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Title: Piano and Song - How to Teach, How to Learn, and How to Form a Judgment of Musical Performances
Author: Wieck, Friedrich, 1785-1873
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Translated from the German




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, by
               NOYES, HOLMES, AND COMPANY,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

_Press of John Wilson and Son._


FRIEDRICH WIECK, the author of the work a translation of which is here
offered to the public, was during his long life a distinguished teacher
of music. He died in the autumn of 1873. He was the father and teacher
of the celebrated pianist, Clara Wieck, now Fr. Dr. Clara Schumann,
widow of the renowned composer Robert Schumann, who was also a pupil of
Wieck. His second daughter, Fräulein Marie Wieck, is well known in
Germany as an artistic performer on the piano-forte.

I have translated this little book, with the belief that a knowledge of
the author's views will be no less valuable in America than in his own
country; and with the hope that it may find readers who will be glad to
receive the suggestions of so experienced a teacher.

In illustration of his method, in addition to the two Etudes, already
published by F. Whistling, Leipzig, a number of piano exercises, &c.,
selected from the literary remains of Wieck, by his daughter Marie
Wieck and his pupil Louis Grosse, are, it is said, about to be

I have omitted in the translation a few portions on the composition and
management of the opera, on the giving of concerts, and on the
construction of the piano, thinking that they would be of little
interest or practical value to the general public.



I here present to the musical public a book written in a style of my
own, not a scientific and systematically well-arranged treatise. This no
reasonable man would expect of an old music-master, who, in his long
practice in the realm of tones, could not arrive at learned and too
often fruitless deductions. Nature made me susceptible to that which is
good and beautiful; a correct instinct and a tolerable understanding
have taught me to avoid the false and the vicious; a desire for
increased knowledge has led me to observe carefully whatever I met with
in my path in life; and I may say, without hesitation, that I have
endeavored, according to my ability, to fill the position to which I
have been called. This is no vain boast, but only the justifiable
assertion of a good conscience; and this no man needs to withhold. For
these reasons, I have been unwilling to refrain from giving to the world
a true expression of my opinions and feelings. I trust they will meet
with a few sympathizing spirits who are willing to understand my aims;
but I shall be still more happy if, here and there, a music-teacher will
adopt the views here set forth, at the same time carefully and
thoughtfully supplying many things which it did not enter into my plan
to explain more in detail. Abundant material lay spread out before me,
and even increased upon my hands while I was writing. Art is indeed so
comprehensive, and every thing in life is so closely connected with it,
that whoever loves and fosters it will daily find in it new sources of
enjoyment and new incitements to study. The most experienced teacher of
art must be a constant learner.

I have always held and still hold the opinions advanced in this work,
and I have neglected no opportunity to impress them upon my pupils.

I may be allowed to mention here, with some satisfaction, my daughters
Clara and Marie; and, among numerous other pupils, I speak with equal
pleasure of the estimable Herr Waldemar Heller, of Dresden, and Prof.
E.F. Wenzel, of Leipzig. I have always enjoyed their affection and
gratitude, and I feel a pride that they continue to defend and to teach
the principles which they have received from me.

This is not the first time that I have appeared as an author. The
"Signale für die musikalische Welt," as well as the "Neue Zeitschrift
für Musik," have published numerous essays from my pen under various
titles. The approval which they met with, at the time of their
appearance, has induced me to undertake this larger work. Several of
those earlier writings are included in this book, but in a partially
altered form. The frequently recurring character, the teacher Dominie,
originated with these essays; I need hardly say that he represents my
humble self. Those who are otherwise unacquainted with me will through
him understand my character, and will moreover see that a man of such
caustic brevity can be, by no means, a master of polished style. May
this last acknowledgment appease all those critics whose hair is made to
stand on end by my inelegant mode of writing. I will make no further
apology for my style. I have often availed myself of the dialogue form,
because it was conducive to brevity; not less frequently I have made use
of the form of the epistle and of personal discourse, as being more
congenial to my individual manner than that of a serious treatise. I
have also undertaken to say something about singing! A piano-teacher, if
he is possessed of mind and talent, as I suppose him to be, whether he
teaches the elements or occupies himself with more advanced instruction,
should understand the art of singing; he, at least, should show a warm
interest in it, and should have an earnest love for it. When I speak in
general of singing, I refer to that species of singing which is a form
of beauty, and which is the foundation for the most refined and most
perfect interpretation of music; and, above all things, I consider the
culture of beautiful tones the basis for the finest possible touch upon
the piano. In many respects, the piano and singing should explain and
supplement each other. They should mutually assist in expressing the
sublime and the noble, in forms of unclouded beauty. My book will make
this evident to many; but whether it will succeed with all, I doubt. Not
a few will even be found who will lay aside my book with contempt, and
who will scorn the zeal of the "man of the past age." I am quite
prepared for this: it is the fashion at present to undervalue the old
times and their defenders; but I shall continue to be conservative,
until the "men of the future" shall be able to show me results which
shall excel those of the past, or at least shall equal them.

And now I commend my little book to the public, trusting that it will
instruct the willing, correct the erring, incite the indolent, and
chastise those who wilfully persist in the wrong.













     X. VISIT AT MRS. N.'S









You ask, my dear friend, for some particular information about my piano
method, especially with regard to my mode of elementary instruction,
which differs essentially from that in common use.

I give you here the main points; and, if you place confidence in my
experience of forty years, and if you will supply those details which I
have omitted, your own varied experience as a thoughtful, talented, and
earnest piano-teacher will enable you to understand my theory, from the
following dialogue between my humble self under the title of Dominie, my
friend, and the little Bessie:--

DOMINIE. My dear friend, how have you managed to make piano-playing so
utterly distasteful to little Susie? and how is it that the instruction
which you have given her for the last three years actually amounts to

FRIEND. Well, I will tell you how I have proceeded. First I taught her
the names of the keys, that was pretty dull work for her; then I made
her learn the treble notes, which was a difficult matter; after that I
taught her the bass notes, which puzzled her still more; then I
undertook to teach her a pretty little piece, which she hoped to perform
for the delight of her parents. Of course she constantly confused the
bass and treble notes, she could not keep time, she always used the
wrong fingers and could not learn it at all. Then I scolded her,--she
only cried; I tried a little coaxing,--that made her cry worse; finally
I put an end to the piano lessons, and she begged me never to begin them
again; and there you have the whole story.

DOMINIE. You certainly might have begun more judiciously. How is it
possible for a child to climb a ladder when not only the lower rounds,
but a great many more, are wanting? Nature makes no leaps, least of all
with children.

FRIEND. But did she not begin to climb the ladder at the bottom?

DOMINIE. By no means. She certainly never was able to reach the top. I
should say, rather, that she tumbled down head foremost. To speak
mildly, she began to climb in the middle; and even then you tried to
chase her up, instead of allowing her, carefully and quietly, to clamber
up one step at a time. Bring me your youngest daughter, Bessie, and I
will show you how I give a first lesson.

DOMINIE. Bessie, can you say your letters after me? so,--_c_, _d_, _e_,

BESSIE. _c_, _d_, _e_, _f_.

DOMINIE. Go on,--_g_, _a_, _b_, _c_.

BESSIE. _g_, _a_, _b_, _c_.

DOMINIE. Once more: the first four again, then the next four. That's
right: now all the eight, one after the other, _c_, _d_, _e_, _f_, _g_,
_a_, _b_, _c_.

BESSIE. _c_, _d_, _e_, _f_, _g_, _a_, _b_, _c_.

DOMINIE. (_after repeating this several times_). That's good: now you
see you have learned something already. That is the musical alphabet,
and those are the names of the white keys on the piano-forte. Presently
you shall find them out, and learn to name them yourself. But, first,
you must take notice (I strike the keys in succession with my finger,
from the one-lined _c_ to the highest treble) that these sounds grow
higher and become sharper one after the other; and in this way (I
strike the keys from one-lined _c_ to the lowest bass) you hear that
the sounds grow lower and heavier. The upper half, to the right, is
called the treble; the lower half is the bass. You quite understand now
the difference between the high sharp tones and the low deep ones? Now
we will go on. What you see here, and will learn to play upon, is called
the key-board, consisting of white keys and black ones. You shall
presently learn to give the right names both to the white keys and the
black; you see there are always two black keys and then three black keys
together, all the way up and down the key-board. Now put the fore-finger
of your right hand on the lower one of any of the two black keys that
are together, and let it slip off on to the white key next below it; now
you have found the key called _c_; what is the name of the next key
above it? Say the whole musical alphabet.

BESSIE. _c_, _d_, _e_, _f_, _g_, _a_, _b_, _c_.

DOMINIE. Well, then, that key is called _d_.

BESSIE. Then this one must be _e_.

DOMINIE. And now comes _f_. Anywhere on the key-board you can find _f_
just as easily, if you put your finger on the lowest of any three black
keys that are together, and let it slip off on to the white key next
below it. If you remember where these two keys, _f_ and _c_, are, both
in the treble and the bass, you can easily find the names of all the
other keys. Now what is the next key above _f_?

BESSIE. _g_, and then _a_, _b_, _c_.

DOMINIE. Now we will say over several times the names of the keys,
upwards and downwards, and learn to find them skipping about in any
irregular order. At the end of the lesson we will try them over once
more, and before the next lesson you will know the names of all the
white keys. You must practise finding them out by yourself; you can't
make a mistake, if you are careful to remember where the _c_ and the _f_

I told you that the sounds this way (I strike the keys upward) grow
higher, and this way (I strike them downwards) they grow lower. So you
see no tones are just alike: one is either higher or lower than the
other. Do you hear the difference? Now turn round so as not to see the
keys; I will strike two keys, one after the other; now which is the
highest (the sharpest), the first or the second? (I go on in this way,
gradually touching keys nearer and nearer together; sometimes, in order
to puzzle her and to excite close attention, I strike the lower one
gently and the higher one stronger, and keep on sounding them, lower
and lower towards the bass, according to the capacity of the pupil.) I
suppose you find it a little tiresome to listen so closely; but a
delicate, quick ear is necessary for piano-playing, and by and by it
will become easier to you. But I won't tire you with it any more now, we
will go on to something else. Can you count 3,--1, 2, 3?

BESSIE. Yes, indeed, and more too.

