Violin Mastery - Talks with Master Violinists and Teachers
by Frederick H. Martens
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The appreciation accorded Miss Harriette Brower's admirable books on PIANO MASTERY has prompted the present volume of intimate Talks with Master Violinists and Teachers, in which a number of famous artists and instructors discuss esthetic and technical phases of the art of violin playing in detail, their concept of what Violin Mastery means, and how it may be acquired. Only limitation of space has prevented the inclusion of numerous other deserving artists and teachers, yet practically all of the greatest masters of the violin now in this country are represented. That the lessons of their artistry and experience will be of direct benefit and value to every violin student and every lover of violin music may be accepted as a foregone conclusion.

FREDERICK H. MARTENS. 171 Orient Way, Rutherford N.J.


EUGENE YSAYE The Tools of Violin Mastery 1

LEOPOLD AUER A Method without Secrets 14

EDDY BROWN Hubay and Auer: Technic: Hints to the Student 25

MISCHA ELMAN Life and Color in Interpretation. Technical Phases 38

SAMUEL GARDNER Technic and Musicianship 54

ARTHUR HARTMANN The Problem of Technic 66

JASCHA HEIFETZ The Danger of Practicing Too Much. Technical Mastery and Temperament 78

DAVID HOCHSTEIN The Violin as a Means of Expression and Expressive Playing 91

FRITZ KREISLER Personality in Art 99

FRANZ KNEISEL The Perfect String Ensemble 110

ADOLFO BETTI The Technic of the Modern Quartet 127

HANS LETZ The Technic of Bowing 140

DAVID MANNES The Philosophy of Violin Teaching 146

TIVADAR NACHEZ Joachim and Leonard as Teachers 160

MAXIMILIAN PILZER The Singing Tone and the Vibrato 177

MAUD POWELL Technical Difficulties: Some Hints for the Concert Player 183

LEON SAMETINI Harmonics 198

ALEXANDER SASLAVSKY What the Teacher Can and Cannot Do 210

TOSCHA SEIDEL How to Study 219

EDMUND SEVERN The Joachim Bowing and Others: The Left Hand 227

ALBERT SPALDING The Most Important Factor in the Development of an Artist 240

THEODORE SPIERING The Application of Bow Exercises to the Study of Kreutzer 247

JACQUES THIBAUD The Ideal Program 259

GUSTAV SAENGER The Editor as a Factor in "Violin Mastery" 277

ILLUSTRATIONS Eugene Ysaye Frontispiece

FACING PAGE Leopold Auer 14

Mischa Elman 38

Arthur Hartmann 66

Jascha Heifetz 78

Fritz Kreisler 100

Franz Kneisel 110

Adolfo Betti 128

David Mannes 146

Tivadar Nachez 160

Maud Powell 184

Toscha Seidel 220

Albert Spalding 240

Theodore Spiering 248

Jacques Thibaud 260

Gustav Saenger 278




Who is there among contemporary masters of the violin whose name stands for more at the present time than that of the great Belgian artist, his "extraordinary temperamental power as an interpreter" enhanced by a hundred and one special gifts of tone and technic, gifts often alluded to by his admiring colleagues? For Ysaye is the greatest exponent of that wonderful Belgian school of violin playing which is rooted in his teachers Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski, and which as Ysaye himself says, "during a period covering seventy years reigned supreme at the Conservatoire in Paris in the persons of Massart, Remi, Marsick, and others of its great interpreters."

What most impresses one who meets Ysaye and talks with him for the first time is the mental breadth and vision of the man; his kindness and amiability; his utter lack of small vanity. When the writer first called on him in New York with a note of introductio from his friend and admirer Adolfo Betti, and later at Scarsdale where, in company with his friend Thibaud, he was dividing his time between music and tennis, Ysaye made him entirely at home, and willingly talked of his art and its ideals. In reply to some questions anent his own study years, he said:

"Strange to say, my father was my very first teacher—it is not often the case. I studied with him until I went to the Liege Conservatory in 1867, where I won a second prize, sharing it with Ovide Musin, for playing Viotti's 22d Concerto. Then I had lessons from Wieniawski in Brussels and studied two years with Vieuxtemps in Paris. Vieuxtemps was a paralytic when I came to him; yet a wonderful teacher, though he could no longer play. And I was already a concertizing artist when I met him. He was a very great man, the grandeur of whose tradition lives in the whole 'romantic school' of violin playing. Look at his seven concertos—of course they are written with an eye to effect, from the virtuoso's standpoint, yet how firmly and solidly they are built up! How interesting is their working-out: and the orchestral score is far more than a mere accompaniment. As regards virtuose effect only Paganini's music compares with his, and Paganini, of course, did not play it as it is now played. In wealth of technical development, in true musical expressiveness Vieuxtemps is a master. A proof is the fact that his works have endured forty to fifty years, a long life for compositions.

"Joachim, Leonard, Sivori, Wieniawski—all admired Vieuxtemps. In Paganini's and Locatelli's works the effect, comparatively speaking, lies in the mechanics; but Vieuxtemps is the great artist who made the instrument take the road of romanticism which Hugo, Balzac and Gauthier trod in literature. And before all the violin was made to charm, to move, and Vieuxtemps knew it. Like Rubinstein, he held that the artist must first of all have ideas, emotional power—his technic must be so perfected that he does not have to think of it! Incidentally, speaking of schools of violin playing, I find that there is a great tendency to confuse the Belgian and French. This should not be. They are distinct, though the latter has undoubtedly been formed and influenced by the former. Many of the great violin names, in fact,—Vieuxtemps, Leonard*, Marsick, Remi, Parent, de Broux, Musin, Thomson,—are all Belgian."

*Transcriber's note: Original text read "Leonard".


Ysaye spoke of Vieuxtemps's repertory—only he did not call it that: he spoke of the Vieuxtemps compositions and of Vieuxtemps himself. "Vieuxtemps wrote in the grand style; his music is always rich and sonorous. If his violin is really to sound, the violinist must play Vieuxtemps, just as the 'cellist plays Servais. You know, in the Catholic Church, at Vespers, whenever God's name is spoken, we bow the head. And Wieniawski would always bow his head when he said: 'Vieuxtemps is the master of us all!'

"I have often played his Fifth Concerto, so warm, brilliant and replete with temperament, always full-sounding, rich in an almost unbounded strength. Of course, since Vieuxtemps wrote his concertos, a great variety of fine modern works has appeared, the appreciation of chamber-music has grown and developed, and with it that of the sonata. And the modern violin sonata is also a vehicle for violin virtuosity in the very best meaning of the word. The sonatas of Cesar Franck, d'Indy, Theodore Dubois, Lekeu, Vierne, Ropartz, Lazarri—they are all highly expressive, yet at the same time virtuose. The violin parts develop a lovely song line, yet their technic is far from simple. Take Lekeu's splendid Sonata in G major; rugged and massive, making decided technical demands—it yet has a wonderful breadth of melody, a great expressive quality of song."

These works—those who have heard the Master play the beautiful Lazarri sonata this season will not soon forget it—are all dedicated to Ysaye. And this holds good, too, of the Cesar Franck sonata. As Ysaye says: "Performances of these great sonatas call for two artists—for their piano parts are sometimes very elaborate. Cesar Franck sent me his sonata on September 26, 1886, my wedding day—it was his wedding present! I cannot complain as regards the number of works, really important works, inscribed to me. There are so many—by Chausson (his symphony), Ropartz, Dubois (his sonata—one of the best after Franck), d'Indy (the Istar variations and other works), Gabriel Faure (the Quintet), Debussy (the Quartet)! There are more than I can recall at the moment—violin sonatas, symphonic music, chamber-music, choral works, compositions of every kind!

"Debussy, as you know, wrote practically nothing originally for the violin and piano—with the exception, perhaps, of a work published by Durand during his last illness. Yet he came very near writing something for me. Fifteen years ago he told me he was composing a 'Nocturne' for me. I went off on a concert tour and was away a long time. When I returned to Paris I wrote to Debussy to find out what had become of my 'Nocturne.' And he replied that, somehow, it had shaped itself up for orchestra instead of a violin solo. It is one of the Trois Nocturnes for orchestra. Perhaps one reason why so much has been inscribed to me is the fact that as an interpreting artist, I have never cultivated a 'specialty.' I have played everything from Bach to Debussy, for real art should be international!"

