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Organists and Nervousness.

How much delicious music is lost to the world through nervousness, how much of a musician’s intimate feelings remain unexpressed, their existence quite unsuspected by that grim ogre, the public! A writer, a composer or a painter can work in the seclusion of his chamber with the knowledge that all his most subtle qualities will appear in his work; not so an executive musician, except he be one of the happy ones whose faculties are stimulated to the highest by the presence of an audience. Concert organists are particularly liable to nervousness owing to the wide difference in the nature of different organs. Follow a concert organist, for instance, into the artist’s room; he waits his turn nervously, his hands are cold and clammy, he passes on to the platform and is dimly conscious that he is but a diluted edition of his usual self (the masculine pronoun must be taken to include the feminine).

During the performance he seems to be listening to himself as in a dream, and to the dream-self easy passages seem difficult, and difficult ones unplayable. As to the sentiment of the music, there is not much to be expected from one who is relieved if he has played the mere notes correctly, and is possessed of one feeling alone—a burning desire to escape from the platform. This is not an overdrawn picture; what wonder if many give up their career in despair, leave off practicing and retire into private life!

One of Madame Schumann’s best pupils has done this. Advice being cheap is plentifully offered to the nervous one. “Take a glass of wine before going on.” This may help some, but more frequently it makes bad worse. “Forget the audience.” “Half the audience does not understand music, and since no one individually would make you nervous, why should they collectively do so?” Connu! The performer has told himself the same story many a time. No, it is like sea-sickness, and there is no cure for it. Even great artists who have been free from it in their youth find it gain upon them in later years. Joachim showed signs of extreme nervousness at the last Birmingham Festivals. Sims Reeves has been a great sufferer that way, but such artists are exceptional, having a reserve of force denied to ordinary men, and of course greater experience.

Besides which no real artist is entirely free from nervousness; there is, indeed, a suspicion of impudence about those who are, and we may say that among the flowers of the musical profession there are more dahlias than violets. The former, unfragrant, earthly, uplifts its head on the stem insolently conscious of its effective appearance, while the violet, delicate of hue and subtle of aroma, is trampled under foot by its implacable enemy, Nervousness. —W. W. Cobbett in Musical News.

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