DOMINIE. We'll see; now keep counting 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, as evenly and
regularly as you can. (I lead her to count steadily, and strike at the
same time a chord in three even quarter-notes.) Now we'll see if you can
count evenly by yourself. (I count 1 of the chord with her, and leave
her to count 2 and 3 by herself; or else I count with her at 2, and let
her count 1 and 3 alone; but I am careful to strike the chord promptly
and with precision. Afterwards I strike the chord in eighth-notes, and
let her count 1, 2, 3; in short, I give the chord in various ways, in
order to teach her steadiness in counting, and to confine her attention.
In the same way I teach her to count 1, 2, 1, 2; or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; at
the same time telling her that music is sometimes counted in triple
time, and sometimes in 2/4 or 4/4 time.) Now, Bessie, you have learned
to count very well, and to know the difference in the tones. It is not
every child that learns this in the first lesson. If you don't get tired
of it, you will some time learn to be a good player. As soon as you are
rested, I will tell you about something else, that you will have to
listen to very carefully.

BESSIE. But I like it, and will take pains to listen just as closely as
I can.

DOMINIE. When several tones are struck at the same time, if they sound
well together, they make what we call a chord. But there are both major
and minor chords: the major chord sounds joyous, gay; the minor, sad,
dull, as you would say; the former laugh, the latter weep. Now take
notice whether I am right. (I strike the chord of C major; then, after a
short pause, that of C minor; and try, by a stronger or lighter touch,
to make her listen first to the major and then to the minor chords. She
usually distinguishes correctly; but it will not do to dwell too long
upon these at first, or to try to enforce any thing by too much talk and
explanation.) Now I will tell you that the difference in the sounds of
these chords is in the third, counted upwards from the lower note _c_,
and depends upon whether you take it half a tone higher or lower, _e_
or _e_ flat. I shall explain this better to you by and by, when you come
to learn about the tonic, the third, the fifth or dominant, the octave,
and so on. (It is advantageous and psychologically correct to touch
occasionally, in passing, upon points which will be more thoroughly
taught later. It excites the interest of the pupil. Thus the customary
technical terms are sometimes made use of beforehand, and a needful,
cursory explanation given of them.) That is right; you can tell them
pretty well already; now we will repeat once more the names of the keys,
and then we will stop for to-day. Just see how many things you have
learned in this lesson.

BESSIE. It was beautiful!

DOMINIE. I hope you will always find it so.

BESSIE. When may I have another lesson?

DOMINIE. Day after to-morrow; at first, you must have at least three
lessons a week.

BESSIE. What shall I do in the next lesson?

DOMINIE. I shall repeat all that I have taught you to-day; but I shall
teach you a great deal of it in a different way, and every time I shall
teach it to you differently, so that it shall always be interesting to
you. In the next lesson we will begin to play, first on the table, and
at last on the piano. You will learn to move your fingers lightly and
loosely, and quite independently of the arm, though at first they will
be weak; and you will learn to raise them and let them fall properly.
Besides that, we will contrive a few exercises to teach you to make the
wrist loose, for that must be learned in the beginning in order to
acquire a fine touch on the piano; that is, to make the tones sound as
beautiful as possible. I shall show you how to sit at the piano and how
to hold your hands. You will learn the names of the black keys and the
scale of C, with the half-step from the 3d to the 4th and also that from
the 7th to the 8th, which latter is called the leading note, which leads
into C. (This is quite important for my method, for in this way the
different keys can be clearly explained.) You will learn to find the
chord of C in the bass and the treble, and to strike them with both
hands together. And then in the third or fourth lesson, after you know
quite perfectly all that I have already taught you, I will teach you to
play a little piece that will please you, and then you will really be a
player, a pianist.

FRIEND. From whom have you learned all this? It goes like the

DOMINIE. A great many people can learn _what_ is to be taught; but
_how_ it is to be taught I have only found out by devoting my whole
mind, with real love and constant thought, to the musical improvement
and general mental development of my pupils. The advancement will
unquestionably be rapid, for it proceeds step by step, and one thing is
founded upon another; the pupil learns every thing quietly,
thoughtfully, and surely, without going roundabout, without any
hindrances and mistakes to be unlearned. I never try to teach too much
or too little; and, in teaching each thing, I try to prepare and lay the
foundation for other things to be afterwards learned. I consider it very
important not to try to cram the child's memory with the teacher's
wisdom (as is often done in a crude and harsh way); but I endeavor to
excite the pupil's mind, to interest it, and to let it develop itself,
and not to degrade it to a mere machine. I do not require the practice
of a vague, dreary, time and mind killing piano-jingling, in which way,
as I see, your little Susie was obliged to learn; but I observe a
musical method, and in doing this always keep strictly in view the
individuality and gradual development of the pupil. In more advanced
instruction, I even take an interest in the general culture and
disposition of the pupil, and improve every opportunity to call forth
the sense of beauty, and continually to aid in the intellectual

FRIEND. But where are the notes all this time?

DOMINIE. Before that, we have a great deal to do that is interesting and
agreeable. I keep constantly in view the formation of a good technique;
but I do not make piano-playing distasteful to the pupil by urging her
to a useless and senseless mechanical "practising." I may perhaps teach
the treble notes after the first six months or after sixty or eighty
lessons, but I teach them in my own peculiar way, so that the pupil's
mind may be kept constantly active. With my own daughters I did not
teach the treble notes till the end of the first year's instruction, the
bass notes several months later.

FRIEND. But what did you do meanwhile?

DOMINIE. You really ought to be able to answer that question for
yourself after hearing this lesson, and what I have said about it. I
have cultivated a musical taste in my pupils, and almost taught them to
be skilful, good players, without knowing a note. I have taught a
correct, light touch of the keys from the fingers, and of whole chords
from the wrist; to this I have added the scales in all the keys; but
these should not be taught at first, with both hands together. The pupil
may gradually acquire the habit of practising them together later; but
it is not desirable to insist on this too early, for in playing the
scales with both hands together the weakness of the fourth finger is
concealed, and the attention distracted from the feeble tones, and the
result is an unequal and poor scale.

At the same time, I have in every way cultivated the sense of time, and
taught the division of the bars. I have helped the pupils to invent
little cadences with the dominant and sub-dominant and even little
exercises, to their great delight and advantage; and I have, of course,
at the same time insisted on the use of the correct fingering. You see
that, in order to become practical, I begin with the theory. So, for
instance, I teach the pupil to find the triad and the dominant chord of
the seventh, with their transpositions in every key, and to practise
them diligently; and to make use of these chords in all sorts of new
figures and passages. But all this must be done without haste, and
without tiring the pupil too much with one thing, or wearing out the
interest, which is all-important.

After that, I teach them to play fifty or sixty little pieces, which I
have written for this purpose. They are short, rhythmically balanced,
agreeable, and striking to the ear, and aim to develop gradually an
increased mechanical skill. I require them to be learned by heart, and
often to be transposed into other keys; in which way the memory, which
is indispensable for piano playing, is unconsciously greatly increased.
They must be learned _perfectly_ and played well, often, according to
the capacity of the pupil, even finely; in strict time (counting aloud
is seldom necessary) and without stumbling or hesitating; first slowly,
then fast, faster, slow again, _staccato_, _legato_, _piano_, _forte_,
_crescendo_, _diminuendo_, &c. This mode of instruction I find always
successful; but I do not put the cart before the horse, and, without
previous technical instruction, begin my piano lessons with the
extremely difficult acquirement of the treble and bass notes. In a word,
I have striven, as a psychologist and thinker, as a man and teacher, for
a many-sided culture. I have also paid great attention to the art of
singing, as a necessary foundation for piano-playing. I have devoted
some talent, and at least an enthusiastic, unwearied love to the
subject. I have never stood still; have learned something of teaching
every day, and have sought always to improve myself; I have always been
something new and different, in every lesson and with every child; I
have always kept up a cheerful, joyous courage, and this has usually
kindled the same in my pupil, because it came from the heart. Moreover,
I have never been a man of routine, have never shown myself a pedant,
who is obliged to hold fast to certain ideas and views.

I have lived up to the century, and have tried to understand and to
advance the age; have heard every thing great and fine in music, and
have induced my pupils also to hear it. I have opposed with
determination all the prejudices and false tendencies of the times, and
never have allowed impatient parents to give advice about my lessons. I
have insisted upon a good and well-tuned instrument for my pupils, and
have endeavored to merit the love and confidence both of my pupils and
of their parents. In fact, I have devoted myself thoroughly to my
calling, and have been wholly a teacher, always fixing my eye on the
true, the beautiful, and the artistic; and in this way have been of
service to my pupils.

FRIEND. But how do you find parents who sympathize with your ideas and
with your lofty views?

DOMINIE. I have found that almost all the parents of my pupils have
entered into my views, if not immediately, at least after they had been
present at a few lessons. In the case of those few who would not enter
into them, I have abandoned the lessons; but, nevertheless, I have found
that my time has been fully occupied. My friend, do you not think that
views like these will assist in the training of young and inexperienced
teachers, who are striving for improvement? and do you not think they
will be useful even to those who already possess general mental culture,
and who are animated by an ardent love for their calling? I especially
avoid giving here any exclusive method, a servile following of which
would be entirely contrary to my intentions, and, in fact, contrary to
my method.

But as for the rest! Alas, all those who do not understand me, or who
choose to misunderstand me, those are the worst!--especially the
ill-natured people, the _classical_ people who bray about music, stride
straight to the notes, and have no patience till they come to Beethoven;
who foolishly prate and fume about my unclassical management, but at
bottom only wish to conceal their own unskilfulness, their want of
culture and of disinterestedness, or to excuse their habitual drudgery.
Lazy people without talent I cannot undertake to inspirit, to teach,
and to cultivate.

This chapter will, almost by itself, point out to unprejudiced minds my
method of giving more advanced instruction, and will show in what spirit
I have educated my own daughters, even to the highest point of musical
culture, without using the slightest severity. It will, indeed, cause
great vexation to the ill-minded and even to the polite world, who
attribute the musical position of my daughters in the artistic world to
a tyranny used by me, to immoderate and unheard-of "practising," and to
tortures of every kind; and who do not hesitate to invent and
industriously to circulate the most absurd reports about it, instead of
inquiring into what I have already published about teaching, and
comparing it with the management which, with their own children, has led
only to senseless thrumming.




HERR ZACH, _formerly a flute-player, not very wealthy._
HIS WIFE, _of the family of Tz. (rather sharp-tempered)._
STOCK, _her son, 17 years old (is studying the piano thoroughly)._
MR. BUFFALO, _music-master of the family._
DOMINIE, _piano-teacher (rather gruff)._
CECILIA, _his daughter, 13 years old (shy)._

ZACH (_to Dominie_). I regret that I was unable to attend the concert
yesterday. I was formerly musical myself and played on the flute. Your
daughter, I believe, plays pretty well.

