Transcriber's Note Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document. Quotation marks have been left in this text as the were in the original. Some are unmatched.
GREAT PIANISTS ON PIANO PLAYING
Study Talks with Foremost Virtuosos
JAMES FRANCIS COOKE
A Series of Personal Educational Conferences with Renowned Masters of the Keyboard, Presenting the Most Modern Ideas upon the Subjects of Technic, Interpretation, Style and Expression
Theo. Presser Co. Philadelphia, Pa.
Copyright, 1913, by Theo. Presser Co. International Copyright Secured
1. THE ARTIST'S LIFE 5
2. ARE PIANISTS BORN OR MADE? 24
3. THE STORY OF A WONDER-CHILD Pepito Arriola 41
4. THE PIANIST OF TO-MORROW Wilhelm Bachaus 52
5. ARTISTIC ASPECTS OF PIANO STUDY Harold Bauer 64
6. APPEARING IN PUBLIC Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler 80
7. IMPORTANT DETAILS IN PIANO STUDY Ferruccio Busoni 97
8. DISTINCTIVE PIANO PLAYING Teresa Carreno 109
9. ESSENTIALS OF TOUCH Ossip Gabrilowitsch 122
10. THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF TECHNIC Leopold Godowsky 133
11. ANALYZING MASTERPIECES Katharine Goodson 144
12. PROGRESS IN PIANO STUDY Josef Hofmann 158
13. PIANO STUDY IN RUSSIA Josef Lhevinne 170
14. SEEKING ORIGINALITY Vladimir de Pachmann 182
15. MODERN PIANISTIC PROBLEMS Max Pauer 197
16. ESSENTIALS OF ARTISTIC PLAYING S. V. Rachmaninoff 208
17. SYSTEMATIC MUSICAL TRAINING A. Reisenauer 222
18. THE TRAINING OF THE VIRTUOSO E. Sauer 236
19. ECONOMY IN MUSIC STUDY X. Scharwenka 252
20. LEARNING A NEW PIECE E. Schelling 267
21. WHAT INTERPRETATION REALLY IS S. Stojowski 279
THE ARTIST'S LIFE
THE VIRTUOSO'S CAREER AS IT REALLY IS
The father of a young woman who was preparing to become a virtuoso once applied to a famous musical educator for advice regarding the future career of his daughter. "I want her to become one of the greatest pianists America has ever produced," he said. "She has talent, good health, unlimited ambition, a good general education, and she is industrious." The educator thought for awhile, and then said, "It is very likely that your daughter will be successful in her chosen field, but the amount of grinding study she will be obliged to undergo to meet the towering standards of modern pianism is awful to contemplate. In the end she will have the flattery of the multitude, and, let us hope, some of their dollars as well. In return, she may have to sacrifice many of the comforts and pleasures which women covet. The more successful she is, the more of a nomad she must become. She will know but few days for years when she will not be compelled to practice for hours. She becomes a kind of chattel of the musical public. She will be harassed by ignorant critics and perhaps annoyed by unreliable managers. In return she has money and fame, but, in fact, far less of the great joy and purpose of life than if she followed the customary domestic career with some splendid man as her husband. When I was younger I used to preach quite an opposite sermon, but the more I see of the hardships of the artist's life the less I think of the dollars and the fame it brings. It is hard enough for a man, but it is twice as hard for a woman."
Some cynic has contended that the much-despised "Almighty Dollar" has been the greatest incentive to the struggling virtuoso in European music centers. Although this may be true in a number of cases, it is certainly unjust in others. Many of the virtuosos find travel in America so distasteful that notwithstanding the huge golden bait, the managers have the greatest difficulty in inducing the pianists to come back. Indeed, there are many artists of great renown whom the managers would be glad to coax to our country but who have withheld tempting offers for years. One of these is Moritz Moszkowski, probably the most popular of modern pianoforte composers of high-class music. Grieg, when he finally consented to make the voyage to America, placed his price at two thousand five hundred dollars for every concert—a sum which any manager would regard prohibitive, except in the case of one world-famous pianist. Grieg's intent was obvious.
The inconveniences of travel in America have been ridiculously exaggerated in Europe, and many virtuosos dread the thought of an American trip, with the great ocean yawning between the two continents, and red-skinned savages just beyond New York or certainly not far from Chicago. De Pachmann detests the ocean, and when he comes over in his favorite month of June he does not dare return until the following June. Others who have never visited America must get their idea of American travel from some such account as that of Charles Dickens in his unforgivable American Notes (1842), in which he said, in describing one of our railroads:
"There is a great deal of jolting, a great deal of noise, a great deal of wall, not much window, a locomotive engine, a shriek and a bell. The cars are like shabby omnibuses holding thirty, forty, fifty people. In the centre of the carriage there is usually a stove, fed with charcoal or anthracite coal, which is for the most part red hot. It is insufferably close, and you see the hot air fluttering between yourself and any other object you may happen to look at."
There could have been but little improvement in our railroads in 1872 when Rubinstein came to America, for although he accepted $40,000 for 215 concerts during his first trip, he refused an offer of $125,000 for only 50 concerts when a manager tried to persuade him to return.
American railroads now present the acme of comfort, convenience, and even luxury in travel, yet the European artist has difficulty in adjusting himself to journeys of thousands of miles crowded in a short winter season when he has been accustomed to little trips of a few hundred kilometers. He comes to dread the trains as we might a prison van. Paderewski resorts to a private car, but even this luxurious mode of travel may be very monotonous and exhausting.
The great distances must certainly account for some of the evidences of strain which deform the faces and exhaust the minds of so many virtuosos. The traveling salesman seems to thrive upon miles of railroad travel as do the crews of the trains, but the virtuoso, dragged from concert to concert by his showman, grows tired—oh, so tired, pale, wan, listless and indifferent! At the beginning of the season he is quite another person. The magnetism that has done so much to win him fame shines in his eyes and seems to emanate from his finger-tips, but the difference in his physical being at the end of the season is sickening. Like a bedraggled, worn-out circus coming in from the wear and tear of a hard season, he crawls wearily back to New York with a cinematographic recollection of countless telegraph poles flying past the windows, audience after audience, sleeping cars, budding geniuses, the inevitable receptions with their equally inevitable chicken salad or lukewarm oysters, and the "sweet young things," who, like Heine's mythical tribe of Asra, must love or perish. Some virtuosos have the physical strength to endure all this, even enjoy it, but many have confessed to me that their American tours have been literal nightmares.
One of the greatest pianists was obliged to stay in New York for a while before attempting the voyage homeward. At the time he was so weak from the rigors of the tour that he could scarcely write his name. His haggard face suggested the tortures of a Torquamada rather than Buffalo, Kansas City, Denver and Pittsburgh. His voice was tired and faltering, and his chief interest was that of the invalid—getting home as soon as possible. To have talked with him upon music at that time would have been an injustice. Accordingly, I led him away from the subject and dwelt upon the woes of his native Poland, and, much to his surprise, left him without the educational material of which I had been in quest. He asked the reason, and I told him that a musical conference at that time could serve no purpose.
As men and women, aside from the attainments which have made them illustrious, virtuosos are for the most part very much like ordinary mortals who have to content themselves at the foot of Parnassus. It has been my privilege to know thirty or more of the most eminent artists, and some have become good personal friends. It is interesting to observe how several very different types of individuals may succeed in winning public favor as virtuosos. Indeed, except for the long-haired caricature which the public accepts as the conventional virtuoso there is no "virtuoso type." Here is a business man, here an artist, here an engineer, here a jurist, here an actor, here a poet and here a freak, all of them distinguished performers. Perhaps the enthusiastic music-lover will resent the idea of a freak becoming famous as a pianist, but I have known no less than three men who could not possibly be otherwise described, but who have nevertheless made both fame and fortune as virtuosos.
The anthropologist who chooses to conduct special investigations of freaks can find no more entertaining field than that of the remarkable freaks of the brain, shown in the cases of some astonishing performers whose intelligence and mental capacity in other ways has been negligible. The classic case of Blind Tom, for instance, was that of a freak not so very far removed in kind from the Siamese Twins, or General Tom Thumb. Born a slave in Georgia, and wholly without what teachers would term a musical education, Blind Tom amazed many of the most conservative musicians of his time. It was possible for him to repeat difficult compositions after hearing them played only once. I conversed with him a number of years ago in New York, only to find that intellectually and physically he was allied to the cretin.
