Talks with Master Pianists and Teachers and an Account of a Von Buelow Class, Hints on Interpretation, by Two American Teachers (Dr. William Mason and William H. Sherwood) and a Summary by the Author
Author of The Art of the Pianist
With Sixteen Portraits
Frederick A. Stokes Company The Musical Observer Company
IGNACE JAN PADEREWSKI
ERNEST SCHELLING.....The Hand of a Pianist
ERNESTO CONSOLO.....Making the Piano a Musical Instrument
SIGISMOND STOJOWSKI.....Mind in Piano Study.
RUDOLPH GANZ.....Conserving Energy in Piano Practise
TINA LERNER.....An Audience the Best Teacher
ETHEL LEGINSKA.....Relaxation the Keynote of Modern Piano Playing
BERTHA FIERING TAPPER.....Mastering Piano Problems
CARL M. ROEDER.....Problems of Piano Teachers
KATHARINE GOODSON.....An Artist at Home
MARK HAMBOURG.....Form, Technic, and Expression
TOBIAS MATTHAY.....Watching the Artist Teacher at Work
HAROLD BAUER.....The Question of Piano Tone
RAOUL PUGNO.....Training the Child
THUEL BURNHAM.....The "Melody" and "Coloratura" Hand
EDWIN HUGHES.....Some Essentials of Piano Playing
FERRUCCIO BUSONI.....An Artist at Home
ADELE AUS DER OHE.....Another Artist at Home
ELEANOR SPENCER.....More Light on Leschetizky's Ideas
ARTHUR HOCHMAN.....How the Pianist Can Color Tone with Action and Emotion
TERESA CARRENO.....Early Technical Training
WILHELM BACHAUS.....Technical Problems Discussed
ALEXANDER LAMBERT.....American and European Teachers
FANNIE BLOOMFIELD ZEISLER.....The Scope of Piano Technic
AGNES MORGAN.....Simplicity in Piano Teaching
EUGENE HEFFLEY.....Modern Tendencies
GERMAINE SCHNITZER.....Modern Methods in Piano Study
OSSIP GABRILOWITSCH.....Characteristic Touch on the Piano
HANS VON BUeLOW.....Teacher and Interpreter
WILLIAM H. SHERWOOD AND DR. WILLIAM MASON.....Hints on Interpretation
POSTLUDE.....Vital Points in Piano Playing
Ignace Jan Paderewski
Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler
Hans von Buelow
Dr. William Mason
TO AMERICAN PIANO TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
The following "Talks" were obtained at the suggestion of the Editor of Musical America, and have all, with one or two exceptions, appeared in that paper. They were secured with the hope and intention of benefiting the American teacher and student.
Requests have come from all over the country, asking that the interviews be issued in book form. In this event it was the author's intention to ask each artist to enlarge and add to his own talk. This, however, has been practicable only in certain cases; in others the articles remain very nearly as they at first appeared.
The summer of 1913 in Europe proved to be a veritable musical pilgrimage, the milestones of which were the homes of the famous artists, who generously gave of their time and were willing to discuss their methods of playing and teaching.
The securing of the interviews has given the author satisfaction and delight. She wishes to share both with the fellow workers of her own land.
The Talks are arranged in the order in which they were secured.
IGNACE JAN PADEREWSKI
One of the most consummate masters of the piano at the present time is Ignace Jan Paderewski. Those who were privileged to hear him during his first season in this country will never forget the experience. The Polish artist conquered the new world as he had conquered the old; his name became a household word, known from coast to coast; he traveled over our land, a Prince of Tones, everywhere welcomed and honored. Each succeeding visit deepened the admiration in which his wonderful art was held.
The question has often been raised as to the reason of Paderewski's remarkable hold on an audience; wherein lay his power over the musical and unmusical alike. Whenever he played there was always the same intense hush over the listeners, the same absorbed attention, the same spell. The superficial attributed these largely to his appearance and manner; the more thoughtful looked deeper. Here was a player who was a thoroughly trained master in technic and interpretation; one who knew his Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt. These things of themselves would not hold an audience spellbound, for there were other artists equally well equipped. In a final analysis it was doubtless Paderewski's wonderful piano tone, so full of variety and color, so vital with numberless gradations of light and shade, that charmed and enthralled his listeners. It mattered to no one—save the critics—that he frequently repeated the same works. What if we heard the Chromatic Fantaisie a score of times? In his hands It became a veritable Soliloquy on Life and Destiny, which each repetition invested with new meaning and beauty. What player has ever surpassed his poetic conception of Schumann's Papillons, or the Chopin Nocturnes, which he made veritable dream poems of love and ecstasy. What listener has ever forgotten the tremendous power and titanic effect of the Liszt Rhapsodies, especially No. 2? When Paderewski first came to us, in the flush of his young manhood, he taught us what a noble instrument the piano really is in the hands of a consummate master. He showed us that he could make the piano speak with the delicacy and power of a Rubinstein, but with more technical correctness; he proved that he could pierce our very soul with the intensity of his emotion, the poignant, heart-searching quality of his tones, the poetry and beauty of his interpretation.
Paderewski is known as composer and pianist, only rarely does he find time to give instruction on his instrument. Mme. Antoinette Szumowska, the Polish pianist and lecturer was at one time termed his "only pupil." Mr. Sigismond Stojowski, the Polish composer, pianist and teacher has also studied with him. Both can testify as to his value as an instructor.
Mme. Szumowska says:
"Paderewski lays great stress on legato playing, and desires everything to be studied slowly, with deep touch and with full, clear tone. For developing strength he uses an exercise for which the hand is pressed against the keyboard while the wrist remains very low and motionless and each finger presses on a key, bringing, or drawing out as much tone as possible.
"Paderewski advises studying scales and arpeggios with accents, for instance, accenting every third note, thus enabling each finger in turn to make the accent impulse: this will secure evenness of touch. Double passages, such as double thirds and sixths, should be divided and each half practised separately, with legato touch. Octaves should be practised with loose wrists and staccato touch. As a preparatory study practise with thumb alone. The thumb must always be kept curved, with joints well rounded out; it should touch the keys with its tip, so as to keep it on a level with the other fingers. Paderewski is very particular about this point.
"It is difficult to speak of Paderewski's manner of teaching expression, for here the ideas differ with each composer and with every composition. As to tonal color, he requires all possible variety in tone production. He likes strong contrasts, which are brought out, not only by variety of touch but by skilful use of the pedals.
"My lessons with Paderewski were somewhat irregular. We worked together whenever he came to Paris. Sometimes I did not see him for several months, and then he would be in Paris for a number of weeks; at such seasons we worked together very often. Frequently these lessons, which were given in my cousin's house, began very late in the evening—around ten o'clock—and lasted till midnight, or even till one in the morning.
"Paderewski the teacher is as remarkable as Paderewski the pianist. He is very painstaking; his remarks are clear and incisive: he often illustrates by playing the passage in question, or the whole composition. He takes infinite trouble to work out each detail and bring it to perfection. He is very patient and sweet tempered, though he can occasionally be a little sarcastic. He often grows very enthusiastic over his teaching, and quite forgets the lapse of time. In general, however, he does not care to teach, and naturally has little time for it."
* * * * *
Mr. Stojowski, when questioned in regard to his work with the Polish pianist, said:
"Paderewski is a very remarkable teacher. There are teachers who attempt to instruct pupils about what they do not understand, or cannot do themselves: there are others who are able to do the thing, but are not able to explain how they do it. Paderewski can both do it and explain how it is done. He knows perfectly what effects he wishes to produce, how they are to be produced, the causes which underlie and bring them about; he can explain and demonstrate these to the pupil with the greatest exactness and detail.
"As you justly remark the quality of tone and the variety of tonal gradations are special qualities of Paderewski's playing. These must be acquired by aid of the ear, which tests and judges each shade and quality of tone. He counsels the student to listen to each tone he produces, for quality and variety.
