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Repertory. VII.

In taking up “Studies  for Advanced Pupils” I am aware that my audience is somewhat smaller in numbers, not altogether because pupils fall out before they become advanced, but because it is the American custom to employ repertory as a substitute for what in Europe has been considered an indispensable preface to repertory. That this is a serious mistake is shown in two ways: one, by the different manner in which works of the better class are rendered; and the other, the unhappy tendency to resort to music of an inferior order. If teachers would insist upon their pupils’ singing accurately and repeatedly some of the advanced studies best suited to their voices, making repertory only incidental or a matter of secondary importance, advancement would be not only more rapid, but far more secure. In calling attention to these works, it is with the hope of, in a measure, arresting our American tendency to hurry. Voices will not hurry, pupils may insist and teachers may yield, but the voice is too strictly an art-vehicle to admit of haste, except at a sacrifice of its most precious attributes.

Statisticians have become quite fond of late of telling what a meager proportion of vocal aspirants attain distinction. The reason is at hand. The grossest superficiality in the development of the instrument is the rule rather than the exception. This is altogether unnecessary and strictly opposed to the state of the art. Conditions of health, inheritance, and opportunity are far more favorable than when the comparatively few voices that came under training yielded a far greater proportion of success. There can be but one reason for this, which is lack of attention to detail and undue haste in maturing the voice. How many students would be content to remain for two years on a book of six vocalizes and as often as the end is reached to turn again to the beginning. Many studies have been written with just that as an object, and at each repassing of a number the pupil finds new resources at his command. The wonder is that teachers do not see that a scale is a scale and groove the voice in one or a few so perfectly that all future scales are as nothing.

The underlying principle, and ultimate result, of correct vocal discipline is placing at the singer’s command technical resources so perfect that they are as free and ready a part of the equipment, with which to express ideas, as the voice itself. The attainment of a freedom thus natural can be gained only by numberless repetitions of studies that have precisely this object in view. Such studies come distinctly within the province of discipline. It has been said that knowledge is power, but the discipline necessary to the possession of that knowledge is the first expression of the power; hence the kernel of the truth is to be found in the reversal of the adage: “Power is knowledge”; power to hold one’s self against the polishing stone until each facet of the art-gem is resplendent; the deeper the student’s realization of this truth, the more glorious—even though the more remote—the final triumph.

The first group for advanced students must, of course, be the scale series. While there are many, but two are really necessary to mention. The first is unique in the persistence with which the author de pends upon, and carries out, a perfect system of accentuation, to secure brilliancy and correct intonation. It was compiled by Giraudet, and published about four years ago in Paris. He evidently believes in the survival of the fittest, for they demand a wide range and great sustaining powers. In the hands of a safe teacher these exercises must be of great value. His treatment of the rhythmical trill is also quite unusual, and worthy of careful study on the part of those who despair of conquering that fugitive embellishment.

The second writer is Damareaux, who has given to the world a most practical group of difficult scales and arpeggios, covering the intricacies of all the scale groups and broken-chord formations. Work on these lines is rarely persisted in to the end of ultimate perfection.

Take, for example, the arpeggio based upon the chord of the diminished seventh, and its inversions, it should present no serious difficulty to the student who is careful to fix it in the voice by many slow and careful repetitions, but it is too frequently set aside as an unnecessary effort. The same may be said of the chromatic scale, though it is more generally attempted. The value of advanced agility work can hardly be measured. It is the most severe and at the same time legitimate vocal tonic known to the art. The best in formed among teachers are slowly, but surely, returning to the ideas in vogue two hundred years ago: that lasting success is now the only thing well worth striving for by singers. There are so many excellent voices as the normal result of increased interest in vocal music that only rare attainments can command remunerative recognition. The “Hasten Method” is going out of vogue.

Of vocalizes for advanced students I must turn again to Sieber, that giant of productivity, and mention his opuses 151 to 156, as early advanced studies. These appear without his favorite syllables. Opuses 112 to 117, a grade higher with syllables. Opuses 129 to 134, a grade higher without syllables, and opuses 78 to 83 for the very far advanced. These numbers indicate that for each grade he has produced one for each of the six voices: soprano, mezzo, and contralto; tenor, baritone, and bass. Another fine collection is thirty-six vocalizes by Marco Bordogni. The elder Lamperti wrote three books under the name of “Studies in Bravura Singing”; they are not rare as to quality, but very useful. Angelo Savinelli wrote “Dodici Vocalizzi,” which are fine. Perhaps the most valuable, as well as the most demanding, are a group of “Twelve Lessons on Modern Singing,” by Rubini. This list could be greatly extended, but those mentioned will suffice.

I must repeat that the office of the well-constructed vocalize is to give the voice work to grow into. Learning a study is simply and only the necessary technical preparation to make it useful to the student. Un happily, the idea on the part of the student seems to be to learn it and then turn to another.

The next number will treat of “The Products of American Song-Writers” and their place in the teacher’s library.

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