Ysaye himself has an almost marvelous right-arm and fingerboard control, which enables him to produce at will the finest and most subtle tonal nuances in all bowings. Then, too, he overcomes the most intricate mechanical problems with seemingly effortless ease. And his tone has well been called "golden." His own definition of tone is worth recording. He says it should be "In music what the heart suggests, and the soul expresses!"


"With regard to mechanism," Ysaye continued, "at the present day the tools of violin mastery, of expression, technic, mechanism, are far more necessary than in days gone by. In fact they are indispensable, if the spirit is to express itself without restraint. And the greater mechanical command one has the less noticeable it becomes. All that suggests effort, awkwardness, difficulty, repels the listener, who more than anything else delights in a singing violin tone. Vieuxtemps often said: Pas de trait pour le trait—chantez, chantez! (Not runs for the sake of runs—sing, sing!)

"Too many of the technicians of the present day no longer sing. Their difficulties—they surmount them more or less happily; but the effect is too apparent, and though, at times, the listener may be astonished, he can never be charmed. Agile fingers, sure of themselves, and a perfect bow stroke are essentials; and they must be supremely able to carry along the rhythm and poetic action the artist desires. Mechanism becomes, if anything, more accessible in proportion as its domain is enriched by new formulas. The violinist of to-day commands far greater technical resources than did his predecessors. Paganini is accessible to nearly all players: Vieuxtemps no longer offers the difficulties he did thirty years ago. Yet the wood-wind, brass and even the string instruments subsist in a measure on the heritage transmitted by the masters of the past. I often feel that violin teaching to-day endeavors to develop the esthetic sense at too early a stage. And in devoting itself to the head it forgets the hands, with the result that the young soldiers of the violinistic army, full of ardor and courage, are ill equipped for the great battle of art.

"In this connection there exists an excellent set of Etudes-Caprices by E. Chaumont, which offer the advanced student new elements and formulas of development. Though in some of them 'the frame is too large for the picture,' and though difficult from a violinistic point of view, 'they lie admirably well up the neck,' to use one of Vieuxtemps's expressions, and I take pleasure in calling attention to them.

"When I said that the string instruments, including the violin, subsist in a measure on the heritage transmitted by the masters of the past, I spoke with special regard to technic. Since Vieuxtemps there has been hardly one new passage written for the violin; and this has retarded the development of its technic. In the case of the piano, men like Godowsky have created a new technic for their instrument; but although Saint-Saens, Bruch, Lalo and others have in their works endowed the violin with much beautiful music, music itself was their first concern, and not music for the violin. There are no more concertos written for the solo flute, trombone, etc.—as a result there is no new technical material added to the resources of these instruments.

"In a way the same holds good of the violin—new works conceived only from the musical point of view bring about the stagnation of technical discovery, the invention of new passages, of novel harmonic wealth of combination is not encouraged. And a violinist owes it to himself to exploit the great possibilities of his own instrument. I have tried to find new technical ways and means of expression in my own compositions. For example, I have written a Divertiment for violin and orchestra in which I believe I have embodied new thoughts and ideas, and have attempted to give violin technic a broader scope of life and vigor.

"In the days of Viotti and Rode the harmonic possibilities were more limited—they had only a few chords, and hardly any chords of the ninth. But now harmonic material for the development of a new violin technic is there: I have some violin studies, in ms., which I may publish some day, devoted to that end. I am always somewhat hesitant about publishing—there are many things I might publish, but I have seen so much brought out that was banal, poor, unworthy, that I have always been inclined to mistrust the value of my own creations rather than fall into the same error. We have the scale of Debussy and his successors to draw upon, their new chords and successions of fourths and fifths—for new technical formulas are always evolved out of and follow after new harmonic discoveries—though there is as yet no violin method which gives a fingering for the whole-tone scale. Perhaps we will have to wait until Kreisler or I will have written one which makes plain the new flowering of technical beauty and esthetic development which it brings the violin.

"As to teaching violin, I have never taught violin in the generally accepted sense of the phrase. But at Godinne, where I usually spent my summers when in Europe, I gave a kind of traditional course in the works of Vieuxtemps, Wieniawski and other masters to some forty or fifty artist-students who would gather there—the same course I look forward to giving in Cincinnati, to a master class of very advanced pupils. This was and will be a labor of love, for the compositions of Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski especially are so inspiring and yet, as a rule, they are so badly played—without grandeur or beauty, with no thought of the traditional interpretation—that they seem the piecework of technic factories!


"When I take the whole history of the violin into account I feel that the true inwardness of 'Violin Mastery' is best expressed by a kind of threefold group of great artists. First, in the order of romantic expression, we have a trinity made up of Corelli, Viotti and Vieuxtemps. Then there is a trinity of mechanical perfection, composed of Locatelli, Tartini and Paganini or, a more modern equivalent, Cesar Thomson, Kubelik and Burmeister. And, finally, what I might call in the order of lyric expression, a quartet comprising Ysaye, Thibaud, Mischa Elman and Sametini of Chicago, the last-named a wonderfully fine artist of the lyric or singing type. Of course there are qualifications to be made. Locatelli was not altogether an exponent of technic. And many other fine artists besides those mentioned share the characteristics of those in the various groups. Yet, speaking in a general way, I believe that these groups of attainment might be said to sum up what 'Violin Mastery' really is. And a violin master? He must be a violinist, a thinker, a poet, a human being, he must have known hope, love, passion and despair, he must have run the gamut of the emotions in order to express them all in his playing. He must play his violin as Pan played his flute!"

In conclusion Ysaye sounded a note of warning for the too ambitious young student and player. "If Art is to progress, the technical and mechanical element must not, of course, be neglected. But a boy of eighteen cannot expect to express that to which the serious student of thirty, the man who has actually lived, can give voice. If the violinist's art is truly a great art, it cannot come to fruition in the artist's 'teens. His accomplishment then is no more than a promise—a promise which finds its realization in and by life itself. Yet Americans have the brains as well as the spiritual endowment necessary to understand and appreciate beauty in a high degree. They can already point with pride to violinists who emphatically deserve to be called artists, and another quarter-century of artistic striving may well bring them into the front rank of violinistic achievement!"




When that celebrated laboratory of budding musical genius, the Petrograd Conservatory, closed its doors indefinitely owing to the disturbed political conditions of Russia, the famous violinist and teacher Professor Leopold Auer decided to pay the visit to the United States which had so repeatedly been urged on him by his friends and pupils. His fame, owing to such heralds as Efrem Zimbalist, Mischa Elman, Kathleen Parlow, Eddy Brown, Francis MacMillan, and more recently Sascha Heifetz, Toscha Seidel, and Max Rosen, had long since preceded him; and the reception accorded him in this country, as a soloist and one of the greatest exponents and teachers of his instrument, has been one justly due to his authority and preeminence.

It was not easy to have a heart-to-heart talk with the Master anent his art, since every minute of his time was precious. Yet ushered into his presence, the writer discovered that he had laid aside for the moment other preoccupations, and was amiably responsive to all questions, once their object had been disclosed. Naturally, the first and burning question in the case of so celebrated a pedagogue was: "How do you form such wonderful artists? What is the secret of your method?"


"I know," said Professor Auer, "that there is a theory somewhat to the effect that I make a few magic passes with the bow by way of illustration and—presto—you have a Zimbalist or a Heifetz! But the truth is I have no method—unless you want to call purely natural lines of development, based on natural principles, a method—and so, of course, there is no secret about my teaching. The one great point I lay stress on in teaching is never to kill the individuality of my various pupils. Each pupil has his own inborn aptitudes, his own personal qualities as regards tone and interpretation. I always have made an individual study of each pupil, and given each pupil individual treatment. And always, always I have encouraged them to develop freely in their own way as regards inspiration and ideals, so long as this was not contrary to esthetic principles and those of my art. My idea has always been to help bring out what nature has already given, rather than to use dogma to force a student's natural inclinations into channels I myself might prefer. And another great principle in my teaching, one which is productive of results, is to demand as much as possible of the pupil. Then he will give you something!