Blind Tom's peculiar ability has led many hasty commentators to conclude that music is a wholly separate mental faculty to be found particularly in a more or less shiftless and irresponsible class of gifted but intellectually limited human beings. The few cases of men and women whose musical talent seems to eclipse their minds so that they remain in utter darkness to everything else in life, should not be taken as a basis for judging other artists of real genius and undisputed mental breadth. I have in mind, however, the case of one pianist who is very widely known and highly lauded, but who is very slightly removed from the class of Blind Tom. A trained alienist, one acquainted with the difference between the eccentricities which frequently accompany greatness and the unconscious physical and psychical evidences of idiocy which so clearly agree with the antics of the chimpanzee or the droll Capuchin monkeys, might find in the performer to whom I refer a subject for some very interesting, not to say startling reflections. Few have ever been successful in inducing this pianist to talk upon any other subject than music for more than a few minutes at a time. Another pianist, who was distinguished as a Liszt pupil, and who toured America repeatedly, seemed to have a hatred for the piano that amounted to an obsession. "Look," he exclaimed, "I am its slave. It has sent me round and round the world, night after night, year after year. It has cursed me like a wandering Jew. No rest, no home, no liberty. Do you wonder that I drink to forget it?"
A PATHETIC EXAMPLE
And drink he did in Bacchanalian measure! One time he gave an unconscious exhibition of his technical ability that, while regrettable, would have been of immense interest to psychologists who are seeking to prove that music depends upon a separate operation of a special "faculty." During his American tours I called frequently upon this virtuoso for the purpose of investigating his method of playing. He was rarely free from the influence of alcohol for more than a few hours at a time. One morning it was necessary for me to see him professionally, and when I found him at his hotel he was in a truly disgraceful condition. I remember that he was unable to stand, from the fact that he fell upon me while I was sitting in a Morris chair. He was barely able to talk, and just prior to my leaving he insisted upon scrawling upon his visiting card, "Zur freundlichen Errinerung, auf einen sehr spaeten Abend." (Friendly remembrances of a very late evening.) Since it was still very early in the morning, it may be realized that he had lost all idea of his whereabouts. Nevertheless, he sat at the piano keyboard and played tremendously difficult compositions by Liszt and Brahms—compositions which compelled his hands to leap from one part of the keyboard to the other as in the case of the Liszt Campanella. He never missed a note until he lost his balance upon the piano stool and fell to the floor. Disgusting and pathetic as the exhibition was, I could not help feeling that I was witnessing a marvelous instance of automatism, that wonderful power of the mind working through the body to reproduce, apparently without effort or thought, operations which have been repeated so many times that they have become "second nature." More than this, it indicated clearly that while the better part of the man's body was "dead to the world," the faculty he had cultivated to the highest extent still remained alive. Some years later this man succumbed to alcoholism.
THE PIANIST OF TO-DAY
Contrasted with a type of this kind may be mentioned such men as Sauer, Rachmaninov, d'Albert, Paderewski, Godowsky, Bachaus, Rosenthal, Pauer, Joseffy, Stojowski, Scharwenka, Gabrilowitsch, Hofmann, Bauer, Lhevinne, to say nothing of the ladies, Bloomfield-Zeisler, Carreno, Goodson, et al., many of whom are intellectual giants. Most all are exceedingly regular in their habits, and at least two are strong temperance advocates. Intellectually, pianists of this class represent a very remarkable kind of mentality. One is impressed with the surprising quickness with which their brains operate even in ordinary conversation. Speaking in alien languages, they find comparatively little difficulty in expressing themselves with rapidity and fluency. Very few great singers ever acquire a similar ease. These pianists are wonderfully well read, many being acquainted with the literature of three or more tongues in the original. Indeed, it is not unusual to find them skipping through several languages during ordinary conversation without realizing that they are performing linguistic feats that would put the average college graduate to shame. They are familiar with art, science, politics, manufactures, even in their most recent developments. "What is your favorite type of aeroplane?" asked one some years ago in the kindergarten days of cloud navigation. I told him that I had made no choice, since I had never seen a flying machine, despite the fact that I was a native of the country that gave it birth. He then vouchsafed his opinions and entered into a physical and mechanical discussion of the matter, indicating that he had spent hours in getting the whole subject straightened out in his mind. This same man, a German, knew whole cantos of the Inferno by heart, and could repeat long scenes from King Lear with a very creditable English accent.
The average American "tired business man" who is inclined to look upon the touring virtuoso as "only a pianist" would be immensely surprised if he were called upon to compare his store of "universal" information with that of the performer. He would soon see that his long close confinement behind the bars of the dollar sign had made him the intellectual inferior of the musician he almost ignores. But it is hardly fair to compare these famous interpreters with the average "tired business man." They are the Cecil Rhodes, the Thomas Edisons, the Maurice Maeterlincks of their fields. It is easy enough to find musicians of smaller life opportunities basking in their ignorance and conceit.
While the virtuoso may be described as intellectual in the broader sense of the term, he usually has a great fear of becoming academic. He aspires to be artistic rather than scholarly. He strives to elevate rather than to teach—in the strictly pedagogical sense. Some of the greatest performers have been notoriously weak as teachers. They do not seek the walls of the college, neither do they long for the cheap Bohemianism that so many of the French feuilletonists delight in describing. (Why should the immorality of the artist's life be laid at the doors of fair Bohemia?) The artist's life is wrapped up in making his readings of master works more significant, more eloquent, more beautiful. He is interested in everything that contributes to his artistry, whether it be literature, science, history, art or the technic of his own interpretative development. He penetrates the various mystic problems which surround piano playing by the infallible process of persistent study and reflection. The psychical phase of his work interests him immensely, particularly the phenomena of personal attraction—often called magnetism.
THE MAGIC OF MAGNETISM
Magnetism is surely one of the most enviable possessions of the successful pianist. Just what magnetism is and how it comes to be, few psychologists attempt to relate. We all have our theories, just why one pianist who often blunders as readily as a Rubinstein, or who displays his many shortcomings at every concert can invariably draw larger audiences and arouse more applause than his confrere with weaker vital forces, although he be admittedly a better technician, a more highly educated gentleman and perhaps a more sensitive musician.
Charles Frohman, keenest of theatrical producers, attributed the actor's success to "vitality," and in doing this he merely chose one of the weaker synonyms of magnetism. Vitality in this sense does not imply great bodily strength. It is rather soul-strength, mind-strength, life-strength. Professor John D. Quackenbos, A.M., M.D., formerly of Columbia University, essays the following definition of magnetism in his excellent Hypnotic Therapeutics:
"Magnetism is nothing more than earnestness and sincerity, coupled with insight, sympathy, patience and tact. These essentials cannot be bought and cannot be taught. They are 'born by nature,' they are dyed with 'the red ripe of the heart.'"
But Dr. Quackenbos is a physician and a philosopher. Had he been a lexicographer he would have found the term magnetism far more inclusive. He would at least have admitted the phenomenon which we have witnessed so often when one possessed with volcanic vitality overwhelms a great audience.
The old idea that magnetism is a kind of invisible form of intellectual or psychic electricity has gone down the grotesque phrenological vagaries of Gall as well as some of the pseudoscientific theories of that very unusual man, Mesmer. We all possess what is known as magnetism. Some have it in an unusual degree, as did Edwin Booth, Franz Liszt, Phillips Brooks and Bismarck. It was surely neither the art nor the ability of Daniel Webster that made his audiences accept some of his fatuous platitudes as great utterances, nor was it the histrionic talent alone of Richard Mansfield that enabled him to wring success from such an obvious theatrical contraption as Prince Karl. Both Webster, with his fathomless eyes and his ponderous voice, and Mansfield, with his compelling personality, were exceptional examples of magnetism.
A NOTABLE EXAMPLE
Among virtuosos Paderewski is peculiarly forceful in the personal spell he casts over his audience. Someone has said that it cost one hundred thousand dollars to exploit his hair before he made his first American tour. But it was by no means curiosity to see his hair which kept on filling auditorium after auditorium. I attended his first concert in New York, and was amazed to see a comparatively small gathering of musical zealots. His command of the audience was at once imperial. The critics, some of whom would have found Paderewski's hirsute crown a delightful rack upon which to hang their ridicule, went into ecstasies instead. His art and his striking personality, entirely apart from his appearance, soon made him the greatest concert attraction in the musical world. Anyone who has conversed with him for more than a few moments realizes what the meaning of the word magnetism is. His entire bearing—his lofty attitude of mind, his personal dignity all contribute to the inexplicable attraction that the arch hypnotist Mesmer first described as animal magnetism.
