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Education of Pianists-No. IV.

(Concluded.)

BY JAMES M. TRACY.

Our last paper left off with the commencement of Cramer’s Studies. These celebrated studies are often taken up too early in the student’s course. Both Dr. Knorr and Prof. Plaidy said they ought never to be studied till after Czerny’s and Clementi’s studies had been perfected, because they required a finished execution. Bülow’s edition is the one most used, and as he has laid down in a markedly distinct manner, how they should be practiced, we will not offer any suggestions differing from him. Dr. Knorr, who was a perfect master of Cramer’s studies, required his pupils to play most of them with pennies on the back of the hands. Of these, No. 4, Knorr’s edition, C minor, demanded a great deal of hard work. I accomplished this feat under Knorr and can still play it without dropping the pennies, as I can several others. I do not recommend this course, because it makes the hands look stiff, though it is good practice for those students who have acquired bad habits from too much freedom in motion. I am a firm believer in Czerny because he was the most successful teacher of his time, writing most of his études for special objects, which they attained.

A teacher who has given us a Liszt, Thalberg, Döhler, Wilhnarr, DeMeyer and other great performers, cannot be ignored, though some of his studies may have become old fashioned from having others of more recent date take their place. Recently, we have had sent us a selection of Czerny’s etudes which we can earnestly recommend in full. They are by one Heinrich Germer, and edited by H. W. Nicholl. They comprise selections from all of Czerny’s most important works, arranged in a progressive, compact manner. Vol. I is for upper elementary grade, being selected from Opus 261, 821, 599, 139, 829, 849, 335 and 636, in all eighty-two studies. They are all short, and not so formidable as the number makes them seem. Vol. II embraces school of velocity Op. 299, 834, 139, 335, 299 and 355. These studies are for velocity, polyrhythmics and ornamentation. Vol. Ill is velocity continued, Op. 299, 740, 821, 335 and 834. Vol. IV embraces school of legato and staccato, Op. 335, and the art of developing the fingers, Op. 40, closing with that most useful of all double note études, Toccato (sic) in C, Op. 92.

The above studies embrace or furnish a whole course of piano study, and any person who can play them well may be considered a first-rate pianist, though there are many more of modern date and much more difficult to follow. Beethoven’s sonatas may now be taken up to advantage. The early ones first, Op. 2, No. 3, in C is very useful. G major, Op. 14, is nice. Op. 2, No. 1, F minor, also A major, same Opus. Op. 13, C minor; D major, Op. 10, etc., etc. Mendelssohn’s caprices, Op. 14, 22, and 33 are interesting, musical and technical; Op. 7 embraces seven studies in various forms. When these have been learned the two concertos may be taken up. Hummel’s concerto in A minor is splendid; Moschele’s etudes, Op. 70, are beautiful, forming a stepping- stone to Chopin’s and Henselt’s etudes. They are twenty-four in number, of which a third of them may be omitted. One or two of Moschele’s concertos may also be studied with profit. I name those in G minor and E major. We recommend Bach’s two and three part inventions here, as a prelude to the forty-eight Preludes and Fugues by the same author.

While these preludes and fugues of Bach’s can be omitted, no good pianist, or any one wishing to be considered a thorough musician, can afford to do so, for they are the real foundation of all classical music. Weber’s sonatas, four in all, with Rondo in E-flat, Polacca in E major, Polonaise, G-flat, and Invitation to Waltz, should be known by all pianists, for they are models of classical art. They are hard, requiring intelligent study. Chopin’s studies, Op. 10 and 25, come in here. Von Bülow has made a good selection of them, and we recommend his edition. With Chopin’s studies, any of his pieces, except the concertos, may be taken up. Waltzes first, mazurkas and nocturnes, ballades, scherzos and then concertos last. Schumann can also be studied in connection with Chopin. Henselt’s etudes, Op. 5, are musical, and can all be used for concert purposes as well as technical study. For the further perfection of octave playing, Kullak’s studies are undoubtedly the best, but the first should be used, as it furnishes the proper examples for obtaining correct legato and staccato playing. Those students who only use the second book fail of receiving the full benefits which the author intended should be derived from his studies. In the European music schools all students must work from the foundation upward. In this country nearly all the students want to begin at the top, for they wish to accomplish everything in the shortest possible time. Short-hand, steam-power and electricity are all too slow for the majority of American students, and this furnishes the reason why so few become good pianists out of the vast numbers who study the piano in this country. In fact, no good American pianist, acknowledged as such, can be found here who has not received most of his instruction from abroad. This is not from any fault of the instruction, for we have as good teachers here as in Europe; the fault lies with the scholars themselves, because they refuse to comply with the teacher’s instructions. Out of the vast number of scholars I have instructed, I have not found more than one in ten who were willing to study as directed. Those few who have followed my advice have become proficient, while the others, as a matter of course, have failed to be materially benefitted. The only reason we know why it is necessary for any music student to go abroad to study, is because such students must obey their instructors implicitly, or they get no instruction. For if an American teacher was as strict and fractious as most European teachers, they would lose their entire business within six months. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to say that there is no reason why any student who follows the course we have marked out should not be considered an accomplished pianist. Of course there will be some better than others, according to their abilities, technically and musically—just the same as in all other professions. There are no two people in the world who possess exactly the same quality of talent or amount of ability in any department of life—music is no exception to the rule. There has never been but one Liszt, one Rubinstein, one Von Bülow and one D’Albert; but that furnishes no good reason why any one, possessing genius, energy and application, should not try to reach the highest pinnacle of fame.

The course outlined in this series of papers is the one pursued at the Leipsic Conservatory under Plaidy and Wensel, and all the great artists mentioned above have substantially followed it. The student who can play the studies here mentioned, is fully prepared to take up the study of the more difficult sonatas of Beethoven embraced in his last period. Technically, his concertos are no more difficult than the sonatas in C, Op. 53, and F minor, Op. 57. Liszt’s studies are immensely difficult, and can only be played after all other studies have been mastered.

To those who wish to study light, showy music, the compositions of Leybach, Ascher, Ketterer, Schulthoff, Thalberg, and Herz, furnish the student with ample material. Gottschalk, Mason and Mills are our best American writers. One can hardly go amiss in selecting from any of the above writers works to use for popular concert purposes, but they furnish no material of educational value to the earnest student of music. A person educated on brilliant, showy music cannot play classical music well; the reasons are obvious, but we cannot enter into the merits of the subject in this paper, but will, at some future time, furnish an article bearing on this special subject.

We earnestly hope this series of papers will prove of value to the readers of The Etude, even if there are those among them who differ with the writer in regard to routine of study, remembering that people are not alike in looks, action or education.

 

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