CLEARNESS A MUST PRINCIPLE
"The player, as he sits at the piano, his mind and heart filled with the beauty of the music his fingers are striving to produce, vainly imagines he is making the necessary effects. Paderewski will say to him: 'No doubt you feel the beauty of this composition, but I hear none of the effects you fancy you are making; you must deliver everything much more clearly: distinctness of utterance is of prime importance.'' Then he shows how clearness and distinctness may be acquired. The fingers must be rendered firm, with no giving in at the nail joint. A technical exercise which he gives, and which I also use in my teaching, trains the fingers in up and down movements, while the wrist is held very low and pressed against the keyboard. At first simple five-finger forms are used; when the hand has become accustomed to this tonic, some of the Czerny Op. 740 can be played, with the hand in this position. Great care should be taken when using this principle, or lameness will result. A low seat at the piano is a necessity for this practise; sitting low is an aid to weight playing: we all know how low Paderewski himself sits at the instrument.
"You ask what technical material is employed. Czerny, Op. 740; not necessarily the entire opus; three books are considered sufficient. Also Clementi's Gradus. Of course scales must be carefully studied, with various accents, rhythms and tonal dynamics; arpeggios also. Many arpeggio forms of value may be culled from compositions.
"There are, as we all know, certain fundamental principles that underlie all correct piano study, though various masters may employ different ways and means to exemplify these fundamentals. Paderewski studied with Leschetizky and inculcates the principles taught by that master, with this difference, that he adapts his instruction to the physique and mentality of the student; whereas the Vorbereiters of Leschetizky prepare all pupils along the same lines, making them go through a similar routine, which may not in every instance be necessary.
"One point Paderewski is very particular about, and that is fingering. He often carefully marks the fingering for a whole piece; once this is decided upon it must be kept to. He believes in employing a fingering which is most comfortable to the hand, as well as one which, in the long run, will render the passage most effective. He is most sensitive to the choice of fingering the player makes, and believes that each finger can produce a different quality of tone. Once, when I was playing a Nocturne, he called to me from the other end of the room: 'Why do you always play that note with the fourth finger? I can hear you do it; the effect is bad,' He has a keen power of observation; he notices little details which pass unheeded by most people; nothing escapes him. This power, directed to music, makes him the most careful and painstaking of teachers. At the same time, in the matter of fingering, he endeavors to choose the one which can be most easily accomplished by the player. The Von Buelow editions, while very erudite, are apt to be laborious and pedantic; they show the German tendency to over-elaboration, which, when carried too far becomes a positive fault.
"Another principle Paderewski considers very important is that of appropriate motion. He believes in the elimination of every unnecessary movement, yet he wishes the whole body free and supple. Motions should be as carefully studied as other technical points. It is true he often makes large movements of arm, but they are all thought out and have a dramatic significance. He may lift the finger off a vehement staccato note by quick up-arm motion, in a flash of vigorous enthusiasm; but the next instant his hand is in quiet position for the following phrase.
"The intent listening I spoke of just now must be of vital assistance to the player in his search for tonal variety and effect. Tone production naturally varies according to the space which is to be filled. Greater effort must be put forth in a large hall, to make the tone carry over the footlights, to render the touch clear, the accents decisive and contrasts pronounced. In order to become accustomed to these conditions, the studio piano can be kept closed, and touch must necessarily be made stronger to produce the desired power.
"A great artist's performance of a noble work ought to sound like a spontaneous improvisation; the greater the artist the more completely will this result be attained. In order to arrive at this result, however, the composition must be dissected in minutest detail. Inspiration comes with the first conception of the interpretation of the piece. Afterward all details are painstakingly worked out, until the ideal blossoms into the perfectly executed performance. Paderewski endeavors uniformly to render a piece in the manner and spirit in which he has conceived it. He relates that after one of his recitals, a lady said to him:
"'Why, Mr. Paderewski, you did not play this piece the same as you did when I heard you before,'
"'I assure you I intended to,' was the reply.
"'Oh, it isn't necessary to play it always the same way; you are not a machine,' said the lady.
"This reply aroused his artist-nature.
"'It is just because I am an artist that I ought at all times to play in the same way. I have thought out the conception of that piece, and am in duty bound to express my ideal as nearly as possible each time I perform it.'
"Paderewski instructs, as he does everything else, with magnificent generosity. He takes no account of time. I would come to him for a stipulated half-hour, but the lesson would continue indefinitely, until we were both forced to stop from sheer exhaustion. I have studied with him at various times. One summer especially stands out in my memory, when I had a lesson almost every day."
Speaking of the rarely beautiful character of Paderewski's piano compositions, Mr. Stojowski said:
"I feel that the ignorance of this music among piano teachers and students is a crying shame. What modern piano sonata have we to-day, to compare with his? I know of none. And the songs—are they not wonderful! I love the man and his music so much that I am doing what lies in my power to make these compositions better known. There is need of pioneer work in this matter, and I am glad to do some of it."
THE HAND OF A PIANIST
As I sat in the luxurious salon of the apartments near the Park, where Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Schelling were spending the winter, sounds of vigorous piano practise floated out to me from a distant chamber. It was unusual music, and seemed to harmonize with the somewhat Oriental atmosphere and coloring of the music-room, with its heavily beamed ceiling of old silver, its paintings and tapestries.
The playing ceased and soon the artist appeared, greeting the visitor with genial friendliness of manner. He was accompanied by the "lord of the manor," a beautiful white bull terrier, with coat as white as snow. This important personage at once curled himself up in the most comfortable arm-chair, a quiet, profound observer of all that passed. In the midst of some preliminary chat, the charming hostess entered and poured tea for us.
The talk soon turned upon the subject in which I was deeply interested—the technical training of a pianist.
"Technic is such an individual matter," began Mr. Schelling; "for it depends on so many personal things: the physique, the mentality, the amount of nervous energy one has, the hand and wrist. Perhaps the poorest kind of hand for the piano is the long narrow one, with long fingers. Far better to have a short, broad one with short fingers. Josef Hofmann has a wonderful hand for the piano; rather small, yes, but so thick and muscular. The wrist, too, is a most important factor. Some pianists have what I call a 'natural wrist,' that is they have a natural control of it; it is no trouble for them to play octaves, for instance. Mme. Carreno has that kind of wrist; she never had difficulty with octaves, they are perfect, Hofmann also has a marvelous wrist. I am sorry to say I have not that kind of wrist, and therefore have been much handicapped on that account. For I have had to work tremendously to develop not only the wrist but the whole technic. You see I was a wonder child, and played a great deal as a small boy. Then from fifteen to twenty I did not practise anything like what I ought to have done. That is the period when the bones grow, muscles develop—everything grows. Another thing against me is the length of my fingers. When the fingers are longer than the width of the hand across the knuckle joint, it is not an advantage but a detriment. The extra length of finger is only so much dead weight that the hand has to lift. This is another disadvantage I have had to work against. Yes, as you say, it is a rather remarkable hand in regard to size and suppleness. But I hardly agree that it is like Liszt's; more like Chopin's, judging from the casts I have seen of his hand.
"As for technical routine, of course I play scales a good deal and in various ways. When I 'go into training,' I find the best means to attain velocity is to work with the metronome. One can't jump at once into the necessary agility, and the metronome is a great help in bringing one up to the right pitch. You see by the firmness of these muscles at the back and thumb side of my hand, that I am in good trim now; but one soon loses this if one lets up on the routine.
"Then I practise trills of all kinds, and octaves. Yes, I agree that octaves are a most necessary and important factor in the player's technical equipment."
Going to the piano and illustrating as he talked, Mr. Schelling continued:
"Merely flopping the hand up and down, as many do, is of little use—it does not lead to strength or velocity. As you see, I hold the hand arched and very firm, and the firmness is in the fingers as well; the hand makes up and down movements with loose wrist; the result is a full, bright, crisp tone. One can play these octaves slowly, using weight, or faster with crisp, staccato touch. I play diatonic or chromatic octave scales, with four repetitions or more, on each note—using fourth finger for black keys.
"I sit low at the piano, as I get better results in this way; though it is somewhat more difficult to obtain them. I confess it is easier to sit high and bear down on the hands. Yes, I thoroughly approve of 'weight touch,' and it is the touch I generally use. Sometimes it is a certain pressure on the key after it is played, using arm weight.
