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Questions and Answers

My answers to “E. S.” in the June number of The. Etude have called forth an anonymous protestation of some warmth on account of my classification of certain pianists. Discussion is usually a sign of healthy activity, and its results are apt to be beneficial all around. An important element in successful discussion, however, is careful attention to the subject in hand. Unfortunately this critical writer failed to remark that I was not selecting the most eminent among living pianists for certain specific qualities. My answers read as follows: “Among the pianists referred to, Teresa Carreño, Mark Hambourg, Harold Bauer, Busoni, D’Albert and Paderewski, etc.” My failure to place Godowsky among the leading technicians need cause no alarm because “E. S.” did not ask information about him. Here again my words were: “The greatest technician of this group, etc.” Nor did “E. S.” seek to know about the technical equipment of Moritz Rosenthal or Isidor Philipp, neither of whom need fear comparison in matters technical with any pianist. It is an unprofitable employment to attempt to establish definitely the relative qualities of living artists, and one that I should seek to avoid if possible. One artistic personality appeals more to one individually, and vice versa. Moreover, two disputing critics may take as the basis of discussion different performances or even periods of life. For example, I have only heard Godowsky in this country. I understand that his development in Europe has been something phenomenal. Of this I have no experience. Similarly I have only heard Teresa Carreño and D’Albert in this country. As to the former, I should never consider her as an artist of highest attainments from the broadest standpoint; an unusually brilliant  technician, decidedly a great virtuosa, but nothing that would justify a pre-eminent position on all-round qualifications. In the same way D’Albert, from what I have heard from him, had too many limitations from the standpoint of tone, accuracy of technic and even versatility in interpretation to take the highest position which my correspondent generously gives him. On the other hand, Busoni’s playing of Bach and Liszt (in America) seem to me to surpass any living pianist in the performance of works by these composers. Reisenauer, whom, to be sure, I have heard only with orchestra. I should unhesitatingly characterize as an uninteresting artist. It would seem as if there could be little variation of opinion about de Pachmann, but as “E. S.” did not ask for an estimate of his artistic worth, it would have been superfluous to descant upon his many excellences. I think there is little doubt that the visiting pianist is handicapped in many ways, most noticeably by an unfamiliar instrument. But why confine any discussion of living pianists to Germany alone? Surely in Paris, such artists as Raoul Pugno, Louis Dièmer, Edouard Risler, Leon Delafosse and many others, possess qualifications that would place them high in any international competition, while the Russian pianist, Josef Lhèvinne, who has recently paid us a flying visit, is not only a marvelous technician, but a versatile interpreter as well. As for that, here in America, Edward MacDowell, before his health was so cruelly shattered, interpreted his music in a way that put him into the front ranks of pianists. In an art that is so ultra-prolific in disciples as modern piano playing, it is virtually impossible to select the greatest in this or that respect. No artist is infallible, and the most gifted are often the most variable.

C. B. A.—In reply to your question as to the procedure in publishing a song: After your song has been accepted by a music publisher, the next step is to secure permission either from the publisher of the poem employed as text, or from the author himself, to use the words. This permission may be obtained for the United States or for international copyright. In some cases the publishers gladly allow the use of poems gratis, in other cases, they “hold-up” the composer for sums of varying size. The Copyright Department of the Library of Congress will send you a circular of information as to the steps necessary to secure copyright privileges.

T. D. H.—In playing octaves legato, while of course it is of importance to connect the outer fingers closely, it is equally necessary to train the thumb to pass from note to note without noticeable gap by means of special exercises. One of the best of these is to play the chromatic scale, one octave beginning with C, for the thumb alone. Employ different tempi, but be sure that the slow predominate. The ascent from a white to a black key can be acquired in a short time by sliding the thumb inward along the key so that the tip can reach out for the adjacent black key. After some proficiency is gained in this, try the chromatic scale slowly in octaves. Be sure the wrist is free.

G. H. W.—The present director of the Paris Conservatory is Gabriel Fauré, one of the most eminent composers of his generation in France. He has taught composition at the Conservatory for several years. While best known, perhaps, for his masterly and poetic songs, he has composed much graceful piano music, a violin and piano sonata in A, Op. 13, a piano quartet Op. 15, incidental music for Maeterlinck’s play, “Pelléas and Melisande’ (which Debussy later used as the text for his epoch- making opera), a cantata “The Birth of Venus,” and a Requiem. His latest composition is a quintet for piano and strings. Fauré was chosen to fill the place of Theodore Dubois, well-known as the composer of music for organ, orchestra, an oratorio, etc., who was virtually forced to resign owing to a scandal concerning the exclusion, on account of favoritism, of a talented young composer from participation in the competition for the Prix de Rome.

Inquirer.—The latest book on César Franck is by his pupil and close friend, the eminent composer and teacher’, Vincent D’Indy, published by Felix Alcan, Paris. D’Indy is peculiarly well fitted for his task, and he has been allowed access to much that would be denied the ordinary investigator. The book contains a sketch of Franck’s life and character; a detailed study of the growth of his musical individuality, analyses of his principal works; an account of his accomplishment as a teacher, and of his wide-spread influence on the younger generation of French musicians. There is also a complete list of his works, and a bibliography. The chief articles in English on Franck are those contained in Arthur Elson’s “Modern Composers of Europe” and in “From Grieg to Brahms” by Daniel Gregory Mason.