That magnetism of the pianist must be considered wholly apart from personal beauty and great physical strength is obvious to anyone who has given the subject a moment's thought. Many of the artists already mentioned (in this book) who possess magnetism similar to that of Paderewski could surely never make claim for personal beauty. Neither is magnetism akin to that attraction we all experience when we see a powerful, well-groomed horse, a sleek hound, a handsome tiger—that is, it is not mere admiration for a beautiful animal. Whether it has any similarity to the mysterious charm which makes the doomed bird lose control of its wings upon the approach of a snake is difficult to estimate. Certainly, in the paraphernalia of the modern recital with its lowered lights and its solitary figure playing away at a polished instrument one may find something of the physical apparatus employed by the professional hypnotist to insure concentration—but even this can not account for the pianist's real attractiveness. If Mr. Frohman's "vitality" means the "vital spark," the "life element," it comes very close to a true definition of magnetism, for success without this precious Promethean force is inconceivable. It may be only a smouldering ember in the soul of a dying Chopin, but if it is there it is irresistible until it becomes extinct. Facial beauty and physical prowess all made way for the kind of magnetism that Socrates, George Sand, Julius Caesar, Henry VIII, Paganini, Emerson, Dean Swift or Richard Wagner possessed.
More wonderful still is the fact that magnetism is by no means confined to those who have finely trained intellects or who have achieved great reputations. Some vaudeville buffoon or some gypsy fiddler may have more attractive power than the virtuoso who had spent years in developing his mind and his technic. The average virtuoso thinks far more of his "geist," his "talent" (or as Emerson would have it, "the shadow of the soul—the otherwise") than he does of his technic, or his cadenzas. By what mystic means magnetism may be developed, the writer does not pretend to know. Possibly by placing one's deeper self (shall we say "subconscious self") in closer communion with the great throbbing problems of the invisible though perpetually evident forces of nature which surround us we may become more alive, more sensitively vivified. What would it mean to the young virtuoso if he could go to some occult master, some seer of a higher thought, and acquire that lode-stone* which has drawn fame and fortune to the blessed few? Hundreds have spent fortunes upon charlatans in the attempt.
All artists know the part that the audience itself plays in falling under the magnetic spell of the performer. Its connection with the phenomena of autosuggestion is very clear. Dr. Wundt, the famous German psychologist, showed a class of students how superstitions unconsciously acquired in early life affect sensible adults who have long since passed the stage at which they might put any credence in omens. At a concert given by a famous player, the audience has been well schooled in anticipation. The artist always appears under a halo his reputation has made for him. This very reputation makes his conquest far easier than that of the novice who has to prove his ability before he can win the sympathy of the audience. He is far more likely to find the audience en rapport than indifferent. Sometime, at the play in a theater, watch how the audience will unconsciously mirror the facial expressions of the forceful actor. In some similar manner, the virtuoso on the concert platform sensitizes the minds and emotions of the sympathetic audience. If the effect is deep and lasting, the artist is said to possess that Kohinoor of virtuosodom—magnetism.
Some widely read critics have made the very natural error of confounding magnetism with personality. These words have quite different connotations—personality comprehending the more subtle force of magnetism. An artist's individual worth is very closely allied with his personality—that is, his whole extrinsic attitude toward the thought and action of the world about him. How important personality is may be judged by the widely advertised efforts of the manufacturers of piano-playing machines to convince the public that their products, often astonishingly fine, do actually reproduce the individual effects which come from the playing of the living artist. Piano-playing machines have their place, and it is an important one. However, wonderful as they may be, they can never be anything but machines. They bring unquestioned joy to thousands, and they act as missionaries for both music and the music-teacher by taking the art into countless homes where it might otherwise never have penetrated, thus creating the foundation for a strong desire for a thorough study of music. The piano-playing machine may easily boast of a mechanism as wonderful as that of a Liszt, a d'Albert or a Bachaus, but it can no more claim personality than the typewriter upon which this article is being written can claim to reproduce the individuality which characterizes the handwriting of myriads of different persons. Personality, then, is the virtuoso's one great unassailable stronghold. It is personality that makes us want to hear a half dozen different renderings of a single Beethoven sonata by a half dozen different pianists. Each has the charm and flavor of the interpreter.
But personality in its relation to art has been so exquisitely defined by the inimitable British essayist, A. C. Benson, that we can do no better than to quote his words:
"I have lately come to perceive that the one thing which gives value to any piece of art, whether it be book, or picture, or music, is that subtle and evasive thing which is called personality. No amount of labor, of zest, even of accomplishment, can make up for the absence of this quality. It must be an almost instinctive thing, I believe. Of course, the mere presence of personality in a work of art is not sufficient, because the personality revealed may be lacking in charm; and charm, again, is an instinctive thing. No artist can set out to capture charm; he will toil all the night and take nothing; but what every artist can and must aim at is to have a perfectly sincere point of view. He must take his chance as to whether his point of view is an attractive one; but sincerity is the one indispensable thing. It is useless to take opinions on trust, to retail them, to adopt them; they must be formed, created, felt. The work of a sincere artist is almost certain to have some value; the work of an insincere artist is of its very nature worthless."
Mr. Benson's "charm" is what the virtuoso feels as magnetism. It puts something into the artist's playing that he cannot define. For a moment the vital spark flares into a bewildering flame, and all his world is peopled with moths hovering around the "divine fire."
THE GREATEST THING OF ALL
If we have dwelt too long upon magnetism, those who know its importance in the artist's life will readily perceive the reason. But do not let us be led away into thinking that magnetism can take the place of hard work. Even the tiny prodigy has a career of work behind him, and the master pianist has often climbed to his position over Matterhorns and Mt. Blancs of industry. Days of practice, months of study, years of struggle are part of the biography of almost every one who has attained real greatness. What a pity to destroy time-old illusions! Some prefer to think of their artist heroes dreaming their lives away in the hectic cafes of Pesth or buried in the melancholy, absinthe and paresis of some morbid cabaret of Paris. As a matter of fact, the best known pianists live a totally different life—a life of grind, grind, grind—incessant study, endless practice and ceaseless search for means to raise their artistic standing. In some quiet country villa, miles away from the center of unlicensed Bacchanalian revels, the virtuoso may be found working hard upon next season's repertoire.
After all, the greatest thing in the artist's life is W-O-R-K.
ARE PIANISTS BORN OR MADE?
Some years ago the Director of the Leipsic Conservatorium gave the writer a complete record of the number of graduates of the conservatory from the founding to the late nineties. Of the thousands of students who had passed through the institution only a few had gained wide prominence. Hardly one student in one hundred had won his way into the most voluminous of the musical biographical dictionaries. The proportion of distinguished graduates to those who fail to gain renown is very high at Leipsic compared with many other institutions. What becomes of the thousands of students all working frantically with the hope of becoming famous pianists? Surely, so much earnest effort can not be wasted even though all can not win the race? Those who often convince themselves that they have failed go on to perform a more useful service to society than the laurel-crowned virtuoso. Unheralded and unapplauded, they become the teachers, the true missionaries of Frau Musik to the people.
What is it then, which promotes a few "fortunate" ones from the armies of students all over America and Europe and makes of them great virtuosos? What must one do to become a virtuoso? How long must one study before one may make a debut? What does a great virtuoso receive for his performances? How long does the virtuoso practice each day? What exercises does he use? All these and many more similar questions crop up regularly in the offices of music critics and in the studios of teachers. Unfortunately, a definite answer can be given to none, although a great deal may be learned by reviewing some of the experiences of one who became great.
Some virtuosos actually seem to be born with the heavenly gift. Many indeed are sons and daughters of parents who see their own demolished dreams realized in the triumphs of their children. When little Nathan creeps to the piano and quite without the help of his elders picks out the song he has heard his mother sing,—all the neighbors in Odessa know it the next day. "A wonder child perhaps!" Oh happy augury of fame and fortune! Little Nathan shall have the best of instruction. His mother will teach him at first, of course. She will shape his little fingers to the keyboard. She will sing sweet folk melodies in his ear,—songs of labor, struggle, exile. She will count laboriously day after day until he "plays in time." All the while the little mother sees far beyond the Ghetto,—out into the great world,—grand auditoriums, breathless crowds, countless lights, nobles granting trinkets, bravos from a thousand throats, Nathan surrounded by endless wreaths of laurel,—Oh, it is all too much,—"Nathan! Nathan! you are playing far too fast. One, two, three, four,—one, two, three, four,—there, that is the tempo Clementi would have had it. Fine! Some day, Nathan, you will be a great pianist and—" etc., etc.