"Ah, you are right. The young teacher or player, in listening to the artist, and noticing he does not lift his fingers to any extent, and that he always plays with weight, hastily concludes these are the principles with which he must begin to study or teach the piano. It is a mistake to begin in that way. Very exact finger movements must be learned in the beginning. As I said before, technic is such an individual matter, that after the first period of foundational training, one who has the desire to become an artist, must work out things for himself. There should be no straight-laced methods. Only a few general rules can be laid down, such as will fit most cases. The player who would rise to any distinction must work out his own salvation.
"In regard to memorizing piano music, it may be said this can be accomplished in three ways: namely, with the eye, with the ear, and with the hand. For example: I take the piece and read it through with the eye, just as I would read a book. I get familiar with the notes in this way, and see how they look in print. I learn to know them so well that I have a mental photograph of them, and if necessary could recall any special measure or phrase so exactly that I could write it. All this time my mental ear has been hearing those notes, and is familiar with them. Then the third stage arrives; I must put all this on the keyboard, my fingers must have their training; impressions must pass from the mind to the fingers; then all is complete."
MAKING THE PIANO A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT
In a long conversation with Ernesto Consolo, the eminent pianist and instructor, many points of vital importance to the player and teacher were touched upon. Among other things Mr. Consolo said:
"It is absolutely necessary that the piano teacher should take his profession very seriously. In my opinion there is most excellent instruction to be secured right here in America, with such teachers as are willing to take their work seriously. The time is not far away, I think, when America will enjoy a very prominent position in the matter of musical instruction, and perhaps lead the world in musical advantages. The time is not here just yet, but it is surely coming. You are still young in this country, though you are wonderfully progressive.
"If I have spoken of the serious aims of many teachers of piano, I cannot say as much for the students: they are often superficial and want to go too quickly; they are apt to be in a hurry and want to make a show, without being willing to spend the necessary years on preparation. No art can be hurried. Students of painting, sculpture, architecture or music must all learn the technique of their art; they must all learn to go deep into the mysteries and master technic as the means to the end, and no one requires exhaustive preparation more than the executive musician. The person who would fence, box or play baseball must know the technic of these things; how much more must the pianist be master of the technique of his instrument if he would bring out the best results.
"At the very bottom and heart of this subject of mastery lies Concentration: without that, little of value can be accomplished. Students think if they sit at the piano and 'practise' a certain number of hours daily, it is sufficient. A small portion of that time, if used with intense concentration, will accomplish more. One player will take hours to learn a page or a passage which another will master in a fraction of the time. What is the difference? It may be said one has greater intelligence than the other. The greater the intelligence, the stronger the power of concentration.
"If a pupil comes to me whose powers of concentration have not been awakened or developed, I sometimes give him music to read over very slowly, so slowly that every note, phrase and finger mark can be distinctly seen. Not being used to thinking intently, mistakes occur, in one hand or the other, showing that the mind was not sufficiently concentrated. It is the mind every time that wins. Without using our mental powers to their fullest extent we fail of the best that is in us.
"In regard to technical equipment and routine, I do different work with each pupil, for each pupil is different. No two people have the same hands, physique or mentality; so why should they all be poured into the same mold? One student, for example, has splendid wrists and not very good fingers. Why should I give him the same amount of wrist practise that I give his brother who has feeble wrists; it would only be a waste of time. Again, a pupil with limited ideas of tonal quality and dynamics is advised to study tone at the piano in some simple melody of Schubert or Chopin, trying to realize a beautiful tone—playing it in various ways until such a quality Is secured. The piano is a responsive instrument and gives back what you put into it. If you attack it with a hard touch, it will respond with a harsh tone. It rests with you whether the piano shall be a musical instrument or not.
"A student who comes to me with a very poor touch must of course go back to first principles and work up. Such an one must learn correct movements and conditions of hands, arms and fingers; and these can be acquired at a table. Along with these, however, I would always give some simple music to play, so that the tonal and musical sense shall not be neglected.
"Of course I advise comprehensive scale practise; scales in all keys and in various rhythms and touches. There is an almost endless variety of ways to play scales. Those in double thirds and sixths I use later, after the others are under control. Arpeggios are also included in this scale practise.
"I have said that Concentration is the keynote of piano mastery. Another principle which goes hand in hand with it is Relaxation. Unless this condition is present in arms, wrist and shoulders, the tone will be hard and the whole performance constrained and unmusical. There is no need of having tired muscles or those that feel strained or painful. If this condition arises it is proof that there is stiffness, that relaxation has not taken place. I can sit at the piano and play forte for three hours at a time and not feel the least fatigue in hands and arms. Furthermore, the playing of one who is relaxed, who knows how to use his anatomy, will not injure the piano. We must remember the piano is a thing of joints; the action is so delicately adjusted that it moves with absolute freedom and ease. The player but adds another joint, which should equal in ease and adjustment the ones already there. On the other hand a person with stiff joints and rigid muscles, thumping ragtime on a good piano, can ruin it in a week; whereas under the fingers of a player who understands the laws of relaxation, it would last for many years.
"This principle of relaxation is exemplified in the athlete, baseball player, and others. They have poise and easy adjustment in every part of the body: they never seem to fall into strained or stiff attitudes, nor make angular or stiff movements. Arms, shoulders, wrists and fingers are all relaxed and easy. The pianist needs to study these principles as well as the athlete, I believe in physical exercises to a certain extent. Light-weight dumb-bells can be used; it is surprising how light a weight is sufficient to accomplish the result. But it must be one movement at a time, exercising one muscle at a time, and not various muscles at once.
"For memorizing piano music I can say I have no method whatever. When I know the piece technically or mechanically, I know it by heart. I really do not know when the memorizing takes place. The music is before me on the piano; I forget to turn the pages, and thus find I know the piece. In playing with orchestra I know the parts of all instruments, unless it be just a simple chord accompaniment; it would not interest me to play with orchestra and not know the music in this way. On one occasion I was engaged to play the Sgambatti concerto, which I had not played for some time. I tried it over on the piano and found I could not remember it. My first idea was to get out the score and go over it; the second was to try and recall the piece from memory. I tried the latter method, with the result that in about three hours and a half I had the whole concerto back in mind. I played the work ten days later without having once consulted the score. This goes to prove that memory must be absolute and not merely mechanical.
"Students think they cannot memorize, when it would be quite easy if they would apply themselves in the right way. I ask them to look intently at a small portion, two measures, or even one, and afterward to play it without looking at the notes. Of course, as you say, this can be done away from the piano; the notes can even be recited; but there are other signs and marks to be considered and remembered, so when one can be at the piano I consider it better.
"Piano playing is such an individual and complex thing. I do not require nor expect my pupils to play as I do, nor interpret as I interpret, for then I would only see just so many replicas of myself, and their individuality would be lost. I often hear them play a composition in a different way and with a different spirit from the one I find in it. But I don't say to them, 'That is wrong; you must play it as I do,' No, I let them play it as they see and feel it, so long as there is no sin against artistic taste.
"I trust these few points will be helpful to both player and teacher. The latter needs all the encouragement we artists can give, for in most cases he is doing a good work.
"Volumes might be added to these hurried remarks, but for that my time is too limited."
MIND IN PIANO STUDY
Mr. Sigismond Stojowski, the eminent Polish pianist and composer, was found one morning in his New York studio, at work with a gifted pupil. He was willing to relax a little, however, and have a chat on such themes as might prove helpful to both teacher and student.
"You ask me to say something on the most salient points in piano technic; perhaps we should say, the points that are most important to each individual; for no two students are exactly alike, nor do any two see things in precisely the same light. This is really a psychological matter. I believe the subject of psychology is a very necessary study for both teacher and student. We all need to know more about mental processes than we do. I am often asked how to memorize, for instance—or the best means for doing this; another psychological process. I recommend students to read William James' Talks on Psychology; a very helpful book.
"The most vital thing in piano playing is to learn to think. Has it ever occurred to you what infinite pains people will take to avoid thinking? They will repeat a technical illustration hundreds of times it may be, but with little or no thought directed to the performance. Such work is absolutely useless. Perhaps that is a little too strong. With countless repetitions there may at last come to be a little improvement, but it will be very small.