DOMINIE. Well, yes! perhaps something more than _pretty well_. We are in
earnest about music.

MADAME, of the Tz. family (_envious because Cecilia received applause
for her public performance yesterday, and because Mr. Buffalo had been
unable to bring out Stock,--all in one breath_). When did your daughter
begin to play? Just how old is she now? Does she like playing? They say
you are very strict, and tie your daughters to the piano-stool. How many
hours a day do you make her practise? Don't you make her exert herself
too much? Has she talent? Isn't she sickly?

DOMINIE. Don't you think she looks in good health, madam,--tall and
strong for her years?

MADAME, of the Tz. family. But perhaps she might look more cheerful, if
she was not obliged to play on the piano so much.

DOMINIE (_bowing_). I can't exactly say.

ZACH (_suddenly interrupting, and holding Dominie by the button-hole_).
They say you torment and ill-treat your daughters dreadfully; that the
eldest was obliged to practise day and night. Well, you shall hear my
Stock play this evening, who, some time, by the grace of God, is to take
the place of Thalberg in the world. Now give me your opinion freely (of
course, I was only to praise): we should like very much to hear what you
think about his playing, though perhaps Mr. Buffalo may not agree with

     (_Mr. Buffalo is looking through the music-case and picking out all
     the Etudes, by listening to which Dominie is to earn his supper._)

DOMINIE (_resigned and foreseeing that he shall be bored_). I have heard
a great deal of the industry of your son, Stock. What are you studying
now, Mr. Stock?

STOCK (_in proud self-consciousness, rather Sophomoric_). I play six
hours a day, two hours scales with both hands together, and four hours
Etudes. I have already gone through the first book of Clementi and four
books of Cramer. Now I am in the Gradus ad Parnassum: I have already
studied the right fingering for it.

DOMINIE. Indeed, you are very much in earnest: that speaks well for you,
and for Mr. Buffalo. But what pieces are you studying with the Etudes?
Hummel, Mendelssohn, Chopin, or Schumann?

STOCK (_contemptuously_). Mr. Buffalo can't bear Chopin and Schumann.
Mr. Buffalo lately played through Schumann's "Kinderscenen," that people
are making such a talk about. My mamma, who is also musical, and used to
sing when papa played the flute, said, "What ridiculous little things
are those? Are they waltzes for children? and then the babyish names for
them! He may play such stuff to his wife, but not to us."

DOMINIE. Well, these "Kinderscenen" _are_ curious little bits for
grown-up men's hands. Your mother is right, they are too short: there
certainly ought to be more of them. But they are not waltzes!

STOCK. Indeed, I am not allowed to play waltzes at all. My teacher is
very thorough: first, I shall have to dig through all the Gradus ad
Parnassum; and then he is going to undertake a concerto of Beethoven's
with me, and will write the proper fingering over it. I shall play that
in public; and then, as he and my aunt say, "I shall be the death of you

MR. BUFFALO (_who has overheard him, steps up_). Now, Herr Dominie, how
do you like my method? Perhaps you have a different one? Nevertheless,
that shan't prevent our being good friends. Certainly, if any thing is
to be accomplished in these times, it is necessary to keep at
work,--that is my doctrine. But Stock, here, has unusual patience and
perseverance. He has worked through all Cramer's 96 Etudes in succession
without grumbling. He was wretched enough over them; but his papa bought
him a saddle-horse to ride round on every day, and he revived in the
fresh air.

     (_Herr Zach with his wife and an old aunt are playing cards in the
     further room._)

DOMINIE. But do you not combine the study of musical pieces with the
study of exercises, in order that the cultivation of the taste may go
hand in hand with mechanical improvement?

MR. BUFFALO. My dear friend, you are too narrow-minded there,--you make
a mistake: taste must come of itself, from much playing and with years.
Your Cecilia played the two new waltzes, and the Nocturne of Chopin, and
Beethoven's trio very nicely. But then that was all drilled into her: we
could tell that well enough by hearing it,--Stock and I.

DOMINIE. Did it sound unnatural to you,--mannered? and did you think it
wooden, dry, dull?

MR. BUFFALO. Not exactly that; but the trouble was it sounded _studied_.
The public applauded, it is true; but they don't know any thing. Stock
and I thought--

DOMINIE. Do you not think that the taste for a beautiful interpretation
may be early awakened, without using severity with the pupil? and that
to excite the feeling for music, to a certain degree, even in early
years, is in fact essential? The neglect of this very thing is the
reason that we are obliged to listen to so many players, who really have
mechanically practised themselves to death, and have reduced musical art
to mere machinery,--to an idle trick of the fingers.

MR. BUFFALO. That's all nonsense. I say teach them the scales, to run up
and down the gamut! Gradus ad Parnassum's the thing! Classical,
classical! Yesterday you made your daughter play that Trill-Etude by
Carl Meyer. Altogether too fine-sounding! It tickles the ear, to be
sure, especially when it is played in such a studied manner. _We_ stick
to Clementi and Cramer, and to Hummel's piano-school,--the good old
school. You have made a great mistake with your eldest daughter.

DOMINIE. The world does not seem to agree with you.

MADAME, of the Tz. family (_has listened and lost a trick by it, steps
up quickly, and says maliciously_). You must agree that she would have
played better, if you had left her for ten years with Cramer and
Clementi. We don't like this tendency to Schumann and Chopin. But what
folly to talk! One must be careful what one says to the father of such a
child! It is quite a different thing with us. Mr. Buffalo is bound to
our Stock by no bond of affection. He follows out his aim without any
hesitation or vanity, and looks neither to the right nor to the left,
but straightforward.

DOMINIE. I beg your pardon, madam: you may be right,--from your point of
view. We must be a little indulgent with sensitive people. But will not
your son play to us?

     (_Stock plays two Etudes of Clementi, three of Cramer, and four
     from the Gradus, but did not even grow warm over them. The horse
     his father gave him has made him quite strong._)

       *       *       *       *       *

I may be asked, "But how did Stock play?" How? I do not wish to write a
treatise: my plan is only to give hints and suggestions. I am not
writing in the interest of Stock, Buffalo, & Co.

After the playing, we went to supper: the oysters were good, but the
wine left a little sharp taste. My timid daughter did not like oysters;
but she ate a little salad, and at table listened instead of talking.

A few innocent anecdotes were related at table about horses and balls
and dogs and Stock's future. On taking leave, Madame said
condescendingly to Cecilia, "If you keep on, my dear, one of these days
you will play very nicely."



_(A Letter addressed to the Father of a Piano Pupil)._

It is a pity that you have no sons, for a father takes great delight in
his sons; but I agree with you, when you say that, if you had one, you
would rather he should break stones than pound the piano. You say you
have many friends who rejoice in that paternal felicity, and whose sons,
great and small, bright and dull, have been learning the piano for three
years or more, and still can do nothing. You are doubtless right; and,
further, they never will learn any thing. You ask, Of what use is it to
man or boy to be able to stammer through this or that waltz, or
polonaise or mazurka, with stiff arms, weak fingers, a stupid face, and
lounging figure? What gain is it to art? You say, Is not time worth
gold, and yet we are offered lead? And the poor teachers torment
themselves and the boys, abuse art and the piano; and at the end of the
evening, in despair, torment their own wives, after they have all day
long been scolding, cuffing, and lamenting, without success or
consolation. You speak the truth. I have had the same experience myself,
though not to the same degree, and though I did not bring home to my
wife a dreary face, but only a good appetite. But I did not give myself
up to lamentation over piano-teaching. I gathered up courage and rose
above mere drudgery. I reflected and considered and studied, and tried
whether I could not manage better, as I found I could not succeed with
the boys; and I have managed better and succeeded better, because I have
hit upon a different way, and one more in accordance with nature than
that used in the piano schools. I laid down, as the first and most
important principle, the necessity for "the formation of a fine touch,"
just as singing-teachers rely upon the culture of a fine tone, in order
to teach singing well. I endeavored, without notes, to make the
necessary exercises so interesting that the attention of the pupils
always increased; and that they even, after a short time, took great
pleasure in a sound, tender, full, singing tone; an acquirement which,
unfortunately, even many _virtuosos_ do not possess. In this way, we
made an opening at the beginning, not in the middle: we harnessed the
horse _before_ the wagon. The pupil now obtained a firm footing, and had
something to enjoy, without being tormented at every lesson with dry
matters to be learned, the advantage of which was not obvious to him,
and the final aim of which he did not perceive. Until a correct touch
has been acquired, it is of no use to talk about a fine singing tone.
How can we expect to arouse an interest by mere toneless tinkling, while
stiff, inflexible fingers are struggling with the notes; while the pupil
sees only his inability to do any thing right, and receives nothing but
blame from the teacher; while, at the same time, so much is to be kept
in mind, and he must be required to observe the time, and to use the
right fingers? Poor, stupid children! Later, after teaching the notes, I
did not fall into the universal error of selecting pieces which were
either too difficult, or such as, though purely musical, were not well
adapted to the piano; but I chose short, easy pieces, without prominent
difficulties, in the correct and skilful performance of which the pupil
might take pleasure. Consequently, they were studied carefully, slowly,
willingly, and with interest, which last is a great thing gained; for
the pupil rejoiced in the anticipation of success. The struggle over
single difficult places destroys all pleasure, palsies talent, creates
disgust, and, what is worse, it tends to render uncertain the
confirmation of the faculty already partially acquired,--of _bringing
out a fine legato tone, with loose and quiet fingers and a yielding,
movable wrist, without the assistance of the arm_.

You suppose that talent is especially wanting, and not merely good
teachers; for otherwise, with the zealous pursuit of piano-playing in
Saxony, we should produce hundreds who could, at least, play correctly
and with facility, if not finely. Here you are mistaken: we have, on the
contrary, a great deal of musical talent. There are, also, even in the
provincial cities, teachers who are not only musical, but who also
possess so much zeal and talent for teaching that many of their pupils
are able to play tolerably well. I will add further, that the taste for
music is much more cultivated and improved, even in small places, by
singing-societies and by public and private concerts, than was formerly
the case. We also have much better aids in instruction books, études,
and suitable piano pieces; but still we find everywhere "jingling" and
"piano-banging," as you express it, and yet no piano-playing.

Let us consider this aspect of the subject a little more closely. In
the first place, the proper basis for a firm structure is wanting. The
knowledge of the notes cannot afford a proper basis, except in so far as
it is of service in the execution of a piece. Of what use are the notes
to a singer, if he has no attack, and does not understand the management
of the voice? of what use to the piano-learner, if he has no touch, no
tone on the piano-forte. Is this to be acquired by playing the notes?
But how then is it to be learned?