Nathan next goes to the great teacher. He is already eight years old and fairly leaping out of his mother's arms. Two years with the teacher and Nathan is probably ready for a debut as a wonder child. The critics are kind. If his parents are very poor Nathan may go from town to town for awhile being exhibited like a trained poodle or a tiny acrobat. The further he gets from home the more severe his critics become, and Nathan and his mother hurry back to the old teachers, who tell them that Nathan must still practice long and hard as well as do something to build up his general education. The world in these days looks askance at the musician who aside from his keyboard accomplishments is a numskull. More sacrifice for Nathan's mother and father,—but what are poverty and deprivation with such a goal in sight? Nathan studies for some years in the schools and in the high schools as well as at the conservatory. In the music school he will doubtless spend six years in all,—two years in the post-graduate or master classes, following the regular four-year course. When sufficiently capable he will take a few pupils at a kopeck or so per lesson to help out with the family expenses.
Nathan graduates from the conservatory with high honors. Will the public now receive him as a great pianist? A concert is planned and Nathan plays. Day and night for years his whole family have been looking forward to that concert. Let us concede that the concert is a triumph. Does he find fame and fortune waiting for him next morning? No indeed,—there are a thousand Nathans all equally accomplished. Again he must work and again he must concertize. Perhaps after years of strife a manager may approach him some day with a contract. Lucky Nathan,—have you not a thousand brothers who may never see a contract? Then,—"Can it be possible Nathan,—is it really America,—America the virtuoso's Golconda!" Nathan makes a glorious tournee. Perhaps the little mother goes with him. More likely she stays at home in Odessa waiting with glistening eyes for each incoming mail. Pupils come to Nathan and he charges for each lesson a sum equaling his father's former weekly wage. Away with the Ghetto! Away with poverty! Away with oblivion! Nathan is a real virtuoso,—a veritable Meister!
THE AMERICAN VIRTUOSO OF TO-DAY
How does the American aspirant compete with Nathan? Are there not as fine teachers here in America as in Europe? Is it really necessary to go to Europe to "finish" one's musical education? Can one not become a virtuoso in America?—more questions with which editors and teachers are constantly plied. Can one who for years has waged a battle for the American teacher and American musical education answer this question without bias? Can we who trace the roots of our lineage back to barren Plymouth or stolid New Netherland judge the question fairly and honestly?
One case suffices to show the road which the American virtuoso is likely to travel. She is still a young woman, in her twenties. Among her teachers was one who ranks among the very best in America. Her general education was excellent,—in fact far superior to that of the average young lady of good family in continental Europe. While in her early teens she became the leading feature at conservatory concerts. Her teacher won many a profitable pupil through her brilliant playing. She studies, as do so many American pupils, without making a regular business of it. Compared with the six year all day, week in and week out course which Nathan pursued in Odessa our little compatriot was at a decided disadvantage. But who ever heard of a music student making a regular business of learning the profession as would a doctor or a lawyer? Have not students contented themselves with two lessons a week since time immemorial? Need we go further to discover one of the flaws in our own educational system,—a flaw that is not due to the teacher or to the methods of instruction, but rather to our time-old custom. Two lessons a week are adequate for the student who does not aspire to become a professional, but altogether insufficient for the student who must accomplish a vast amount of work in a comparatively small number of years. She requires constant advice, regular daily instruction and careful attention under experienced instructors. Teachers are not to be blamed if she does not receive this kind of attention, as there are abundant opportunities now in America to receive systematic training under teachers as thorough, as able and as inspiring as may be found in Europe. The excuse that the expense is greater in America falls when we learn the very high prices charged by leading teachers in Germany, Austria and France.
To go back to our particular case, the young lady is informed at the end of a course of two or three lessons a week during two or three years, that she is a full-fledged virtuoso and may now enter the concert field to compete with Carreno, Bloomfield-Zeisler or Goodson. Her playing is obviously superior to that of her contemporary students. Someone insists upon a short course of study abroad,—not because it is necessary, but because it might add to her reputation and make her first flights in the American concert field more spectacular. Accordingly she goes to Europe, only to find that she is literally surrounded by budding virtuosos,—an army of Nathans, any one of whom might easily eclipse her. Against her personal charm, her new-world vigor, her Yankee smartness, Nathan places his years of systematic training, his soul saturated in the music and art of past centuries of European endeavor and perhaps his youth of poverty which makes success imperative. The young lady's European teacher frankly tells her that while her playing is delightful for the salon or parlor she will never do for the great concert hall. She must learn to play with more power, more virility, more character. Accordingly he sets her at work along special muscle-building, tone-cultivating, speed-making lines of technic in order to make up for the lack of the training which the young lady might easily have had at home had her parents been schooled to systematic daily study as a necessity. Her first technical exercises with the new teacher are so simple that the young woman is on the verge of despair until she realizes that her playing is really taking on a new and more mature character. She has been lifting fifty pound weights occasionally. Her teacher is training her to lift one hundred pound weights every day. She has been sketching in pastels,—her teacher is now teaching her how to make Velasquez-like strokes in oils. Her gain is not a mere matter of loudness. She could play quite as loud before she went to Europe. There is something mature in this new style of playing, something that resembles the playing of the other virtuosos she has heard. Who is the great European master who is working such great wonders for her? None other than a celebrated teacher who taught for years in America,—a master no better than dozens of others in America right now. Can the teachers in America be blamed if the parents and the pupils fail to make as serious and continued an effort here? Atmosphere,—bosh! Work, long, hard and unrelenting,—that is the salvation of the student who would become a virtuoso. With our increasing wealth and advancing culture American parents are beginning to discover that given the same work and the same amount of instruction musical education in America differs very slightly from musical education abroad.
But we are deserting our young virtuoso most ungallantly. In Berlin she hears so many concerts and recitals, so many different styles of playing, that she begins to think for herself and her sense of artistic discrimination—interpretation, if you will—becomes more and more acute. Provided with funds for attending concerts, she does regularly, whereas in America she neglected opportunities equally good. She never realized before that there could be so much to a Brahms Intermezzo or a Chopin Ballade. At the end of her first year her American common-sense tells her that a plunge into the concert field is still dangerous. Accordingly she remains two, or possibly three, more years and at the end if she has worked hard she is convinced that with proper management she may stand some chance of winning that fickle treasure, public favor.
"But," persists the reader, "it would have been possible for her to have accomplished the same work at home in America." Most certainly, if she had had any one of the hundred or more virtuoso teachers now resident in the United States all of whom are capable of bringing a highly talented pupil to virtuoso heights,—and if in their teaching they had exerted sufficient will-power to demand from the pupil and the pupil's parents the same conditions which would govern the work of the same pupil studying in Europe. Through long tradition and by means of endless experiences the conditions have been established in Europe. The student who aspires to become a professional is given a distinctively professional course. In America the need for such a training is but scantily appreciated. Only a very few of us are able to appraise the real importance of music in the advancement of human civilization, nor is this unusual, since most of us have but to go back but a very few generations to encounter our blessed Puritan and Quaker ancestors to whom all music, barring the lugubrious Psalm singing, was the inspiration of the devil. The teachers, as has been said before, are fully ready and more than anxious to give the kind of training required. Very frequently parents are themselves to blame for the slender dilettante style of playing which their well-instructed children present. They measure the needs of the concert hall by the dimensions of the parlor. The teacher of the would-be professional pupil aspires to produce a quantity of tone that will fill an auditorium seating at least one thousand people. The pupil at home is enjoined not to "bang" or "pound." The result is a feeble, characterless tone which rarely fills an auditorium as it should. The actor can not forever rehearse in whispers if he is to fill a huge theater, and the concert pianist must have a strong, sure, resilient touch in order to bring about climaxes and make the range of his dynamic power all-comprehensive. Indeed, the separation from home ties, or shall we call them home interferences, is often more responsible for the results achieved abroad than superior instruction.
Unfortunately, the number of virtuosos who have been taught exclusively in America is really very small. It is not a question of ability upon the part of the teacher or talent upon the part of the pupil. It is entirely a matter of the attitudes of the teacher, the pupil and the pupil's home advisers. Success demands strong-willed discipline and the most lofty standards imaginable. Teachers who have taught for years in America have returned to Europe, doubled and quadrupled their fees, and, under old-world surroundings and with more rigid standards of artistic work, have produced results they declare would have been impossible in America. The author contends that these results would have been readily forthcoming if we in America assumed the same earnest, persistent attitude toward the work itself. If these words do no more than reach the eyes of some of those who are advising students wrongly in this matter they will not have been written in vain. The European concert triumphs of Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, whose training was received wholly in the United States, is an indication of what may be achieved in America if the right course is pursued. Conditions are changing rapidly in our country, particularly in the wonderful West and Middle-West. It seems likely that many pianists without foreign instruction of any kind will have as great success in our concert field as have many of our best opera singers who have never had a lesson "on the other side."