"There is quite a variety of views as to what the essentials of piano technic are; this is a subject on which teachers, unluckily, do not agree. For instance, on the point of finger lifting there is great diversity of opinion. Some believe in raising the fingers very high, others do not. Lifting the fingers high is not good for the tone, though it may be used for velocity playing. I use quite the reverse where I wish beautiful, singing, tone quality. The young pupil, at the beginning, must of course learn to raise fingers and make precise movements; when greater proficiency is reached, many modifications of touch are used. That the best results are not more often obtained in piano teaching and study, is as much the fault of the teacher as the pupil. The latter is usually willing to be shown and anxious to learn. It is for the teacher to correctly diagnose the case and administer the most efficient remedy.
"There is a certain amount of what I might call 'natural technic' possessed by every one—some one point which is easy for him. It Is often the trill. It has frequently come under my notice that players with little facility in other ways, can make a good trill. Some singers have this gift; Mme. Melba is one who never had to study a trill, for she was born with a nightingale in her throat. I knew a young man in London who was evidently born with an aptitude for octaves. He had wonderful wrists, and could make countless repetitions of the octave without the least fatigue. He never had to practise octaves, they came to him naturally.
"The teacher's work is both corrective and constructive. He must see what is wrong and be able to correct it. Like a physician, he should find the weak and deficient parts and build them up. He should have some remedy at his command that will fit the needs of each pupil.
"I give very few etudes, and those I administer in homeopathic doses. It is not necessary to play through a mass of etudes to become a good pianist. Much of the necessary technic may be learned from the pieces themselves, though scales and arpeggios must form part of the daily routine.
KEEPING UP A REPERTOIRE
"In keeping a large number of pieces in mind, I may say that the pianist who does much teaching is in a sense taught by his pupils. I have many advanced pupils, and in teaching their repertoire I keep up my own. Of course after a while one grows a little weary of hearing the same pieces rendered by students; the most beautiful no longer seem fresh. My own compositions are generally exceptions, as I do not often teach those. To the thoughtful teacher, the constant hearing of his repertoire by students shows him the difficulties that younger players have to encounter, and helps him devise means to aid them to conquer these obstacles. At the same time there is this disadvantage: the pianist cannot fail to remember the places at which such and such a student had trouble, forgot or stumbled. This has happened to me at various times. In my recitals I would be playing ahead, quite unconscious that anything untoward could occur—wholly absorbed in my work; when, at a certain point, the recollection would flash over me—this is where such or such a pupil stumbled. The remembrance is sometimes so vivid that I am at some effort to keep my mental balance and proceed with smoothness and certainty.
"Yes, I go over my pieces mentally, especially if I am playing an entirely new program which I have never played before; otherwise I do not need to do so much of it.
FILLING IN A PASSAGE
"You suggest that a composer may fill in or make up a passage, should he forget a portion of the piece when playing in public. True; but improvising on a well-known work is rather a dangerous thing to do in order to improve a bad case. Apropos of this, I am reminded of an incident which occurred at one of my European recitals. It was a wholly new program which I was to give at Vevay. I had been staying with Paderewski, and went from Morges to Vevay, to give the recital. In my room at the hotel I was mentally reviewing the program, when in a Mendelssohn Fugue, I found I had forgotten a small portion. I could remember what went before and what came after, but this particular passage had seemingly gone. I went down to the little parlor and tried the fugue on the piano, but could not remember the portion in question. I hastened back to my room and constructed a bridge which should connect the two parts. When the time came to play the fugue at the recital, it all went smoothly till I was well over the weak spot, which, it seems, I really played as Mendelssohn wrote it. As I neared the last page, the question suddenly occurred to me, what had I done with that doubtful passage? What had really happened I could not remember; and the effort to recall whether I had played Mendelssohn or Stojowski nearly brought disaster to that last page.
"As soon as my season closes here I shall go to London and bring out my second piano concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, under Nikisch. I shall also play various recitals."
It was my good fortune to be present at the orchestral concert at Queen's Hall, when Mr. Stojowski was the soloist. It was pleasant to see the enthusiasm aroused by the concerto itself, and the performance of it by the artist.
CONSERVING ENERGY IN PIANO PRACTISE
"One of the most necessary things is the conserving of vital energy in piano practise," said the pianist Rudolph Ganz to me one day. "The wrong way is to continually practise the piece as though you were playing it in public—that is to say, with all possible energy and emotion. Some of the pianists now before the public do this, and it always makes me sorry for them, for I know what a needless waste of energy and vital force it is. An actor, studying his lines, does not need to continually shout them in order to learn how they should be interpreted. Neither does the lyric actress practise her roles with full tones, for she is well used to saving her voice. Why then should the pianist exhaust himself and give out his whole strength merely in the daily routine of practise? I grant this principle of saving one's self may not be easy to learn, but it should be acquired by all players, great and small. I think a pianist should be able to practise five or six hours daily without fatigue. If the player is accustomed to husband his vital force during the daily routine of practise, he can play a long, exacting program in public without weariness. In every day practise one often does not need to play forte nor use the pedals; a tone of medium power is sufficient. Suppose, for instance, you are studying the Chopin Etude Op. 10, No. 12, with the left hand arpeggio work. Every note and finger must be in place, every mark of phrasing obeyed; but during practise hours you need not give the piece all its dashing vigor and bravura at every repetition. Such a course would soon exhaust the player. Yet every effect you wish to make must be thoroughly studied, must be in mind, and used at intervals whenever a complete performance of the piece is desired.
"As I said before, it is often difficult to control the impulse to 'let loose,' if the work is an exciting one. At a recent rehearsal with the Symphony Orchestra, I told the men I would quietly run through the concerto I was to play, merely indicating the effects I wanted. We began, but in five minutes I found myself playing with full force and vigor.
"In regard to methods in piano study there seems to be a diversity of opinion, resulting, I think, from the various ways of touching the keys—some players using the tip and others the ball of the finger. Busoni may be cited as one who employs the end of the finger—Pauer also; while the Frenchman, Cortot, who has an exquisite tone, plays with the hand almost flat on the keys, a method which certainly insures weight of hand and arm. Of course players generally, and teachers also, agree on the employment of arm weight in playing. The principles of piano technic are surely but few. Was it not Liszt who said: 'Play the right key with the right finger, the right tone and the right intention—that is all!' It seems to me piano technic has been pushed to its limit, and there must be a reversal; we may return to some of the older methods of touch and technic.
"The vital thing in piano playing is to bring out the composer's meaning, plus your own inspiration and feeling. You must study deeply into the composer's idea, but you must also put your own feeling, intensity and emotion into the piece. And not only must you feel the meaning yourself, but you must play it in a way to touch others. There are many pianists who are not cultured musicians; who think they know their Beethoven because they can play a few sonatas. In music 'knowledge is power.' We need all possible knowledge, but we also need to feel the inspiration. One of the greatest teachers of our time holds that personal inspiration is not necessary; for the feeling is all in the music itself. All we have to do is to play with such and such a dynamic quality of tone. Like a country doctor measuring out his drugs, this master apportions so many grains of power for forte, for mezzo, for piano, and so on. This plan puts a damper on individuality and enthusiasm, for it means that everything must be coldly calculated. Such playing does not really warm the heart.
"I believe in teaching tonal contrasts and tone color even to a beginner. Why should not the child form a concept of forte and piano, and so get away from the deadly monotony of mezzo? I have written some little descriptive piano pieces, and my small boy learned one of them to play for me. There is a closing phrase like this," and Mr. Ganz illustrated at the piano; "it is to be played forte, and is followed by a few notes to be touched very softly, like an echo. It was really beautiful to see how the little fellow reached out for the pedal to make the loud part more emphatic, and then played the echo very softly and neatly. He had grasped the first principle of tone color—namely tone contrast, and also a poetic idea.
"There are so many wonder children in these days, and many marvels are accomplished by infant prodigies. Very often however, these wonder children develop no further; they fail to fulfil their early promise, or the expectations held of them.