One thing more. Owing to an over-zeal for education, children are kept
in school from seven to ten hours in a day, and then they are required
to work and commit to memory in their free hours, when they ought to be
enjoying the fresh air. But when are they then to have their piano
lessons? After they have escaped from the school-room, and consequently
when the children are exhausted and their nerves unstrung. What cruelty!
Instead of bread and butter and fresh air, piano lessons! The piano
ought to be studied with unimpaired vigor, and with great attention and
interest, otherwise no success is to be expected. Besides this, much
writing, in itself, makes stiff, inflexible fingers. But when is the
child to find time for the necessary practice of the piano lessons?
Well, in the evening, after ten o'clock for refreshment, while papa and
mamma are in bed! And now, after the school-days are happily over, and
the children have possibly retained their red cheeks, then their
occupations in life lay claim to their time; or, if they are girls, they
are expected to busy themselves with embroidery, knitting, sewing,
crochet, making clothes, house-work, tea parties, and alas! with balls;
and now, too, comes the time for lovers. Do you imagine that the fingers
of pupils sixteen years old can learn mechanical movements as easily as
those of children nine years old? In order to satisfy the present
demands in any degree, the technique should be settled at sixteen. Under
all these circumstances, we find the best teachers become discouraged,
and fall into a dull routine, which truly can lead to no success.

In conclusion, I beg you to invite the piano teacher, Mr. Strict, to
whom you have confided the instruction of your only daughter, Rosalie,
to pay me a visit, and I will give him particular directions for a
gradual development in piano-playing, up to Beethoven's op. 109 or
Chopin's F minor concerto. But I shall find him too fixed in his own
theories, too much of a composer, too conceited and dogmatic, and not
sufficiently practical, to be a good teacher, or to exert much
influence; and, indeed, he has himself a stiff, restless, clumsy touch,
that expends half its efforts in the air. He talks bravely of études,
scales, &c.; but the question with regard to these is _how they are
taught_. The so-called practising of exercises, without having
previously formed a sure touch, and carefully and skilfully fostering it
is not much more useful than playing pieces. But I hear him reply, with
proud and learned self-consciousness: "Music, music! Classical,
classical! Spirit! Expression! Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn!" That is
just the difficulty. Look at his pupils, at his pianists! See how his
children are musically stifled, and hear his daughter sing the classical
arias composed by himself! However, it is all musical! Farewell.



MRS. SOLID. I should be glad to understand how it is that your daughters
are able to play the numerous pieces which I have heard from them so
correctly and intelligently, without bungling or hesitation, and with so
much expression, and the most delicate shading; in fact, in such a
masterly manner. From my youth upwards, I have had tolerable
instruction. I have played scales and études for a long time; and have
taken great pleasure in studying and industriously practising numerous
compositions of Kalkbrenner and Hummel, under their own direction. I
have even been celebrated for my talent; but, nevertheless, I never have
had the pleasure of being able to execute any considerable piece of
music to my own satisfaction or that of others; and I fear it will be
the same with my daughter Emily.

DOMINIE. In order to give a satisfactory answer to your question, I will
lay before you a few of my principles and opinions in respect to
musical culture, with special reference to piano-playing. Educated
ladies of the present time make greater pretensions and greater demands
than formerly in regard to music and musical execution; and consequently
their own performances do not usually correspond with their more or less
cultivated taste for the beautiful, which has been awakened by their
careful general education. Thus they are aware that they are not able to
give satisfaction, either to themselves or to others; and from this
arises a want of that confidence in their own powers, which should
amount almost to a consciousness of infallibility, in order to produce a
satisfactory musical performance. This confidence has its foundation in
a full, firm, clear, and musical touch, the acquisition of which has
been, and is still, too much neglected by masters and teachers. A
correct mechanical facility and its advanced cultivation rest upon this
basis alone; which, moreover, requires special attention upon our softly
leathered pianos, which are much more difficult to play upon than the
old-fashioned instruments. It is a mistake to suppose that a correct
touch, which alone can produce a good execution, will come of itself,
through the practice of études and scales. Even with masters, it is
unusual to meet with a sound, fine, unexceptionable touch, like that of
Field and Moscheles, and among the more recent that of Thalberg, Chopin,
Mendelssohn, and Henselt.

I will speak now of the selection of pieces. Our ladies are not
contented to play simple music, which presents few difficulties and
requires no involved fingering; and from which they might gradually
advance by correct and persevering study to more difficult pieces. They
at once seize upon grand compositions by Beethoven, C.M. von Weber,
Mendelssohn, Chopin, and others, and select also, for the sake of
variety, the bravoura pieces of Liszt, Thalberg, Henselt, &c. How can
they expect to obtain a command of such pieces, when their early
education was insufficient for our exalted demands in mechanical skill,
and their subsequent instruction has also been faulty and without

If you were to request me to supply in some degree your own
deficiencies, before I proceed to the further education of your
daughter, I should not begin with the wisdom of our friend Mr. Buffalo:
"Madam, you must every day practise the major and minor scales, in all
the keys, with both hands at once, and also in thirds and in sixths; and
you must work three or four hours daily at études of Clementi, Cramer,
and Moscheles; otherwise, your playing will never amount to any thing."

Such advice has frequently been given by teachers like Mr. Buffalo, and
is still daily insisted on; but we will, for the present, set such
nonsense aside. I shall, in the first place, endeavor to improve your
touch, which is too thin, feeble, and incorrect; which makes too much
unnecessary movement, and tries to produce the tone in the air, instead
of drawing it out with the keys. This will not require a long time, for
I have well-formed, young hands to work upon, with skilful fingers in
good condition. I will employ, for this purpose, several of the short
exercises mentioned in my first chapter, and shall require them to be
transposed into various keys, and played without notes, in order that
you may give your whole attention to your hands and fingers. Above all
things, I wish you to observe how I try to bring out from the piano the
most beautiful possible tone, with a quiet movement of the fingers and a
correct position of the hand; without an uneasy jerking of the arm, and
with ease, lightness, and sureness. I shall certainly insist upon scales
also, for it is necessary to pay great care and attention to passing the
thumb under promptly and quietly, and to the correct, easy position of
the arm. But I shall be content with the practice of scales for a
quarter of an hour each day, which I require to be played, according to
my discretion, _staccato_, _legato_, fast, slow, _forte_, _piano_, with
one hand or with both hands, according to circumstances. This short time
daily for scale-practice is sufficient, provided, always, that I have no
stiff fingers, or unpractised or ruined structure of the hand to
educate. For very young beginners with weak fingers, the scales should
be practised only _piano_, until the fingers acquire strength.

I should continue in this way with you for two weeks, but every day with
some slight change. After a short time, I would combine with this
practice the study of two or three pieces, suitably arranged for the
piano; for example, Mozart's minuet in E flat, arranged by Schulhoff,
and his drinking-song, or similar pieces. We will, at present, have
nothing to do with Beethoven. You are, perhaps, afraid that all this
might be tedious; but I have never been considered tedious in my
lessons. I wish you, for the present, not to practise any pieces or
exercises except in my presence, until a better touch has been
thoroughly established. You must also give up entirely, for a time,
playing your previous pieces; for they would give you opportunity to
fall again into your faulty mode of playing. I shall also soon put in
practice one of my maxims in teaching; viz., that, merely for the
acquisition of mechanical facility, all my pupils shall be in the habit
of playing daily some appropriate piece, that by its perfect mastery
they may gain a fearless confidence. They must regard this piece as a
companion, friend, and support. I wish you to learn to consider it a
necessity every day, before practising or studying your new piece of
music, to play this piece, even if it is done quite mechanically, two or
three times, first slowly, then faster; for without ready, flexible
fingers, my teaching and preaching will be valueless.

MRS. SOLID. But what pieces, for instance?

DOMINIE. For beginners, perhaps one or two of Hünten's Etudes
Melodiques; a little later, one of Czerny's very judicious Etudes from
his opus 740; and for more advanced pupils, after they are able to
stretch easily and correctly, his Toccata, opus 92,--a piece which my
three daughters never give up playing, even if they do not play it every
day. They practise pieces of this description as a remedy for mechanical
deficiencies, changing them every three or four months. In the selection
of these, I aim especially at the practice of thirds, trills,
stretches, scales, and passages for strengthening the fourth finger; and
I choose them with reference to the particular pieces, sonatas,
variations, concertos, &c., which they are at the time studying.
Likewise, in the choice of the latter, I pursue a different course from
that which the teachers alluded to above and others are accustomed to
follow; though I hope my management is never pedantic, but cautious,
artistic, and psychologic. It is easy to see that many teachers, by
giving lessons continually, particularly to pupils without talent, are
led, even with the best intentions, to fall into a mere routine. We find
them often impatient and unsympathetic, especially in the teaching of
their own compositions; and again, by their one-sided opinions and
capricious requirements, by devoting attention to matters of small
importance, and by all sorts of whimsicalities, they contract the
intellectual horizon of their pupils, and destroy their interest in the

MRS. SOLID. Your careful mode of proceeding is certainly extremely
interesting and convincing; but allow me to request an answer to various
objections and considerations which are now and then brought forward,
particularly by teachers.

DOMINIE. To that I am quite accustomed. The good and the beautiful
never obtain uncontested recognition. No one has ever offered any new
improvement, and fearlessly spoken the truth, without being attacked,
defamed, and despised, or entirely misunderstood. Our age can show many
proofs of this; for example, let us remember homoeopathy and magnetism.
Clara Wieck was not appreciated in Leipzig until she had been admired in
Paris; nor Marie Wieck, because she does not play exactly as her sister
Clara does. The same is the case with my present book, which
relentlessly treads upon the incredible follies and lamentable errors of
the times. I am quite prepared for opposition of any kind.

MRS. SOLID. I should like to suggest to you that there are other
teachers who have given themselves a great deal of trouble, and who are
very particular; but it is not their good fortune to have daughters like
yours to educate.

DOMINIE. Have given themselves a great deal of trouble? What do you mean
by that? If they do not take pains in the right way, or at the right
time and place, it is all labor in vain. Of what use is mere unskilful,
stupid industry? For instance, when a teacher, in order to correct a
stiff use of the fingers and wrist, and the general faulty touch of his
pupil, gives some wonderful étude or a piece with great stretches and
arpeggios for the left hand, and gives himself unwearied trouble over
it, it is a proof of abundant painstaking; but it is labor thrown away,
and only makes the imperfect mode of performance the worse.

