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Questions and Answers

W. T. (Texas).—Is it advisable to play interludes between the various pieces of a program?
Ans.—No. I repeat most emphatically, no. The wretched attempts which are generally made are most annoying to musicians and musical people. The only two pianists who resorted to improvisations of that sort and with success were Mme. Essipoff and Hans von Bülow.

Mme. Essipoff’s interludes were most unique. They formed a tissue of the most exquisite musical lace-work. (In point of fact, they were played entirely pianissimo with the soft pedal.) Occasionally she introduced a theme entirely foreign to the subject under consideration, like upon one occasion, the “A-major Prelude” by Chopin, but in a masterly fashion. Essipoff’s interludes were musical dissolving views.

Bülow’s were entirely different. He would connect the theme of the piece just finished with the piece about to be played, sometimes contrapuntally, but always in musicianly style. Indeed, they were such excellent examples of extempore playing that they gave rise to the suspicion that they were prepared by the great doctor in the privacy of his study before he ever went on the concert-stage.

Rubinstein occasionally played two or three chords between the various pieces, simply modulating.

Paderewski sometimes plays short interludes of great beauty. Joseffy rarely, Planté never, d’Albert when waiting for the public to assume a listening attitude. Rosenthal’s preludes do not add to his greatness. Pachmann’s, I think, would if he were to elaborate them.

I think it a better plan for the average pianist to refrain from these extempore improvisations, for the simple reason that the dear, ignorant public, the public that always applauds before the end of the “Invitation to the Waltz” by Weber, always considers the prelude as the beginning of the piece.

I recently heard quite an excellent pianist spoil her very best efforts by shallow interludes. I therefore repeat that unless you have the genius of an Essipoff or the musicianship of a Hans von Bülow—don’t!

W. I. C.—The sound-board is used to increase the volume of tone. The manner in which it performs its functions is truly wonderful. No matter how rapidly the tones are produced, it must increase them with its molecular vibrations, in the same periods of the vibrating strings and with the utmost rapidity.

G. M. E.—1. The old ballad was a song accompanied by dancing (from Italian ballo, “dance”).
2. The origin of Welsh music is lost in antiquity, for the traditions are not to be trusted unless there is historical proof, as in the case of the air “Morva Rhuddlan,” which was composed in a.d. 795, by the harpist, or Bard, of Caradoc, King of North Wales. Welsh melodies are superior to Scotch or Irish. Since the harp was the national instrument in Briton, no doubt many melodies were used prior to the seventh century, though none have survived with anything to show how ancient they were.

C. M. A. (Oregon).—When did the term “recital”’ first come into use?
Ans.Liszt was probably the first to apply that term to performances given by one individual. June 9, 1840, is the date given. Previous to that time concerts were given in which several performers cooperated. Thus, Clementi, Cramer, Field, Hummel, Moscheles, and other pianists before Liszt’s time took part in concerts, but only contributing a few numbers. In Germany the word recital has been changed to klavier-vorträg, a term introduced since Bülow’s time. The recital, or “one pianist” concert, is certainly responsible for a great change in the demands made upon pianists, calling for much greater and more varied efforts.

L. M. S.—1. The instruments known as the “Besson Girardin” were invented by Gustave Auguste Besson, of Paris, France.
2. The trill should be continued, to the end of the line, and a uniform speed maintained throughout.
3. The ancient trill was made by repeating the one tone.

L. N. (N. Y.).—In Chopin’s “Prelude in E-minor No. 20” is the highest note in the chord (fourth quarter) e-natural or e-flat?
Ans.—Personally and more satisfying to me, I think, is e-flat, thus making it the chord of C-minor. I once had a talk with Xaver Scharwenka on the subject. After due consideration he declared it to be e-natural, making it C-major. In fact, he said he had once written to Liszt about it. I do not now remember what Liszt answered. Klindworth has e-natural, so has Scholtz. I am inclined to think that this is one of those misprints that from a false sense of reverence has been allowed to stand.

J. S. O’H.—1. The German pianist, M. Strakosch, was born in 1825 and died in 1887.
2. “Compound times” are made by adding together several measures of simple time. Thus, 6/8 is the compound of 2/4 time.
3. Never put the soft pedal down when playing piano; though some authorities advise its use to end a pianissimo. The best effects of the soft pedal are obtained when playing more or less loudly.