"A youthful wonder in the field of composition is Eric Korngold, whose piano sonata I played in my New York recital. I have played this work eight times in all, during my present tour, often by request. To me it is most interesting. I cannot say it is logical in the development of its ideas; it often seems as though the boy threw in chords here and there with no particular reason. Thus the effort of memorizing is considerable, for I must always bear in mind that this C major chord has a C sharp in it, or that such and such a chord is changed into a most unusual one. One cannot predict whether the boy will develop further. As you say, Mozart was an infant prodigy, but if we judge from the first little compositions that have been preserved, he began very simply and worked up, whereas Korngold begins at Richard Strauss. His compositions are full of the influence of Strauss. The critics have much to say for and against these early works. I do not know the young composer personally, though he has written me. In a recent letter which I have here, he expresses the thought that, though the critics have found many things to disapprove of in the sonata, the fact that I have found it worth studying and bringing out more than compensates him for all adverse criticism. To make the work known in the great musical centers of America is surely giving it wide publicity."
On a later occasion, Mr. Ganz said:
"I thoroughly believe in preserving one's enthusiasm for modern music, even though, at first glance, it does not attract one, or indeed seems almost impossible. I enjoy studying new works, and learning what is the modern trend of thought in piano work; it keeps me young and buoyant.
"One of the novelties lately added to my repertoire is the Haydn sonata in D. On the same program I place the Korngold sonata. A hundred years and more divide the two works. While I revere the old, it interests me to keep abreast of the new thought in musical art and life."
AN AUDIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER
Between the many engagements that crowded upon the close of her long American tour, Miss Tina Lerner found time to talk over certain topics of significance which bear upon pianistic problems.
We began by referring to the different methods of holding the hands, moving the fingers and touching the keys, as exemplified by the various pianists now before the public.
"It is true that I play with the ball of the finger on the key, which necessitates a flat position of hand, with low wrist." Here the pianist illustrated the point by playing several pearly scales with straight, outstretched fingers. "I never realized, however, that I played in this way, until Mr. Ernest Hutcheson, the pianist, of Baltimore, recently called my attention to it. The fact is, I have always taken positions of body, arms, hands and fingers, which seemed to me the most natural and easy. This I did when I began, at the age of five, and I have always kept to them, in spite of what various teachers have endeavored to do for me. Fortunately my early teachers were sensible and careful; they kept me at the classics, and did not give too difficult pieces. The principles followed by most great pianists I believe are correct; but I have always kept to my own natural way. In hand position, therefore, I am individual; perhaps no one else plays with such a finger position, so in this I am unique.
"For some reason unknown to me, it has come to be imagined that I have studied with Leschetizky; this is entirely refuted when I say I have never been in Vienna. It seems we are getting away from the idea of helping ourselves out with the name of some great teacher. The question should be: What has the player in himself, what can he accomplish? not, Whose pupil is he? We know of some of Leschetizky's famous pupils, but we never hear of the thousands he must have had, who have come to nothing. A teacher can only do a certain amount for you; he can give you new ideas, which each pupil works out for himself in his own way. The piano student learns from so many different sources. He attends a piano recital and acquires many ideas of touch, tone, phrasing and interpretation; he hears a great singer or violinist and absorbs a wholly new set of thoughts, or he listens to a grand orchestra, and gains more than from all the others. Then there is life to study from: experience—living—loving: all go into the work of the musician. A musical career is indeed the most exacting one that can be chosen.
"I have been asked whether I prefer to play for an audience of 'music-lovers' or one of 'music knowers.' Perhaps an equal mixture is the happy medium. Of the two sorts it seems to me the music-knowers are preferable, for even if they are very critical, they also recognize the various points you make; they see and appreciate what you are striving for. They are not inclined to say, 'I don't like such or such a player'; for the music-knower understands the vast amount of time and energy, labor and talent that go to make a pianist. He rather says, 'I prefer the playing of such or such an artist.' The word 'like' in connection with a great artist seems almost an affront. What does it matter if his work is not 'liked' by some? He knows it can stand for what it is—the utmost perfection of his powers—of himself. And after all the audience is the greatest teacher an artist can have; I have learned more from this teacher than from any other. In this school I learn what moves and touches an audience; how to improve this or that passage; how to make a greater climax here, or more sympathetic coloring there. For in conceiving how a work should sound, I get—in my study of it—a general idea of the whole, and make it as nearly perfect as I am able. But it has to be tested and tried—an audience must pass its opinion—must set the seal of approval upon it. When the work has been polished by repeated trials in this school, interpretation then becomes crystallized in the mind and the piece can always be given in nearly the same way. A painter does not change nor repaint his picture each time he exhibits it; why need the musician change his idea of the interpretation at each repetition? To trust too much to the inspiration of the moment might injure the performance as a whole. When I have my ideal of the interpretation worked out in mind, it becomes my sacred duty to play it always in this spirit—always to give my best. I can never think that because I am playing in Boston or New York, I must strive harder for perfection than if I play in a little town. No, I must give the highest that is in me, no matter where it may be. People sometimes ask me if I am nervous before a recital. It is not that I am afraid of people; but I am always anxious about being able to realize my ideal, when the moment comes.
"I can say I prefer playing in America to anywhere else in the world; for there are more real appreciation and understanding here than in any other country. Of course the great music centers all over the world are about the same; but the difference lies in the smaller cities, which in America are far more advanced musically than in Europe. I have proved this to be the case repeatedly. Not long ago I was booked for a couple of recitals in a small town of not more than two thousand inhabitants. When I arrived at the little place, and saw the barn of a hotel, I wondered what these people could want with piano recitals. But when I came to the college where I was to play and found such a large, intelligent audience gathered, some of whom had traveled many miles to be present, it proved in what estimation music was held. The teacher of this school was a good musician, who had studied nine years with Leschetizky, in Vienna; the pupils understood the numbers on the program, were wide awake, and well informed as to what was going on in the world of music.
"One handicap the present day pianist encounters, who plays much with orchestra, and that is the dearth of modern concertos. The familiar ten or dozen famous ones are played over and over, and one seldom hears anything new. There are new ones written, to be sure, but the public has not learned to care for them. The beautiful second concerto of Rachmaninoff has not made a success, even in the great music centers, where the most intelligent audiences have heard it. I believe that if an audience of the best musicians could be assembled in a small room and this work could be played to them, they could not fail to be impressed with its beauties. I am now studying a new concerto by Haddon Wood, which you see in manuscript there on the piano; it is one I find very beautiful."
A subsequent conversation with the artist elicited the following:
"I might say that I began my music when about four years old, by playing the Russian National Hymn, on a toy piano containing eight keys, which had been given me. My older sister, who was studying the piano, noticed this, showed me a few things about the notes, and I constantly picked out little tunes and pieces on the real piano. Finally one day my sister's teacher, Rudolph Heim, came to the house, mainly on my account. This was in Odessa, in the south of Russia, where I was born and where I spent my early years. On this occasion, he wanted to look at me and see what I could do. Unluckily a sudden fit of shyness overcame me and I began to cry; the exhibition could not take place, as nothing could be made out of me that day. You see I was headstrong even at that early age," said the young pianist, with one of her charming smiles.
"Soon after this incident, I was taken to the Professor's studio. He examined me, considered I had talent, and thought it should be cultivated. So he took me in hand. I was then five, and my real musical education began at that time.
"From the very first I adopted a position of hand which seemed to me most convenient and comfortable, and no amount of contrary instruction and advice has ever been able to make me change it. I play scales and passages with low hand and flat fingers because that position seems the most favorable for my hand. When practising, I play everything very slowly, raising my fingers high and straight from the knuckle joint. This gives me great clearness and firmness. In rapid passage work the action is reduced, but the position remains. I am said to have a clear, pearly touch, with quite sufficient power at my command for large works.
"After five years of study with my first teacher, Rudolph Heim, a pupil of Moscheles, I entered the Moscow Conservatory, and continued my studies under Professor Pabst, brother and teacher of the composer of that name. I was then ten years old. Professor Pabst was very conservative, very strict, and kept me at work on the music of the older masters. This kind of music suits me, I think; at least I enjoy it. Even here I still clung to my ideas of holding my hands and of touching the keys, and always expect to do so.
