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The Leschetizky Method.

THE TEACHERS' ROUND TABLE
 
CONDUCTED BY N.J. COREY
 
Will you kindly make it clear to some of the readers of The Etude what the Leschetizky method is, and how it differs from others? I am using the Mason "Touch and Technic," and obtaining excellent results with it. Other teachers, however, who claim to teach the Leschetizky method, seem to think it the only one, and therefore try to discredit other methods in the eyes of the public. I will be very grateful for anything you may write on the subject.
 
A Conscientious Teacher.
 
 
During the past summer Leschetizky celebrated his seventieth birthday, and the attention of the musical world was for a few days centered upon him. That he has been a great and successful teacher no one denies. That he has originated a system of musical instruction that excels all others is denied by many. But to be a great teacher does not necessarily mean that such an one must originate his method. His greatness may consist in his successful application of the principles that lie at the foundation of good piano playing, and which are well understood by the profession at large.
 
If you will study "Leschetizkyism" carefully for a time, you will discover that it is not a method but Leschetizky himself. He is the "system.' His famous method resolves itself into his own personality. It is true that he has a method, but whether that method, or system, is peculiar to himself is open to discussion. I have been engaged in teaching the piano for many years. Hearing so much about the Leschetizky method, I decided several years ago to investigate it, so far as I was able, and find out if it had anything new for me. I read all the articles I could find, written by his disciples, and purchased such books as were on the market. I studied them point by point, with the result that I found nothing that was not well known to the best teachers everywhere. I often found myself exclaiming, after reading some principle that the Leschetizky disciple was presenting with great gravity as something entirely peculiar and original to the "master:" "Why, I have known that all my life as one of the common possessions of all good teachers." Indeed, in many ways I did not find him so progressive as many other of our modern teachers, but he seemed to have crystallized years ago. If he has new ideas in technic, fundamental or otherwise, they are not made public, either through the books he has endorsed or the word of mouth of his pupils. The main principles of fundamental technic are pretty well known to good teachers everywhere. I mean teachers of experience. Of course, younger teachers have to find these things out. "It is a mistake," as I heard a prominent musician remark the other day, "for teachers to imagine they must go somewhere else to find out the principles of technic. These things are generally right at hand, in the larger cities at least. It is the manner in which they do their work that counts."
 
Herein lies the secret of Leschetizky's success as a teacher. His ability was manifest from the very start of his career. Amply provided with a thorough education, along academic, as well as musical lines, a resolute, perseverant nature and a masterful, insistent will, coupled with an enthusiasm that inspired loyalty to his tasks, he held his pupils to the work he prescribed for them with a tenacity of purpose that amounted to a command. Pupils who were willing to surrender themselves to this imperious influence invariably prospered in their work. A teacher who can thus command both himself and his pupils, and in such a manner as to retain their loyalty, will always be able to produce results that count.
 
It is curious, however, how often one man's fame hinges largely on that of another. So far as a teacher is concerned, fame is the widespread knowledge of his native capacity. Although proving himself a great teacher, yet Leschitizky did not begin to be so universally sought after, the world over until Paderewski began to cause the musical world to ring with his own achievements. Where had he studied? With Leschitizky, came the answer. Then there arose a murmur among aspiring piano players, from Russia to California. "If he could make so brilliant a virtuoso of Pederewski (sic), why not of me, too?" The most fatuous, and yet most universal question that ever emanated from people of second- rate talent. Leschetizky could not make a second Paderewski out of any of them unless one of them possessed the native ability and unbounded perseverance of that great artist. This incident may be observed in any average town. Miss A., with mediocre talent and less application, plods along at her practice, obeying in a half-hearted way the instructions of Miss X, who is in reality a most excellent teacher, and, because of her irresolution, never comes to anything. This is no hypothetical instance, but the fatal malady of nine-tenths of those who become music students. Miss B., an alert, resolute, perseverant nature, with considerable talent, faithfully follows the directions of her teacher, Miss K., who is no better, as a teacher, than Miss X, and after a time makes a brilliant success in her local community as a player. Immediately Miss A. hastens to study with Miss K, hoping soon to equal Miss B. as a player. But, alas, the same story many times told is the result of the change, and in the end Miss A. accuses her teacher of not having taken the same pains that she did with Miss B. Perhaps not, but what did Miss A. do to make herself worthy of the same pains? Sometimes teachers take more pains with these improvident workers, but with little result.
 
Every community possesses many of these "floaters." "Floaters," I call them, because, like the drowned who are gathered up in the waters, they are practically dead, at least so far as musical ability is concerned. They are specially numerous among singers, who drift about from teacher to teacher, as fast as each one respectively happens to produce a brilliant pupil. Leschetizky has never produced another Paderewski, because he has never had another Paderewski as a pupil. Nevertheless, he has had many great players in his class, and his results as a teacher have been most remarkable.
 
