Newspaper Page Text
THE PIANOFORTE AND ITS MUSIC XIX. fhe Development of Pianoforte Playing--? IIP™ °f Virtuosi— lnfluences i)f Clavichord ami Harpsichord— J^rh mid Finger Technics. The art of pianoforte playing has been de veloped hand in hand with the Instrument and the music composed for it. The action of the evolutionary factors baa been re< iproc ai — me «hani<al elements suggesting or compelling manner and limitation of performance, technical resources inviting or prohibiting the character ol musical ideas, and these, In turn, urging to Improvement in mechanism and technical manipulation. The manufacturer, composerand performer are thus fellow agents In the evolu tion ol pianofort< music, receiving encourage ment in strivings toward both K"<'<l ;»''■<• bad i n, is from popular taste, which Is itself ■ prod uct <>! ili, co-operation of all the factors in the art -t urn. With earnest endeavor, and so far aa the lim itations of these articles permitted, I have made :. study of the evolution of the instrument and the music composed for it. and I must now ad dress myself to the third factor, the virtuoso. "XV. r. it not for the facl thai he is at once a re f, x and embodiment of th< popular taste, of t.hich he is also to a large extent the creator, hi would not be an interesting or profitable sub- J, tof study. Idealism, and th< r< !•■■• unsc fte?s in a fine sense, which an the necessary iitribut* s of < very great < r< ator in art, are ex ceptional qualities in the professional repro ducer. It is. therefore, a less deplorable cir cumstance than it seems to be in the minds of » ntimental rhapsodists thai the fame of the « iary virtuoso is evanescent, thai all tliat posterity holds of him and his is anecdote \ iiii ii is seldom valuable), or, at th< b st, 1 < l asog ical mat< rial. (■; course 1 am speaking now of the mere virtuoso. If a virtuoso l» in the true sense an srtist he will be more than a reproducer; he will be a creator also, giving out so much of 1 imself as has been released by sympathetic In terest along with the intellectual and emotional product of the composer. Virtuosi inflamed with generous and n<>l>l<- sympathies are, there fon . of infinitely higher rank than virtuosi whose bent is toward the petty and Ignoble. In this lies the morality of the art. It is the for mer who win a reward like that of the com poser, though they may not meet with the sum*' measure of material recompense as their worldly vis. and unworthier companions. They create traditions which are fragrant: they leave a her itage which is enduring and fruitful. They live on after death in those who, possessed of the game artistic and ethical qualities, have learned from them and follow their example. Unfortunately virtuosi of thi- class are not numerous, and never have been. The many are those who seek success in the favor of the mul titude and to win it pander to the predilec tions of the crowd. The crowd, however, can no more occupy the highest plane in musical appreciation than in nrisdom or morality; hence, the most successful virtuosi, as a rule, are those whose capacities, physical, intellectual, emo tional and moral, are best adjusted to popular taste, not so much, perhaps, in what may be called Its ground swell as in the fleeting ripples, eddies and curling froth on its surface, the phenomena of fad and fashion. Such virtuosi can have no abiding place in the sympathy or even the Interest of the serious critic or his torian except as their example be used "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for Instruc tion in (artisti?) righteousness"; there is small room for them in these articles. Very little is known about the methods of study pursued by the early clavier performers. The music of the English virginalists indicates Chat Beetness of finger was as essential in the Sixteenth century as ii is in the twentieth, and when one reflects on the system of fingering vliiri> seems to have prevailed up to the time of Johann Sebastian Bach it is almost Incon ceivable how sufficient digital dexterity to play the music of the early virginalists and harpsi eh< rdists could be acquired. The rules for fin gering generally in use to-day date back only to C. P. E. Bach. "The earliest marked Anger ing of which we have any knowledge," says Mr. J' .1. Blaikley, in his admirable essay on the subject In Grove's "Dictionary of Music and Musicians," "is that given by Ammerbach in his "Orgel oder instrument Tabulatur' (Leipsic. 1571). ThK like all the fingering In use then and i' r 1< ng afterward, is cbara< terized bj the almost •■ • •■ oidance of the use of the i and lif.l. finger, the former being only < ionally marked in the left hand, and the ].:■- r nevei employed except in the playing of ;,;.,.■,. | s ; oot '.' ■■'- than a fourth in the same ] An Italian system t" which Mr. Blaikley i . nee would seem to show that e j hty-fivc years fter the publication of Am j, , : i,. ■..-. booh an even more primitive system .- .