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Personal Glimpses of Moszkowski as a Teacher

BY FANNIE EDGAR THOMAS.
 
[Editor's Note.—In the January issue of The Etude an article upon "The Paris Conservatoire," by M. Moritz Moszkowski appeared. The following article gives personal glimpses of Moszkowski as a teacher. The author was long resident in Paris, and was well acquainted with Moszkowski.]
 
One of the agreeable surprises in Moszkowski's nature is to find that while artist, concert pianist and creative artist or composer, he should have also strongly marked pedagogical powers, a combination rare enough, less frequently even in Europe than with us.
 
He is not only educational in mind, but he formulates educative plans for the purpose of imparting what he knows to his students. He does not shirk the responsibility of success in achievement and charge it wholly or in part to pupils' lack of power or ability, but holds himself responsible. If one method does not bring light to the mind or result to the page he tries another one, with calm, gentle insistance (sic) and smiling, hopeful manner.
 
In his teaching he does not pace and leap about the place, bringing nervousness and terror to the pupil. He does not raise his voice, become querulous, swear, throw things, rap knuckles or sandwich eccentricity with fawning and flattery. He does not talk much; when he does, it is in gentle, even, almost confiding tones, having a tinge of latent humor in them which is neither sarcasm nor mockery. He does not improvize his teaching as he proceeds with it. From the moment the pupil is seated it is evident that the teacher knows exactly the ground to be covered, the pupil's possibilities, the difficulties to be faced and "ways" for resolving them.
 
If "calm," however, he is by no means lethargic, but is cat-like in his comprehension of wrong tendency, surprise at a weakness or strength, and in anticipation rather than correction of faults and mistakes. He is strong about the preparation of lessons; moreover, and does not try to add information to work in which the pupil has not fully done his part.
 
The effects of his teaching "style" are seen in the steady self-possession of the pupil, who, while "keyed up," is without fear, hysterics or anger. The cheek and ear may redden in effort, the eye glow with thought, the body express the most alert watchfulness but the lesson is not broken up by tears, misunderstandings, pettings and other loss of time, too common with some "great masters." Muscles are relaxed but hold intention in them.
 
Advantage is seen in the raised flexible wrist, easy arm-fall, curved independent fingers and in the alert crouch of the hand in producing the exquisite and pearl-like passages for which the composer-teacher is himself noted. He does not fall into reveries during the lesson, nor pluck the pupil from the piano in order to play entire stretches for the sake of playing, to avoid patience, to impress, or because carried away by the artistic effect, regardless of the pupil to be taught. He drops the long, well-pared pencil on occasion, illustrating carefully and not too quickly, the point under consideration, repeating it while steadily watching the pupil's face, with frequent "Comprenez-vous?" "Verstehen sie?" or "See what I mean?" and is not impatient if the response does not come on first trial following. As an educator, he knows that frequently the mind receives before the fingers have become obedient. His patience, however, never carries that air of enduring resignation, which is so disconcerting to young learners. It is this "seeing" quality or "understanding" sympathy which is so valuable a factor in the music-teaching of Moszkowski.
 
One of the unchangeable features of Moszkowski's work in teaching is insistance (sic) upon fundamentals. He does not simply speak of these, scold about them and let them go; nor does he preach about their importance or give their teaching over to others. He "tends to them" himself, sees that they are accomplished in the quickest and surest way, and seems to have many devices for turning difficulties over and about, so as to keep the attention without irritating or losing interest. He grades difficulties. His own arrangements for analytical study, of which he has many, are most helpful in this. No pupil need imagine, however "nice" Moszkowski may be as teacher, that the fundamentals will be skipped over and more attractive work taken up without them.
 
The pedal is one of his interesting resources. "An entire art by itself," he urges. "Some have the consciousness of its use as a phase of genius, to their superb advantage and the great relief of others. Many people simply keep time with the pedal; others, again, never make of it an art resource. As in all other departments, there are 'ways' by which the mind (if there be one) can be opened, to pedal possibility and a basis be made for a student's own practise and development, but this thing of brain—brain— what can be done without it in piano art?"
 
Conception of the intention of a composition is another, and one of the most delicate phases of this teacher's leading in piano art. "To know how to lead or steer the student mind toward correct style, taste, musicianliness in thought, without becoming a pivot for imitation—there is a field for painstaking and for conscience," he muses. "To make a pupil capable of 'exact copy' is easy work for most piano teachers, and to become so is easy or possible to most students of piano. But it is by all means an undesirable end. Development of the power to conceive, and conceive correctly and artistically, is a field all by itself, and an intensely interesting one, promising in many cases, hopeless in but few."
 
Moszkowski is one of those "ever-will-be-youthful" types of men, tall, slender, of a certain easy grace in carriage, a gentle air of live-and-let-live, with good will to all, distinct in expression of body as of face. Hair and mustache are somewhat auburn and not over plenteous, face rather long, with high brow, kindly eyes; the hands long and slender, with a few freckles upon them, the speaking tones clear, gentle, good-humored, haunting. He wears modern well-made clothes, dark, and usually the attractive "sack" variety of coat, accenting his youthfulness. But one of the most attractive things about this Polish-German musician is his readiness to express hearty but sincere and discriminating praise of a confrere, be it pianist, composer, or even teacher. This, if he had no other quality, would give him an unforgetable (sic) place in the memory of any who ever had the pleasure of acquaintance with him.

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