"I remained with this professor about six years and then began my public career.
"You ask about my present studies, and how I regulate my practise. During my periods of rest from concert work, I practise a great deal—I wish I could say all the time, but that is not quite possible. I give an hour or more a day to technical practise. As to the material, I use Chopin's Etudes constantly, playing them with high-raised, outstretched fingers, in very slow tempo. One finds almost every technical problem illustrated in these etudes; octaves, arpeggios, scales in double thirds and sixths, repeated notes, as in number 7, broken chords and passage work. I keep all these etudes in daily practise, also using some of the Liszt Etudes Transcendantes, and, of course, Bach. The advantage of using this sort of material is that one never tires of it; it is always interesting and beautiful. With this material well in hand, I am always ready for recital, and need only to add special pieces and modern music.
"In learning a new work I first study it very slowly, trying to become familiar with its meaning. I form my concept of it and live with it for months before I care to bring it forward. I try to form an ideal conception of the piece, work this out in every detail, then always endeavor to render it as closely like the ideal as possible."
RELAXATION THE KEYNOTE OF MODERN PIANO PLAYING
The brilliant young pianist, Ethel Leginska, who is located for a time in America, was seen in her Carnegie Hall studio, on her return from a concert tour. The young English girl is a petite brunette; her face is very expressive, her manner at once vivacious and serious. The firm muscles of her fine, shapely hands indicate that she must spend many hours daily at the keyboard.
"Yes, I have played a great deal in public—all my life, in fact—ever since I was six. I began my musical studies at Hull, where we lived; my first teacher was a pupil of McFarren. Later I was taken to London, where some rich people did a great deal for me. Afterward I went to Leschetizky, and was with him several years, until I was sixteen; I also studied in Berlin. Then I began my career, and concertized all over Europe; now I am in America for a time. I like it here; I am fond of your country already.
"The piano is such a wonderful instrument to me; I feel we are only beginning to fathom its possibilities; not in a technical sense, but as a big avenue for expression. For me the piano is capable of reflecting every mood, every feeling; all pathos, joy, sorrow—the good and the evil too—all there is in life, all that one has lived." (This recalls a recently published remark of J. S. Van Cleve: "The piano can sing, march, dance, sparkle, thunder, weep, sneer, question, assert, complain, whisper, hint; in one word it is the most versatile and plastic of instruments.")
"As for the technic of the piano, I think of it only as the material—only as a means to an end. In fact I endeavor to get away from the thought of the technical material, in order that I may get at the meaning of the music I wish to interpret. I am convinced there is a great future for the piano and its music. Even now we are taking piano music very seriously, and are trying to interpret it in a far deeper and broader sense than the pianists of, say, fifty years ago ever thought of doing. I fancy if Clara Schumann, for instance, could return and play to us, or even Liszt himself, we should not find their playing suited to this age at all. Some of us yet remember the hand position Mme. Schumann had, the lack of freedom in fingers and arms. It was not the fashion of her time to play with the relaxed freedom, with the breadth and depth of style which we demand of artists to-day. In those days relaxation had not received the attention it deserved, therefore we should probably find the playing of the greatest artists of a former generation stiff and angular, in spite of all we have heard of their wonderful performances.
"Relaxation is a hobby with me; I believe in absolute freedom in every part of the arm anatomy, from the shoulder down to the finger-tips. Stiffness seems to me the most reprehensible thing in piano playing, as well as the most common fault with all kinds of players. When people come to play for me, that is the thing I see first in them, the stiffness. While living in Berlin, I saw much of Mme. Teresa Carreno, and she feels the same as I do about relaxation, not only at the keyboard, but when sitting, moving about or walking. She has thought along this line so constantly, that sometimes, if carrying something in hand, she will inadvertently let it drop, without realizing it—from sheer force of the habit of relaxation.
"You ask how I would begin with a young pupil who never has had lessons. I use the principle of relaxation first of all, loosening arms and wrists. This principle can be taught to the youngest pupil. The wrist is elevated and lowered, as the hand is formed on the keys in its five finger position, with arched knuckles. It does not take long to acquire this relaxed condition; then come the finger movements. I do not believe in lifting the fingers high above the keys; this takes time and interferes with velocity and power. I lift my fingers but little above the keys, yet I have plenty of power, all the critics agree on that. In chords and octaves I get all the power I need by grasping the keys with weight and pressure. I do not even prepare the fingers in the air, before taking the chord; I do not find it necessary." Here the pianist played a succession of ringing chords, whose power and tonal quality bore out her words; the fingers seemed merely to press and cling; there was no striking nor percussion.
"To return to the beginning pupil. As for a book to start with, I often use the one by Damm, though any foundational work may be employed, so long as correct principles are taught. It is said by Leschetizky that he has no method. That may be understood to mean a book, for he certainly has what others would call a method. There are principles and various sets of exercises to be learned; but it is quite true that none of the Vorbereiters use a book.
"In teaching the piano, as you know, every pupil is different; each has his or her own peculiar hand, and a different degree of intelligence. So each pupil must be treated differently. This is really an advantage to the teacher; for it would be very monotonous if all pupils were alike.
"The piano is such a revealer of character; I need only to hear a person play to know what sort of character he has. If one is inclined to much careful detail in everything, it comes out in the playing. If one is indolent and indifferent, it is seen the moment one touches the keys; or if one is built on broad, generous lines, and sees the dramatic point in life and things, all this is revealed at the piano.
"To refer again to the subject of finger action. I do not believe in the so-called finger stroke; on the contrary I advocate fingers close to the keys, clinging to them whenever you can. This is also Arthur Schnabel's idea. You should hear Schnabel; all Berlin is wild over him, and whenever he gives a concert the house is sold out. He has quantities of pupils also, and is quite a remarkable teacher. One point I insist upon which he doesn't: I will not allow the joint of the finger next the tip to break or give in. I can not stand that, but Schnabel doesn't seem to care about it; his mind is filled with only the big, broad things of music.
"In regard to memorizing piano compositions. I do it phrase by phrase, and at the instrument, unless I am traveling or unable to get to a piano, in which case I think it out from the notes. If the piece is very difficult I take a short passage of two or three measures and play each hand separately and then together; but generally I play the passage complete—say half a dozen times with the notes, and then repeat it the same number of times from memory. Perhaps the next day I have forgotten it, so the work has to be done over again; the second time, however, it generally sticks.
"My great longing and ambition is to write music, to become a composer. With this end in view, I give whatever time I am able to the study of composition. I hope some day to create something that will be worthy the high aim I have before me."
BERTHA FIERING TAPPER
MASTERING PIANISTIC PROBLEMS
If environment and atmosphere are inspirational aids to piano teaching and playing, the students of Mrs. Thomas Tapper have the incentives of both in their lesson hours. Her apartments on the Drive have the glory of sunlight all the long afternoons. Outside the Hudson shimmers in blue and gold; indoors all is harmonious and home-like. In the large music-room, facing the river, two grand pianos stand side by side; there are many portraits and mementoes of the great in music; fresh flowers, books—everything to uplift thought; while in the midst of it all is Mrs. Tapper herself, the serious, high-minded, inspiring teacher; the "mother confessor" to a large number of young artists and teachers.
"Music study means so much more than merely exercising the fingers," she said; "the student should have a good all-round education. When young people come to me for instruction, I ask what they are doing in school. If they say they have left school in order to devote their whole time to the piano, I say, 'Go back to your school, and come to me later, when you have finished your school course.' It is true that in rare cases it may be advisable for the student to leave school, but he should then pursue general or special studies at home. I often wish the music student's education in this country could be arranged as it is in at least one of the great music schools in Russia. There the mornings are given to music, while general studies are taken up later in the day. It is really a serious problem, here in America, this fitting in music with other studies. Both public and private schools try to cover so much ground that there is very little time left for music or anything else. The music pupil also needs to know musical literature, history and biography, to be familiar with the lives and writings of the great composers. Take the letters and literary articles of Robert Schumann, for instance. How interesting and inspiring they are!