-. prevailed in Italy. In Lorenzo j>, : - "L| Prime Albori musicali," published Id ;. ; ... n a In 1656, it is set down that ascend j. . . a re to be played by the middle and r i, .. fingers alternately of the right hand, and , ..:■!! <le\ fing< i> of the left: in desc< nd ii;g th< process was reversed, middle and in"h"f NEW-YORK DATLY TRIBOHB. STJH&AY, O( TORE R 0. tftio. (CopyrlKht. 11)10. by H. E. Krehblel.) Cm-;,!-: alternately of the right hand, and mid dle -uid ring Bngera of the left Mr. BlaiWey'* explanation of these stiff and awkward kin<!s of fingering Is this: Tn the lirsl place the organ and clavichord > ot being tuned upon the system of .<|tmi tempera ment music tor these instruments was written on l> in the simplest keys, with th< Mack k» vs rarel> used, end In the second place the key boards of the earlier organs wer< usually placed so high above the seat of th. playei that the TITLE PAGE OF THE FIRST BOOK OF MUSIC PRINTED FOR THE VIRGINAL. Note position of the hands. elbows were of necessity considerably lower than the fingers. The consequence of the hands be ing held in this position and of the black keys being- seldom required would be that the three long fingers stretched out horizontally would be chiefly used while the thumb and little finger. being too short to reach the keys without diffi culty, would simply hang down below the level of the keyboard. But while the pedagogues prescribed systems ther.- were empirii Ists. no doubt in large num bers, who practised whatever way seemed to them best in the application of the finir* ra to the keys. They had a valiant champion, too, in Prsetorius. who, in his "Syntagma Musicum" (1619) wrote: "Many think it matter ol great importance and despise such organists as do not us'- this or thai particular fingering, which in my opinion is not worth the talk; for !• t a player run up <■•• down with either first, middle or third finger, aye, even with his nose, if that < ould help him. Pr ivided that ev< ry thing is done clearly, correctly and gracefully, it does not much matter ho> or in what manner it is ac plished." A sparing us of the thumb is timidly sug gested by Pureell in his "Choice Collection of Lessons for the Harpsichord" (about 1700). and Coupe rin in his ••I>e la Toucher le Clevecin" (1717k but when Bach took up the matter he revolutionized it completely, as indeed, he had to do to make his system of equal temperament and the free use of all the modes practicable. Bach Iran*! irnied the attitude of the hand at on< . The thr • tinkers instead of lying hori- zontally with UM krv?. were bent so that their tips rested perpendicularly on the keys. This brought th. hand forward on the keyboard and raised the wrist*. Thus a smart blow could, wh.n need \, (ii i a \i,> tho place of pressure— a very important thing when the harpsichord gave way to the pianoforte and quilled jacks to hammers, that is, when the strings were struck instead of plucked. BacH also fixed the place of the thumb in the scale and uh**] it and the little finger freely in all positions, in his playing Bach cultivated evenness of tom by ending each ap plication, not by lifting the finger from the key. but drawing it inwardly toward the palm of the band with a caressing motion, which trans ferred the requisite amount of pressure to the next finger in passage playing. Forkel says that the movement of Baths fingers was m slight as to be scarcely noticeable. The position of his hand r« maim d unchanged, and he held the rest of bit body motionless. His contemporary, Handel, who was also high ly esteemed as a harpsichordist, used the same hand position. Burney said his fingers "seemed to grow to the keys, they were so curved and compact when he played that no motion, and scarcely the tinkers themselves, could be dis covered.*' C. P. E. Bach in his "Versuch," while enforcing the need of a quiet movement of the hands, nevertheless foreshadows a change to a practice which in the course of time became an abomination. The mechanical principle of the pianoforte invited a Mow upon the keys. Bach, therefore, to secure power, permitted a lifting of the hands in the delivery of the blow. This, he said, was not an error, but good and necessary so '.oiil, as it could be done in a manner "not too suggestive of wood chopping." Wood chopping would be an Inexpressive simile applied to the actions of many pianists since. The clavichord lent itself best to an expres sive singing style of playing, the harpsichord to a crisp and sclntiliant staccato. The former instrument could not be used in public perform ances, but its greater soulfulnesa made it an in valuable preparatory Instrument for the piano forte. At Vienna Burner, on his historical tour, heard a child play on the pianoforte with such nice command of nuance that he inquired on what instrument she had practised. He was told the clavichord, which led him to comment as follows: "This accounts for her expression and convinces me that children should learn upon this or a pianoforte very easily, and be obliged to give an expression to 'Ij&fiy Coven try's Minuet, or whatever their first tune, other wise after long practice on a monotonous harp sichord, however useful for strengthening th« hand, the case is hopeless.