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Questions and Answers

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K. B.—Why are the lights lowered during Paderewski’s recitals?

The writer cannot vouch for Paderewski’s personal views on the subject, but perhaps Stendhal’s remarks may throw some light on the matter. The well-known French writer quotes a certain Dr. Cottougno as saying that a certain half-light is necessary for the appreciation of music. Too brilliant a light irritates the optic nerve; besides, sensations are not perceived simultaneously by the optic and the auditory nerves. One may have the choice between both sensations, but the human brain cannot appreciate both at the same time. There is another point Cottougno adds which may, perhaps, have some connection with hypnotism. In order to experience the delicious sensations which music produces, one must be isolated. The ear is enveloped by a musical atmosphere of which nothing definite is known except that it may possibly exist. A certain isolation is necessary, like in electrical experiments, to produce agreeable sensations. The natural heat produced by the proximity of a foreign substance seems detrimental to the enjoyment of music.

B. K. R.—Baldessare Galuppi, mentioned in Browning’s “A Toccata of Galuppi’s,” was born near Venice in 1706. He was the son of a barber, but devoted himself to music. Through Marcello he was introduced to Lotti, with whom he studied counterpoint. He wrote many operas in a comic vein. Galuppi also studied the clavichord, upon which instrument he became quite proficient. His church works are still performed in Venice. A sonata of his, said to be of great merit, is contained in Pauer’s “Alte Clavier-Musik.” An American author, visiting Browning and his wife in 1847, wrote of their occupations: “Mrs. Browning was still too much of an invalid to walk, but she sat under the great trees upon the lawn-like hillsides near the convent, or in the seats of the dusky convent chapel, while Robert Browning at the organ chased a fugue, or dreamed out upon the twilight keys a faint, throbbing toccata of Galuppi.”

B. T.—Why has the art of improvisation become extinct? Probably owing to the tendency of the times—specialism. The modern pianist devotes so many years to the acquisition of technic that very little time is left for him to devote to the cultivation of other departments of music. How many pianists are capable, for instance, of reading a score at sight? Improvisation was cultivated and exercised in public by many of the great musicians, particularly Mozart and Beethoven. Of Beethoven the following story is related: At a soirée musicale Steibelt, a popular pianist of the day, played a quintet of his own composition. Beethoven being requested to improvise, placed the part played by the double-bass in Steibelt’s quintet upon the piano and began playing the notes of the same negligently with one finger. He then added a second, then a third part, improvising variations in the meantime, while retaining the original bass-notes as a theme, and concluded with a brilliant finale in fugal style. Steibelt was so mortified at the victory of his rival, that he disappeared and never frequented the circles in which Beethoven was accustomed to be seen. Hummel, Moscheles, and Mendelssohn were also known for the beauty and cleverness of their improvisations. Theodor Kullak, in conversation with the writer, mentioned Alfred Grünfeld, the Vienna pianist, as an improvisator of great ability. Grünfeld never improvised in public, however. Some years ago an Italian boy by the name of Cesar Galleotti, attracted some attention on account of his talent for improvisation. An opera by Galleotti has recently achieved some success in Italy. The improvisations of Josef Hofmann are still remembered by many. The only exponent of this delightful form of art in this country, to the knowledge of the writer, is Mr. A. Victor Benham, a New York musician. Several years ago the writer attended a concert at which Mr. Benham improvised a sonata in four movements on a theme given by de Pachmann or Van der Huchen (the writer is not quite sure which). It was an unusually clever piece of work, and gave rise to the desire that Mr. Benham would devote himself more frequently to the practice of improvisation in public.

J. T. M. (Indiana).—1. Felix Borowski, judging from his name, is evidently a Russian or Pole. The dictionaries of music do not contain his name as yet, nor is his name to be found in Albert Soubies’s “Histoire de la Musique en Russie,” which contains names of recent composers like Moussorgsky and Scriabine, whose compositions were played by Josef Hofmann. Borowski has written some graceful compositions published by H. B. Stevens Company, 212 Boylston Street, Boston, who probably will be able to give information regarding this new Russian composer.

2. Schoumka is a Russian dance form indigenous to the soil of the Ukraine or Little Russia, consisting of the governments of Kilo, Tchernigov, etc., situated in the southwestern part of Russia.

E. R. (Kansas).—1. It has become customary to consider an accidental, whether it comes in the beginning or latter part of the measure, as only good for that measure. If continued in the next measure it must be repeated; see first measure of “G-minor Ballade,” by Chopin (Scholtz edition). It will be noticed that the flat contained in bar 1 is repeated in bar 2. In the 12th measure of Beethoven’s “Waldstein Sonata” opus 53, occurs a flat before e. In the 14th measure of the Bülow edition of the same sonata the editor cancels the accidental by placing a natural sign before the e to avoid any misunderstanding. The e natural is really unnecessary, as the key of C-major is already determined by the signature.

