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Questions & Answers

[Our subscribers are invited to send in questions for this department. Please write them on one side of the paper only, and not with other things on the same sheet. In Every Case the Writer’s Full Address must be Given, or the questions will receive no attention. In no case will the writer’s name be printed to the questions in The Etude. Questions that have no general interest will not receive attention.]

C. R. B.—The mean of the vibration-numbers of the leading piano-makers of the world is A = 439. The lowest vibration-number is Blüthner, Leipzig (A = 435); the highest, Erard, Paris (A = 442.4). Steinway, New York, uses A = 438.6; Chickering, Boston, A = 438.8. Bechstein, Berlin, uses vibration-number 438; Broadwood, London, 439; Becker, Petersburg, 439.4; Mühlfeld, Meiningen, 439.5; Schiedmayer, Stuttgart, 440; Bösendorfer, Vienna, 440.

G. Q. N. (Kansas).— (a) Shakespeare inspired more opera-librettos than any other author. To give a complete list would go beyond the limits of this department. Subjoined will be found some of the principal plays that have served as opera-librettos:

“Hamlet,” Ambroise Thomas (French). “Macbeth,” Verdi (Italian); also incidental music to “Macbeth,” Edgar S. Kelley (American). “Taming of the Shrew,” Hermann Goetz (German). “Much Ado about Nothing,” otherwise known as “Benedick and Beatrice,” Hector Berlioz (French). “Romeo and Juliet,” Gounod (French); also Bellini (Italian). “Othello,” Rossini (Italian); also Verdi (Italian). “Merry Wives of Windsor,” Nicolai (German), otherwise known as “Falstaff,” Verdi (Italian). Incidental music to “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Mendelssohn (German). “Richard II,” Salvayre (French). At present Verdi is reported to be at work on “King Lear.”

Incidental music has been written to the following plays of Shakespeare by Sir Arthur Sullivan: “The Tempest,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,”’ “Henry VIII.” Henry Purcell, the English composer, published ten songs as they were sung in “The Fairy Queen” (“Midsummer Night’s Dream”). The composer of “Rule Britannia,” Thomas Augustine Arne, set to music the words taken from “As You Like It”—“Under the Greenwood Tree,” “Blow, Blow thou Winter Wind!” “When Daisies Pied”; also “Where the Bee Sucks,” from “The Tempest.” Sir Arthur Sullivan also set to music “On Such a Night as This” (“Merchant of Venice”) as a duet, for soprano and tenor. Also “Orpheus with his Lute” (“Henry VIII;” Act III, Scene 1) and “Sigh no More, Ladies” (“Much Ado about Nothing” Act II, Scene 3). The German composer, Schubert, has set to music the following words by Shakespeare: “Who is Silvia” (“Two Gentlemen of Verona,” Act IV, Scene 2), “Hark! Hark! the Lark” (“Cymbeline,” Act II, Scene 3), and “Come, thou Monarch of the Vine” (“Antony and Cleopatra,” Act II, Scene 7).

(b) Compositions beginning in minor and ending in major are frequent with the classical composers. Examples are to be found among the following: Bach, “Well-Tempered Clavichord”; “Prelude and Fugue, No. II”; “Prelude and Fugue, No. IV”; “Prelude and Fugue, No. VI”; “Prelude, No. VIII,” etc. Mendelssohn, “E-minor Capriccio,” opus 16; also “E-minor Fugue,” opus 35. Beethoven beginning in minor generally ends the same way. The finale of the “Sonata” opus 10, No. I, however, begins in C-minor and concludes in C-major. An illustration differing from those given above, as it begins in F-minor and concludes in the relative major key is the “Fantasie,” opus 49, by Chopin, which begins in F-minor and ends in A-flat major. Rather interesting as regards the change of tonality is the “Nocturne in B-major,” opus 32, No. I, by Chopin. The various editions differ as to the conclusion of this composition. Some have it major, others—like Marmontel—end with minor. This is the only composition by Chopin of which doubt exists as to the final chord.

A. C. L.—(a) To strengthen the fifth finger, try the following exercise:


and back.

If advanced, give “Cramer’s Etudes” Nos. 9 and 11 (Bülow edition).

(b) Dominant is derived from the Latin: Dominus, lord. Tonic from the Greek: Tonos, tone.

(c) Rhythm has been defined as the systematic grouping of notes with regard to direction, and as the metre of music. Vice versâ in music metre has been defined as the rhythmical element as exemplified in the structure of melodious phrases.

(d) The Tonic Sol-Fa System is in principle identical with the system known as the Movable Do, although the notation differs somewhat. Full information concerning this subject is to be found in the “Music Primer” edited by Dr. Stainer (Novello).

(e) The chord of the diminished seventh is subject to so many interpretations that the simplest way out of the difficulty is to consider the fundamental note of the chord as the leading note of the desired key and write it accordingly; thus, B, D, F, A-flat would resolve itself into C-major or C-minor; F-sharp, A, C, E-flat would resolve itself into G-major or minor, and so on.

(f) Why are long appoggiaturas used? They are not any more, at least not in the best editions. Take the “A-minor Sonata” by Mozart, No. XVI (Cotta edition), for instance. In the second bar of the opening movement the music is written as you suggest, “with two notes of equal value.” Your question suggests another which I have been asking for years: Why cannot an enterprising publisher be found who will print the classics without the wilderness of explanatory notes (which the pupil never looks at) by writing out the ornaments in the text itself? I think something of the sort was tried by W. Krüger in the Zumsteeg edition of the Händel “Suites.”

(g) The figure 2 before the pedal-mark—thus, “2 Ped.”—shows that the soft pedal is to be used.

(h) By Arabesque is meant a certain ornamentation. The term is generally used with regard to graceful curves. Schumann used it as the title of one of his compositions,—opus 18.

B. N.—As a rule, the great composers were all either pianists or organists. Wagner and Berlioz, however, played no instrument whatever, Gounod had a beautiful voice, and Spohr was a great violinist.

D. M.—Can music be used as a means for curing certain mental maladies? Yes, indeed. Music has been introduced in quite a few hospitals recently, probably on account of its soothing effect in connection with nervous troubles. That music has an effect upon persons subject to melancholia the following story will prove:

A certain Italian princess had lost her husband. A month passed. She had not been heard to proffer a single complaint nor had she been seen to shed a single tear. Her grief was inconsolable, she seemed almost on the point of death. Toward sunset the invalid was carried into her gardens one day. But Nature seemed to have had no charms for her. Raff, the greatest German singer of his times, happening to visit Naples, desired to see the gardens, celebrated on account of their beauty. Having heard of the presence of the artist, one of the lady companions of the princess begged Raff to sing in order to see whether music had any effect upon the invalid. Raff chose an air by Rolli. His pure and touching style; the simple, but expressive, melody; the words so well adapted to the surrounding circumstances, all this produced such an effect upon the princess that her sorrow gave way to tears, which flowed in abundance. She now wept copiously, and it was due to this circumstance that her life was saved.


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