Our little pianist has again been playing truant from our manuscript. Let us see what happens to her when she finished her work with the famous teacher abroad. Surely the making of a virtuoso is an expensive matter. Let us take the estimate of the young pianist's father, who practically mortgaged his financial existence to give his daughter the right musical training.
Lessons with first teacher at $1.00 a lesson. Eighty lessons a year for four years $240.00
Lessons with second American teacher for two years at $2.00 a lesson 320.00
Lessons with third American teacher at $4.00 a lesson for one year and six months 480.00
Music, books, etc. 160.00
Maintenance for eight years at $200.00 a year (minimum estimate) 1600.00
Four years in Europe, travel, board, instruction, advertising, etc. 6000.00 TOTAL $9550.00
But the expense has only begun, if you please. The harvest is still a long way off. According to the fine traditions established by the late P. T. Barnum, there must be a European furore to precede the American advent of the musical star. The journalistic astronomers must point their telescopes long and steadily at the European firmament and proclaim their discovery in the columns of their papers. Again, furores are expensive. One must hire an auditorium, hire an orchestra, and, according to some very frank and disgusted young virtuosos who have failed to succeed, hire a critic or so like the amusing Trotter in Fanny's First Play. What with three and four concerts a night why should not the critics have a pourboire for extra critical attention? Fortunately the best papers hold their criticisms above price. Bought criticisms are very rare, and if the young pianist or any representative approaches certain critics with any such suggestion, she may count upon faring very badly in cold type on the following day.
If Miss Virtuoso makes a success, her press notices are sent to her American concert managers, who purchase space in some American musical newspapers and reprint these notices. Publicity of this kind is legitimate, as the American public knows that in most cases these press notices are reprinted solely as advertising. It is simply the commercial process of "acquainting the trade" and if done right may prove one of the most fortunate investments for the young artist. Do not imagine, however, that the pianist's American manager speculates in the problematical success of the coming virtuoso. On the contrary, his fee for putting the artist on his "list" and promoting her interests may range from five hundred dollars to two thousand dollars in advance. After that the manager usually requires a commission on all engagements "booked." Graft? Spoils? Plunder? Not a bit of it. If the manager is a good one—that is, if he is an upright business man well schooled in his work—the investment should prove a good one. Exploiting a new artist is a matter demanding brains, energy, ingenuity and experience. A manufacturing firm attempting to put some new product upon an already crowded market would spend not $2000.00 a year in advertising, but $100,000.00. The manager must maintain an organization, he must travel, he must advertise and he too must live. If he succeeds in marketing the services of the young virtuoso at one or two hundred dollars a concert, the returns soon begin to overtake the incessant expenses. However, only the most persistent and talented artists survive to reap these rewards. The late Henry Wolfsohn, one of the greatest managers America has ever produced, told the writer frequently that the task of introducing a new artist was one of the most thankless and uncertain undertakings imaginable.
Does the work, the time, the expense frighten you, little miss at the keyboard? Do you fear the grind, the grueling disappoints, the unceasing sacrifices? Then abandon your great career and join the army of useful music workers who are teaching the young people of the land to love music as it should be loved,—not in hysterical outbursts in the concert hall but in the home circle. If you have the unextinguishable fire within your soul, if you have the talent from on high, if you have health, energy, system, vitality, nothing can stop you from becoming great. Advice, interferences, obstacles will be nothing to you. You will work day and night to reach your goal. What better guide could you possibly have than the words of the great pianists themselves? While the ensuing pages were compiled with the view of helping the amateur performer quite as much as the student who would become a professional pianist, you will nevertheless find in the expressions of the really great virtuosos a wealth of information and practical advice.
Most of the following chapters are the results of many different conferences with the greatest living pianists. All have had the revision of the artists in person before publication was undertaken. In order to indicate how carefully and willingly this was done by the pianists it is interesting to note the case of the great Russian composer-virtuoso Rachmaninoff. The original conference was conducted in German and in French. The material was arranged in manuscript form in English. M. Rachmaninoff then requested a second conference. In the mean time he had had the better part of the manuscript translated into his native Russian. However, in order to insure accuracy in the use of words, the writer translated the entire matter back into German in the pianist's presence. M. Rachmaninoff did not speak English and the writer did not speak Russian.
The chapter relating to Harold Bauer is the result of a conference conducted in English. Mr. Bauer's use of his native tongue is as fluent and eloquent as a poet or an orator. In order that his ideas might have the best possible expression the entire chapter was written several times in manuscript and carefully rearranged and rephrased by Mr. Bauer in person.
Some of the conferences lasted well on through the night. The writer's twenty years' experience in teaching was constantly needed to grasp different shadings of meaning that some pianists found difficult to phrase. Many indeed have felt their weakness in the art of verbal expression and have rejoiced to have their ideas clothed with fitting words. Complete frankness and sincerity were encouraged in every case. The results of the conference with Wilhelm Bachaus, conceded by many other pianists to be the foremost "technicalist" of the day, are, it will be observed, altogether different in the statement of teaching principles from those of Harold Bauer. Each is a sincere expression of individual opinion and the thoughtful student by weighing the ideas of both may reach conclusions immensely to his personal advantage.
No wider range of views upon the subject of pianoforte playing could possibly come between the covers of a book. The student, the teacher, and the music lover who acquaints himself with the opinions of the different masters of the keyboard can not fail to have a very clear insight into the best contemporary ideas upon technic, interpretation, style and expression. The author—or shall he call himself a collector?—believes that the use of the questions following each chapter will be found practical and useful in the work of both clubs and classes. Practice, however, is still more important than precept. The student might easily learn this book "by heart" and yet be unable to play a perfect scale. Let him remember the words of Locke:
"Men of much reading are greatly learned: but may be little knowing."
After all, the virtuoso is great because he really knows and W-O-R-K-S.
Pepito Arriola was born on the 14th of December, 1897. A careful investigation of his ancestry reveals that no less than twelve of his forefathers and relations have been pronouncedly musical. His father was a physician, but his mother was a musician. His early musical training was given to him exclusively by his mother. The following was prepared when he was twelve years old and at that time he was apparently a perfectly healthy child, with the normal activity of a boy of his age and with a little more general education in addition to his music than the average child at fifteen or sixteen possesses. He spoke French, German (fluently) and Spanish, but little English. Despite the fact that he had received numerous honors from European monarchs and famous musicians, he was exceptionally modest. In his playing he seemed never to miss a note in even very complicated compositions and his musical maturity and point of view were truly astonishing. The following is particularly valuable from an educational standpoint, because of the absolute unaffectedness of the child's narrative of his own training.
(The following conference was conducted in German and French.)
THE STORY OF A WONDER CHILD
MY EARLIEST RECOLLECTIONS
So much that was of interest to me was continually occurring while I was a child that it all seems like a kind of haze to me. I cannot remember when I first commenced to play, for my mother tells me that I wanted to reach out for the keyboard before I was out of her arms. I have also learned that when I was about two and one-half years of age, I could quite readily play after my mother anything that the size of my hand would permit me to play.
I loved music so dearly, and it was such fun to run over the keyboard and make the pretty sounds, that the piano was really my first and best toy. I loved to hear my mother play, and continually begged her to play for me so that I could play the same pieces after her. I knew nothing of musical notation and played entirely by ear, which seemed to me the most natural way to play. At that time, word was sent to the King of Spain that I showed talent, and he became interested in me, and I played before him.
MY FRIENDSHIP WITH ARTHUR NIKISCH
A short time afterward, Herr Arthur Nikisch, conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra at Leipsic, and at one time conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in America, came to Madrid to conduct the Philharmonic Orchestra for a special concert. Some one told him about my playing and I was permitted to play for him. He became so interested that he insisted upon my being taken to Leipsic for further study. I was then four years of age, and although musical advantages in Spain are continually increasing, my mother thought it best at the time that she should follow the great musician's advice and that I should be taken to the German city.
I want to say that in my earliest work, my mother made no effort to push me or urge me to go ahead. I loved to play for the sake of playing, and needed no coaxing to spend time at the keyboard. In my very early years I was permitted to play in public very little, although there were constant demands made to engage me. I was looked upon as a kind of curiosity and my mother wanted me to study in the regular way with good masters, and also to acquire more strength before I played in public very much.
I did, however, play at the great Albert Hall, in London. The big building holds 8000 people, but that was so long ago that I have almost forgotten all about it, except that they all seemed pleased to see a little boy of four playing in so very big a place. I also played for royal personages, including the Kaiser of Germany, who was very good to me and gave me a beautiful pin. I like the Kaiser very much. He seems like a fine man.