And now with regard to my daughters. It has been their fortune to have
had me for a father and teacher: they certainly have talent, and I have
been successful in rousing and guiding it. Envy, jealousy, pride, and
offended egotism have tried as long as possible to dispute this; but at
last the effort is abandoned. They say that it requires no art to
educate such talent as theirs, that it almost "comes of itself." This
assertion is just as false and contrary to experience as it is common,
even with educated and thoughtful people, who belong to no clique.
Lichtenburg says: "It is just those things upon which everybody is
agreed that should be subjected to investigation." Well, I have made a
thorough investigation of these accusations, with regard to my three
daughters, and all the talented pupils whom I have been able to educate
for good amateurs, and, according to circumstances, for good public
performers. The great number of these suffices for my justification. I
must add, still further, that it is exactly the "great talents" for
singing, or for the piano, who require the most careful, thoughtful, and
prudent guidance. Look around at the multitude of abortive talents and
geniuses! Talented pupils are just the ones who have an irresistible
desire to be left to their own discretion; they esteem destruction by
themselves more highly than salvation by others.

MRS. SOLID. But it is said that you have been able to educate only your
three daughters, and none others for public performers.

DOMINIE. Madam, you cannot be serious. If I were to declaim Leporello's
list, you might justly consider it an exaggeration; but if, instead of
replying to you, I should urge you to read what I have written on the
subject, or if I should present your daughter Emily to you, after three
or four years, as a superior performer, you might pardon my vanity and
my ability. I do not possess any magic wand, which envy and folly could
not impute to me as an offence. Nevertheless, unless circumstances were
very adverse, I have, at all events, been able in a short time to
accomplish for my pupils the acquisition of a good, or at least an
improved, musical touch; and have thus laid a foundation, which other
teachers have failed to do by their method, or rather want of method.
But you have something else on your mind?

MRS. SOLID. You anticipate me. I was educated in Berlin, and in that
capital of intelligence a taste prevails for opposition, negation, and
thorough criticism. How can you educate artists and _virtuosos_, when
you yourself are so little a _virtuoso_? You are not even a composer or
learned contrapuntist. A teacher of music wins much greater
consideration, if he himself plays concertos and composes pretty things,
and if he can calculate and give vent to his genius in double and triple
fugues, and in inverse and retrograde canons. You cannot even accompany
your pupils with the violin or flute, which is certainly very useful and

DOMINIE. The egotist is seldom capable of giving efficient instruction:
that lies in the nature of the case. Even a child will soon perceive
whether the teacher has a sole eye to its interest, or has other and
personal aims in view. The former bears good fruits, the latter very
doubtful ones. I will say nothing about the stand-point of those
egotistical teachers whose first aim is to bring themselves into
prominence, and who at the same time are perhaps travelling public
performers and composers. They are, it may be, chiefly occupied with
double and triple fugues (the more inverted the more learned), and they
consider this knowledge the only correct musical foundation. At the same
time, they often possess a touch like that of your brother, Mr. Strict,
mentioned in my third chapter, and are utterly devoid of true taste and
feeling. While pursuing their fruitless piano lessons, which are quite
foreign to their customary train of thought, they regard their
occupation only as a milch cow; and they obtain the money of sanguine
parents, and sacrifice the time of their pupils. You may try such
agreeable personages for yourself: I could wish you no greater

And now I will speak of the violin and the flute. I have never availed
myself of those expedients; it is a method which I have never learned. I
will describe for your amusement a few interesting incidents, which I
had an opportunity to witness in a not inconsiderable city, while on a
journey with my daughters. The teacher with the flute was a gentle,
quiet, mild musician; he was on very good terms with his pupil, and
indulged in no disputes; every thing went on peaceably, without passion,
and "in time." They both twittered tenderly and amicably, and were
playing, in celebration of the birthday of an old aunt who was rather
hard of hearing, a sonata by Kuhlau, which was quite within the power of
both. The old aunt, who, of course, could hear but little of the soft,
flute tones, and the light, thin, modest, square piano, kept asking me:
"Is not that exquisite? what do you think of it?" I nodded my head and
praised it, for the music was modest and made no pretension.

I will pass next to the violin. The possessor of this was a type of
presumption, vulgarity, and coarseness, and understood how to make an
impression on his pupils and their parents by the assumption of
extraordinary ability. He consequently enjoyed a certain consideration.
He was, moreover, a good musician, and played the violin tolerably in
accompanying the piano, in Beethoven's opus 17 and 24. In this portrait
you have a specimen of the violinist as a piano teacher. Of course he
understood nothing of piano-playing, and took no interest in Wieck's
rubbish about beauty of tone; he cared only for Beethoven. He now and
then tried to sprawl out a few examples of fingering, in a spider-like
fashion; but they were seldom successful. His pupils also possessed the
peculiar advantage of playing "in time," when they did not stick fast
in the difficult places. At such times he always became very cross and
severe, and talked about "precision;" in that way instilling respect.
His pupils did not jingle, but they had a peculiarly short, pounding
touch; and floundered about among the keys with a sort of boldness, and
with resolute, jerking elbows. They certainly had no tone, but the
violin was therefore heard the better; and after each performance we
might have heard, "Am I not the first teacher in Europe?"

MRS. SOLID. You certainly have shown up two ridiculous figures.

DOMINIE. True; but I leave it to every one to make themselves

MRS. SOLID. I am very glad that you have furnished me here with the
criticisms of which I stand in need; for I might otherwise have been in
danger of supplying you with an example at the next soirée, perhaps at
the banker's, Mr. Gold's. But, as I should like to hear your answer, I
will listen to, and report to you, what is said in a certain though not
very numerous clique, who are opposed to you and your labors.

DOMINIE. Those people would act more wisely, if they were to study my
writings; in which I will make any corrections, if there is any thing
that I can add to them, for the advantage of truth, right, and beauty.

And now allow me, Miss Emily, since you are pretty well advanced, and
are not quite spoiled, to show you in a few lessons how to study these
variations by Herz (Les Trois Graces, No. 1, on a theme from "The
Pirates"). They are not easy; but I will teach them in a way that shall
not weary you or give you a distaste for them. I have intentionally
chosen these variations, because they do not lay claim to great musical
interest; and, consequently, their mode of performance, their execution,
gives them their chief value. Moreover, they possess the disadvantage
for teaching that they are of unequal difficulty, and require,
therefore, the more skill on the part of the teacher to compensate for

_First Lesson._ Miss Emily, these are very clear, graceful variations,
which require an extremely nice, delicate execution; and, especially, a
complete mechanical mastery of their various difficulties. Although
these variations may seem to you too easy, I am governed in the
selection of them by the maxim that "what one would learn to play finely
must be below the mechanical powers of the pupil." The theme of the
Italian song, which is the basis of these variations, is very well
chosen, and you must take great pains to execute it as finely as
possible, and to produce a singing effect upon the piano-forte. After
the piece is thoroughly learned, you will be greatly aided in the
production of this imitation of singing by the careful and correct use
of the pedal which raises the dampers. The theme does not offer great
mechanical difficulties; but it requires a loose, broad, full, and yet
tender touch, a good _portamento_, and a clear and delicately shaded
delivery; for you must remember that "in the performance of a simple
theme the well-taught pupil may be recognized."

EMILY. But you do not begin at the beginning: there is an introduction
to the piece.

DOMINIE. Perhaps we shall take that at the last: I can't tell yet when.
A great many things in my instruction will seem to you misplaced: it may
be that the final result will restore to me the approval which I desire.

EMILY. Do you always give such a preliminary description before you
begin a piece with a pupil?

DOMINIE. I like to do so; for I wish to create an interest in the piece,
and to state in connection my principles and views about music and
piano-playing. Now we will try the theme, first quite slowly; and then
the first easy variation, with the last bars at the end of it, which
introduce the theme once more, and which should be played very clearly
and smoothly. We will then take from the introduction only the right
hand, and study the most appropriate fingering for it. I never write
this out fully; but only intimate it here and there, in order not to
interfere with the spontaneous activity of the learner. We will also
take a few portions for the left hand from the finale. In these you must
carefully observe the directions which are given for its performance,
and try to execute every thing correctly and clearly; for a careless
bass is prejudicial to the very best playing in the treble.

My lesson is now at an end; for we have taken up a good deal of time at
the beginning with the scales, and passing the thumb under correctly,
with the different species of touch, and the appropriate exercises for
these. I do not wish you yet to practise the first variation with both
hands together, for you do not yet strike the skipping bass evenly
enough and with sufficient precision; and you might accustom yourself to
inaccuracies, especially as your left hand has, as usual, been
neglected, and is inferior to the right in lightness and rapidity. We
shall find this a hindrance; for the object is not to practise much, but
to practise correctly. Therefore play these passages first slowly, then
quicker, at last very fast; then slow again, sometimes _staccato_,
sometimes _legato_, _piano_, and also moderately loud; but never when
the hands and fingers are fatigued, therefore not too continuously; but
many times in the course of the day, and always with fresh energy. At
present, you need not play _fortissimo_, or with the pedal: for in that
way you might be led into a tramping style, with a weak, stiff touch,
and a habit of striking at the keys with straight fingers; and that I do
not like. We will look for the true and the beautiful in a very
different treatment of the piano; and, first of all, in a clear,
unaffected, healthy performance, free from any forced character.

_Second Lesson._ Transposition of the triads and dominant chord in their
three positions, and in various kinds of measure; and practice of these,
with careful attention to a correct touch and loose wrist; cadences on
the dominant and sub-dominant; practice of the skipping bass in the
theme, and in the first and third variations, with practice in striking
and leaving the chords, observing carefully the precise value of the
notes. You must attend also to striking them not too forcibly or too
feebly, and take special care with regard to the fourth and fifth
fingers, which do not easily give the tone with so full a sound as the
other three fingers. Now we will try the theme with both hands together,
and consider the correct expression, and likewise the _piano_ and
_forte_, as well as the nicest _crescendo_ and _diminuendo_. We will
then take the first easy variation, of which you have already acquired a
mastery: we will play it exactly _a tempo_ and with the bass chords,
which should usually be given _staccato_, and which must be played with
delicacy and flexibility; but it will be well for you to practise first
the bass part once alone, in order that you may hear whether all the
tones sound evenly. Now the first variation will go pretty well with
both hands together; with increasing mastery of it, the requisite
shading in the right hand can be produced. As your right hand is not yet
tired, play to me now several times, first slowly and then faster, the
passages which I gave you from the introduction. When the right hand
becomes a little fatigued, take a portion from the finale for the left
hand. You may also try over the adagio; but I recommend for your special
practice the part for the right hand in the third variation. You cannot
make a mistake about it, if you do not try to play it too fast, and if
you carefully observe the fingering indicated. Now I will play the theme
to you, as nearly as possible as I heard the famous tenor Rubini sing
it. You see I place the fingers gently upon the keys and avoid raising
them too high, in order not to injure the nice connection of the tones,
and to produce a singing tone as far as possible. At the end of the
lesson you will play the theme to me once more.... I perceive you play
it with too much embarrassment, and not freely enough. It will go still
better two days hence, if you play it frequently during that time,
slowly, and become quite accustomed to it. In addition, you will
practise industriously every thing which we have gone through,
especially the first variation; but you must always do it with interest,
and never with weariness. Of course you will practise _without notes_
all the little exercises for the touch, and for the fourth and fifth
fingers, and the cadences.

