskinder”, a delightful performance – Missed overture (if any), and the commencement of Act 1, but got hold of English copy (now being provided) and enlightened myself on the nature of the plot.  It is a legend, or fairy tale, in music, children figuring largely in the caste.  Bright and quaint music.  Amazing artificial gees and other birds waddled about on the stage, and ate crumbs etc.  First scene a lovely woodscape in summer, repeated in the last scene in winter, and very effective, the piece ending sadly by the death of the King’s children, a la Babes in the Wood, of cold and witchcraft, snow flakes covering their bodies.  How did I get in?  Bribed the attendant, and the rascal actually gave me a ticket which he had ready in his hand.

Great excitement in the city – election night – encountered hordes of huns and hunesses, many being inebriated in all stages and both sexes.  (That’s a queer sentence).

J. and I spotted a poster advertising a “Konzert” of three symphonies by Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms for Tuesday.

This is all very fine and large, but, could I only get my ticket to N.Z., I’d put my fingers to my nose to all Germany and its combined attractions.

Samtag, 18th (January 1919)

A dozen of us made off to Mulheim, a manufacturing town on our side of the Rhine, where we joined a boat party of 400 or 500 diggers, and set off at a fast pace upstream.  The ferry was roomy and comfortable.  We followed the stately curves of the Rhine, passing under the three Coln bridges, and seeing small towns and villages, on either bank, loom up and fade behind us.  The small picturesque university town of Bonn passed, we soon had a glimpse of the narrow gorges and irregular hills where the typical Rhine Scenery begins.

At the tourist resort of Konigswinter, our steamer (the Hindenberg) was moored: disembarked for an hour and a half.  Above our heads hung the famed and legended Drachenfels with its mysterious ruined castle, a place I have heard about all my life, but never thought to see.  On a smaller knoll to its left is built a sumptuous hotel.  The return journey was made in quick time, so that I was back in time for a snack and a wash, and off to Fidelio.  What with the heat there, and want of sleep, I made a very drowsy spectator.  I felt that I was hearing the work of a genius struggling with an uncongenial medium.  Beethoven, the great master of pure music, fumbling about with opera.

postcard - konigswinter - 1919

[Image: Postcard of Konigswinter, c1919, from Lincoln Lee’s papers]

postcard - konigswinter - drachenfels castle

[Image: Postcard of Drachenfels Castle, c1919, from Lincoln Lee’s papers]

Friday (17 January 1919)

The Prince of Wales came to our billets at mess-time last evening – a slight, unassuming chap.  A shockingly dressed cook showed him round.  At midnight when I had started my broken night’s rest, it was further curtailed by the Sergt. Major waking me to ask if I should like to be in a river trip early tomorrow.

nlnzimage 1-1 002118-g prince of wales with russell & nz staff, jan 1919

[Image: Group portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales (left front) standing with Major General Andrew Russell and staff officers at the New Zealand Divisional Headquarters in Leverkusen during the occupation of Germany after World War I. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Maitland (Jumbo) Wilson is in the centre behind them. Photograph taken January 1919 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/1-002118-G]

Donnerst, 16th (January 1919)

Just returned from a performance of Faust, remarkable for the magnificence of its scenery and setting.  The magic scene (a la Venusberg) was a revelation in stagecraft.  Mephistopheles was taken by one Frederic Schorr – splendid voice.

Having fasted since lunch, I have just toasted half a rissole and two small crusts, rescued from breakfast, which, washed down by half a cup of cold tea, have restored my pristine and titanic energies.  I refuse to go to bed – I don’t want to make my bunk – “I tell ye I’ll not clane our me cell!  I’ll lave the goal first!”  I shall read “New Zealand at the Front” and continue smoking.

nlnzimage 1-2 012980-g nz solders reading nz at the front, 20 nov 1917

[Image: A group of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade, enjoy the joke of reading a copy of the publication ‘New Zealand at the Front’ while seated on a captured German anti-tank gun. Photo taken at ‘Clapham Junction’ a muddy part of the battlefield in Belgium on 20 November 1917 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-012980-G]

Dienstag, 14th (January 1919)

Having some porridge to spare, I put it aside for future reference, to obviate all temptation to indulge in “stew”.  Having strapped the lid on my mess tin, I promptly forgot its plenitude, and hung it above my bunk.  Porridge-juice mingled with melted sugar has been dripping over my belongings.

Out exercising horses this afternoon.  On return had a gallop, and my “lead” broke away and got lost.  Eventually found him in another battery’s stables with a guilty look on his face.

9 p.m. – I find it hard to define my impressions of “Jenufa”.  I know not who is or was Janacek, its composer.*  Most of the khaki audience were frankly bored, and left early with much clatter.  The first act found me much of their persuasion.  In the second, the tragedy gathered, the music began to get a hold on me.  To my mind it succeeds in its revelation of sorrow, anguish, remorse, and, towards the end of the last act, of grateful devotion and forgiveness.

The first scene, a mill on a sunny slope, with poplars and the millwheel revolving in the background, remains in my memory.

* It was not until 20 years afterwards that I learnt per The Oxford Companion to Music all about him.

13th January (1919)

Germany is working entirely on paper money.  I have not seen a coin above ½ mark value, and as a rule even 10 pfennings are paper money, i.e. ½d.

The Rhine is now several feet lower than when we arrived; confined between walls, its width does not vary.  Powerful tugboats are forever hauling strings of barges up and down.  As an indication of the value some Huns place upon their iron crosses – one was sold to an artillery-man for 10 marks.  The shortage of food etc. seems to be acute, and one is forever being pestered with cadgers, whilst the more unscrupulous are making small fortunes trading their (and other’s) belongings to civilians.  Some fellows imagine that it is possible to live two lives, and that their post-war characters will not suffer from acts done in uniform in strange lands.

9.30 p.m.  The scheme of the opera (Tales of Hoffman) as far as I could guess is to portray several tales or legends told at a tavern gathering – the opera opening and closing with the tavern scene.  The act in which the well-known barcarolle occurs was of extraordinary sensuousness, as that theme would suggest.  The piece is of an uncommon, seductive and entertaining character.  In one act is a lady automaton, or mechanical doll, who walks, sings, and dances in a manner amazingly clever and machine-like.  Another scene appeared to depict the hallucinations of a girl dying of consumption.

Have I told you how the Huns raven for “chocolade” – they will sell their very souls for it.  Apparently it has been unobtainable for years, and was once their almost indispensible confection.

Sonntag (12 January 1919)

Having no ticket for Don Juan, but with two other diggers, I ascend to one of the circles, where we bribed a Machiavellian flunky by a handful of paper money, to stand up at the back.  A woman squeezed closer to her hubby and made room for me, so there I was, missing only most of the first scene.  Of course, I couldn’t follow the story.  The Don was a whiskered, be-hatted, lady chaser, with robe-suspended rapier, who must, forsooth, be surrounded by diaphanous dancing damsels, even at his dinner.  Some delightful singing, nevertheless, and I can stand any number of musical evenings of anything like the same quality.

I see that in the Schauspielhaus, where drama is enacted, they are putting on Euripides, Ibsen, and so forth – if one only understood German.

The attitude of the people here is now quite friendly.  They are apparently glad to have our protection in view of the riots etc. in unoccupied parts of the Vaterland.