MY FIRST REGULAR INSTRUCTION
My first teacher, aside from my mother, was a Herr Dreckendorf, of Leipsic. He was very kind to me and took the greatest pains, but the idea of learning the notes was very distasteful to me. I was terribly bored with the technical exercises he gave me, but have since learned that one can save much time by practicing scales and exercises. Although I do not like them, I practice them every day now, for a little while, so as to get my fingers in good working order.
In about six weeks I knew all that was expected of me in the way of scales in octaves, sixths, thirds, double thirds, etc., and my teacher commenced to turn his attention to studies and pieces. For the first time I found musical notation interesting, for then I realized that it was not necessary for me to wait until some one else played a piece before I could begin to explore its beauties. Ah! it was wonderful, those first days with the pieces. I was in a new country and could hardly wait to master one at a time, so eager was I to reach the next one and see just what it was like.
Herr Dreckendorf gave me some studies by Dussek, Cramer, the Inventions of Bach, etc., but before long the fascination of playing beautiful pieces was so great that he found it hard to keep me away from them.
So hungry was I to find new musical works that when I was eight and a half years old I could play from memory such pieces as the B flat minor Scherzo, the A flat major Polonaise, and most of the Valses and Etudes of Chopin. I also played the Sixth Rhapsody of Liszt and the C minor Concerto of Beethoven.
In the mean time we moved to Berlin and this has been our home ever since, so you see I have seen far more of Germany than of my native country, Spain. In fact, it seems more natural for me to speak German than Spanish. At the age of seven it was my good fortune to come under the instruction of Alberto Jonas, the Spanish virtuoso, who for many years was at the head of a large music school in America. I can never be grateful enough to him, for he has taught me without remuneration and not even a father could be kinder to me. When I left Berlin for my present tour, tears came to our eyes, because I knew I was leaving my best friend. Most of my present repertory has been acquired under Jonas and he has been so, so exacting.
He also saw to it that my training was broad, and not confined to those composers whose works appealed most to me. The result is that I now appreciate the works of all the composers for the piano. Beethoven I found very absorbing. I learned the Appassionata Sonata in one week's time, and longed for more. My teacher, however, insisted upon my going slowly, and mastering all the little details.
I have also developed a great fondness for Bach, because I like to find how he winds his melodies in and out, and makes such beautiful things of them. I play a great deal of Bach, including the G minor organ Fugue, which Liszt played the devil with in arranging it for the piano. Goodness knows, it was difficult enough for the organ in its original form! I don't see why Liszt wanted to make it more difficult.
Liszt is, of course, considered a great master for the piano, and I play his works with great delight, especially the Campanella with its beautiful bell effect, but I cannot look upon Liszt as a pianistic composer in the same way that one thinks of Chopin as a pianistic composer. The piano was Chopin's natural tongue. Liszt's tongue, like that of Beethoven, was the orchestra. He knew no difficulties, according to the manner in which he wrote his own works. Consequently one must think of the orchestra in playing Liszt's works, while the works of Chopin suggest only the piano.
MY DAILY PRACTICE
During most of my life my practice has never exceeded two hours a day. In this country, while on tour, I never practice more than one and one-half hours. This is not necessary, because of the concerts themselves, which keep up my technical work. I never worry about my fingers. If I can think the pieces right, my fingers will always play the notes. My mother insists upon my being out in the open air all the time I am not studying and practicing, and I am out the better part of the day.
At my practice periods, I devote at least fifteen or twenty minutes to technical exercises, and strive to play all the scales, in the different forms, in all the keys, once each day. I then play some of my concert numbers, continually trying to note if there is any place that requires attention. If there is, I at once spend a little time trying to improve the passage.
It is very largely a matter of thinking the musical thought right, and then saying it in the right way. If you think it right, and your aim at the keyboard is good, you are not likely to hit the wrong notes, even in skips such as one finds in the Rubinstein Valse in E flat. I do not ever remember of hitting the upper note wrong. It all seems so easy to me that I am sure that if other children in America would look upon other examples in the same way, they could not find their work so very difficult. I love to practice Chopin. One cannot be so intimate with Bach; he is a little cold and unfriendly until one knows him very well.
I have said that we play as we think. The mind must be continually improved or the fingers will grow dull. In order to see the beauties in music we must see the beauties in other studies. I have a private teacher who comes to me in Berlin and teaches me different studies. I have studied some Latin, French, and the regular school studies. Electricity interests me more than I can tell you and I like to learn about it, but my greatest interest is in the study of astronomy. Surely nothing could be finer than to look at the stars. I have friends among the astronomers of Berlin who let me look through their telescopes and tell me all about the different constellations and the worlds that look like moons when you see them enlarged. It is all so wonderful that it makes one never cease thinking.
I also like to go to factories and learn how different things are made. I think that there are so many things that one can learn outside of a school-room. For instance, I went to a wire factory recently, and I am sure that I found out a great many things I might never have found out in books. One also learns by traveling, and when I am on my tours I feel that I learn more of the different people and the way they live than I ever could from geographies. Don't you think I am a lucky boy? One must study geography, however, to learn about maps and the way in which countries are formed. I have toured in Germany, Russia, and England, and now in America. America interests me wonderfully. Everything seems so much alive and I like the climate very much.
Musical theory bores me now, almost as much as my first technical studies did. Richard Strauss, the great German composer, has very kindly offered to teach me. I like him very much and he is so kind, but his thundering musical effects sometimes seems very noisy to me. I know many of the rules of harmony, but they are very uncomfortable and disagreeable to me.
I would far rather write my music as it comes to me. Herr Nikisch says that when I do it that way, I make very few blunders, but I know I can never be a composer until I have mastered all the branches of musical theory. I am now writing a symphony. I played some parts for Herr Nikisch and he has agreed to produce it. Of course, the orchestral parts will have to be written for me, but I know what instruments I want to express certain ideas.
Putting down the notes upon paper is so tiresome. Why can't one think the musical thoughts and have them preserved without the tedious work of writing them out! Sometimes before I can get them on paper they are gone—no one knows where, and the worst of all is that they never come back. It is far greater fun to play the piano, or play football, or go rowing.
READING AND STUDY
I love to read, and my favorite of all books is The Three Musketeers. I have also read something of Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, and many other writers. I like parts of the great Spanish novel Don Quixote, but I find it hard to read as a whole. I think that music students ought to read a great deal. It makes them think, and it gives them poetical thoughts.
Music is, after all, only another kind of poetry, and if we get poetical ideas from books we become more poetical, and our music becomes more beautiful. The student who thinks only of hammering down keys at the piano cannot play in a manner in which people will take pleasure. Piano playing is so much more than merely pressing down keys. One has to tell people things that cannot be told in words—that is what music is.
AT THE CONCERT
I do not know what it is to be nervous at concerts. I have played so much and I am always so sure of what I am going to play that nervousness is out of the question. Of course, I am anxious about the way in which audiences will receive my playing. I want to please them so much and don't want them to applaud me because I am a boy, but would rather have them come as real music-lovers to enjoy the music itself. If I cannot bring pleasure to them in that way I do not deserve to be before the public.
My concerts are usually about one hour in length, although I sometimes play encores for some time after the concert. I make it a practice not to eat for a few hours before the concert, as doctors have told my mother that my mind will be in better shape. I want to thank the many friends I have made among the students who have come to my concerts, and I hope that I may have told them some things which will help them in their work.
QUESTIONS IN STYLE, INTERPRETATION, EXPRESSION AND TECHNIC OF PIANOFORTE PLAYING
1. Should the talented child be urged or pushed ahead?
2. In what period of time should a very talented child master the elementary outlines of technic?
3. Can Liszt be regarded as a pianistic composer in the same sense as that in which Chopin is considered pianistic?
4. How should a very talented child's practice time be divided?
5. What part does right thinking play in execution?
6. How should the child's general education be conducted?
7. Should the education be confined to the classroom?
8. Should the musical child be encouraged to read fiction?
9. Does music resemble poetry?
10. Should one be careful about the body before concerts?
Wilhelm Bachaus was born at Leipsic, March 24, 1884, two years before the death of Franz Liszt. Nine years younger than Josef Hofmann and a trifle more than one-half the age of Paderewski he represents a different decade from that of other pianists included in this work. Bachaus studied for nine years with Alois Reckendorf, a Moravian teacher who was connected with the Leipsic Conservatory for more than thirty years. Reckendorf had been a student of science and philosophy at the Vienna and the Heidelberg Universities and was an earnest musician and teacher with theories of his own. He took an especial interest in Bachaus and was his only teacher with the exception of one year spent with d'Albert and "three lessons with Siloti." Although Bachaus commenced playing when he was eight years old he feels that his professional debut was made in London in June, 1901, when he played the tremendously difficult Brahms-Paganini Variations. In 1905, when Bachaus was only twenty-one, he won the famous Rubinstein Prize at Paris. This consists of 5000 francs offered every five years to young men between the ages of twenty and twenty-six.
