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A Few Words With Professor Sevcik.

sevcik.jpgA few years ago the name of Sevcik (pronounced Shave-chek) was known only to a few of his pupils. To-day he is one of the most-talked-of persons in the violin world, and holds a similar position to that of Marchesi in vocal art and of Leschetizky in pianoforte playing. And why? Because a few years ago the young Bohemian violinist, Jan Kubelik, made his first appearance in England, and was proclaimed by the press as having the most perfect technic of any living violinist. Opinions as to technic naturally differ considerably; still, nearly all those who have heard Kubelik agree that for a flawless, perfectly-in-tune technic and a tone free from the slightest scratch, he is unequaled. Godowsky refers to Kubelik’s technic as being similar to, and of having the certainty of, the most perfect pianoforte technic.

“But one swallow does not make a summer,” and it was not until the appearance of several other young violinists from Sevcik’s hands, foremost among which being Kocian and Marie Hall, that Sevcik became really the great maestro. And now, instead of paying only a few kronen for a lesson, it has become an honor to receive lessons from him.

Born in Bohemia of Bohemian parents in 1852, Sevcik started in life with the idea of becoming an eminent soloist, and after finishing the  Conservatorium course under Bennewitz had already gained considerable fame as a Paganini player. By the way, Paganini is still a great favorite of his, and fills a warm corner in his heart, and it is due to Sevcik that a great deal of his music has been revived and is still played. In his music room to-day is to be seen on the wall among those of his favorite pupils, a large portrait of Paganini, and under it one of Paganini’s original programs, “which he naturally prizes greatly and which today is of great historic interest.

But realizing, like so many others, that he was not the violinist that he wanted to or should have become, Sevcik decided upon devoting himself to teaching, and of making it possible for others to accomplish what he himself had been unable to do under the old methods. About this time, too, he met with that accident, quite a simple accident in itself, a string breaking across his eye, but touching vital part which eventually resulted in his losing the sight of that eye. These things naturally all tended to his being a teacher rather than a public performer, and it was about this time that he commenced to write his colossal work—“School of Violin Playing,” which has already found its way to every corner of the globe and is used in every Conservatory of note. During the following years he taught in Russia, until he finally decided on settling in Prague.

Since his residence in Prague, and especially during the last few years, his influence has been very great, as may be seen from the following facts:—For some years past a number of concerts were got up which had always proved a financial failure, until the happy idea struck the promoters of inviting “Sevcik to interest himself in them. This he has now done, and conducts the big orchestra, the strings of which consist entirely of his own pupils. The concerts have now become so popular that instead of there being a deficiency, there is a large surplus, which is divided equally between the members of the orchestra. After one of these performances recently given, each student received as much as sixty marks, and journalists came from all parts, which resulted in very favorable notices appearing in many of the leading papers. In consequence of this success Sevcik was presented with a spray of silver leaves in the form of a fan, each leaf bearing the inscription of one of his pupils who took part in the concert.

In his daily life Sevcik is an extremely simple man; he is a vegetarian and a nonsmoker. When not at home teaching the saying goes, one may be sure of finding him somewhere in the vicinity indulging in his favorite pastime—taking a stroll. He is a great believer in hard work; indeed, hard work is his motto, and he sets an example himself by teaching from eight in the morning till two, and again from four to eight, nine, or even ten in the evening; and whether one has the first or the last lesson, he is equally painstaking and, however tired he may be, the pupil never knows it! He has that extraordinary faculty of being able to instil into every pupil enthusiasm and the ability to work hard and conscientiously, and these qualities are largely accountable for the excellent results he attains.

Then, again, Sevcik shows an unusual interest in his best pupils, and it is not an uncommon thing for him, during his early morning walk between 7 and 8 o’clock, to just “drop in” at a pupil’s and see how he is practicing! He is also so unlike and in such direct contrast to most German teachers in that he is always encouraging to his pupils, and only too glad to hear of their achievements, however small, such as playing in public, in soireés, etc. The writer recently had the opportunity, too, of seeing a letter written to a pupil, and not one of his best pupils by any means, in which he addressed the envelope with the words “Herrn ————-, Violin Virtuos.” These little things, though perhaps small in themselves, all tend to give pupils confidence, which, in nine cases out of ten, is half the battle! Most of the pupils receive a lesson only once in ten days; so that he is able to take close on a hundred, and has representatives from England, America, Australia, Germany, Russia, Holland, Poland, Africa, Norway, Roumania, etc., in fact, from almost every country, and some pupils even come to Prague from Berlin and Dresden each week for lessons. Among his pupils are the daughter of the famous Wieniawski, the son of Hugo Herrmann of Frankfurt, and the son of the great Wilhelmj.

In composition Sevcik has written many small pieces for violin, among which might be mentioned his Bohemian dances, which, though perhaps small from the musical point of view, are nevertheless very effective and, above all, violinistical.—H. Nevill Smith.


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