"In regard to methods in piano study my principles are based wholly upon my observations of Leschetizky's work with me personally, or with others. What I know he has taught me; what I have achieved I owe to him. My first eight weeks in Vienna were spent in learning, first, to control position and condition of hands and arms according to the law of balance; secondly, to direct each motion with the utmost accuracy and speed. To accomplish this I began with the most elementary exercises in five-finger position, using one finger at a time. Then came the principles of the scale, arpeggios, chords and octaves. All these things were continued until every principle was mastered. I practised at first an hour a day, then increased the amount as my hands grew stronger and the number of exercises increased.
"Next came the study of tone production in various forms, a good quality invariably being the result of a free condition of the arm combined with strength of fingers and hands.
"The Leschetizky principles seem to me the most perfect and correct in every particular. Yes, there are several books of the method, by different authors, but I teach the principles without a book. The principles themselves are the essential things. I aim to build up the hand, to make it strong and dependable in every part, to fill out the weak places and equalize it. That this may be thoroughly and successfully accomplished, I require that nothing but technical exercises be used for the first nine, ten, or twelve weeks. We begin with the simplest exercises, one finger at a time, then two, three and so on through the hand. I believe in thus devoting all the practise time to technic, for a certain period, so that the mind is free to master the principles, undisturbed by piece playing. When the principles have been assimilated, the attention can then be directed to the study of music itself. If any weak places appear in the hand from time to time, they can be easily corrected.
"If a pupil comes to me who has played a great deal but with no idea of the principles of piano playing, who does not know how to handle herself or the keyboard, it is absolutely necessary to stop everything and get ready to play. If you attempt even a simple sonata with no legato touch, no idea of chord or scale playing, you can not make the piece sound like anything. It is like a painter trying to paint without brushes, or an artist attempting to make a pen and ink drawing with a blunt lead pencil; to do good work you must have the tools to work with.
"For application of all principles, the studies of Czerny, Op. 299, 740, and others, offer unequaled opportunity. They are simple, direct, and give the student a chance for undivided attention to every position taken and to every motion made.
"What happens afterward is altogether according to the individual characteristics of the student. How to recognize these and deal with them to the best advantage is the interesting task of my great master (and those who try to follow in his steps)—the man of keenest intelligence, of profound learning and experience. To learn this lesson from him has been my greatest aim, and to see him at work, as it has been my privilege to do for several summers, has been of the greatest influence and inspiration in my own work.
"My chief endeavor is to create a desire for good musicianship. To this end I insist upon the study of theory, harmony, ear-training and analysis. In the piano lessons I do not have sufficient time to teach these things. I have assistant teachers who help me with these subjects and also with the technical training. Once a month during the season, my assistant teachers bring their pupils to play for me, and we have a class in piano teaching. There are sometimes eighteen or twenty students who come to a class. I can in this way supervise all the work done, and keep in touch with my teachers, their work, and with all the students.
"On the first Saturday of the month I have my own pupils here for a class; they play for me and for each other. Everything is played from memory, not a printed note is used. Students tell me it is very difficult to play here, where all listen so intently. Especially is it difficult the first time a student plays in class, to keep the mind wholly on what he is doing, with sufficient concentration. Later on, at the end of the season, it comes easier.
"This idea of separating the technical work at the outset from the study of music itself, secures, in my opinion, the most perfect foundation, and later on the best results. It is sometimes wonderful how, with proper training, the hand will improve and develop in a comparatively short time. I often marvel at it myself."
The writer had the privilege of being one of the guests at the last audition of the season. Eight or nine young artists played a long and difficult program. Among the numbers were a Beethoven sonata, entire; Chopin's Ballade in A flat major; Cesar Franck, Prelude, Fugue and Variations; a Mozart Fantaisie; Grieg Concerto, first movement; Weber's Concertstueck, and Chopin's Scherzo in E. The recital was most instructive from an educational point of view. All the players had repose and concentration, and there were no noticeable slips, though every piece was played from memory. Hands were well arched at the knuckles, fingers curved—with adequate action at the knuckle joint; wrists in normal position, and extremely loose; the whole arm swung from the shoulder and poised over the keys, thus adjusting itself to every requirement of the composition. Every note had its amount of hand or arm weight. The tone quality was full and singing. These points were exemplified even in the playing of the youngest pupils. Furthermore they had an intelligent grasp of the meaning of the music they played, and brought it out with conviction, power, and brilliancy.
CARL M. ROEDER
PROBLEMS OF PIANO TEACHERS
"The progressive teacher's method must be one of accretion," said Carl Roeder, when interviewed between lesson hours in his delightful studio in Carnegie Hall. "He gains ideas from many methods and sources, and these he assimilates and makes practical for his work. At the same time he must originate and work out things for himself. This has been my experience.
"I was something of a wonder child, and at an early age developed considerable facility and brilliancy. After knocking about as a pupil of various private teachers and conservatories, I became, while quite a young lad, the pupil of de Konstki, then a lion of the day." The speaker joined in the laugh his remark called up, which brought to mind the Chevalier's famous battle-horse, "The Awakening of the Lion."
"De Konstki's style was very brilliant and I endeavored to imitate him in this respect. I did quite a little concert work at that time. Realizing, however, that a pianist's income must be rather precarious, I decided to teach. In those youthful days I had the idea that the teacher of the piano had an easy life. I remembered one of my professors, a man of considerable reputation, who took the duties of his profession very lightly. His method of giving a lesson was to place the music upon the piano, start the pupil going, then retire to a comfortable couch, light his pipe and smoke at ease, troubling himself little about the pupil's doings, except occasionally to call out 'Falsch!'
"So I, too, began to teach the piano. But I soon discovered that teaching was something quite different from what I had imagined it to be, and that it was something I knew very little about. I now set myself to learn how to teach—how to help those pupils who came to me.
"One of my first discoveries was that most of the pupils were afflicted with stiff wrists and arms, and that this stiffness must be remedied. My own playing had always been free, due to one of my early teachers having thoroughly inculcated the principle of 'weight,' so often acclaimed in these days as a modern discovery. But how to bring about this condition in others was a great problem. I studied the Mason method, and found many helpful, illuminating ideas in regard to relaxation and devitalization. I had some lessons with S.B. Mills, and later did considerable valuable work with Paolo Gallico, who opened up to me the great storehouse of musical treasure, and revealed to me among other things the spiritual technic of the pianist's art. Subsequently I investigated the Virgil and Leschetizky methods. Mr. Virgil has done some remarkable things in the way of organizing and systematizing technical requirements, and for this we owe him much. Such analyses had not before been made with anything like the care and minuteness, and his work has been of the greatest benefit to the profession. My subsequent studies with Harold Bauer revealed him to be a deep musical thinker and a remarkable teacher of the meaning of music itself.
"In my teaching I follow many of the ideas of Leschetizky, modified and worked out in the manner which I have found most useful to my own technic and to that of my pupils. I have formulated a method of my own, based on the principles which form a dependable foundation to build the future structure upon. Each pupil at the outset is furnished with a blank book, in which are written the exercises thus developed as adapted to individual requirements.
"We begin with table work. I use about ten different exercises which embody, as it were, in a nutshell, the principles of piano playing. The hand is first formed in an arched position, with curved fingers, and solidified. The thumb has to be taught to move properly, for many people have never learned to control it at all.
"With the hand in firm, solid position, and the arm hanging freely from the shoulder, I begin to use combined arm and wrist movements, aiming to get the weight of the arm as well as its energy at the complete disposal of the finger tip. Each finger in turn is held firmly in a curved position and played with a rotary movement of arm and wrist. When this can be done we next learn hand action at the wrist from which results the staccato touch. In this form of hand staccato there is an element of percussion, as you see, but this element gives directness and precision to the staccato touch, which in my opinion are necessary. After this we come to finger action itself. This principle is taken up thoroughly, first with one finger, then with two, three, four, and five—in all possible combinations. In this way we come down from the large free-arm movements to the smaller finger movements; from the 'general to the particular,' instead of working from the smaller to the larger. I find it most necessary to establish relaxation first, then strengthen and build up the hand, before finger action to any extent is used. When these foundational points have been acquired, the trill, scales, arpeggios, chords, octaves and double notes follow in due course. At the same time the rhythmic sense is developed, all varieties of touch and dynamics introduced, and harmonic and structural analysis dwelt upon.