"Of course the whole subject of violin teaching is one that I look at from the standpoint of the teacher who tries to make what is already excellent perfect from the musical and artistic standpoint. I insist on a perfected technical development in every pupil who comes to me. Art begins where technic ends. There can be no real art development before one's technic is firmly established. And a great deal of technical work has to be done before the great works of violin literature, the sonatas and concertos, may be approached. In Petrograd my own assistants, who were familiar with my ideas, prepared my pupils for me. And in my own experience I have found that one cannot teach by word, by the spoken explanation, alone. If I have a point to make I explain it; but if my explanation fails to explain I take my violin and bow, and clear up the matter beyond any doubt. The word lives, it is true, but often the word must be materialized by action so that its meaning is clear. There are always things which the pupil must be shown literally, though explanation should always supplement illustration. I studied with Joachim as a boy of sixteen—it was before 1866, when there was still a kingdom of Hanover in existence—and Joachim always illustrated his meaning with bow and fiddle. But he never explained the technical side of what he illustrated. Those more advanced understood without verbal comment; yet there were some who did not.

"As regards the theory that you can tell who a violinist's teacher is by the way in which he plays, I do not believe in it. I do not believe that you can tell an Auer pupil by the manner in which he plays. And I am proud of it since it shows that my pupils have profited by my encouragement of individual development, and that they become genuine artists, each with a personality of his own, instead of violinistic automats, all bearing a marked family resemblance."

Questioned as to how his various pupils reflected different phases of his teaching ideals, Professor Auer mentioned that he had long since given over passing final decisions on his pupils. "I could express no such opinions without unconsciously implying comparisons. And so few comparisons really compare! Then, too, mine would be merely an individual opinion. Therefore, as has been my custom for years, I will continue to leave any ultimate decisions regarding my pupils' playing to the public and the press."


"How long should the advanced pupil practice?" Professor Auer was asked. "The right kind of practice is not a matter of hours," he replied. "Practice should represent the utmost concentration of brain. It is better to play with concentration for two hours than to practice eight without. I should say that four hours would be a good maximum practice time—I never ask more of my pupils—and that during each minute of the time the brain be as active as the fingers.


"I think there is more value in the idea of a national conservatory than in the idea of nationality as regards violin playing. No matter what his birthplace, there is only one way in which a student can become an artist—and that is to have a teacher who can teach! In Europe the best teachers are to be found in the great national conservatories. Thibaud, Ysaye—artists of the highest type—are products of the conservatory system, with its splendid teachers. So is Kreisler, one of the greatest artists, who studied in Vienna and Paris. Eddy Brown, the brilliant American violinist, finished at the Budapest Conservatory. In the Paris Conservatory the number of pupils in a class is strictly limited; and from these pupils each professor chooses the very best—who may not be able to pay for their course—for free instruction. At the Petrograd Conservatory, where Wieniawski preceded me, there were hundreds of free scholarships available. If a really big talent came along he always had his opportunity. We took and taught those less talented at the Conservatory in order to be able to give scholarships to the deserving of limited means. In this way no real violinistic genius, whom poverty might otherwise have kept from ever realizing his dreams, was deprived of his chance in life. Among the pupils there in my class, having scholarships, were Kathleen Parlow, Elman, Zimbalist, Heifetz and Seidel.


"Violin mastery? To me it represents the sum total of accomplishment on the part of those who live in the history of the Art. All those who may have died long since, yet the memory of whose work and whose creations still lives, are the true masters of the violin, and its mastery is the record of their accomplishment. As a child I remember the well-known composers of the day were Marschner, Hiller, Nicolai and others—yet most of what they have written has been forgotten. On the other hand there are Tartini, Nardini, Paganini, Kreutzer, Dont and Rode—they still live; and so do Ernst, Sarasate, Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski. Joachim (incidentally the only great German violinist of whom I know—and he was a Hungarian!), though he had but few great pupils, and composed but little, will always be remembered because he, together with David, gave violin virtuosity a nobler trend, and introduced a higher ideal in the music played for violin. It is men such as these who always will remain violin 'masters,' just as 'violin mastery' is defined by what they have done."


Replying to a question as to the value of the Bach violin sonatas, Professor Auer said: "My pupils always have to play Bach. I have published my own revision of them with a New York house. The most impressive thing about these Bach solo sonatas is they do not need an accompaniment: one feels it would be superfluous. Bach composed so rapidly, he wrote with such ease, that it would have been no trouble for him to supply one had he felt it necessary. But he did not, and he was right. And they still must be played as he has written them. We have the 'modern' orchestra, the 'modern' piano, but, thank heaven, no 'modern' violin! Such indications as I have made in my edition with regard to bowing, fingering, nuances of expression, are more or less in accord with the spirit of the times; but not a single note that Bach has written has been changed. The sonatas are technically among the most difficult things written for the violin, excepting Ernst and Paganini. Not that they are hard in a modern way: Bach knew nothing of harmonics, pizzicati, scales in octaves and tenths. But his counterpoint, his fugues—to play them well when the principal theme is sometimes in the outer voices, sometimes in the inner voices, or moving from one to the other—is supremely difficult! In the last sonatas there is a larger number of small movements—- but this does not make them any easier to play.

"I have also edited the Beethoven sonatas together with Rudolph Ganz. He worked at the piano parts in New York, while I studied and revised the violin parts in Petrograd and Norway, where I spent my summers during the war. There was not so much to do," said Professor Auer modestly, "a little fingering, some bowing indications and not much else. No reviser needs to put any indications for nuance and shading in Beethoven. He was quite able to attend to all that himself. There is no composer who shows such refinement of nuance. You need only to take his quartets or these same sonatas to convince yourself of the fact. In my Brahms revisions I have supplied really needed fingerings, bowings, and other indications! Important compositions on which I am now at work include Ernst's fine Concerto, Op. 23, the Mozart violin concertos, and Tartini's Trille du diable, with a special cadenza for my pupil, Toscha Seidel.


"Prodigies?" said Professor Auer. "The word 'prodigy' when applied to some youthful artist is always used with an accent of reproach. Public and critics are inclined to regard them with suspicion. Why? After all, the important thing is not their youth, but their artistry. Examine the history of music—you will discover that any number of great masters, great in the maturity of their genius, were great in its infancy as well. There are Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Rubinstein, d'Albert, Hofmann, Scriabine, Wieniawski—they were all 'infant prodigies,' and certainly not in any objectionable sense. Not that I wish to claim that every prodigy necessarily becomes a great master. That does not always follow. But I believe that a musical prodigy, instead of being regarded with suspicion, has a right to be looked upon as a striking example of a pronounced natural predisposition for musical art. Of course, full mental development of artistic power must come as a result of the maturing processes of life itself. But I firmly believe that every prodigy represents a valuable musical phenomenon, one deserving of the keenest interest and encouragement. It does not seem right to me that when the art of the prodigy is incontestably great, that the mere fact of his youth should serve as an excuse to look upon him with prejudice, and even with a certain degree of distrust."




Notwithstanding the fact that Eddy Brown was born in Chicago, Ill., and that he is so great a favorite with concert audiences in the land of his birth, the gifted violinist hesitates to qualify himself as a strictly "American" violinist. As he expresses it: "Musically I was altogether educated in Europe—I never studied here, because I left this country at the age of seven, and only returned a few years ago. So I would not like to be placed in the position of claiming anything under false pretenses!


"With whom did I study? With two famous masters; by a strange coincidence both Hungarians. First with Jenoe Hubay, at the National Academy of Music in Budapest, later with Leopold Auer in Petrograd. Hubay had been a pupil of Vieuxtemps in Brussels, and is a justly celebrated teacher, very thorough and painstaking in explaining to his pupils how to do things; but the great difference between Hubay and Auer is that while Hubay tells a student how to do things, Auer, a temperamental teacher, literally drags out of him whatever there is in him, awakening latent powers he never knew he possessed. Hubay is a splendid builder of virtuosity, and has a fine sense for phrasing. For a year and a half I worked at nothing but studies with him, giving special attention to technic. He did not believe in giving too much time to left hand development, when without adequate bow technic finger facility is useless. Here he was in accord with Auer, in fact with every teacher seriously deserving of the name. Hubay was a first-class pedagog, and under his instruction one could not help becoming a well-balanced and musicianly player. But there is a higher ideal in violin playing than mere correctness, and Auer is an inspiring teacher. Hubay has written some admirable studies, notably twelve studies for the right hand, though he never stressed technic too greatly. On the other hand, Auer's most notable contributions to violin literature are his revisions of such works as the Bach sonatas, the Tschaikovsky Concerto, etc. In a way it points the difference in their mental attitude: Hubay more concerned with the technical educational means, one which cannot be overlooked; Auer more interested in the interpretative, artistic educational end, which has always claimed his attention. Hubay personally was a grand seigneur, a multi-millionaire, and married to an Hungarian countess. He had a fine ear for phrasing, could improvise most interesting violin accompaniments to whatever his pupils played, and beside Rode, Kreutzer and Fiorillo I studied the concertos and other repertory works with him. Then there were the conservatory lessons! Attendance at a European conservatory is very broadening musically. Not only does the individual violin pupil, for example, profit by listening to his colleagues play in class: he also studies theory, musical history, the piano, ensemble playing, chamber-music and orchestra. I was concertmaster of the conservatory orchestra while studying with Hubay. There should be a national conservatory of music in this country; music in general would advance more rapidly. And it would help teach American students to approach the art of violin playing from the right point of view. As it is, too many want to study abroad under some renowned teacher not, primarily, with the idea of becoming great artists; but in the hope of drawing great future commercial dividends from an initial financial investment. In Art the financial should always be a secondary consideration.