If teachers at home could exercise the same authority over their students that Leschetizky does; could insist upon long-continued thoroughness carried to the same minutiae of detail, which they, indeed, would like to insist upon, there would not be so much need of pupils going to Europe to learn to play. But students are too ignorant to accept such authority, unless it is accompanied by some glamour that causes respect. If Mr. D., in Seattle or Boston, goes to a teacher who tells him to practice a given exercise for three months, he takes the advice as an affront to his intelligence, and embarks upon the next steamer for Europe. After he has traveled thousands of miles, and after much difficulty is ushered with awe into the august presence of the great master, Leschetizky, who tells him to practice the self-same exercise for six months, he settles down to work with great willingness, well satisfied that this instruction is a proof of the great intelligence of his newly acquired teacher. Herein, again, is a point in which the human race needs reconstruction. Such experiences are common in many departments of human activity. Possibly they may be a necessary part of the education of the human brain. At any rate, they are a great discouragement to conscientious workers along all lines, those who realize their own power, the value of their own knowledge, and the help it might be to others if they only had intelligence enough to put their trust in it. Perhaps, if youthful or inexperienced minds did have wisdom enough to accept the teaching of those near at hand, it would mean that they had attained a point where they needed little more instruction. To understand a thing often implies that we have reached the same level. It is because of the prevalent lack of knowledge that we have pupils.
 
The secret of Leschetizky's extraordinary prestige, and consequent vogue, is the position of authority which has come to him from his long career of successful teaching. He has rightly earned this largely through that forcefulness of character that has enabled him to abide by his convictions, and insist on students doing the same, regardless of consequences, at least so far as he himself was concerned. Success in life consists largely in the attainment of such a position, for it is human nature to respect authority. Without it a teacher has little influence over his pupils. We are not likely to accept precepts laid down for our guidance, unless we have confidence in the person who gives them to us. When we have respect for the authority of our teacher, we have taken the initial step in our progress. One of the prime causes of Leschetizky's enormous success lies in his preëminent ability to command the respect of the musical world, and with it that of his pupils; his ability to arouse their enthusiasm and command their loyalty, and at the same time autocratically exact their obedience to his instructions. It is not a different and original treatment of hand-training that he has invented, but a rigidly exacting observance of intelligent principles.
 
A peculiarity in his system of instruction, perhaps, is his use of preparatory trainers, or "vorbereiters," as they are called. Leschetizky does not receive pupils unless they already reached an advanced stage of development along lines satisfactory to him. Accordingly, the majority of those who apply to him are turned over to one of his "vorbereiters," with whom they take a more or less prolonged course of study. Many reputedly "brilliant" players have gone from America to Europe for a season of study with Leschetizky, only to find that they did not play well enough to satisfy his critical judgment, and hence were advised to study with a "vorbereiter" until they were able to meet the necessary requirements. In many cases they have not been able to enter his classes during the season, and, with money all gone, have been obliged to return home terribly disappointed. This is not only a disappointment, but an injustice. These pupils, had they been informed that they would not be able to become sufficiently proficient in the allotted time, could have gone to one of the many other famous teachers, and returned with the acclaim of study with a renowned teacher. Instead of this, they have only spent their time with a teacher whom no one has ever heard of, and who may never have more than a local reputation. One can scarcely blame a teacher who is so enormously in demand as Leschetizky for choosing among those who apply to him for lessons. The rejected ones, however, should not be turned over to vorbereiters unless there is a more than reasonable certainty of their being permitted to study with the master himself.
 
If you desire to acquaint yourself with the principles of piano playing, as approved and taught by the great Vienna master, I would recommend that you procure a copy of the "Leschetizky Method," by Marie Prentner, a book that should be in every piano teacher's library. It was prepared by one of Leschetizky's vorbereiters, and has his endorsement. It may be accepted, therefore, as authoritative. The fundamental principles of piano playing are clearly explained; and there are many pictures of the hand in various playing positions, and exercises illustrative of various touches. Meanwhile, if you are successful with the Mason "Touch and Technic," you have no reason for distrust of your choice, for it is one of the finest and most original systems of piano teaching ever conceived. It is one of the most comprehensive systems now before the public, and exacts an intelligent understanding in whoever uses it, whether teacher or pupil. Any one who uses it "successfully" has nothing to fear from any other teacher or method.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
After learning to reason, you will learn to sing, for you will want to. There is so much reason for singing in this sweet world, when one thinks rightly of it. None for grumbling, provided you have entered in at the strait gate. You will sing all along the road then, in a little while, in a manner pleasing for people to hear.
 
The first great principle we have to hold is that the end of art is not to amuse; and that all art which proposes amusement as its end, or which is sought after for that end, must be of an inferior, and is probably of a harmful, class.
 
The end of art is as serious as other things—of the blue sky, and the green grass, and the clouds and the dew. They are either useless or they are of much deeper function than giving amusement. Every well-trained youth and girl ought to be taught the elements of drawing, as of music, early and accurately.—Ruskin.
 
 

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