** The accounts of Mozart's playing are xint many, but taken In connection with hi- com ments on some of the virtuosi whom hr ••nrrmn tered on his travels it is plain that hi* style was chiefly distinguished by its musical quali ties; its charm tame from its expressiveness, it» grace and lucidity, combine*} with truthfulness of emotional utterance. In 17S1, when he met CUmtnti in rivalry at the Austrian court, the two, after producing set pieces of their t,» n composition, varied a therm- which the Emperor pave th»m. I-onK afterward dementi said: •I'r.tii then I had never heard anybody pUy with M much intelligence and eharrn. I W a3 particularly surprised t.y an adagio and a num ber of his extemporized variations on ;i th*me chosen »>•• th»- Emperor, which •*-•• were «.».:i Rf .,j to vary alternately, each accompanying the other." Mozart was less) gracious in his opinion of his rival. He called ■:■-■' v mera "mechanician" i Mfhan »>«.<». with a great knar* in |.assaK«-s in thirds, but not a pennyworth of feeling or taste. Mozart, it is plain, was trej,,. diced against Italian players as a rule. He had no patience, indeed, with th»- dwplay t.l mere digital dexterity which many cf th* virtuosi of his day maif, to the neslect of fast' ir. tempo and expression. Kullak reviews hi? qualities a3 follows: "Delicacy i-n<l tu>t»- with hi« lifting ef th»- eptire t*«-hni.|ue to the spiritual arpiration of th»- i<i»a. elevate Mm as a virtuoso U> a h*i«ht unanimonsly conceded »>y th»- public, by connoisseurs and by artists capable uf juij-injr. . . . Dittersdorf finds art and f:ist. eom'ninej in his I.;. •- Haydn asseverated with tears that Mozart's play he coold nevrr forget, fox it touched his heart: his xtnrrato is ««ai'l to ha.v« possessed ii peculiarly brilliant charm." At the beginning of hi- earee» the instntmeßt for Mozart's intirnrtte commurlnga was the clavichord; f^r his public peifermaneea the harpsichord. \Yh«-"i the pianoforte came unripr his notice h" gave it hii enthusiaatic adhcreaee at ■•' ■ .:■-;•!.'. seems to have succeeded in Im hir.i.vr in it the best fjualiti.s of its predecessor". Writing al*>ut his visit to Mannheim in 1777, his motliir saiil: "Wolfgang is* highly appre ciated everywhere, but hi plays very differently than he did is Salzburg, for here pianofortes are t> be .lind on all sides ami he hamlles them incomparably, as they have never been heard before. In a word, every l**iy who hears him say« that his equal is not to be found." His predilection for the instrument may be said to have Ml to the establishment "f th* Vienna school of pianoforte playing, for which the foundations were laid by his pupil Hummel, and him who would gladly have been his pupil — Beethoven. This school cultivated warmth of expression combined with limpidity and sym metry of melodic contour, while that founded by dementi tended to virtuosity and systematic development of technique. It was Clement! who opened the way to the modern style of playing, with its greater sonority and capacity for effects. Under him passage playing became something almost new; deftness, lightness and fluency were replaced, or consorted with stupendous vlrtuosoship which rested #>n a full and solid tone. dementi is said to have been able* to trill in octaves with one hand. Mo zart's opinion of him in 17M looks less jaun diced when brought into juxtaposition with a confession which he made in later years than it does when contrasted with dementi's praise «>f his rival. To his pupil Ludwig Eerger, dementi said that in the early j art of his career he had cultivated brilliant and dashing dexterity, par ticularly passages in double notes which at that time were unusual, and that he had acaairrt' v nobler cantabit*' style later, being led th»:reti> by careful attention to famous singers and the gradual perfection of the English pianofortes. A reposeful attitude of the hand was also one of his characteristics, for he was perhaps the first of the players who practised the device of balancing a coin on the back of his hand while in action. Among his pupils were Cramer, Field, Moscheles and Kalkbrenner. Beethoven as a pianist was very much what he was as a composer, viz., an epitome «,f what had gone before as well as a presage of what was to come. He studied composition in Vienna, but not pianoforte playing, and m a Important Opening Exhibition of Foreign and American Paintings Inciu'lins' canvases by COROT HENNER BIERSTADT LA FAROE and nih^r il-'siinjrsiishf <l artists. mair.lj from v. r.i.-e Irivute Collection, at The Elite Art Rooms (Otto Fukushhna) 8 EAST 30 " l >T. N«»r sth5 th ■■■■■■ LONG SANG Ti CHINESE CURIO CO. •:»3 Fifth \vr.. bet. 3Oth an.l 3t*t. »w Yorfe. Their booklet (T). illustrating the history of Oitentll Art and stones to be -worn tor tu«J lack u a vU'«r«at days, cor ready.