"It stands to reason that no matter how great a student's gifts may be, he can profit by study with a great teacher. This, I think, applies to all. After I had already appeared in concert at Albert Hall, London, in 1909, where I played the Beethoven Concerto with orchestra, I decided to study with Auer. When I first came to him he wanted to know why I did so, and after hearing me play, told me that I did not need any lessons from him. But I knew that there was a certain 'something' which I wished to add to my violinistic make-up, and instinctively felt that he alone could give me what I wanted. I soon found that in many essentials his ideas coincided with those of Hubay. But I also discovered that Auer made me develop my individuality unconsciously, placing no undue restrictions whatsoever upon my manner of expression, barring, of course, unmusicianly tendencies. When he has a really talented pupil the Professor gives him of his best. I never gave a thought to technic while I studied with him—the great things were a singing tone, bowing, interpretation! I studied Brahms and Beethoven, and though Hubay always finished with the Bach sonatas, I studied them again carefully with Auer.


"At the bottom of all technic lies the scale. And scale practice is the ladder by means of which all must climb to higher proficiency. Scales, in single tones and intervals, thirds, sixths, octaves, tenths, with the incidental changes of position, are the foundation of technic. They should be practiced slowly, always with the development of tone in mind, and not too long a time at any one session. No one can lay claim to a perfected technic who has not mastered the scale. Better a good tone, even though a hundred mistakes be made in producing it, than a tone that is poor, thin and without quality. I find the Singer Fingeruebungen are excellent for muscular development in scale work, for imparting the great strength which is necessary for the fingers to have; and the Kreutzer etudes are indispensable. To secure an absolute legato tone, a true singing tone on the violin, one should play scales with a perfectly well sustained and steady bow, in whole notes, slowly and mezzo-forte, taking care that each note is clear and pure, and that its volume does not vary during the stroke. The quality of tone must be equalized, and each whole note should be 'sung' with a single bowing. The change from up-bow to down-bow and vice versa should be made without a break, exclusively through skillful manipulation of the wrist. To accomplish this unbroken change of bow one should cultivate a loose wrist, and do special work at the extreme ends, nut and tip.

"The vibrato is a great tone beautifier. Too rapid or too slow a vibrato defeats the object desired. There is a happy medium of tempo, rather faster than slower, which gives the best results. Carl Flesch has some interesting theories about vibration which are worth investigating. A slow and a moderately rapid vibrato, from the wrist, is best for practice, and the underlying idea while working must be tone, and not fingerwork.

Staccato is one of the less important branches of bow technic. There is a knack in doing it, and it is purely pyrotechnical. Staccato passages in quantity are only to be found in solos of the virtuoso type. One never meets with extended staccato passages in Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch or Lalo. And the Saint-Saens's violin concerto, if I remember rightly, contains but a single staccato passage.

"Spiccato is a very different matter from staccato: violinists as a rule use the middle of the bow for spiccato: I use the upper third of the bow, and thus get most satisfactory results, in no matter what tempo. This question as to what portion of the bow to use for spiccato each violinist must decide for himself, however, through experiment. I have tried both ways and find that by the last mentioned use of the bow I secure quicker, cleaner results. Students while practicing this bowing should take care that the wrist, and never the arm, be used. Hubay has written some very excellent studies for this form of 'springing bow.'

"The trill, when it rolls quickly and evenly, is a trill indeed! I never had any difficulty in acquiring it, and can keep on trilling indefinitely without the slightest unevenness or slackening of speed. Auer himself has assured me that I have a trill that runs on and on without a sign of fatigue or uncertainty. The trill has to be practiced very slowly at first, later with increasing rapidity, and always with a firm pressure of the fingers. It is a very beautiful embellishment, and one much used; one finds it in Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, etc.

"Double notes never seemed hard to me, but harmonics are not as easily acquired as some of the other violin effects. I advise pressing down the first finger on the strings inordinately, especially in the higher positions, when playing artificial harmonics. The higher the fingers ascend on the strings, the more firmly they should press them, otherwise the harmonics are apt to grow shrill and lose in clearness. The majority of students have trouble with their harmonics, because they do not practice them in this way. Of course the quality of the harmonics produced varies with the quality of the strings that produce them. First class strings are an absolute necessity for the production of pure harmonics. Yet in the case of the artist, he himself is held responsible, and not his strings.

"Octaves? Occasionally, as in Auer's transcript of Beethoven's Dance of the Dervishes, or in the closing section of the Ernst Concerto, when they are used to obtain a certain weird effect, they sound well. But ordinarily, if cleanly played, they sound like one-note successions. In the examples mentioned, the so-called 'fingered octaves,' which are very difficult, are employed. Ordinary octaves are not so troublesome. After all, in octave playing we simply double the notes for the purpose of making them more powerful.

"As regards the playing of tenths, it seems to me that the interval always sounds constrained, and hardly ever euphonious enough to justify its difficulty, especially in rapid passages. Yet Paganini used this awkward interval very freely in his compositions, and one of his 'Caprices' is a variation in tenths, which should be played more often than it is, as it is very effective. In this connection change of position, which I have already touched on with regard to scale playing, should be so smooth that it escapes notice. Among special effects the glissando is really beautiful when properly done. And this calls for judgment. It might be added, though, that the glissando is an effect which should not be overdone. The portamento—gliding from one note to another—is also a lovely effect. Its proper and timely application calls for good judgment and sound musical taste.


"I usually play a 'Strad,' but very often turn to my beautiful 'Guillami,'" said Mr. Brown when asked about his violins. "It is an old Spanish violin, made in Barcelona, in 1728, with a tone that has a distinct Stradivarius character. In appearance it closely resembles a Guadagnini, and has often been taken for one. When the dealer of whom I bought it first showed it to me it was complete—but in four distinct pieces! Kubelik, who was in Budapest at the time, heard of it and wanted to buy it; but the dealer, as was only right, did not forget that my offer represented a prior claim, and so I secured it. The Guadagnini, which I have played in all my concerts here, I am very fond of—it has a Stradivarius tone rather than the one we usually associate with the make." Mr. Brown showed the writer his Grancino, a beautiful little instrument about to be sent to the repair shop, since exposure to the damp atmosphere of the sea-shore had opened its seams—and the rare and valuable Simon bow, now his, which had once been the property of Sivori. Mr. Brown has used a wire E ever since he broke six gut strings in one hour while at Seal Harbor, Maine. "A wire string, I find, is not only easier to play, but it has a more brilliant quality of tone than a gut string; and I am now so accustomed to using a wire E, that I would feel ill at ease if I did not have one on my instrument. Contrary to general belief, it does not sound 'metallic,' unless the string itself is of very poor quality.


"In making up a recital program I try to arrange it so that the first half, approximately, may appeal to the more specifically musical part of my audience, and to the critics. In the second half I endeavor to remember the general public; at the same time being careful to include nothing which is not really musical. This (Mr. Brown found one of his recent programs on his desk and handed it to me) represents a logical compromise between the strictly artistic and the more general taste:"


I. Beethoven . . . . . Sonata Op. 47 (dedicated to Kreutzer)

II. Bruch . . . . . . Concerto (G minor)

III. (a) Beethoven . . . . Romance (in G major) (b) Beethoven-Auer . . Chorus of the Dervishes (c) Brown . . . . . Rondino (on a Cramer theme) (d) Arbos . . . . . Tango

IV. (a) Kreisler . . . . La Gitana (Arabo-Spanish Gipsy Dance of the 18th Century) (b) Cui . . . . . . Orientale (c) Bazzini. . . . . La Ronde des Lutins

"As you see there are two extended serious works, followed by two smaller 'groups' of pieces. And these have also been chosen with a view to contrast. The finale of the Bruch concerto is an allegro energico: I follow it with a Beethoven Romance, a slow movement. The second group begins with a taking Kreisler novelty, which is succeeded by another slow number; but one very effective in its working-up; and I end my program with a brilliant virtuoso number.


