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The Unique Operation Of The Century.

The Philadelphia Press is responsible for a graphic account of an experiment which, to use its own language, is the unique operation of the century. It appears that a young man from Quakertown, Pa., engaged in the new and interesting industry of making corn-cob fiddles at a period of his existence when most infants have an insatiable craving for soothing syrups; and that his infantile yearning to make and play upon fiddles of every conceivable variety, gradually, but surely, developed into a passion for the art of violin-playing which will never be satisfied until he has mastered the technics of his art and is recognized as a player of prodigious abilities. Unhappily, however, Nature obstinately refused to change her original plans regarding the physical development of this prodigy from Quakertown. Like other sturdy babies with a ceaseless and unappeasable appetite for milk, this corn-cob-fiddle-making youngster insisted upon growing larger and chubbier every day; so that, when he found himself approaching man’s estate, he discovered himself in possession of a huge physique which, in the flowery and poetic language of the Philadelphia Press, makes him look like the kind of a man usually found in an armor-plate works or on a ’varsity team.

But this is not the saddest part of this sad and distressing tale. The worst is yet to be written. With the acquisition of about six feet of manliness came the startling discovery that the fingers of this unfortunate young man had grown so large as to make it impossible for him to bring them sufficiently close together when playing half tones.

Clearly there was but one thing to be done. Since some men are born to be hung, others to be violinists, it was decided by the aspiring young player himself that a surgeon must be found who would be willing to put his knowledge and his conscience in his pocket and remove sufficient flesh from the fingers to enable the sufferer to play half tones as irreproachably as the leanest and blessedest of men. Considerable difficulty was experienced, it is true, in finding such a surgeon, but, in the end, a sympathetic carver of human flesh was prevailed upon to correct Nature’s blunder. Briefly, the young violinist from Quakertown is today the proud possessor of four tapering fingers “that might inspire a spirit of envy in the heart of the daintiest summer girl.”

This “unique operation of the century” calls for serious comment in these columns. Not because it is, in itself, deserving of grave consideration by all players whose hands and fingers are uncommonly large, but because it is desirable to prevent, if possible, equally foolish experiments by students who are apt to imagine that the surgeon’s knife is the proper remedy for physical disadvantages in violin-playing.

Long before the young player from Quakertown attempted to fashion fiddles from the unpretentious corncob (an art which, by the way, has suffered inconceivable neglect at the hands of all makers of fiddles),—long before he was permitted to trifle with the intestinal remains of an Italian sheep, players of all sizes and dimensions had sought an intimate acquaintance with the finger-board; yet history has never recorded a single instance paralleling the singular misfortune of this Pennsylvania player. Wieniawski—may his great artist-soul rest in peace—was not compelled to resort to heroic or unusual measures when, in the latter years of his life, his body grew exceedingly corpulent and his fingers correspondingly large. If, in those days, his fingers became unmanageable in the least degree, he certainly experienced no difficulty in keeping from his critics all knowledge of such a condition. The perfection of his intonation remained exquisite to the very last.

Spohr was a man of huge frame, with fingers which “the daintiest summer girl” of any clime would frown upon; yet his love of chromatic scales is the surest possible indication that half-tone progressions represented for him no unusual physical difficulties. And among living violinists we need only point to August Wilhelmj, who, though an uncommonly large man, with hands and fingers in just proportion to his physique, has earned the distinction of being one of the greatest technicians of our day.

Impeccable intonation is not so greatly dependent upon slender and tapering fingers as the misguided young man from Quakertown seems to imagine. It may be news to him, but it is nevertheless a fact, that no operation on the fingers, however delicate or successful, can affect either the organ of hearing or the organ of thought. It is quite possible that, in his case, extremely awkward fingers increased the difficulties of violin-technic; but the probable source of his inabilities lies where no surgeon’s knife can either correct or penetrate.

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