S. D. (Michigan).—Is the fingering given by Hans von Bülow in first Cramer etude, bar 10, left hand, absolutely necessary? Cannot a simpler fingering be substituted?
Ans.—Hans von Bülow was once introduced to a man with a very large nose. After contemplating the proboscis of the stranger in blank astonishment, the eccentric pianist interrupted the silence by bursting into loud laughter, exclaiming: “No; that nose is impossible.”

I am always reminded of that story whenever a pupil—I am speaking of the average pupil—attempts that fingering. That fingering is also impossible! It is unnecessary, finical, and only to be used by pianists of great experience. The old-fashioned 1, 2, 3, 2; 1, 2, 3, 2, is practicable enough for ordinary purposes.

W. R. B.—“Rag-time” originated in the South, where bands of colored musicians first played it. These bands are not usually organized, not uniformed, being volunteer affairs. The colored race is extremely imitative, and, all playing mostly “by ear,” any mistake or peculiarity made by one band, which happens to take their fancy, is readily taken up by all the others.

This music got its name from the rough appearance of the bands, which are called rag-bands, and the music rag-music, or “rag-time” music.

The popularity of “rag-time” music is certainly not diminishing, and it remains to be seen what effect it will have on the American music of the future.

P. W. (Indiana).—Does technic disappear with age?
Ans.—Not necessarily. On the contrary, with some pianists, like with wine, it improves with age. Clara Schumann played in London up to within a few years of her death. Grove mentions her playing in 1882, when the great artist was sixty-three years of age. The late Antoine de Kontski was heard in New York in 1882 in his sixty-sixth year. Among other compositions he played Weber’s “Concertstück” with the accompaniment of the orchestra in the most brilliant style. His execution showed no signs of weakness whatsoever. The venerable artist died quite recently, having completed a concert-tour in China, if I am not mistaken. Liszt retired from public playing at the early age of forty-eight, not because his technic showed any approaching signs of decreptitude, but because he thought his mission was that of a composer.

Rubinstein’s series of historical recitals in Vienna at the age of fifty-six showed that the artist’s powers were on the wane. His technic was not as brilliant as formerly, nor was his memory reliable.

As a rule, pianists retain their technic much longer than singers and violinists.

J. R.—The oldest form of notation was probably the “letter notation”: i.e., the use of letters to indicate sounds. It was used by the Greeks from very early times and continued in use until the ninth or tenth century a.d., but four or five centuries before that notation by means of neumes came into practical use. About the tenth century, notation by means of Roman letters superseded these rapidly. The system now used was well developed in the beginning of the seventeenth century.

C. G.—Rubato is an Italian word which means “robbed” or “stolen.” It indicates free treatment of marked expression, lingering slightly on certain notes, and slightly hurrying others. It adds greatly to the effects of music of an emotional nature.

L. F.—In a roundelay the dancers join hands and form a ring. A poem with a constantly repeated refrain is also called a roundelay.

A. M. S. (Ontario, Ia.).—With pupils unfamiliar with the practice of scales I would advise the study of the major scales, gradually introducing the relative minors. There are some teachers, like the European authority, J. Carl Eschmann, who recommends the study of the scales in the following order—c-major, c-minor; d-flat major, c-sharp minor; d-major, d-minor, etc.—even at an early stage. I myself followed this method in my teaching for some time, but finally gave it up as tending to confuse the pupil. Until the pupil has grasped the relationship of the various keys it is far better to begin with the simple scales, adding their relative minors, as in the ordinary fashion, c-major, a-minor; g-major, e-minor. When this has been thoroughly mastered, I would suggest bunching all the major keys together and then all the minors. Thus: c-major, d-flat major, d-major, etc., and c-minor, c-sharp minor, d-minor, etc. By this time the pupil will find no difficulty in playing alternately major and minor chromatically—c-major, c-minor; d-flat major, c-sharp minor; d- major, d-minor, etc.

K. T. (N. Y.).—Does Paderewski divide the end of the great opening cadenza of the “E-flat Concerto” (Emperor) by Beethoven between both hands?
Ans.—Quite right. This is one of the specialties of Leschetitsky’s method—make everything as easy as possible. The descending passages in diminished sevenths in the “A-minor Concerto” by Schumann are likewise divided by both hands, according to Leschetitsky. Purists are apt to sneer at such methods, but without reason. It is the business of the artist to try and play without effort, or the impression produced will be similar to the one a certain pianist made upon Liszt one day. After listening to a performer who had sawed and hammered upon the instrument until the beads of perspiration stood out upon his forehead, the great master patted him on the shoulder and with a significant smile said: “My dear fellow, you are wonderful. You master the easiest passages with the greatest difficulty.”

 

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