_Third Lesson._ Other little exercises; trills, scales with shading for
one hand alone and for both together; the skipping basses, &c. We will
begin to-day with the bass part of the second variation. You observe
that often there are even eighth notes in the treble, while in the bass
there are even triplet eighth notes. In order to play these properly
together, even with only mechanical correctness, it is necessary that
the left hand shall acquire a perfectly free and independent movement,
and shall bring out the bass with perfect ease. You must pay special
attention to any weak notes, and accustom yourself not to give the last
triplet, in each bar, and the last note of this triplet, too hurriedly,
too sharply, or with too little tone. Notice how much difficulty this
equal playing of the triplets occasions to the right hand, which moves
in even eighth notes. While you play the left hand, I will play the
right: you must listen as little as possible to my playing, and preserve
your own independence. You must learn to play this variation entirely by
yourself with both hands together; but we must not be too much in a
hurry about it, and must give time to it. All restless urging, all
hurry, leads to inaccuracies in playing. You have learned enough for
to-day; but you may play the other variations, with the whole finale,
straight through, that you may not get into the habit of stopping at the
difficult passages which you have already learned.

_Fourth Lesson._ New exercises for striking stretches, and for the
extension of the hand and fingers; but this must be done prudently,
that the sound touch, which is always of the first importance, shall not
be endangered. Besides this, the repetition of the exercises learned in
the preceding lessons; but all to be played with a certain shading and
delicacy. We will to-day begin at the beginning, with the introduction.
I will now make amends for my want of regularity, and show you that I
can begin at the beginning, like other people; but all in good time.
To-day, in those portions of which you have acquired a mastery, we will
give particular attention to the expression, and to the correct use of
the pedal. If what I suggest to you with regard to the shading at any
place does not entirely correspond to your understanding of the piece,
or to your feeling, you must at once express your difference of opinion,
and ask me for the reason of my view. You, perhaps, do not like to play
this place _crescendo_, but _diminuendo_. Very well; only play it finely
in your own way; it will also sound very well so. I proposed the
_crescendo_ there, because the feeling grows more intense; perhaps, in
the next lesson, you will acknowledge that I was right. This place I
should play a very little slower, though without a striking
_ritardando_; then a little faster here; do you think it ought to be
played _crescendo_ or _diminuendo_? We must try in this variation to
present nicely shaded little pictures. Here you might use more energy
and decision. This place you should play merely with a correct
mechanical execution, but without special expression; for we require
shadow, in order that the succeeding idea, eminently suggestive of the
theme, shall be brought out with more brilliancy. In general, the whole
must be made to sound natural, without musical pretension, and as if it
were the production of the moment; and should not create a distorted,
overdrawn effect, or exhibit modern affectation.

Each piece that I undertake to teach you will give me an opportunity to
talk to you a great deal about the correct expression in playing, and
about its innumerable beauties, shades, and delicacies; while I shall
pay constant attention to the production of a beautiful singing tone.
The next piece will be Chopin's Notturno in E flat; for your touch has
already gained in fulness, and is now unobjectionable.

This is the tyranny with regard to correct execution, which stupidity
and folly have taxed me with having exercised towards my daughters.
"Expression must come of itself!" How cheap is this lazy subterfuge of
the followers of routine, and of teachers wanting in talent! We see and
hear a great many _virtuosos_, old and young, with and without talent,
renowned and obscure. They either play in an entirely mechanical manner
and with faulty and miserable touch, or else, which is less bearable,
they strut with unendurable affectation and produce musical
monstrosities. In order to conceal their indistinct mode of execution,
they throw themselves upon the two pedals, and are guilty of
inconceivable perversions.

But let us proceed with your instruction. You already play your piece
intelligently, with interest and enthusiasm, and without any of the
modern, empty affectations. If any other passage should occur to you at
the _fermata_ in the second part, which shall lead appropriately to the
dominant, try it; and combine it, perhaps, with that which is written.
You may make two passing shakes upon the four final sixteenth notes; but
you must play them very distinctly and clearly, and the last one weaker
than the first, in order to give it a delicate effect, as is done by
singers. With light variations of this kind, it is allowable to
introduce various ornaments, provided they are in good taste and nicely
executed. The case is quite different in the performance of the
compositions of Beethoven, Mozart, Weber, and others, where reverence
for the composer requires a stricter interpretation, although even this
is sometimes carried to a point of exaggeration and pedantry. Now try
the first variation once more. That is better: you already play the
skipping bass with more precision, more briskly and evenly. We begin to
perceive the correct speaking tone in the bass, and a certain delicacy
and freedom in the treble. You need not play both hands together in the
second variation, which is the most difficult, until the next lesson.
To-day you may first play the bass alone, while I play the treble; and
afterwards we will change parts, and you can play the treble while I
play the bass. But we will not go farther than the fourth variation. I
have not much more to say about this piece. We will begin next a
beautiful Etude by Moscheles, which I recommend highly to you, in order
to strengthen and give facility to the fourth and fifth fingers: this
may be your companion and friend during the next two or three months.

MRS. SOLID. Your very careful mode of instruction assures me that Emily
will acquire a mastery of these variations, and will learn to perform
them finely.

DOMINIE. She will be able, after a week or two, to execute this piece
with understanding and confidence, and to play it to her own
satisfaction and that of others; while her awakened consciousness of its
beauties and of her ability to interpret it will preserve her interest
for it.

The objection is quite untenable "that children lose their pleasure in a
piece, if they are obliged to practise it until they know it." Do people
suppose that it gives more pleasure, when the teacher begins in a
stupid, helpless way, and tries to make the pupil swallow several pieces
at once, while he continually finds fault and worries them, than when
the pupil is enabled to play a few short, well-sounding exercises, with
perfect freedom and correctness, and to take delight in his success? or
when afterwards, or perhaps at the same time, he is conscious that he
can play one piece nicely and without bungling, while it is all
accomplished in a quiet and pleasant manner?

MRS. SOLID. Do you pursue the same course with longer and more difficult

DOMINIE. Certainly, on the same principle.

MRS. SOLID. But, if you are so particular about every piece, and always
take so much pains to improve the touch, it will be a long time before
Emily will be able to execute several long pieces and can learn other
new ones beside.

DOMINIE. Do you wish your daughter to learn to jingle on the piano, in
order to become musical? or shall she grow more musical by learning to
play finely? I am sure the latter is your wish, as it is mine:
otherwise, you would be contented with an ordinary teacher. You must
consider that, when she has made a beginning, by learning to play one
piece thoroughly and quite correctly, the following pieces will be
learned more and more quickly; for she will have acquired a dexterity in
playing, as you may observe with yourself and with every one. To be able
to drum off fifty pieces in an imperfect manner does not justify the
expectation that the fifty-first piece will be learned more easily or
better; but to attain a perfect mastery of four or five pieces gives a
standard for the rest.

In this way, and by mechanical studies, such as I have begun with Emily,
the greatest ease in reading at sight is gradually developed, in which
all my pupils excel, when they have remained long enough under my
instruction, and in which my daughters are pre-eminent. But for this it
is necessary to continue to study single pieces, industriously and
artistically, and with great exactness; for otherwise the practice of
reading at sight, which often amounts to a passion, leads very soon to
slovenliness in piano-playing and to more or less vulgar machine-music.

MRS. SOLID. I am more and more convinced that a style of instruction
which is illogical, intermittent, superficial, and without method, can
lead to no good result, or at least to nothing satisfactory, even with
extraordinary talents; and that the unsound and eccentric manifestations
and caricatures of art, which cause the present false and deplorable
condition of piano-playing, are the consequence of such a prevalent mode
of instruction.



I have just returned exhausted and annihilated from a concert, where I
have been hearing the piano pounded. Two grand bravoura movements have
been thundered off, with the pedal continually raised; and then were
suddenly succeeded by a soft murmuring passage, during which the
thirteen convulsed and quivering bass notes of the _fortissimo_ were all
the time resounding. It was only by the aid of the concert programme
that my tortured ears could arrive at the conclusion that this confusion
of tones was meant to represent two pieces by Döhler and Thalberg.

Cruel fate that invented the pedal! I mean the pedal which raises the
dampers on the piano. A grand acquisition, indeed, for modern times!
Good heavens! Our piano performers must have lost their sense of
hearing! What is all this growling and buzzing? Alas, it is only the
groaning of the wretched piano-forte, upon which one of the modern
_virtuosos_, with a heavy beard and long hanging locks, whose hearing
has deserted him, is blustering away on a bravoura piece, with the pedal
incessantly raised,--with inward satisfaction and vain self-assertion!
Truly time brings into use a great deal that is far from beautiful:
does, then, this raging piano revolutionist think it beautiful to bring
the pedal into use at every bar? Unhappy delusion.

But enough of this serious jesting. Hummel never used the pedal. He was
an extremist; and, in his graceful, clear, elegant, neat, though not
grand playing, often lost fine effects, which would have been produced
by the correct and judicious use of the pedal; particularly on the
instruments of Stein, Brodmann, Conrad Graff, and others then in use,
which were usually lightly leathered, and had a thin, sharp tone. The
use of the pedal, of course always allowing it to fall frequently with
precision, was especially desirable in the upper treble, in cases where
the changes of the harmony were not very frequent; for the tone of those
instruments, although sweet and agreeable, had not much depth, and the
action had but little strength and elasticity. But on our instruments,
frequently too softly leathered, which have a full tone, and are so
strong and penetrating, especially in the bass, it is enough to endanger
one's sense of hearing to be subjected to such a senseless, incessant,
ridiculous, deafening use of the pedal; frequently, moreover, combined
with a hard, stiff touch, and an unsound, incorrect technique. A musical
interpretation in any degree tolerable is out of the question. You
cannot call that art, it cannot even be called manual labor: it is a
freak of insanity!

