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III -- Education Of Pianists.

BY JAMES M. TRACY.
 
If the student is classically inclined, the easy sonatas of Clementi, Kuhlau, Haydn and Mozart furnish the best food for both fingers and brain; but if modern showy music is the aim there are many authors to select from, like Lange, Spindler, Kuhe, Ketterer, Ascher, Leybach, Smith, Hunten, Mayer, Bendel, Mason, Mills, Thalberg and Herz. We might urge upon the student the classical, substantial side for study, but as we do not aim to be prejudiced toward either school, will pursue an independent course, leaving the student free to take whichever route he or she may feel inclined to follow.
 
We wish to state right here that the great mistake of nearly all those who study the piano is to practice too fast, thereby acquiring the habit of stumbling or stuttering, the effect of which is murderous to ears, nerves and music on performer and listener alike. There is no one thing in my experience as a teacher that causes me more anxiety and trouble—that constantly needs such watchfulness and close attention as this universal persistency of scholars and teachers to practice everything too fast. As soon as the scholar gets a little flexibility into his fingers, yes, before, he begins to accelerate the time, or, as Mr. Plaidy once said to me, "appropriate the time," meaning by this to convey the idea of taking the tempo into one's own hands regardless of one's ability to cope with the difficulties of the piece or the intentions of the author. Too much attention cannot be given to playing the notes correctly from the first. To do this satisfactorily, slow, deliberate, connected practice is absolutely necessary; also correct fingering. It is better you should play one piece, however simple, thoroughly well, than a dozen pieces badly. There is no credit or honor attached to a bad or indifferent performance of any piece of music, and though we may have the ambition to play a hard piece it is infinitely better to play a few easy ones well first. When you have succeeded in mastering them it is time to think of attempting to conquer harder ones. Be sure to master whatever piece you undertake before proceeding with any new ones. The scales are the foundation of piano playing and it is impossible to play anything well before they have been pretty thoroughly mastered, although many attempt to do so. Playing fast leads to many bad habits, such as striking wrong notes, non-observance of correct finger marks, stumbling, repeating notes several times, besides a generally detached, hurry-scurry manner of getting over a piece. No piece performed in such a way can ever be satisfactory or musical either to performer or listener. If the student has pursued our subject thus far and thinks he has not reaped the full advantages from the sources we have herein enumerated, let him return immediately and make a thorough review, for we wish him to begin the second period of our studies with technical facility and full understanding of the subject in hand, without which he is ill prepared to renew the journey to which our subject is about to take him.
 
In beginning this second period of piano study it is presumed the scholar is thoroughly qualified for the difficult task. The mastery of Czerny's four books of velocity, the three books of Loeschorn's, op. 66 and velocity, op. 136, together with other studies mentioned in this article, will be sufficient proof. To play Czerny's velocity studies in moderate time with a firm, even, legato, connected touch, requires considerable skill, and presupposes the scholar to have done good, faithful, technical work; yet there is much more to be done, in fact the threshold of our storehouse is hardly reached and the way seems distant, is hardly discernible, but so much of it as is open to view presents a hard, rough, difficult road to overcome. Loeschorn's velocity, op. 136, is much harder than Czerny's, requiring the latter as a stepping-stone or preparation; they embrace modern technical difficulties of great value, and cannot with propriety be ignored, for they are decidedly useful. The studies which come next in order and which are almost universally used by good teachers as the most essential of all studies extant, are Czerny's forty daily studies.
 
There are no studies yet published, so far as we know, which do or can supply their place. These studies are purely technical, having no object in view but the proper training, development and perfecting the mechanical skill of the fingers; as such they are unequalled, but must be conscientiously studied and mastered. They should be played slowly at first, with a firm touch, until they can be played through several times in succession without mistakes, when they may and should be taken up with a faster tempo in order to gain the desired results intended by their practice, namely, velocity. For melodious studies to be used with these dry ones op. 38 of Loeschorn are good; also twenty-four "Variatione Elegantes" of Czerny's are musical and highly educational. There are many well-composed and interesting pieces by Franz Bendel, Wm. Mason, S. B. Mills, J. K. Paine and other American authors, which may be used at this juncture with pleasure and profit. We speak especially for Bendel, because he composed a large number of very elegant and instructive pieces which come within the capabilities of all students who have followed our instruction up to this point. The harder sonatas of Clementi and Mozart can now be taken up. The Peters edition is the cheapest and best to purchase, for they are plain, correctly printed and have been carefully fingered by men who are masters of that art. It is not necessary to name any particular number at present, but later on I shall specify which are of the most practical benefit. Clementi's twenty-four preludes and scales must now be taken up. They are a necessity to good piano playing and the time spent on their practice will never be regretted. They are dry, hard and not particularly interesting, but are decidedly educational. The first two books of Schmitt's studies, op. 16, are pleasant, useful, and are technically educational. They may be practiced with pleasure and profit.
 
We now come to the more extended etudes of Czerny, called the "Art of developing the fingers," op. 740. They comprise fifty studies and are now printed in one book. Littolff edition is the cheapest and best. The student should try to learn these studies to play in the marked metronome time. If he has been diligent and faithful in practicing what we have gone over he will have sufficient execution to do them with persistent hard work. Von Bülow and Madame Essipoff, the two finest technical pianists who have visited this country, say these studies must be known by every one seeking to play the piano respectably well. The sonata in C major, op. 34; E flat, op. 12; toccato in B flat, op. 47; sonatas G major, op. 25 and 40; B flat, op. 47 and C. major, op. 2 of Clementi may be learned in connection with the above studies. When these have been learned take Czerny's toccato in C, op. 92, and continue its practice till it can be thoroughly and perfectly well played; it is written in double notes which require much hard work. Carl Meyer's toccato in E major is beautiful, both as a study and concert piece. Schumann's toccato in C, op. 7, is good for technical purposes only. Other studies selected for special purposes may be learned in connection with what has been already recommended. Mozart's sonatas, though not particularly beneficial for purely technical study, should be practiced for pleasure and reading purposes. They also have a tendency to greatly improve the taste for all that is truly beautiful in piano playing. The sonatas in F major, C minor, A major, A minor and D major, are extremely beautiful in musical form, are full of tender sentiment, and no one can study these sonatas thoroughly without feeling their influence to be powerful for all that is pure, good and noble in musical art.
 
We have now come to another difficult point in our studies, but don't lose courage, dear friends, for it is too late to retrace our steps. Therefore turn not back, but persevere to the end. Though there may not be "millions in it," there is satisfaction enough in conquering the innumerable difficulties opposing you to repay you well for the trouble. Our next studies will be "Gradus ad Parnassum" of Clementi. They are technically difficult and about as dry as five finger exercises; but for usefulness in mastering difficult passages, for general technical execution, they excel all other studies with which we are acquainted. It will be necessary to devote much time to the practice of these studies for they will not furnish substantial benefit to the student unless they are most thoroughly learned. By this alone can real, lasting, beneficial results be attained.
 
Clementi, it is said, was a perfect technical pianist, which will readily be believed by those who study his works when they are told he was a perfect master of them all besides being master of all other standard works of his time. Cramer's celebrated studies, which require technical finish, can now be taken up. They are beautiful and must be perfectly mastered, otherwise their beauty is lost.

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