"My own personal conception of violin mastery," concluded Mr. Brown, "might be defined as follows: 'An individual tone production, or rather tone quality, consummate musicianship in phrasing and interpretation, ability to rise above all mechanical and intellectual effort, and finally the power to express that which is dictated by one's imagination and emotion, with the same natural simplicity and spontaneity with which the thought of a really great orator is expressed in the easy, unconstrained flow of his language.'"




To hear Mischa Elman on the concert platform, to listen to him play, "with all that wealth of tone, emotion and impulse which places him in the very foremost rank of living violinists," should be joy enough for any music lover. To talk with him in his own home, however, gives one a deeper insight into his art as an interpreter; and in the pleasant intimacy of familiar conversation the writer learned much that the serious student of the violin will be interested in knowing.


We all know that Elman, when he plays in public, moves his head, moves his body, sways in time to the music; in a word there are certain mannerisms associated with his playing which critics have on occasion mentioned with grave suspicion, as evidences of sensationalism. Half fearing to insult him by asking whether he was "sincere," or whether his motions were "stage business" carefully rehearsed, as had been implied, I still ventured the question. He laughed boyishly and was evidently much amused.

"No, no," he said. "I do not study up any 'stage business' to help out my playing! I do not know whether I ought to compare myself to a dancer, but the appeal of the dance is in all musical movement. Certain rhythms and musical combinations affect me subconsciously. I suppose the direct influence of the music on me is such that there is a sort of emotional reflex: I move with the music in an unconscious translation of it into gesture. It is all so individual. The French violinists as a rule play very correctly in public, keeping their eye on finger and bow. And this appeals to me strongly in theory. In practice I seem to get away from it. It is a matter of temperament I presume. I am willing to believe I'm not graceful, but then—I do not know whether I move or do not move! Some of my friends have spoken of it to me at various times, so I suppose I do move, and sway and all the rest; but any movements of the sort must be unconscious, for I myself know nothing of them. And the idea that they are 'prepared' as 'stage effects' is delightful!" And again Elman laughed.


"For that matter," he continued, "every real artist has some mannerisms when playing, I imagine. Yet more than mannerisms are needed to impress an American audience. Life and color in interpretation are the true secrets of great art. And beauty of interpretation depends, first of all, on variety of color. Technic is, after all, only secondary. No matter how well played a composition be, its performance must have color, nuance, movement, life! Each emotional mood of the moment must be fully expressed, and if it is its appeal is sure. I remember when I once played for Don Manuel, the young ex-king of Portugal, in London, I had an illustration of the fact. He was just a pathetic boy, very democratic, and personally very likable. He was somewhat neglected at the time, for it is well known and not altogether unnatural, that royalty securely established finds 'kings in exile' a bit embarrassing. Don Manuel was a music-lover, and especially fond of Bach. I had had long talks with the young king at various times, and my sympathies had been aroused in his behalf. On the evening of which I speak I played a Chopin Nocturne, and I know that into my playing there went some of my feeling for the pathos of the situation of this young stranger in a strange land, of my own age, eating the bitter bread of exile. When I had finished, the Marchioness of Ripon touched my arm: 'Look at the King!' she whispered. Don Manuel had been moved to tears.

"Of course the purely mechanical must always be dominated by the artistic personality of the player. Yet technic is also an important part of interpretation: knowing exactly how long to hold a bow, the most delicate inflections of its pressure on the strings. There must be perfect sympathy also with the composer's thought; his spirit must stand behind the personality of the artist. In the case of certain famous compositions, like the Beethoven concerto, for instance, this is so well established that the artist, and never the composer, is held responsible if it is not well played. But too rigorous an adherence to 'tradition' in playing is also an extreme. I once played privately for Joachim in Berlin: it was the Bach Chaconne. Now the edition I used was a standard one: and Joachim was extremely reverential as regards traditions. Yet he did not hesitate to indicate some changes which he thought should be made in the version of an authoritative edition, because 'they sounded better.' And 'How does it sound?' is really the true test of all interpretation."


"What is the fundamental of a perfected violin technic?" was a natural question at this point. "Absolute pitch, first of all," replied Elman promptly. "Many a violinist plays a difficult passage, sounding every note; and yet it sounds out of tune. The first and second movements of the Beethoven concerto have no double-stops; yet they are extremely difficult to play. Why? Because they call for absolute pitch: they must be played in perfect tune so that each tone stands out in all its fullness and clarity like a rock in the sea. And without a fundamental control of pitch such a master work will always be beyond the violinist's reach. Many a player has the facility; but without perfect intonation he can never attain the highest perfection. On the other hand, any one who can play a single phrase in absolute pitch has the first and great essential. Few artists, not barring some of the greatest, play with perfect intonation. Its control depends first of all on the ear. And a sensitive ear finds differences and shading; it bids the violinist play a trifle sharper, a trifle flatter, according to the general harmonic color of the accompaniment; it leads him to observe a difference, when the harmonic atmosphere demands it, between a C sharp in the key of E major and a D flat in the same key.


"Every player finds some phases of technic easy and others difficult. For instance, I have never had to work hard for quality of tone—when I wish to get certain color effects they come: I have no difficulty in expressing my feelings, my emotions in tone. And in a technical way spiccato bowing, which many find so hard, has always been easy to me. I have never had to work for it. Double-stops, on the contrary, cost me hours of intensive work before I played them with ease and facility. What did I practice? Scales in double-stops—they give color and variety to tone. And I gave up a certain portion of my regular practice time to passages from concertos and sonatas. There is wonderful work in double-stops in the Ernst concerto and in the Paganini Etudes, for instance. With octaves and tenths I have never had any trouble: I have a broad hand and a wide stretch, which accounts for it, I suppose.

"Then there are harmonics, flageolets—I, have never been able to understand why they should be considered so difficult! They should not be white, colorless; but call for just as much color as any other tones (and any one who has heard Mischa Elman play harmonics knows that this is no mere theory on his part). I never think of harmonics as 'harmonics,' but try to give them just as much expressive quality as the notes of any other register. The mental attitude should influence their production—too many violinists think of them only as incidental to pyrotechnical display.

"And fingering? Fingering in general seems to me to be an individual matter. A concert artist may use a certain fingering for a certain passage which no pupil should use, and be entirely justified if he can thus secure a certain effect.

"I do not—speaking out of my own experience—believe much in methods: and never to the extent that they be allowed to kill the student's individuality. A clear, clean tone should always be the ideal of his striving. And to that end he must see that the up and down bows in a passage like the following from the Bach sonata in A minor (and Mr. Elman hastily jotted down the subjoined) are absolutely

even, and of the same length, played with the same strength and length of bow, otherwise the notes are swallowed. In light spiccato and staccato the detached notes should be played always with a single stroke of the bow. Some players, strange to say, find staccato notes more difficult to play at a moderate tempo than fast. I believe it to be altogether a matter of control—if proper control be there the tempo makes no difference. Wieniawski, I have read, could only play his staccati at a high rate of speed. Spiccato is generally held to be more difficult than staccato; yet I myself find it easier.


"To influence a clear, singing tone with the left hand, to phrase it properly with the bow hand, is most important. And it is a matter of proportion. Good phrasing is spoiled by an ugly tone: a beautiful singing tone loses meaning if improperly phrased. When the student has reached a certain point of technical development, technic must be a secondary—yet not neglected—consideration, and he should devote himself to the production of a good tone. Many violinists have missed their career by exaggerated attention to either bow or violin hand. Both hands must be watched at the same time. And the question of proportion should always be kept in mind in practicing studies and passages: pressure of fingers and pressure of bow must be equalized, coordinated. The teacher can only do a certain amount: the pupil must do the rest.


