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When Only Men Played

“Two hundred years ago no one thought of a girl playing the piano. Only men played.”

Of course, strictly speaking, two hundred years ago neither girls nor men played the piano as we to day understand it, for the instrument had not yet completed its evolution from the virginal and clavichord to the creation of Cristofori. Nor had the piano arrived at anything like its present-day dignity and splendor one hundred years ago. It is within a month that America’s oldest piano industry celebrated its seventy-fifth  anniversary, and back of its beginning there had been little pianoforte progress even in the old world.

So that it is not strange that the girls of two centuries back did not play the piano. It was all that the men could do, and not very well, either. But if the men began it, the facility with which the girls have of late years fallen into the habit more than makes up for their early-day lack of enthusiasm. Besides, two hundred years ago the ladies did not take part in any of life’s activities as they do to-day. Even the stage had not long been graced by the presence of the ladies in prominent dramatic parts, and the men monopolized every opportunity of promotion and public popularity.

But music largely belongs to the girls, and they were not long in taking possession of the piano when it reached the point of practicability, and permitted of sentiment, delicacy, and feeling rather than an exposition of strength and muscular agility. Even to-day we have with us some of the prejudice which surrounded the ladies in public life in the long ago.

To return again to the item about the piano players of two hundred years ago, we will wager that there was not so much good music then—we mean in proportion to population or number of players—as there is now. We mean by this that when all piano players were men there was a very poor average of piano music. For, as a rule, the girls play the best. The men who dazzle the world are phenomenal. They have generally the feminine sentiment and fineness of feeling, backed and made vigorous by the masculine strength and will. But among the average piano players the girls are the best interpreters of the popular music.—“Presto.”


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You are reading When Only Men Played from the July, 1898 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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