D. A. S.—To avert indistinctness in legato passages, practice them staccato, also with variety of accent; this will help to make the fingers more independent. The added elasticity will help greatly in securing rhythmical control.

T. B. A.—In answer to your request for biographical details concerning Dr. Carl Muck, the new leader of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the following is given. Born at Darmstadt, Germany, Oct. 2d, 1859. He was intended to follow the career of a government official and studied towards that end at the University of Heidelberg. After a year at Heidelberg he went to Leipsic, studying at the University and also at the Conservatory of Music. He obtained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and then devoted himself exclusively to music, making his debut as a pianist at the Gewandhaus in 1880. He soon after became operatic conductor at Zurich, Salzburg and Graz. In 1886 he became first conductor at Prague, where he remained six years. Then he was conductor of Angelo Neumann’s traveling company, a position once held by Anton Seidl. He appeared in Berlin as a “guest” conductor, and in 1892 was appointed Capellmeister of the Royal Opera, Berlin, where he now is. He comes to Boston, only through leave of absence from the Emperor himself. Dr. Muck is regarded as an exceedingly able conductor; he has led the Vienna Philharmonic Society, and various German orchestras as a guest.

Subscriber.—The writer of this note prefers Klindworth’s edition of Chopin to all others, although he has made some alterations of generally accepted texts, and indicated many additions. These, however, are usually very plausible, and invariably in good taste, while the fingering is masterly. The Breitkopf and Härtel edition prints text and fingering as Chopin left it without additions or “editing” of any kind. Some of Godowsky’s Chopin studies are published by G. Schirmer, New York, the most ambitious of them, and the most interesting technically, a series of about 50 are published in Berlin.

A. B. W.—“The Mastersingers of Nuremberg” was intended by Wagner to be a satire on the reception of his own music, by the conservative musicians of his time. Walter, with his new and incomprehensible melody, was to represent Wagner’s music, the narrow, hide-bound music of the pedantic Mastersingers stood for his illiberal contemporaries. Curiously enough, Bach had the same idea a century before in his cantata “The Contest between Phoebus and Pan,” in which he symbolized the opposition between the composers who used the old church modes, and his own device of equal temperament bringing in the idea of tonality. Richard Strauss has since done the same thing in that section of his gigantic tone-poem “A Hero’s Life” entitled “The Hero’s Opponents” and again in the so-called “Battle Scene” in the same poem. In the former passage it is even suggested that the notes played by the tubas form the initials of a critic notably hostile to Strauss. Max Reger has attempted a similar effect in a sonata for violin and piano.

W. L. S.—Some of Schumann’s earlier piano work differed considerably in their first and second editions, for example the Impromptus, Op. 5, and the Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13. In the latter works the changes are greatly for the better. A remarkable example of the improvement that may be effected by revision is the second edition of the Marionettes, Op. 38, by Edward MacDowell. On comparing them with the original edition it will be seen that in the second edition the piano style is simpler but more expressive, more idiomatic but less difficult, and the changes in the pieces themselves are for greater artistic ends. The added pieces, Prologue and Epilogue, give greater unity to the entire set. Chopin was exceedingly fastidious about slight changes in his pieces even after they were in the publisher’s hands—he fairly tortured himself with anxiety over minute alterations until the pieces were past recall.

G. W. L.—It is better to consider your teaching from two separate standpoints, one of technic including tone, the other interpretation in the broad sense including effects of performance, pedaling, dynamic indications. By means of this concentration better results will be obtained. If you can persuade the pupil in question to abandon the idea of studying any pieces for a couple of months, and devote the time entirely to technical problems. I am sure she will be rewarded in the end. Such a resolution takes courage and patience, straight character, but until the pupil’s technical acquirements reach a certain standard, time will be lost in attempting to learn such works as the “Waldstein” sonata, the “Chromatic Fantasie and Fugue,” by Bach, or Liszt’s “Waldesrauschen. I believe it was Gladstone who said that no investment paid so large a return as time spent in what we now call physical culture. Similarly time spent in attacking the technical problems of piano playing without thinking of repertory will only insure a faster and more certain progress later. It is exceedingly important not to lose sight of tone-production even in the dryest exercises.

S. A. B.—Two volumes of the new edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music are ready, going through the letter L. A third will shortly be published. While even now there are many errors, and omissions, some ridiculous apportioning of space, etc., the book is nevertheless indispensable. The expense of the book, however, places it beyond the reach of many. For a general history covering much the same period, of the development of music Baltzell’s History of Music is one of the most practical and helpful books ever published. It is accurate and prepared with care. The publisher of The Etude can supply both works.

S. L. M.—The height to which the fingers should be lifted depends first of all upon the hand. In some hands the joints at the knuckles are much more flexible than others, thus permitting a longer stroke. The hand is easily strained by attempting to lift the finders higher than is natural. Other considerations are: first, the velocity of the passage played. When playing slowly the fingers should be lifted high; in velocity passages this is impossible. It is almost self-evident that in legato the fingers cling more closely to the keys, while in staccato, the very nature of the effect demands a larger attack. With these principles in view, and avoiding any unnatural effort the pupil will usually find the best means of producing the effect he desires to obtain.

A. B. H.—The following studies for the left hand will be found useful: “The School for the Left Hand,” by Czerny; “Exercises and Studies for the Left Hand,” by Isidor Philipp; Godowsky’s “Studies after Chopin,” and “Fifteen Etudes for the Cultivation of the Left Hand,” by E. R. Kroeger. These can be secured from the publisher of The Etude.

 

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