"Take Auer for example. I may call myself the first real exponent of his school, in the sense of making his name widely known. Auer is a great teacher, and leaves much to the individuality of his pupils. He first heard me play at the Imperial Music School in Odessa, and took me to Petrograd to study with him, which I did for a year and four months. And he could accomplish wonders! That one year he had a little group of four pupils each one better than the other—a very stimulating situation for all of them. There was a magnetism about him: he literally hypnotized his pupils into doing better than their best—though in some cases it was evident that once the support of his magnetic personality was withdrawn, the pupil fell back into the level from which he had been raised for the time being.

"Yet Auer respected the fact that temperamentally I was not responsive to this form of appeal. He gave me of his best. I never practiced more than two or three hours a day—just enough to keep fresh. Often I came to my lesson unprepared, and he would have me play things—sonatas, concertos—which I had not touched for a year or more. He was a severe critic, but always a just one.

"I can recall how proud I was when he sent me to beautiful music-loving Helsingfors, in Finland—where all seems to be bloodshed and confusion now—to play a recital in his own stead on one occasion, and how proud he was of my success. Yet Auer had his little peculiarities. I have read somewhere that the great fencing-masters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were very jealous of the secrets of their famous feints and ripostes, and only confided them to favorite pupils who promised not to reveal them. Auer had his little secrets, too, with which he was loth to part. When I was to make my debut in Berlin, I remember, he was naturally enough interested—since I was his pupil—in my scoring a triumph. And he decided to part with some of his treasured technical thrusts and parries. And when I was going over the Tschaikovsky D minor concerto (which I was to play), he would select a passage and say: 'Now I'll play this for you. If you catch it, well and good; if not it is your own fault!' I am happy to say that I did not fail to 'catch' his meaning on any occasion. Auer really has a wonderful intellect, and some secrets well worth knowing. That he is so great an artist himself on the instrument is the more remarkable, since physically he was not exceptionally favored. Often, when he saw me, he'd say with a sigh: 'Ah, if I only had your hand!'

"Auer was a great virtuoso player. He held a unique place in the Imperial Ballet. You know in many of the celebrated ballets, Tschaikovsky's for instance, there occur beautiful and difficult solos for the violin. They call for an artist of the first rank, and Auer was accustomed to play them in Petrograd. In Russia it was considered a decided honor to be called upon to play one of those ballet solos; but in London it was looked on as something quite incidental. I remember when Diaghilev presented Tschaikovsky's Lac des Cygnes in London, the Grand-Duke Andrew Vladimirev (who had heard me play), an amiable young boy, and a patron of the arts, requested me—and at that time the request of a Romanov was still equivalent to a command—to play the violin solos which accompany the love scenes. It was not exactly easy, since I had to play and watch dancers and conductor at the same time. Yet it was a novelty for London, however; everybody was pleased and the Grand-Duke presented me with a handsome diamond pin as an acknowledgment.


"You ask me what I understand by 'Violin Mastery'? Well, it seems to me that the artist who can present anything he plays as a distinct picture, in every detail, framing the composer's idea in the perfect beauty of his plastic rendering, with absolute truth of color and proportion—he is the artist who deserves to be called a master!

"Of course, the instrument the artist uses is an important factor in making it possible for him to do his best. My violin? It is an authentic Strad—dated 1722. I bought it of Willy Burmester in London. You see he did not care much for it. The German style of playing is not calculated to bring out the tone beauty, the quality of the old Italian fiddles. I think Burmester had forced the tone, and it took me some time to make it mellow and truly responsive again, but now...." Mr. Elman beamed. It was evident he was satisfied with his instrument. "As to strings," he continued, "I never use wire strings—they have no color, no quality!


"For the advanced student there is a wealth of study material. No one ever wrote more beautiful violin music than Haendel, so rich in invention, in harmonic fullness. In Beethoven there are more ideas than tone—but such ideas! Schubert—all genuine, spontaneous! Bach is so gigantic that the violin often seems inadequate to express him. That is one reason why I do not play more Bach in public.

"The study of a sonata or concerto should entirely absorb the attention of the student to such a degree that, as he is able to play it, it has become a part of him. He should be able to play it as though it were an improvisation—of course without doing violence to the composer's idea. If he masters the composition in the way it should be mastered it becomes a portion of himself. Before I even take up my violin I study a piece thoroughly in score. I read and reread it until I am at home with the composer's thought, and its musical balance and proportion. Then, when I begin to play it, its salient points are already memorized, and the practicing gives me a kind of photographic reflex of detail. After I have not played a number for a long time it fades from my memory—like an old negative—but I need only go over it once or twice to have a clear mnemonic picture of it once more.

"Yes, I believe in transcriptions for the violin—with certain provisos," said Mr. Elman, in reply to another question. "First of all the music to be transcribed must lend itself naturally to the instrument. Almost any really good melodic line, especially a cantilena, will sound with a fitting harmonic development. Violinists of former days like Spohr, Rode and Paganini were more intent on composing music out of the violin! The modern idea lays stress first of all on the idea in music. In transcribing I try to forget I am a violinist, in order to form a perfect picture of the musical idea—its violinistic development must be a natural, subconscious working-out. If you will look at some of my recent transcripts—the Albaniz Tango, the negro melody Deep River and Amani's fine Orientale—you will see what I mean. They are conceived as pictures—I have not tried to analyze too much—and while so conceiving them their free harmonic background shapes itself for me without strain or effort.


"Conductors with whom I have played? There are many: Hans Richter, who was a master of the baton; Nikisch, one of the greatest in conducting the orchestral accompaniment to a violin solo number; Colonne of Paris, and many others. I had an amusing experience with Colonne once. He brought his orchestra to Russia while I was with Auer, and was giving a concert at Pavlovsk, a summer resort near Petrograd. Colonne had a perfect horror of 'infant prodigies,' and Auer had arranged for me to play with his orchestra without telling him my age—I was eleven at the time. When Colonne saw me, violin in hand, ready to step on the stage, he drew himself up and said with emphasis: 'I play with a prodigy! Never!' Nothing could move him, and I had to play to a piano accompaniment. After he had heard me play, though, he came over to me and said: 'The best apology I can make for what I said is to ask you to do me the honor of playing with the Orchestre Colonne in Paris.' He was as good as his word. Four months later I went to Paris and played the Mendelssohn concerto for him with great success."




Samuel Gardner, though born in Jelisavetgrad, Cherson province, in Southern Russia, in 1891, is to all intents and purposes an American, since his family, fleeing the tyranny of an Imperialistic regime of "pogroms" and "Black Hundreds," brought him to this country when a mere child; and here in the United States he has become, to quote Richard Aldrich, "the serious and accomplished artist," whose work on the concert stage has given such pleasure to lovers of violin music at its best. The young violinist, who in the course of the same week had just won two prizes in composition—the Pulitzer Prize (Columbia) for a string quartet, and the Loeb Prize for a symphonic poem—was amiably willing to talk of his study experience for the benefit of other students.


"I took up the study of the violin at the age of seven, and when I was nine I went to Charles Martin Loeffler and really began to work seriously. Loeffler was a very strict teacher and very exacting, but he achieved results, for he had a most original way of making his points clear to the student. He started off with the Sevcik studies, laying great stress on the proper finger articulation. And he taught me absolute smoothness in change of position when crossing the strings. For instance, in the second book of Sevcik's 'Technical Exercises,' in the third exercise, the bow crosses from G to A, and from D to E, leaving a string between in each crossing. Well, I simply could not manage to get to the second string to be played without the string in between sounding! Loeffler showed me what every good fiddler must learn to do: to leap from the end of the down-bow to the up-bow and vice versa and then hesitate the fraction of a moment, thus securing a smooth, clean-cut tone, without any vibration of the intermediate string. Loeffler never gave a pupil any rest until he came up to his requirements. I know when I played the seventh and eighth Kreutzer studies for him—they are trill studies—he said: 'You trill like an electric bell, but not fast enough!' And he kept at me to speed up my tempo without loss of clearness or tone-volume, until I could do justice to a rapid trill. It is a great quality in a teacher to be literally able to enforce the pupil's progress in certain directions; for though the latter may not appreciate it at the time, later on he is sure to do so. I remember once when he was trying to explain the perfect crescendo to me, fire-engine bells began to ring in the distance, the sound gradually drawing nearer the house in Charles Street where I was taking my lesson. 'There you have it!' Loeffler cried: 'There's your ideal crescendo! Play it like that and I will be satisfied!' I remained with Loeffler a year and a half, and when he went to Paris began to study with Felix Winternitz.

