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Graduate Recitals: The What and The How.


The idea of having music-graduates define their attainments by giving a demonstrative recital, sufficiently varied to show that they have a good, all-around musical experience, a certain ease in playing, and the mental poise adequate to playing an entire program without notes is one of my own, if I am not mistaken. Fifty years ago graduation was a matter of a certain amount of theory and practical demonstration in harmony and at least one well-learned show-piece; at Leipzig for many years Beethoven’s sonata in A-flat, Op. 26; in many conservatories, as to-day, a concerto, with accompaniment of orchestra if the school happens to control such an appendage, or of second piano. It is not yet twenty-five years, or but little more since I began publicly advocating preparing these complete programs, pointing out the very evident fact that those who could not memorize their music and play it in that way without anxiety, and with more confidence and expression than when they had notes before them, showed, in that fact, that they lacked a certain very important part of the outfit of a good player. At that time I was ignorant of any system of training to enable these deficient ones to overcome their difficulty and learn to master their music in the same sense as the more gifted. My idea was that any smart girl, capable of lessons in school, could also learn her music if she applied herself; and when I had one who could not, I accepted it as the dropping out of the unfit.

There are still many large schools of music in this country where the practice of producing concertos at the annual concert prevails, and many of them have a system of competition whereby the best player in a given class is selected for the final performance. I know a highly-esteemed school where the three highest classes all devote themselves to this work. The class working for teacher’s certificate often numbers over one hundred. A concerto is assigned early in the year and all the class studies it; half drop out by the end of March, their technic showing that they will not stand a chance of the honor; the other half continues, and at last four or five are sifted out as the best, and the one best of these again by another public trial. At last the one victor plays in the concert. The same thing happens in the graduating class, which will generally number sixty or more; and in the post-graduate work, where about fifteen or twenty more will be competing. The net result of this kind of work, upon the favorable side, is that all these pupils have learned one piece as well as they are capable of learning it; and a few have learned a piece perfectly for three years in succession. They therefore know something about study which those who merely play their pieces by note and drop them never find out. The other side of the account is not so favorable. The great majority of these pupils devote about three-fourths of each year’s work to the concerto of that year. Consequently they have not developed in an all-around manner, have no repertory to speak of, and are incapable of putting up an entire program of good selections

There is another point to be taken into account: It is that, to play the piano in a good and all-around manner, one has to base the art upon musical experience and feeling; and these mean that the player must have come in contact with a lot of first-class music by the great composers. And this means that very early in their serious studies they must have begun their Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt, not to mention Brahms and the new men of advanced technic.

It is possible for a young pupil to play a short recital in such a manner as will show every expert teacher of piano who hears her that she has the root of the matter in her, and that her future depends entirely upon her own interest. It is possible for an industrious pupil to play a very good program credit

ably, yet in such a way as shows to the expert teacher that it has been learned parrot-like, and does not indicate any original work on her own part, or any likelihood of her choosing to go on later with additional work—or even of being able to play these very pieces a few months later. As a matter of fact, therefore, they are often lost within a few weeks after the great occasion.

When I put up sample programs of graduate recitals, therefore, I do not only mean that a list of pieces of this sort should be worked at until learned; but also that in order to play the Bach piece on the program enough Bach should be studied and in the right way to make the pupil adequate to learn other Bach pieces by her own study and play them just as well; so also of the Schumann, the Chopin, the Liszt. In these sample programs I make everything turn on these four or five masters, because they stand for typical styles of music. Bach, for the intelligent and purely musical, with a wonderful understratum of feeling; Schumann, for the musical, the bounding and bubbling over, and the irrepressible; Chopin, for elegance, pianistic qualities, and a certain aristocratic repose; Liszt, for the external elements in the playing, the sensational, and the keyboard as such. Brahms, again, is as serious as Beethoven—even more serious. And so on.

What we are looking for in our graduate is not simply the ability to go on through the program without apparent anxiety or breaking down; but her actually seizing the mood of each phase of the composition as it comes along and so presenting it that the hearers go with her. It is not primarily a question of difficulty. A player can have repose in the first grade or second as truly as in the tenth. It is a question of wise and musical instruction and training. Hence the variety of grades in the programs following, the first of which do not exceed the keyboard difficulty of the sixth grade.



Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C-minor. (No. 2, Clavier.)
Beethoven: Sonata in A-flat, Op. 26.
Chopin: Nocturne in E-flat, Op. 2. (sic)
    Impromptu in A-flat, Op. 29.
    Waltz in E-flat, Op. 18.
Schubert-Liszt: “My Sweet Repose.”
    “Hark, Hark, the Lark!”
Liszt: Love-Dream, No. 3.


Bach: Italian Concerto (first movement).
    Minuet in D-major.
    Bourrée in G-major.
Schumann: Novellette in B-minor, Op. 99.
    Romance in F-sharp.
    Novellette in E-major.
Rubinstein: Barcarolle in G-major.
Valse Caprice in E-flat (with some rubbish cut out).
Henselt: If I Were a Bird.
Chopin: Nocturne in G-minor, Op. 37, No. 1.
    Valse in A-flat, Op. 42.
    Scherzo in B-flat Minor.

Still another list, also practicable without bravura surpassing the sixth grade:


Bach: Prelude and Fugue in G-major (Clavier, No. 18).
Beethoven: Sonata in E-minor, Op. 90.
Schubert: Fair Rosamonde Variations.
    Impromptu, Op. 142.
Chopin: Valse in C-sharp Minor.
    Nocturne in B-major.
    Fantasia Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, Op. 66.
Liszt: “Spinning Song” from Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman.”