USE OF STUDIES
"Above the third or fourth grade I make frequent use of studies, selecting them from various books. Duvernoy, Op. 120; Berens, Op. 61; Czerny, Op. 740 I find far more interesting than the threadbare 299. Heller is indispensable, so melodious and musical. Arthur Foote's studies, Op. 27, are very useful; also MacDowell's, Op. 39 and 46. Sometimes I use a few of Cramer's and the Clementi 'Gradus,' though these seem rather old-fashioned now.
"For more advanced pupils I find Harberbier, Op. 53 especially applicable; there is beautiful work in them. Kessler, Op. 20, and the Moszkowski studies, Op. 72, have splendid material for the advanced player, and prepare for Henselt, Rubinstein, Chopin and Liszt etudes. I find that studies are valuable for application of technical principles, for reacting purposes, and for the cultivation of all the refinements of playing. Some teachers believe in applying the technic directly to pieces, and use almost no studies; but I think a study is often more valuable than a piece, because a definite technical principle is treated in every kind of way. Though I do not require studies to be memorized, they must be played with all the finish of a piece, if the pupil is to derive the maximum of benefit from them.
BOOKS THAT ARE HELPFUL
"As aids to my studies in the art of teaching, several books have been most helpful. Among these are two volumes by Dr. Herman H. Home, The Philosophy of Education, and The Psychology of Education. Another book, from which I have profited much is William James' Talks to Teachers on Psychology. Every teacher should possess it.
"You ask what method I pursue with new pupils who have played a great deal of music but with little idea of correct principles of piano study. Let us take, for instance, one who has had lessons for years but is in ignorance of first principles. Arms and wrists are stiff, hands and fingers held in cramped position; no freedom anywhere. My first move is to have the pupil stand and learn to relax arms, shoulders and body; then learn to breathe. But relaxation, even at first, is not the only thing; after devitalization comes organization, firmness and solidity—in the right places. It must be understood at the very beginning that piano playing is far more than sitting before the instrument working the fingers six or seven hours a day. The mechanical side is only preliminary. Some one has said that the factors in playing are a trinity of H's—head, hand and heart. I try at once to awaken thought, to give a wider outlook, to show that piano playing is the expression, through the medium of tone, of all that the poet, painter and philosopher are endeavoring to show through other means: to this end I endeavor to stimulate interest in the wonders of the visible universe, the intellectual achievements of men and the deep things of spiritual discernment.
IN REGARD TO INTERPRETATION
"On this subject I think we should avoid pedantry; not to say to the pupil, you must play this piece a certain way; but rather say, I see or feel it in this way, and give the reasons underlying the conception. I believe the successful teacher should be a pianist. He should understand every point and be able to do the thing, else how can he really show the manner of the doing? Many of the nuances, subtleties of color and phrase, effects of charm or of bravura, cannot be explained; they must be illustrated. And furthermore, only he who has been over the road can be a safe or sympathetic guide. Tolstoi realized he could not be of service to the people he would uplift unless he lived among them, shared their trials and experienced their needs. The time has gone by when the musician and composer was considered a sort of freak, knowing music and nothing else. We know the great composers were men of the highest intelligence and learning, men whose aim was to work out their genius to the utmost perfection. Nothing less than the highest would satisfy them. As George Eliot said, 'Genius is the capacity for taking infinite pains.' Think of the care Beethoven took with every phrase, how many times he did it over, never leaving it till he was satisfied."
In speaking of the great European teachers Mr. Roeder continued:
"We hear much of the Leschetizky method; but with that master technic is quite a secondary matter over which, when once the principles are mastered, he troubles himself but little. It is the conception of the work as a whole which concerns him, how to project it, so to say, most effectively to an audience. He brings into prominence now this part, now that, accenting here, slightly exaggerating there, in order to make the picture more vivid to the listener. Harold Bauer is another illuminating master for those who have a technical equipment adequate to the performance of great works of piano literature. Some go to him who are not ready for what he has to give, but to those who can direct attention to the meaning of the music, he is a wonderful inspirational force. First he will point out a phrase here, another there, and so on through the piece, showing how the same idea takes on various aspects in the composer's thought. Then he shows how to gather up these different threads to form the perfect pattern which the author of the work had in mind; and finally the master teacher reaches down below the surface of form and design to the vital significance of the composition, and the disciple feels the glow and power of the revelation.
"There is no gainsaying the fact that this age is superficial, and the great office of art is to cultivate that idealism which will uplift and inspire. In an important sense the teacher must be a preacher of righteousness. He knows that 'beautiful things are fashioned from clay, but it has first to pass through the fire,' and only those who can endure that scorching can hope to achieve success.
QUESTION OF PERSONALITY
"If asked to what extent a player's personality enters into the performance, my answer would be: Only in so far as the performance remains true to the composer's intention. So long as personality illumines the picture and adds charm, interest, and effectiveness to it, it is to be applauded; but when it obstructs the view and calls attention to itself it should not be tolerated. It is not art; it is vanity.
"Yes, I teach both high finger action and pressure touch, once the principle of arm weight is thoroughly established, although I use high finger action only to develop finger independence and precision, and for passages where sharp delineation is required. I believe in freedom of body, arm and wrist, a firm, solid arched hand and set fingers. That freedom is best which insures such control of the various playing members as to enable the player to produce at will any effect of power, velocity or delicacy desired; thereby placing the entire mechanical apparatus under complete subjection to the mind, which dominates the performance. In other words, I am neither an anarchist who wants no government, namely unrestrained devitalization, nor a socialist, whose cry is for all government—that is, restriction and rigidity. In piano playing, as in all else, 'Virtue is the happy mean between two vices.'"
AN ARTIST AT HOME
When one has frequently listened to a favorite pianist in the concert room, and has studied impersonally, so to speak, the effects of touch, tone and interpretation produced during a recital, it is a satisfaction and delight to come into personal touch with the artist in the inner circle of the home; to be able to speak face to face with one who has charmed thousands from the platform, and to discuss freely the points which impress one when listening to a public performance.
It has been my recent privilege thus to come into intimate touch with the artist pair, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Hinton, the latter being known all over the world as Katharine Goodson. They have a quiet, beautiful home in London—a true artist's home. One feels at once on entering and enjoying its hospitality, that here at least is one instance where two musicians have perfect harmony in the home life. Mr. Hinton, as is widely known, is a composer and also a violinist and pianist. The beautiful music-room, which has been added to one side of the house and leads into the garden, contains two grand pianos on its raised platform. This music-room is Miss Goodson's own sanctum and workroom, and here piano concertos, with orchestral accompaniment supplied on the second piano, can be studied ad infinitum. Mr. Hinton has his own studio at the top of the house.
The garden music-room is lighted at one end by a great arched window, so placed that the trees of the garden are seen through its panes. It is easy to imagine one's self in some lovely sylvan retreat—which is indeed true! All the appointments of this room, and indeed of the whole house, every article of furniture and each touch of color, betoken the artistic sense for fitness and harmony. Miss Goodson has a keen and exquisite sense for harmony in colors as well as for color in the harmonies she brings from her instrument.
"My coming tour will be the fifth I have made in America," she said. "I enjoy playing in your country immensely; the cities of New York, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia are the most appreciative in the world. It is true we have masses of concerts in London, but few of them are really well attended and people are not so thoroughly acquainted with piano music as you are in America. And you are so appreciative of the best—even in the smaller cities.
"I can recall a recital which I gave in a city of not more than forty thousand, in the West. The recital was arranged by a musical club; they asked for the program some time in advance, studied it up and thus knew every piece I was to play. There was an enormous audience, for people came from all the country round. I remember three little elderly ladies who greeted me after the recital; in parting they said, 'You will see us to-morrow,' I thought it over afterward and wondered what they meant, for I was to play at a place many miles from there the next night. What was my surprise to be greeted by the same ladles the following evening. 'You see, we are here; we told you we would come.' Fancy taking a trip from London to Edinburgh just to hear a concert! For it was a journey like that. Such incidents show the enthusiasm in America for music—and for piano music.