"Felix Winternitz was a teacher who allowed his pupils to develop individuality. 'I care nothing for theories,' he used to say, 'so long as I can see something original in your work!' He attached little importance to the theory of technic, but a great deal to technical development along individual lines. And he always encouraged me to express myself freely, within my limitations, stressing the musical side of my work. With him I played through the concertos which, after a time, I used for technical material, since every phase of technic and bowing is covered in these great works. I was only fifteen when I left Winternitz and still played by instinct rather than intellectually. I still used my bow arm somewhat stiffly, and did not think much about phrasing. I instinctively phrased whatever the music itself made clear to me, and what I did not understand I merely played.


"But when I came to Franz Kneisel, my last teacher, I began to work with my mind. Kneisel showed me that I had to think when I played. At first I did not realize why he kept at me so insistently about phrasing, interpretation, the exact observance of expression marks; but eventually it dawned on me that he was teaching me to read a soul into each composition I studied.

"I practiced hard, from four to five hours a day. Fortunately, as regards technical equipment, I was ready for Kneisel's instruction. The first thing he gave me to study was, not a brilliant virtuoso piece, but the Bach concerto in E major, and then the Viotti concerto. In the beginning, until Kneisel showed me, I did not know what to do with them. This was music whose notes in themselves were easy, and whose difficulties were all of an individual order. But intellectual analysis, interpretation, are Kneisel's great points. A strict teacher, I worked with him for five years, the most remarkable years of all my violin study.

"Kneisel knows how to develop technical perfection without using technical exercises. I had already played the Mendelssohn, Bruch and Lalo concertos with Winternitz, and these I now restudied with Kneisel. In interpretation he makes clear every phrase in its relation to every other phrase and the movement as a whole. And he insists on his pupils studying theory and composition—something I had formerly not been inclined to take seriously.

"Some teachers are satisfied if the student plays his notes correctly, in a general way. With Kneisel the very least detail, a trill, a scale, has to be given its proper tone-color and dynamic shading in absolute proportion with the balancing harmonies. This trill, in the first movement of the Beethoven concerto—(and Mr. Gardner jotted it down)

Kneisel kept me at during the entire lesson, till I was able to adjust its tone-color and nuances to the accompanying harmony. Then, though many teachers do not know it, it is a tradition in the orchestra to make a diminuendo in the sixth measure, before the change of key to C major, and this diminuendo should, of course, be observed by the solo instrument as well. Yet you will hear well-known artists play the trill throughout with a loud, brilliant tone and no dynamic change!

"Kneisel makes it a point to have all his pupils play chamber music because of its truly broadening influence. And he is unexcelled in taking apart structurally the Beethoven, Brahms, Tschaikovsky and other quartets, in analyzing and explaining the wonderful planning and building up of each movement. I had the honor of playing second violin in the Kneisel Quartet from September to February (1914-1915), at the outbreak of the war, a most interesting experience. The musicianship Kneisel had given me; I was used to his style and at home with his ideas, and am happy to think that he was satisfied. A year later as assistant concertmaster in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I had a chance to become practically acquainted with the orchestral works of Strauss, d'Indy and other moderns, and enjoy the Beethoven, Brahms and Tschaikovsky symphonies as a performer.


"How do I regard technic now? I think of it in the terms of the music itself. Music should dictate the technical means to be used. The composition and its phrases should determine bowing and the tone quality employed. One should not think of down-bows or up-bows. In the Brahms concerto you can find many long phrases: they cannot be played with one bow; yet there must be no apparent change of bow. If the player does not know what the phrase means; how to interpret it, how will he be able to bow it correctly?

"And there are so many different nuances, especially in legato. It is as a rule produced by a slurred bow; yet it may also be produced by other bowings. To secure a good legato tone watch the singer. The singer can establish the perfect smoothness that legato calls for to perfection. To secure a like effect the violinist should convey the impression that there is no point, no frog, that the bow he uses is of indefinite length. And the violinist should never think: 'I must play this up-bow or down-bow.' Artists of the German school are more apt to begin a phrase with a down-bow; the French start playing a good deal at the point. Up or down, both are secondary to finding out, first of all, what quality, what balance of tone the phrase demands. The conductor of a symphonic orchestra does not care how, technically, certain effects are produced by the violins, whether they use an up-bow or a down-bow. He merely says: 'That's too heavy: give me less tone!' The result to be achieved is always more important than the manner of achievement.

"All phases of technical accomplishment, if rightly acquired, tend to become second nature to the player in the course of time: staccato, a brilliant trick; spiccato, the reiteration of notes played from the wrist, etc. The martellato, a nuance of spiccato, should be played with a firm bowing at the point. In a very broad spiccato, the arm may be brought into play; but otherwise not, since it makes rapid playing impossible. Too many amateurs try to play spiccato from the arm. And too many teachers are contented with a trill that is merely brilliant. Kneisel insists on what he calls a 'musical trill,' of which Kreisler's beautiful trill is a perfect example. The trill of some violinists is invariably brilliant, whether brilliancy is appropriate or not. Brilliant trills in Bach always seem out of place to me; while in Paganini and in Wieniawski's Carnaval de Venise a high brilliant trill is very effective.

"As to double-stops—Edison once said that violin music should be written only in double-stops—I practice them playing first the single notes and then the two together, and can recommend this mode of practice from personal experience. Harmonics, where clarity is the most important thing, are mainly a matter of bowing, of a sure attack and sustaining by the bow. Of course the harmonics themselves are made by the fingers; but their tone quality rests altogether with the bow.


"The best thing I've ever heard said of octaves was Edison's remark to me that 'They are merely a nuisance and should not be played!' I was making some records for him during the experimental stage of the disk record, when he was trying to get an absolutely smooth legato tone, one that conformed to Loeffler's definition of it as 'no breaks' in the tone. He had had Schubert's Ave Maria recorded by Flesch, MacMillan and others, and wanted me to play it for him. The records were all played for me, and whenever he came to the octave passages Edison would say: 'Listen to them! How badly they sound!' Yet the octaves were absolutely in tune! 'Why do they sound so badly?' I inquired.

"Then Edison explained to me that according to the scientific theory of vibration, the vibrations of the higher tone of the octaves should be exactly twice those of the lower note. 'But here,' he continued, 'the vibrations of the notes all vary.' 'Yet how can the player control his fingers in the vibrato beyond playing his octaves in perfect tune?' I asked. 'Well, if he cannot do so,' said Edison, 'octaves are merely a nuisance, and should not be played at all.' I experimented and found that by simply pressing down the fingers and playing without any vibrato, I could come pretty near securing the exact relation between the vibrations of the upper and lower notes but—they sounded dreadful! Of course, octaves sound well in ensemble, especially in the orchestra, because each player plays but a single note. And tenths sound even better than octaves when two people play them.


"You ask about my violin? It belonged to the famous Hawley collection, and is a Giovanni Baptista Guadignini, made in 1780, in Turin. The back is a single piece of maple-wood, having a broadish figure extending across its breadth. The maple-wood sides match the back. The top is formed of a very choice piece of spruce, and it is varnished a deep golden-red. It has a remarkably fine tone, very vibrant and with great carrying power, a tone that has all that I can ask for as regards volume and quality.

"I think that wire strings are largely used now-a-days because gut strings are hard to obtain—not because they are better. I do not use wire strings. I have tried them and find them thin in tone, or so brilliant that their tone is too piercing. Then, too, I find that the use of a wire E reduces the volume of tone of the other strings. No wire string has the quality of a fine gut string; and I regard them only as a substitute in the case of some people, and a convenience for lazy ones.


"Violin Mastery? Off-hand I might say the phrase stands for a life-time of effort with its highest aims unattained. As I see it the achievement of violin mastery represents a combination of 90 per cent. of toil and 10 per cent. of talent or inspiration. Goetschius, with whom I studied composition, once said to me: 'I do not congratulate you on having talent. That is a gift. But I do congratulate you on being able to work hard!' The same thing applies to the fiddle. It seems to me that only by keeping everlastingly at it can one become a master of the instrument."