We happen to have, however, one graduate who has remarkable facility upon the keyboard, but who has never been able to get interested in Bach or Beethoven. Modern music she finds interesting, and her technic is equal to the tenth grade without trouble.


Brahms: Variations upon a Theme by Handel. Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 12, 13 (?), 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25.
    Rhapsody in G-minor, Op. 79, No. 2.
Schumann: Kreisleriana, Nos. 1, 2, and 5.
Chopin: Studies, Op. 10, Nos. 8, 12, 5.
    Scherzo in B-flat Minor, Op. 31.
    Ballade in A-flat.
Liszt: By the Spring.
    Concert-Study in F-minor.

It must be confessed that there are very few schools where a program as serious as the foregoing could be successfully produced. It would require the student to have taken a full course in piano and have made serious studies in harmony and form.


Same difficulty, lighter:

Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp Major (Clavier, No. 3).
Beethoven: Sonata in C-sharp Minor. (“Moonlight.”)
Chopin: Black-Key Study.
    Nocturne in B-major.
    Ballade in G-minor.
Liszt-Schubert: “To be Sung on the Waters.”
    Concert-Study in D-flat.

Suppose our school has two girls of real eminence who have studied seriously and at last have, as St. Paul says, “attained.” What shall we put together to illustrate this fact?


Bach: Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue.
Schumann: Etudes Symphoniques.
Chopin: Black-Key Study.
Godowsky: Badinage.
Chopin: Study in A-minor, Op. 10, No. 2.
Godowsky: Feu Follet (Based on the preceding).
Glazounov-Blumenfeld: Concert Waltz.

This program requires a great deal of beautiful playing, and the player would need to have acquired the preliminary experience by having learned how to study and by learning thoroughly at least a dozen pieces by each of the same authors—many of them about as difficult as these.


Pleasing, not extremely difficult:

Bach: Passepied in E-minor.
    Minuet in D-major.
    Bourrée in G-major (Album).
Beethoven: Sonata in D-minor, Op. 31, No. 2.
Raff: La Fileuse.
Henselt: If I Were a Bird.
Moszkowsky: Waltz in A-flat.
Chopin: Nocturne in G-major, Op. 37, No. 2.
    Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, Op. 66.
Strauss-Schütt: Sounds from the Vienna Woods.

So far I have not placed American compositions upon the program, because it was assumed that we wished to establish the competence of the graduate in the standard repertory.


William Mason: Monody.
    Silver Spring.
George W. Chadwick: Caprices, 1 and 2.
    Irish Melody.
Macdowell: Prelude from Suite.
    Selections from Op. 51, Woodland Sketches.
    Witches’ Dance.


Brahms: Rhapsody in B-minor.
    Impromptu in E-minor.
    Rhapsody in G-minor.
Macdowell: Woodland Sketches.
    Witches’ Dance.
Godowsky: Minuet.
    Melodie Meditative.
Weber-Tausig: Invitation to the Dance.
Liszt: Polonaise in E-major.


Very strong and modern:

Brahms: Variations on a Handel Theme.
    Impromptu in E-minor.
    Scherzo in E-flat Minor.
Vogrich: Fairy Tales.
    Staccato Caprice.
Godowsky: Courante in E-minor.
    Melodie Meditative.
Glazounov-Blumenfeld: Concert Waltz.

I will also subjoin a few programs of lower grade, the keyboard difficulty not passing beyond the fifth grade, although I see no reason why a student should graduate until able to give a fair interpretation of a Beethoven sonata of medium difficulty, such as that in A-flat, Op. 26, or the Pastorale, Op. 28.


Bach: Invention in C-major, No. 1.
    Invention in F-major, No. 8.
    Sarabande in D-minor.
Beethoven: Sonata in G-major, Op. 14, No. 2.
Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words, Nos. 3, 4, 6, and 8.
Raff: Melody.
    La Fileuse.
Macdowell: Woodland Sketches, 3 Selections.
    Witches’ Dance.


Handel: Air and Variations, “Harmonious Blacksmith.”
Mozart: Sonata in F-major, No. 6, Peters Ed.
Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words, Nos. 1, 3, 8.
Chopin: Polonaise in C-sharp Minor.
    Valse in D-flat.
    Valse in C-sharp Minor.
    Military Polonaise.
Schumann: Nachstücke in F.
    First Novellette.
    Polonaise in D-major (Papillons).
Schubert-Liszt: “Hark, Hark, the Lark!”

The foregoing programs are merely examples of scores that might be made. Some of them are of concert difficulty, and can be done properly only by those who have made distinguished attainments, have a clear talent for the piano, and are musical. All the more difficult pieces ought to have been studied seriously more than a year previous to the time of playing them in recital. Then after being used a little they should lie forgotten, and then be taken up and studied anew and for finish. When I say forgotten I do not mean that the student ought to forget the notes. On the contrary, when a piece is forgotten as soon as it ceases to be played, it shows plainly that it has not been properly studied. A piece properly studied and well learned in all its parts ought not to be forgotten even after months; places in it will become obscure, but a few hours’ study will restore it again completely, and the fingers then have to be trained for the mature qualities belonging to finished playing.

The great elements in playing one of these recitals successfully are, first, that the pupil take a real interest in every work, and love it and be determined to make it liked by those that hear it. Second, that it be mature; i.e., have been learned long enough before to be remembered easily. Third, that the student have the necessary technical training in touch and fluency to be able to stand the strain of so much serious playing “under fire.”

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