2. In opus the accent is on the first syllable.

3. The writer ranks the pianists he has heard in the following order: Rubinstein, Essipoff, de Pachmann, Hans von Bülow, d’Albert, Carl Heyman, Paderewski, Josef Hofmann, Joseffy, Francis Planté, Theodore Ritter, Emil Sauer, Alfred Reisenauer, Rosenthal, Marie Krebs, Anna Mehlig, Alfred Grünfeld, Josef Wieniawski, Scharwenka, Franz Rummel, Frederic Lamond, Stavenhagen, Arthur Friedheim, Ravul Pugno.

(For answers to other questions see “Hints to Young Piano-teachers.”)

J. L. R. H. (Pa.).—Why are the two keys F and G made sharp in ascending the A-minor scale and made natural in descending?

The regular form of the descending A-minor scale is A, G, F, E, D, C, B, A. Alike pleasing and agreeable to the ear and our sense of modern harmony, this scale appears smooth and uniform. Now try the ascending scale with the same notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A. It will be noticed that not alone does this form of the scale sound ugly to the modern ear, but it also conveys the impression as belonging to the key of C- major. Moreover, in all modern scales, the seventh note leads into the eighth, or first, note of the scale by means of a half-note. Consequently G is raised to G-sharp.

This fact being firmly established and the interval between F and G-sharp appearing too sudden and abrupt, F is also raised and becomes F-sharp. By means of these changes the scale becomes even and regular and satisfies both our sense of beauty and sense of harmony. However, F is not always sharpened in the ascending scale. Thus, a common form of the A-minor scale ascending as well as descending is: A, B, C, D, E, F, G-sharp, A, in which case it is sometimes called the Hungarian scale, and is often used by Liszt in his “Hungarian Rhapsodies.” (To be exact, the Hungarian scale is often designated as A, B, C, D-sharp, E, F, G-sharp, A.)

J. C. U.—It is advisable, in most cases, to take lessons of a reputable teacher; but if you cannot do this, and wish to study musical notation, procure a good primer.

B. McN.— (M. T.—main theme); (S. T. I.—side theme I); (S. T. II.—side theme II); (Cl. T.—closing theme). These marks and signs are not often used. 2me Valse means simply Valse II (second).

J. M. A.—“Sganarelle,” the title of one of the numbers of “Carnaval Mignon,” by Schütt, opus 48, is the hero of Molière’s comedy, “Le Mariage Force.” He has doubts as to whether it would be advisable to marry a fashionable young women, and consults his friends about it. They give him no satisfactory answer, and he decides to give up his engagement, but is cudgeled into compliance by the brother of his intended. In four other of Molière’s comedies Sganarelle appears, usually as a dupe.

H. H. C.—You seem to be very thorough and conscientious, but I would advise you to teach your young pupils, those not far advanced, only the harmonic scale. It is very confusing to the juvenile mind —to the adult also, as a rule—to have both minor scales taught at the same time. For practical purposes, the harmonic scale suffices, and—taught ascending as well as descending alike—will facilitate matters greatly. If your method of procedure has been successful with your pupils and they seem to enjoy it, I see no reason for introducing a change.

A. M. O.—1. The “raised knuckles” you refer to means that the hand is not held flat, with knuckles leveled, making a straight line from second joints of fingers to elbow as in the usual way, but that the wrist is raised, and the hand, knuckles, and fingers form a gentle slope to the keyboard. If you succeed best with the hand level it would not be necessary to change, nor advisable without competent instruction.

2. Leschetitsky does not teach beginners. A student must be an advanced one before he could receive personal instruction from the master. He upholds no method unless it be hard work, but adapts every means to the peculiar needs of each individual. He has a number of assistants, who do all preparatory work for him.    v

N. R.—1. Johann Strauss was born October 25, 1825, in Vienna, and died there June 3, 1899. He was the second musician of note of that name. He conducted the Boston peace jubilee.

2. His compositions number nearly 500, of which his waltzes are better known; and fourteen works of light opera.

A. L. T.—It is said that the first encore was demanded by Louis XIV, January 3, 1680, who had such parts of the opera “Bellerophon” repeated as pleased him. Not until August 8, 1780, did the audience at the opera obtain this privilege for themselves. The first encore demanded by the people was “The Hymn to Love,” from the opera, “Echo and Narcissus,” by Gluck. The French do not use the word “encore” but call “Bis! bis!” and get the repetition just as we do.

J. A. B.—Lorenzo Perosi was born near Alessandria in Piedmont, December 20, 1872. His father was his first instructor. At 18 he was appointed organist at Mount Cassino, and was later a student at the Conservatory of Milan. Several years ago he was ordained a priest. His compositions include oratorios, masses, and many smaller works for the different church services. He is very popular throughout Italy.

E. F. M.—The “stiffened, lame feeling” in your arms of which you complain may have come about from the use of the bicycle, but is not an inevitable result of its use. It must be that you gripped the handles too tightly, which develops a numbness similar to that you mention. When riding you should grasp the grips of the handle-bars just as lightly as possible. Then, too, the use of a stiff brake, such as you say you must use on the hilly roads in your vicinity, would also cause a powerful contraction of the muscles of the arm and hand. Can you not use back-pedaling to a greater extent or, better still, one of those brakes which are operated by the feet. In this way you may greatly reduce the strain on the muscles of the hand and arm.

 

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