Arthur Hartmann is distinctly and unmistakably a personality. He stands out even in that circle of distinguished contemporary violinists which is so largely made up of personalities. He is a composer—not only of violin pieces, but of symphonic and choral works, chamber music, songs and piano numbers. His critical analysis of Bach's Chaconne, translated into well-nigh every tongue, is probably the most complete and exhaustive study of "that triumph of genius over matter" written. And besides being a master of his own instrument he plays the viola d'amore, that sweet-toned survival, with sympathetic strings, of the 17th century viol family, and the Hungarian czimbalom. Nor is his mastery of the last-named instrument "out of drawing," for we must remember that Mr. Hartmann was born in Mate Szalka, in Southern Hungary. Then, too, Mr. Hartmann is a genial and original thinker, a litterateur of no mean ability, a bibliophile, the intimate of the late Claude Debussy, and of many of the great men of musical Europe. Yet from the reader's standpoint the interest he inspires is, no doubt, mainly due to the fact that not only is he a great interpreting artist—but a great artist doubled by a great teacher, an unusual combination.

Characteristic of Mr. Hartmann's hospitality (the writer had passed a pleasant hour with him some years before, but had not seen him since), was the fact that he insisted in brewing Turkish coffee, and making his caller feel quite at home before even allowing him to broach the subject of his visit. And when he learned that its purpose was to draw on his knowledge and experience for information which would be of value to the serious student and lover of his art, he did not refuse to respond.


"Violin playing is really no abstract mystery. It's as clear as geography in a way: one might say the whole art is bounded on the South by the G string, on the North by the E string, on the West by the string hand—and that's about as far as the comparison may be carried out. The point is, there are definite boundaries, whose technical and esthetic limits may be extended, and territorial annexations made through brain power, mental control. To me 'Violin Mastery' means taking this little fiddle-box in hand [and Mr. Hartmann suited action to word by raising the lid of his violin-case and drawing forth his beautiful 1711 Strad], and doing just what I want with it. And that means having the right finger on the right place at the right time—but don't forget that to be able to do this you must have forgotten to think of your fingers as fingers. They should be simply unconscious slaves of the artist's psychic expression, absolutely subservient to his ideal. Too many people reverse the process and become slaves to their fingers.


"Technic, for instance, in its mechanical sense, is a much exaggerated microbe of Materia musica. All technic must conform to its instrument.[A] The violin was made to suit the hand, not the hand to suit the violin, hence its technic must be based on a natural logic of hand movement. The whole problem of technical control is encountered in the first change of position on the violin. If we violinists could play in but one position there would be no technical problem. The solution of this problem means, speaking broadly, the ability to play the violin—for there is only one way of playing it—with a real, full, singing 'violin' tone. It's not a question of a method, but just a process based on pure reason, the working out of rational principles.

[Footnote A: This is the idea which underlies my system for ear-training and absolute pitch, "Arthur Hartmann's System," as I call it, which I have published. A.H.]

"What is the secret of this singing tone? Well, you may call it a secret, for many of my pupils have no inkling of it when they first come here, though it seems very much of an 'open secret' to me. The finished beauty of the violin 'voice' is a round, sustained, absolutely smooth cantabile tone. Now [Mr. Hartmann took up his Strad], I'll play you the scale of G as the average violin student plays it. You see—each slide from one tone to the next, a break—a rosary of lurches! How can there be a round, harmonious tone when the fingers progress by jerks? Shifting position must not be a continuous movement of effort, but a continuous movement in which effort and relaxation—that of dead weight—alternate. As an illustration, when we walk we do not consciously set down one foot, and then swing forward the other foot and leg with a jerk. The forward movement is smooth, unconscious, coordinated: in putting the foot forward it carries the weight of the entire body, the movement becomes a matter of instinct. And the same applies to the progression of the fingers in shifting the position of the hand. Now, playing the scale as I now do—only two fingers should be used—

I prepare every shift. Absolute accuracy of intonation and a singing legato is the result. These guiding notes indicated are merely a test to prove the scientific spacing of the violin; they are not sounded once control of the hand has been obtained. They serve only to accustom the fingers to keep moving in the direction in which they are going.

"The tone is produced by the left hand, by the weight of the fingers plus an undercurrent of sustained effort. Now, you see, if in the moment of sliding you prepare the bow for the next string, the slide itself is lost in the crossing of the bow. To carry out consistently this idea of effort and relaxation in the downward progression of the scale, you will find that when you are in the third position, the position of the hand is practically the same as in the first position. Hence, in order to go down from third to first position with the hand in what might be called a 'block' position, another movement is called for to bridge over this space (between third and first position), and this movement is the function of the thumb. The thumb, preceding the hand, relaxes the wrist and helps draw the hand back to first position. But great care must be taken that the thumb is not moved until the first finger will have been played; otherwise there will be a tendency to flatten. In the illustration the indication for the thumb is placed after the note played by the first finger.

"The inviolable law of beautiful playing is that there must be no angles. As I have shown you, right and left hand cooerdinate. The fiddle hand is preparing the change of position, while the change of strings is prepared by the right hand. And always the slides in the left hand are prepared by the last played finger—the last played finger is the true guide to smooth progression—just as the bow hand prepares the slides in the last played bowing. There should be no such thing as jumping and trusting in Providence to land right, and a curse ought to be laid on those who let their fingers leave the fingerboard. None who develop this fundamental aspect of all good playing lose the perfect control of position.

"Of course there are a hundred nuances of technic (into which the quality of good taste enters largely) that one could talk of at length: phrasing, and the subtle things happening in the bow arm that influence it; spiccato, whose whole secret is finding the right point of balance in the bow and, with light finger control, never allowing it to leave the string. I've never been able to see the virtue of octaves or the logic of double-stops. Like tenths, one plays or does not play them. But do they add one iota of beauty to violin music? I doubt it! And, after all, it is the poetry of playing that counts. All violin playing in its essence is the quest for color; its perfection, that subtle art which hides art, and which is so rarely understood."

"Could you give me a few guiding rules, a few Beatitudes, as it were, for the serious student to follow?" I asked Mr. Hartmann. Though the artist smiled at the idea of Beatitudes for the violinist, yet he was finally amiable enough to give me the following, telling me I would have to take them for what they were worth:


"Blessed are they who early in life approach Bach, for their love and veneration for music will multiply with the years.

"Blessed are they who remember their own early struggles, for their merciful criticism will help others to a greater achievement and furtherance of the Divine Art.

"Blessed are they who know their own limitations, for they shall have joy in the accomplishment of others.

"Blessed are they who revere the teachers—their own or those of others—and who remember them with credit.

"Blessed are they who, revering the old masters, seek out the newer ones and do not begrudge them a hearing or two.

"Blessed are they who work in obscurity, nor sound the trumpet, for Art has ever been for the few, and shuns the vulgar blare of ignorance.

"Blessed are they whom men revile as futurists and modernists, for Art can evolve only through the medium of iconoclastic spirits.

"Blessed are they who unflinchingly serve their Art, for thus only is their happiness to be gained.

"Blessed are they who have many enemies, for square pegs will never fit into round holes."


Arthur Hartmann, like Kreisler, Elman, Maud Powell and others of his colleagues, has enriched the literature of the violin with some notably fine transcriptions. And it is a subject on which he has well-defined opinions and regarding which he makes certain distinctions: "An 'arrangement,'" he said, "as a rule, is a purely commercial affair, into which neither art nor aesthetics enter. It usually consists in writing off the melody of a song—in other words, playing the 'tune' on an instrument instead of hearing it sung with words—or in the case of a piano composition, in writing off the upper voice, leaving the rest intact, regardless of sonority, tone-color or even effectiveness, and, furthermore, without consideration of the idiomatic principles of the instrument to which the adaptation was meant to fit.

"A 'transcription,' on the other hand, can be raised to the dignity of an art-work. Indeed, at times it may even surpass the original, in the quality of thought brought into the work, the delicate and sympathetic treatment and by the many subtleties* which an artist can introduce to make it thoroughly a re-creation of his chosen instrument.

*Transcriber's note: Original text read "subleties".

"It is the transcriber's privilege—providing he be sufficiently the artist to approach the personality of another artist with reverence—to donate his own gifts of ingenuity, and to exercise his judgment in either adding, omitting, harmonically or otherwise embellishing the work (while preserving the original idea and characteristics), so as to thoroughly re-create it, so completely destroying the very sensing of the original timbre that one involuntarily exclaims, 'Truly, this never was anything but a violin piece!' It is this, the blending and fusion of two personalities in the achievement of an art-ideal, that is the result of a true adaptation.

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