(The following conference was conducted in English and German.)
THE PIANIST OF TO-MORROW
TO-DAY, YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW
"It is somewhat surprising how very little difference exists between the material used in piano teaching to-day and that employed forty or fifty years ago. Of course, there has been a remarkable amount of new technical material, exercises, studies, etc., devised, written and published, and some of this presents the advantage of being an improvement upon the old—an improvement which may be termed an advance—but, taken all in all, the advance has been very slight when compared with the astonishing advances made in other sciences and other phases of human progress in this time.
"It would seem that the science of music (for the processes of studying the art are undoubtedly scientific) left little territory for new explorers and inventors. Despite the great number of etudes that have been written, imagine for one moment what a desert the technic of music would be without Czerny, Clementi, Tausig, Pischna—to say nothing of the great works of Scarlatti and Bach, which have an effect upon the technic, but are really great works of musical art.
THE WONDERFUL EFFICACY OF SCALES
"Personally, I practice scales in preference to all other forms of technical exercises when I am preparing for a concert. Add to this arpeggios and Bach, and you have the basis upon which my technical work stands. Pianists who have been curious about my technical accomplishments have apparently been amazed when I have told them that scales are my great technical mainstay—that is, scales plus hard work. They evidently have thought that I had some kind of alchemic secret, like the philosopher's stone which was designed to turn the baser metals into gold. I possess no secrets which any earnest student may not acquire if he will work in the laboratory of music long enough. There are certain artistic points which only come with long-continued experiment.
"As the chemist finds the desired result by interminable heart-breaking eliminations, so the artist must weigh and test his means until he finds the one most likely to produce the most beautiful or the most appropriate result. But this seeking for the right effect has little to do with the kind of technic which necessitates one to keep every muscle employed in piano-playing properly exercised, and I may reiterate with all possible emphasis that the source of my technical equipment is scales, scales, scales. I find their continued daily practice not only beneficial, but necessary. I still find it desirable to practice scales for half an hour a day.
BACH MUSICALLY OMNIPOTENT
"It seems almost foolish to repeat what has been said so many times about the wonderful old cantor of Leipsic, Johann Sebastian Bach. However, there may still be some who have not yet become acquainted with the indisputable fact that the practice of Bach is the shortest, quickest road to technical finish. Busoni has enlarged upon Bach, impossible as that may seem; but as a modern bridge is sometimes built upon wonderful old foundations, Busoni has taken the idea of Bach and, with his penetrative and interpretative ability, has been able to make the meaning more clear and more effective. Any young pianist who aspires to have his hands in condition to respond to the subtle suggestions of his brain may acquire a marvelous foundation by the use of scales, Bach and arpeggios.
THE OLD THAT IS EVER NEW
"I have seen many ways and means tried out. Some seem like an attempt to save time at the expense of thoroughness. Furthermore, the means which have produced the great pianists of the past are likely to differ but little from those which will produce the pianists of the future.
"The ultra-modern teacher who is inclined to think scales old-fashioned should go to hear de Pachmann, who practices scales every day. De Pachmann, who has been a virtuoso for a great many years, still finds daily practice necessary, and, in addition to scales, he plays a great deal of Bach. To-day his technic is more powerful and more comprehensive than ever, and he attributes it in a large measure to the simplest of means.
DIFFICULTIES IN NEW PIANOFORTE COMPOSITIONS
"I have often been asked if the future of pianoforte composition seemed destined to alter the technic of the instrument, as did the compositions of Liszt, for instance. This is a difficult question, but it would seem that the borderland of pianistic difficulty had been reached in the compositions and transcriptions of Busoni and Godowsky. The new French school of Debussy, Ravel and others is different in type, but does not make any more severe technical demands.
"However, it is hard for one to imagine anything more complicated or more difficult than the Godowsky arrangements of the Chopin studies. I fail to see how pianoforte technic can go much beyond these, unless one gets more fingers or more hands. Godowsky's treatment of these studies is marvelous not only from a technical standpoint, but from a musical standpoint as well. He has added a new flavor to the individual masterpieces of Chopin. He has made them wonderfully clever and really very interesting studies in harmony and counterpoint, so that one forgets their technical intricacies in the beauty of the compositions. One cannot say that their original beauty has been enhanced, but he has made them wonderfully fascinating compositions despite their aggravating complications for the student.
MERE DIFFICULTY NO LONGER ASTOUNDS
"The day when the show of startling technical skill was sufficient to make a reputation for a pianist is, fortunately, past. The mechanical playing devices have possibly been responsible for this. The public refuses to admire anything that can be done by a machine, and longs for something finer, more subtle, more closely allied to the soul of the artist. This does not mean, however, that the necessity for a comprehensive technic is depreciated. Quite the contrary is true. The need for an all-comprehensive technic is greater than ever before. But the public demand for the purely musical, the purely artistic, is being continually manifested.
"Modern composers are writing with this in view rather than huge technical combinations. The giant of to-day, to my mind, is indisputably Rachmaninoff. He is writing the greatest original music for piano of any living composer. All of his compositions are pianistic and he does not condescend to pander to a trifling public taste. He is a man with a great mind, and, in addition to this, he has a delightful sense of proportion and a feeling for the beautiful, all of which makes him a composer of the master mould. His compositions will endure as long as music.
"For others of the type of Scriabine I care less, although I am sensible to the beauty of many of their compositions. They have not, however, the splendid mould of Rachmaninoff, nor have they his vigorous originality. Doubtless some of these men will produce great original compositions in the future. Compositions that are simply not bad are hardly worth the paper they are written upon, for they will not last as long. The composition that will last is a great, new, original thought, inspired, noble and elemental, but worked out with the distinctive craftsmanship of the great master.
"I am very partial to Debussy. He has an extraordinary atmosphere, and, after one has formed a taste for him, his compositions are alluring, particularly his Homage a Rameau, Jardins sous la pluie and D'un cahier d'esquisses, which I have been playing upon my American tour.
THE MOST DIFFICULT COMPOSITIONS
"I have continually been asked, 'What is the most difficult composition?' The question always amuses me, but I suppose it is very human and in line with the desire to measure the highest building, the tallest mountain, the longest river or the oldest castle. Why is such a premium put upon mere difficulty? Strange to say, no one ever seems to think it necessary to inquire, 'What is the most beautiful piece?'
"Difficulty in music should by no means be estimated by technical complications. To play a Mozart concerto well is a colossally difficult undertaking. The pianist who has worked for hours to get such a composition as near as possible to his conception of perfection is never given the credit for his work, except by a few connoisseurs, many of whom have been through a similarly exacting experience. Months may be spent upon comparatively simple compositions, such as the Haydn Sonatas or the Mozart Sonatas, and the musical public is blind to the additional finish or polish so evident to the virtuoso.
PRAISE THAT IRRITATES
"The opposite of this is also true. A little show of bravura, possibly in a passage which has not cost the pianist more than ten minutes of frivolous practice, will turn many of the unthinking auditors into a roaring mob. This is, of course, very distressing to the sincere artist who strives to establish himself by his real worth.
"Of course, there are some compositions which present difficulties which few work hard enough to surmount. Among these might be mentioned the Godowsky-Chopin etudes (particularly the etude in A flat, Opus 25, No. 1, which is always especially exasperating for the student sufficiently advanced to approach it); the Don Juan Fantasie of Liszt; the Brahms-Paganini variations and the Beethoven, Opus 106, which, when properly played, demands enormous technical skill. One certainly saves a lot of bother when one discards it from one's repertoire. If these four pieces are not the most difficult pieces, they are certainly among the most difficult.
WHY NOT SEEK THE BEAUTIFUL?
"But why seek difficulty when there is so much that is quite as beautiful and yet not difficult? Why try to make a bouquet of oak trees when the ground is covered with exquisite flowers? The piano is a solo instrument and has its limitations. Some piano music is said to sound orchestral. As a matter of fact, a great deal of it would sound better with the orchestra.