A few words to the better sort of players. The foot-piece to the right
on the piano-forte raises the dampers, and in that way makes the tones
resound and sing, and takes from them the dryness, shortness, and want
of fulness, which is always the objection to the piano-forte, especially
to those of the earlier construction. This is certainly an advantage;
the more the tone of the piano-forte resembles singing, the more
beautiful it is. But, in order not to injure the distinctness and
detract from the clear phrasing of the performance, a very skilful and
prudent use of the pedal is necessary in rapid changes of harmony,
particularly in the middle and lower portion of the instrument.

You all use the pedal too much and too often, especially on large, fine
concert pianos of the new construction, which, with their heavy
stringing, have in themselves a fuller, more vibrating tone; at least
you do not let it fall frequently enough, and with precision. You must
listen to what you are playing. You do not play for yourselves alone;
frequently you play to hearers who are listening for the first time to
the pieces you are performing. Try a few passages without pedal,--for
instance, those in which the changes of the harmony succeed each other
rapidly, even in the highest treble,--and see what repose, what serene
enjoyment, what refreshment is afforded, what delicate shading is
brought out. Or at first listen, and try to feel it in the playing of
others; for your habit is so deeply rooted that you no longer know when
and how often you use the pedal. Chopin, that highly gifted, elegant,
sensitive composer and performer, may serve as a model for you here. His
widely dispersed, artistic harmonies, with the boldest and most striking
suspensions, for which the fundamental bass is essential, certainly
require the frequent use of the pedal for fine harmonic effect. But, if
you examine and observe the minute, critical directions in his
compositions, you can obtain from him complete instruction for the nice
and correct use of the pedal.

By way of episode to my sorrowful lecture on the pedal, we will take a
walk through the streets some beautiful evening. What is it that we hear
in almost every house? Unquestionably it is piano-playing; but what
playing! It is generally nothing but a continual confusion of different
chords, without close, without pause; slovenly passages, screened by the
raised pedal; varied by an empty, stiff, weak touch, relying upon the
pedal for weight. We will escape into the next street. Oh, horrors! what
a thundering on this piano, which, by the way, is sadly out of tune! It
is a grand--that is, a long, heavy--étude, with the most involved
passages, and a peculiar style of composition, probably with the title
"On the Ocean," or "In Hades," or "Fancies of the Insane;" pounded off
with the pedal raised through the most marvellous changes of harmonies.
Finally, the strings snap, the pedal creaks and moans; conclusion,--_c_,
_c_ sharp, _d_, _d_ sharp resound together through a few exhausted bars,
and at last die away in the warm, soft, delicious air. Universal
applause from the open windows! But who is the frantic musician who is
venting his rage or this piano? It is a Parisian or other travelling
composer, lately arrived with letters of recommendation, who has just
been giving a little rehearsal of what we may expect to hear shortly in
a concert at the "Hôtel de Schmerz."



You exclaim: "What is that?--a sentiment for the soft pedal! a sentiment
of any kind in our times! most of all, a musical sentiment! I have not
heard of such a thing in a concert-room for a long time!"

When the foot-piece to the left on the piano is pressed down, the
key-board is thereby moved to the right; so that, in playing, the
hammers strike only two of the three strings, in some pianos only one.
In that way the tone is made weaker, thinner, but more singing and more
tender. What follows from this? Many performers, seized with a piano
madness, play a grand bravoura piece, excite themselves fearfully,
clatter up and down through seven octaves of runs, with the pedal
constantly raised,--bang away, put the best piano out of tune in the
first twenty bars,--snap the strings, knock the hammers off their
bearings, perspire, stroke the hair out of their eyes, ogle the
audience, and make love to themselves. Suddenly they are seized with a
sentiment! They come to a _piano_ or _pianissimo_, and, no longer
content with one pedal, they take the soft pedal while the loud pedal is
still resounding. Oh, what languishing! what soft murmuring, and what a
sweet tinkling of bells! what tenderness of feeling! what a soft-pedal
sentiment! The ladies fall into tears, enraptured by the pale,
long-haired young artist.

I describe here the period of piano mania, which has just passed its
crisis; a period which it is necessary to have lived through, in order
to believe in the possibility of such follies. When, in the beginning of
this century, the piano attained such conspicuous excellence and
increased power, greater technical skill could not fail to be called
out; but, after a few years, this degenerated into a heartless and
worthless dexterity of the fingers, which was carried to the point of
absurdity and resulted in intellectual death. Instead of aiming to
acquire, before all things, a beautiful, full tone on these
rich-sounding instruments, which admit of so much and such delicate
shading, essential to true excellence of performance, the object was
only to increase mechanical facility, and to cultivate almost
exclusively an immoderately powerful and unnatural touch, and to improve
the fingering in order to make possible the execution of passages,
roulades, finger-gymnastics, and stretches, which no one before had
imagined or considered necessary. From this period dates the
introduction of _virtuoso_ performances with their glittering
tawdriness, without substance and without music, and of the frightful
eccentricities in art, accompanied by immeasurable vanity and
self-conceit,--the age of "finger-heroes." It is indeed a melancholy
reflection, for all who retain their senses, that this charlatanry is
made the solitary aim of numberless ignoble performers, sustained by the
applause of teachers and composers equally base. It is sad to see how,
engaged in artificial formalisms and in erroneous mechanical studies,
players have forgotten the study of tone and of correct delivery, and
that few teachers seek to improve either themselves or their pupils
therein. Otherwise they would see and understand that, on a good piano,
such as are now to be found almost everywhere, it is possible with
correct playing, founded on a right method, to play, without external
aids, _forte_, _fortissimo_, _piano_, _pianissimo_,--in a word, with
every degree of shading, and with at least formal expression; and that
this style of playing, with the requisite mechanical skill, sounds far
more pure, and is more satisfactory than when a feeling is affected
through the crude, unskilful, and absurd use of the pedal, especially of
the soft pedal of which we are now speaking. This affectation only gives
one more proof of our unhealthy, stupid, and unmusical infancy in piano
performances. A good-natured public, drummed up and brought together by
patient persuasion and by urgent recommendations, of which _virtuosos_
can obtain an abundance (for the tormented cities which they have
visited cannot otherwise get rid of them), attend these concerts and
listen to dozens of such inexperienced piano-players. One plays exactly
like another, with more or less faulty mechanical execution; and none of
them are able, with all their thumping and caressing of the keys, to
bring out from the instrument a broad, healthy, full, and beautiful
tone, delicately shaded and distinct even to the softest _pp._ But,
instead of this, they fall into a pedal sentiment; _i.e._, they play
with outside pretension, and with intrinsic emptiness.

You unworthy performers, who have so disgusted the artistic public with
piano-playing that they will no longer listen to fine, intelligent,
sensible artists, whose dignity does not permit them to force
themselves into the concert-hall, or to drag people into it from the
streets! you base mortals, who have exposed this beautiful art to shame!
I implore you to abandon the concert platform, your battle-field! Hack
at the piano no longer! Find positions on a railroad or in a factory.
There you may perhaps make yourselves useful; while by the lessons you
give (for it usually comes to that, after you have travelled all over
the world) you will only ruin our young people, now growing up with
promising talent for piano-playing, and will produce successors like
yourselves, but not artists.

I must whisper one thing more in your ear. I will say nothing about
simple truthfulness, about tenderness and sincerity of feeling, or
wholesome refinement, about poetry, inspiration, or truly impassioned
playing. But, if your ears are not already too much blunted, you should
be able to discover, at least in a very few minutes, on any instrument,
unless it is of the worst sort, or has already been battered to pieces
by you, how far you can carry the _pianissimo_ and _fortissimo_, and
still preserve the tone within the limits of beauty and simplicity. You
will thus be able to interpret a piece with at least superficial
correctness, without mortally wounding a cultivated ear by exaggerations
and by maltreatment of the instrument and its two pedals.

This style of playing has nevertheless found its numerous defenders and
admirers in our century, which has made every thing possible. This
senseless enslavement and abuse of the piano has been said to be "all
the rage;" a fine expression of our piano critics to justify insane
stamping and soft-pedal sentimentality.

How far what I have here said relates to our modern errors in singing,
and how far it may be applied to them, I leave to the intelligence of my
readers and to my explanations in subsequent chapters.

To return to my theme: I have still one word on this subject for
rational players. Even they use the soft pedal too much and too often,
and at unsuitable places; for instance, in the midst of a piece, without
any preparatory pause; in melodies which require to be lightly executed;
or in rapid passages which are to be played _piano_. This is especially
to be noticed with players who are obliged to use instruments of a
powerful tone and stiff, heavy action, on which it is difficult to
insure a delicate shading in _piano_ and _forte_. For this reason, a
sensible and experienced teacher, whose sole aim is the true and the
beautiful, should make the attainment of an elastic touch and
well-grounded style of playing an indispensable requirement. I prefer
that the soft pedal should be used but seldom, and, if the pedal which
raises the dampers is used at the same time, it must be only with the
greatest nicety. The soft pedal may be used in an echo; but should be
preceded by a slight pause, and then should be employed throughout the
period, because the ear must accustom itself gradually to this tender,
maidenly, sentimental tone. There must again be a slight pause before
the transition to the usual more masculine tone, with the three strings.
The soft pedal is, moreover, most effective in slow movements with full
chords, which allow time to bring out the singing tone, in which
consists the advantage of the stroke of the hammers on two strings



I once more introduce my readers to the scenes of my active, musical
life, with an invitation to accompany me to a musical tea-party. My
object is, in a short and entertaining manner, to remove very common
prejudices; to correct mistaken ideas; to reprove the followers of mere
routine; to oppose to malicious cavilling the sound opinions of an
experienced teacher; to scourge dogmatic narrow-mindedness; and in this
way to advance my method of instruction.

       *       *       *       *       *


JOHN SPRIGGINS _(jovial and narrow-minded, a member of
an ancient musical family)._
MRS. SPRIGGINS _(irritable, envious, and malicious)._
LIZZIE, _their daughter, 13, years old (lively and pert)._
SHEPARD, _her piano-teacher (very laborious)._
DOMINIE, _a piano-master (very stern)._
EMMA, _his daughter, a pianist (silent and musical)._

MRS. SPRIGGINS (_to Dominie_). So this is your daughter who is to give a
concert to-morrow? She is said to have less talent than your eldest
daughter. With her, they say, nothing requires any labor.

DOMINIE. You must ask my eldest daughter herself about that. I have
hitherto held the opinion that both of them played correctly, musically,
and perhaps finely, and yet both differently: that is the triumph of a
musical education. But this cheap comparative criticism is already too
thoroughly worn out. Pray what else have you on your mind?

MRS. S. Have you not yet sent your younger daughter to school? They say
your eldest could neither read nor write at fourteen years of age.

