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Questions & Answers

Q. A.—It is not wrong for a boy to aspire to being able to gain a place in grand opera, but he is not justified in doing so unless he have exceptional vocal qualifications, good physique, and a persevering character. Then he must put himself under a competent teacher and work. How long will be required it is impossible to state. Write to the editor of the Vocal Department of The Etude and tell him what work you have already done. But do not neglect piano-playing. Every vocal artist should be able to play a good accompaniment.

V. C.—There is no school where accompanying is made a special branch of instruction to fit one for the position of a professional accompanist. The latter is not a remunerative occupation, save in a few special instances. You had better stick to your piano-teaching and make accompanying an outside feature of your work. To do that kind of playing effectively you should be an accurate and rapid sight-reader, have a good knowledge of harmony, and tolerably adept at transpositions; you should also know something of the peculiarities of voices and stringed instruments.

The Stopped Diapason is a stop of eight-feet quality, light in tone; the Principal (Treble) and Principal (Bass) are four-feet stops, and should be used in conjunction with an eight-feet stop, unless its pitch (an octave higher than an eight-feet stop) be wanted; the Fifteenth is a two-feet stop and is two octaves higher in pitch than the Diapason; the Flute is usually an eight-feet stop, though some organs have a four-feet stop of that quality. An organ with the stops mentioned would not be complete without such stops as an Open Diapason or Melodia.

A. M. P.—The pitch of pianos varies somewhat, but the leading makers build the instruments to suit the tension required by the so-called French, or International, Pitch, which gives 435 vibrations to A, second space, treble clef. This pitch has 517 vibrations to C, next above the A mentioned, and this is the proper pitch for vocal music. This pitch is also suitable for string instruments. Most flutes, clarinets, cornets, and other wind-instruments are set to a higher pitch, but it is not advisable to tune a piano up to so high a pitch. Some cheap pianos are tuned up to a high pitch in order to make them sound brilliant, but the instruments cannot stand the high tension, and will deteriorate later.

A. O.—Mr. Clarence Eddy, the distinguished organist, was born at Greenfield, Mass., June 23, 1851. He studied with Dudley Buck, and in 1871 went to Berlin to study under August Haupt and Loeschhorn in piano. He made a successful concert-tour in Europe, and in 1874 settled in Chicago as organist of the First Congregational Church. He makes frequent tours in the United States and Europe, but now resides in Paris.

M. G.—I. Yes, it is advisable to have beginners memorize, unless they have formed the habit of playing what is called “by ear,”—i.e., incorrectly,—or they have the failing of “making up the accompaniment.” Correct memorizing, preceded by correct mentalizing, cannot be started too soon.

II. The fingering you use is correct, but it is better not to think of playing the scale in thirds or in sixths. Rather begin both hands, say, on C, only not at the same time, but two tones apart, and think of the intervals of thirds or sixths as results of an execution in canonic form. And always divide the scale into groups of three or four notes, of which the first must have a good, strong accent. Technical practice without the use of accentuations in various forms is almost purposeless.—Constantin von Sternberg.

F. L.—Liszt’s “E-flat Concerto.” The quasi adagio is hardly ever taken faster than from dotted quarter note=60 to dotted quarter note=66. The allegretto vivace (the scherzo part of the work) at about eighth note=152. The following allegro animato must in its tempo correspond to its previous appearance in the first movement. The allegro marziale animato opens at about quarter note=116, but increases its speed a little at letter L and keeps on increasing to the very end of the concerto, so that the più mosso and alla breve (which is hardly more than a notice to the conductor of the orchestra), as well as fifteen measures later the più presto and finally the presto are brought about quite naturally and without any perceptible change of tempo in the particular measures over which they are annotated. Concerning the  chromatic run on page 12, measure 15 to 16, it may be said that ad libitum rendition is not admissible for any runs or figures during which the orchestra is not silent. In this case the orchestra reiterates the chief motive (in triplets) of the scherzo. The pianist and the conductor may arrange for a trifling retard or hurry, as the case may be, but the responsibility rests, of course, with the pianist. Joseffy, in playing this run, always arrives just on time. It is the best and safest, but also the most difficult way. In general, it may be said that the recurrence of a theme demands an exact reproduction, not only of all other characteristics, but also of its tempo, unless the piece has risen in the meantime to a great emotional height, in which case a judicious allowance may be made, because the recurring theme is now seen—so to speak—in a perspective view. Each theme, however, should be endowed with such strikingly characteristic features as to assist the hearer in recognizing it in its recurrences, imitations, allusions, etc. And this rule is not confined to this piece, but extends over all musical works.—Constantin von Sternberg.

Oakland, Cal.—The general rule for pressure-touch is: to let the arm combine with the fingers for the production of force, but not participate in their motion. Notes marked with a short, straight line, or the same character with a dot under it very frequently require pressure-touch, though these signs do not necessarily always refer to touch; they are sometimes used to distinguish a scattered melody to the eye of the player. Repeated chords, marked with slurs and dots, as in the first part of Grieg’s “To the Spring” are played lightly. The composers often mark them with a slur to prevent an outright staccato execution and add the dots in order to avoid that the slur may be mistaken for a tie. Musical signs, especially for the piano, are not rigid in their meaning, but must often be interpreted by their context, just like many words in language and literature.—Constantin von Sternberg.


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