"Real piano music is rare. The piano appears to be too small for some of our modern Titans among the composers. When they write for the piano they seem to be exhibiting a concealed longing for the one hundred or more men of the modern orchestra. One of the reasons why the works of Debussy appeal to me is that he manages to put so much color into his piano pieces without suggesting the orchestra. Much of his music is wonderful in this respect, and, moreover, the musicians of the future will appreciate this fact more and more.
EXERCISES THAT GIVE IMMEDIATE HELP
"No one exercise can be depended upon to meet all the varied conditions which arise in the practice of the day, but I have frequently employed a simple exercise which seems to 'coax' the hand into muscular activity in a very short time. It is so simple that I am diffident about suggesting it. However, elemental processes lead to large structures sometimes. The Egyptian pyramids were built ages before the age of steam and electricity, and scientists are still wondering how those massive stones were ever put in place.
"The exercise I use most, apart from scales, is really based upon a principle which is constantly employed in all scale playing and in all piano playing, that of putting the thumb over and under the fingers. Did you ever stop to think how continually this is employed? One hardly goes one step beyond the elemental grades before one encounters it. It demands a muscular action entirely different from that of pressing down the keys either with the finger, forearm or arm motion.
"Starting with the above-named principle and devising new exercises to meet the very human need for variety, I play something like this:
"The next form would employ another fingering—
"The next form might be—
"These I transpose through several keys, for instance—
"Note that I am not giving an arbitrary exercise, but simply suggesting the plan upon which the student may work. There is a great deal of fun in devising new exercises. It assists in helping the student to concentrate. Of course, these exercises are only attempted after all the standard exercises found in books have been exhausted.
AVOID TOO COMPLICATED EXERCISES
"I often think that teachers make a great mistake by giving too complicated exercises. A complicated exercise leads away from clear thinking and concentration. The simple exercise will never seem dull or dry if the pupil's ambition is right. After all, it is not so much what is done as how it is done. Give less thought to the material and more to the correction of the means with which one plays. There should be unceasing variety in studies. A change at every practice period is advisable, as it gives the pupil new material for thought. There are hundreds of different exercises in the different books, and the student has no reason for suffering for want of variety."
QUESTIONS IN STYLE, INTERPRETATION, EXPRESSION AND TECHNIC OF PIANOFORTE PLAYING
1. Does the technical material of to-day differ greatly from that of forty or fifty years ago?
2. State something of the efficacy of scales.
3. State three sources of technical material sure to interest the student.
4. Do celebrated virtuosos use scales regularly?
5. State what else besides technical skill is required in these days to gain recognition as a virtuoso pianist.
6. Why does Rachmaninoff excel as a composer for pianoforte?
7. State what may be considered the most difficult of piano compositions.
8. Wherein does the appeal of Debussy lie?
9. Give some simple exercises suitable for daily practice.
10. Why are too complicated exercises undesirable?
Harold Bauer was born in London, England, April 28, 1875. His father was an accomplished amateur violinist. Through him, the future virtuoso was enabled to gain an excellent idea of the beautiful literature of chamber music. When a boy Mr. Bauer studied privately with the celebrated violin teacher, Politzer. At the age of ten he became so proficient that he made his debut as a violinist in London. Thereafter in his tours of England he met with great success everywhere.
In the artistic circles of London Mr. Bauer met a musician named Graham Moore, who gave him some idea upon the details of the technic of pianoforte playing, which Mr. Bauer had studied or rather "picked up" by himself, without any thought of ever abandoning his career as a violinist. Mr. Moore had expected to rehearse some orchestral accompaniments on a second piano with Paderewski, who was then preparing some concertos for public performance. Mr. Moore was taken ill and sent his talented musical friend, Mr. Bauer, in his place. Paderewski immediately took an interest in his talented accompanist and advised him to go to Paris to continue his studies with Gorski.
After many privations in Paris Mr. Bauer, unable to secure engagements as a violinist, went on a tour of Russia as an accompanist of a singer. In some of the smaller towns Bauer played an occasional piano solo. Returning to Paris, he found that he was still unable to secure engagements as a violinist. His pianistic opportunity came when a celebrated virtuoso who was to play at a concert was taken ill and Bauer was asked to substitute. He gradually gave more attention to the piano and rose to a very high position in the tone world.
ARTISTIC ASPECTS OF PIANO STUDY
THE IMMEDIATE RELATION OF TECHNIC TO MUSIC
"While it gives me great pleasure to talk to the great number of students studying the piano, I can assure you that it is with no little diffidence that I venture to approach these very subjects about which they are probably most anxious to learn. In the first place, words tell very little, and in the second place, my whole career has been so different from the orthodox methods that I have been constantly compelled to contrive means of my own to meet the myriads of artistic contingencies as they have arisen in my work. It is largely for this reason that I felt compelled recently to refuse a very flattering offer to write a book on piano playing. My whole life experience makes me incapable of perceiving what the normal methods of pianistic study should be. As a result of this I am obliged with my own pupils to invent continually new means and new plans for work with each student.
"Without the conventional technical basis to work upon, this has necessarily resulted in several aspects of pianoforte study which are naturally somewhat different from the commonly accepted ideas of the technicians. In the first place, the only technical study of any kind I have ever done has been that technic which has had an immediate relation to the musical message of the piece I have been studying. In other words, I have never studied technic independently of music. I do not condemn the ordinary technical methods for those who desire to use them and see good in them. I fear, however, that I am unable to discuss them adequately, as they are outside of my personal experience.
THE AIM OF TECHNIC
"When, as a result of circumstances entirely beyond my control, I abandoned the study of the violin in order to become a pianist, I was forced to realize, in view of my very imperfect technical equipment, that in order to take advantage of the opportunities that offered for public performance it would be necessary for me to find some means of making my playing acceptable without spending months and probably years in acquiring mechanical proficiency. The only way of overcoming the difficulty seemed to be to devote myself entirely to the musical essentials of the composition I was interpreting in the hope that the purely technical deficiencies which I had neither time nor knowledge to enable me to correct would pass comparatively unnoticed, provided I was able to give sufficient interest and compel sufficient attention to the emotional values of the work. This kind of study, forced upon me in the first instance through reasons of expediency, became a habit, and gradually grew into a conviction that it was a mistake to practice technic at all unless such practice should conduce to some definite, specific and immediate musical result.
"I do not wish to be misunderstood in making this statement, containing, as it does, an expression of opinion that was formed in early years of study, but which, nevertheless, I have never since felt any reason to change. It is not my intention to imply that technical study is unnecessary, or that purely muscular training is to be neglected. I mean simply to say that in every detail of technical work the germ of musical expression must be discovered and cultivated, and that in muscular training for force and independence the simplest possible forms of physical exercises are all that is necessary.
"The singer and the violinist are always studying music, even when they practice a succession of single notes. Not so with the pianist, however, for an isolated note on the piano, whether played by the most accomplished artist or the man in the street, means nothing, absolutely nothing.
SEEKING INDIVIDUAL EXPRESSION
"At the time of which I speak, my greatest difficulty was naturally to give a constant and definite direction to my work and in my efforts to obtain a suitable muscular training which should enable me to produce expressive sounds, while I neglected no opportunity of closely observing the work of pianoforte teachers and students around me. I found that most of the technical work which was being done with infinite pains and a vast expenditure of time was not only non-productive of expressive sounds, but actually harmful and misleading as regards the development of the musical sense. I could see no object in practicing evenness in scales, considering that a perfectly even scale is essentially devoid of emotional (musical) significance. I could see no reason for limiting tone production to a certain kind of sound that was called 'a good tone,' since the expression of feeling necessarily demands in many cases the use of relatively harsh sounds. Moreover, I could see no reason for trying to overcome what are generally called natural defects, such as the comparative weakness of the fourth finger for example, as it seemed to me rather a good thing than otherwise that each finger should naturally and normally possess a characteristic motion of its own.
"It is differences that count in art, not similarities. Every individual expression is a form of art; why not, then, make an artist of each finger by cultivating its special aptitudes instead of adapting a system of training deliberately calculated to destroy these individual characteristics in bringing all the fingers to a common level of lifeless machines?
"These and similar reflections, I discovered, were carrying me continually farther away from the ideals of most of the pianists, students and teachers with whom I was in contact, and it was not long before I definitely abandoned all hope of obtaining, by any of the means I found in use, the results for which I was striving. Consequently, from that time to the present my work has necessarily been more or less independent and empirical in its nature, and, while I trust I am neither prejudiced nor intolerant in my attitude towards pianoforte education in its general aspect, I cannot help feeling that a great deal of natural taste is stifled and a great deal of mediocrity created by the persistent and unintelligent study of such things as an 'even scale' or a 'good tone.'