DOMINIE. My daughters always have a private teacher in the house, in
connection with whom I instruct them in music, in order that their
literary education shall occupy fewer hours, and that they shall have
time left for exercise in the open air to invigorate the body; while
other children are exhausted with nine hours a day at schools and
institutes, and are obliged to pay for this with the loss of their
health and the joyousness of youth.

MRS. S. It is very well known that your daughters are obliged to play
the whole day long.

DOMINIE. And not all night too? You probably might explain their skill
in that way. I am astonished that you have not heard that too, since
you have picked up so many shocking stories about me and my daughters.

MRS. S. (_dismisses the subject, and asks suddenly_). Now just how old
is your daughter Emma?

DOMINIE. She is just sixteen years and seven weeks old.

MRS. S. Does she speak French?

DOMINIE. Oui, elle parle Français, and in musical tones, too,--a
language which is understood all over the world.

MRS. S. But she is so silent! Does she like to play?

DOMINIE. You have given her no opportunity to speak, she is certainly
not forth-putting. For the last two years she has taken great pleasure
in playing.

MRS. S. You acknowledge, then, that formerly you had to force her to it?

DOMINIE. In the earlier years of her natural development, as she was a
stranger to vanity and other unworthy motives, she certainly played, or
rather pursued her serious studies, chiefly from obedience and habit.
Does your daughter of thirteen years old always practise her exercises
without being required to do so? Does she like to go to school every
day? Does she always sew and knit without being reminded of it?

MRS. S. (_interrupting_). Oh, I see you are quite in love with your
daughters! But they say you are terribly strict and cruel in the musical
education of your children; and, in fact, always.

DOMINIE. Do you suppose I do this from affection? or do you infer it,
because they have proved artists, or because they look so blooming and
healthy, or because they write such fine letters, or because they have
not grown crooked over embroidery, or because they are so innocent,
unaffected, and modest? or--

MRS. S. (_irritably_). We will drop that subject. But I must give you
one piece of good advice. Do not make your daughter Emma exert herself
too much, as you have done with your eldest daughter.

DOMINIE. If that is so, Mrs. Spriggins, it seems to have agreed with her
very well.

MRS. S. (_vehemently_). But she would have been better--

DOMINIE. If she had not played at all? That I can't tell exactly, as I
said yesterday. Well, you are satisfied now with Emma's state of health?

MRS. S. It is of no use to advise such people as you.

DOMINIE. I have always devoted myself to my business as a teacher, and
have daily taken counsel with myself about the education of my
daughters, and of other pupils whom I have formed for artists; and, it
must be acknowledged, I have done so with some ability.

MRS. S. (_not attending to him, but turning to Emma_). But does it not
make your fingers ache to play such difficult music?

DOMINIE. Only when her teacher raps her on the knuckles, and that I
never do.

     (_Emma looks at the parrot which is hanging in the parlor, and
     strokes the great bull-dog._)

JOHN SPRIGGINS (_entering with his daughter Lizzie_). Herr Dominie, will
you be so good as to hear our daughter Lizzie play, and advise us
whether to continue in the same course. Music is, in fact, hereditary in
our family. My wife played a little, too, in her youth, and I once
played on the violin; but my teacher told me I had no talent for it, no
ear, and no idea of time, and that I scraped too much.

DOMINIE. Very curious! He must have been mistaken!

JOHN S. But I always was devotedly fond of music. My father and my
grandfather, on our estate, often used to play the organ for the
organist in church, and the tenants always knew when they were playing.
My father used often to tell that story at table. Ha, ha! It was very

DOMINIE. Curious!

JOHN S. Well, to return to my violin. I gave it up after a year, because
it seemed rather scratchy to me, too.

DOMINIE. Curious! Probably your ear and your taste had become more

JOHN S. Afterwards, when I accepted an office, my wife said to me, "My
dear, what a pity it is about your violin." So I had it restrung, and
took a teacher. It seems as if it were only yesterday.

DOMINIE (_casting down his eyes,--the servant brings ice_). That was very

JOHN S. But the government horn-player thought he could not get on in
duets with me.

DOMINIE. Curious! So you were obliged to play only solos? But to return
to your daughter. Will you be good enough to play me something, Miss

MRS. S. (_condescendingly, in a low voice_). She is a little timid and
embarrassed at playing before your daughter Emma.

EMMA. You really need not be so.

MRS. S. Bring "Les Graces" by Herz, and Rosellen's "Tremolo."

LIZZIE. But, mamma, I have forgotten that piece by Herz, and I have not
learned the "Tremolo" very well yet. That is always the way with me. Mr.
Shepard says I may console myself: it was always the same with his other
scholars. He says I shall finally make my way. But Mr. Shepard is so
strict. Are you very strict, Herr Dominie?

MRS. S. Why, my child, you have heard me say so before. Herr Dominie is
the very strictest--but (_playfully_) he will not acknowledge it.

DOMINIE. There is one thing you must allow, Mrs. Spriggins,--that my
pupils always take pleasure in my lessons; and that must be the case
because their progress is evident and gives them delight, and every
thing is developed in the most natural way.

MRS. S. (_less sharply_). We won't discuss that; but how are your
daughters able to play so many pieces to people, and moreover without
notes, if they have not been obliged to practise all day long, and if
you have not been very cruel with them, while my Lizzie cannot play a
single thing without bungling?

DOMINIE. Allow me, madam, it must be the fault of Mr. Shep--

MRS. S. No, no! you must excuse me, but we don't permit any reflections
on our Mr. Shepard: he is very particular and unwearied.

DOMINIE. It does not depend entirely upon that, but--

JOHN S. Upon my honor, it is marvellous to see how talented pupils
always seem to flock to _you_. It is easy to teach such! Ha, ha! You
must not forget, however, that my grandfather played on the organ. Now,
Lizzie, sit down and play something.

     (_She chooses a cavatina from "The Pirates," with variations. The
     introduction begins with _e_ flat in unison. Lizzie strikes _e_ in
     unison and the same in the bass, and exclaims: "There, mamma,
     didn't I tell you so? I don't remember it now." Mr. Shepard enters,
     steps up hastily, and puts her finger on _e_ flat._)

SHEPARD. Pardon me, Herr Dominie, I will only set her going: it makes
her a little confused to play before such connoisseurs; she loses her
eyesight. Don't you see, Lizzie, there are three flats in the signature?

JOHN S. Courage now! Aha! Lizzie can't get at the pedal, the bull-dog
is lying over it. John, take him out.

     (_After the removal of the bull-dog, Lizzie plays as far as the
     fourth bar, when she strikes _c_ sharp instead of _c_, and stops._)

MRS. S. Never mind, begin again. Herr Dominie is pleased to hear that:
he has gone through it all with his own children.

     (_Lizzie begins again at the beginning, and goes on to the eighth
     bar, where she sticks fast._)

SHEPARD. Don't make me ashamed of you, Lizzie. Now begin once more: a
week ago it went quite tolerably.

     (_Lizzie begins once more, and plays or rather scrambles through
     it, as far as the eighteenth bar; but now it is all over with her,
     and she gets up._)

DOMINIE. Skip the introduction, it is too difficult: begin at once on
the theme.

JOHN S. (_to his wife_). We will go away and leave the gentlemen alone.
By and by, gentlemen, we will talk about it further over a cup of tea.

     (_Lizzie refuses to play._)

DOMINIE. Mr. Shepard, let Lizzie play a few scales or some chords; a few
finger exercises, or some easy dance without notes.

SHEPARD. She has nothing of that kind ready. You see I always take up
one piece after another, and have each one played as well as I can; she
repeats the difficult parts, I write the proper fingering over them, and
am very particular that she does not use the wrong fingers. I have taken
a great deal of pains, and quite worn myself out over the lessons.
Lizzie does the same, and practises her pieces two hours a day;

     (_Lizzie goes away with Emma._)

DOMINIE. Mr. Shepard, with the best intentions in the world, you will
never accomplish your end. Even if Miss Lizzie is only to play as an
amateur, and is not intended for any thing higher, for which in fact she
has not sufficient talent, you must pay some attention beforehand to the
acquirement of a correct tone, and get rid of this robin-red-breast
touch; and you must then endeavor, by scales and exercises of every
kind, to give to her hands and fingers so much firmness, decision, and
dexterity, that she can master her pieces, at least with a certain
distinct tone and a tolerable touch. You are not less in error in the
choice of her pieces, which are far too difficult,--a fault of most
teachers, even with the most skilful pupils. The pieces which your
pupils are to execute should be below their mechanical powers; for,
otherwise, the struggle with difficulties robs the player of all
confidence in the performance, and gives rise to stumbling, bungling,
and hurry. The mechanical powers should be cultivated by studies and
exercises, in preference to pieces, at least to those of certain famous
composers, who do not write in a manner adapted to the piano; or who, at
any rate, regard the music as of more importance than the player. This
may apply even to Beethoven, in the higher grade of composition; for his
music is full of danger for the performer. The only course which can
ever lead to a sure result, without wearying both pupil and parent, and
without making piano-playing distasteful, is first to lay a foundation
in mechanical power, and then to go on with the easier pieces by Hünten
and Burgmüller. If you try to produce the mechanical dexterity essential
for piano performance by the study of pieces, except with the most
careful selection, you will waste a great deal of time and deprive the
pupil of all pleasure and interest; and the young Lizzie will be much
more interested in the hope of a husband than in the satisfaction of
performing a piece which will give pleasure to herself and her friends.
There can be no success without gradual development and culture, without
a plan, without consideration and reflection,--in fact, without a
proper method. How can there be any good result, if the pupil has to try
at the same time to play with a correct touch, with the proper
fingering, in time, with proper phrasing, to move the fingers rightly,
to gain familiarity with the notes, and to avoid the confusion between
the treble and the bass notes,--and in fact has to struggle with every
thing at once? And what vexations! what loss of time without success!

     (_Shepard listened with attention, and a light seemed to dawn upon

     (_Dominie and Shepard go in to tea._)

MRS. S. Well, gentlemen, have you come to any conclusion? Is not Lizzie
a good pupil? She is obliged to practise two hours every day, however
tired she may be. Do you think we should continue in the same course,
Herr Dominie?

SHEPARD. Herr Dominie has called my attention to some points which will
be of use to me.

DOMINIE. Only a few trifles.

JOHN S. After tea will not Miss Emma play to us?

EMMA. The piano is very much out of tune, some of the keys stick, the
action is too light, and the instrument generally is not calculated for
the successful execution of any thing.

JOHN S. I beg your pardon: it was considered by everybody a very fine
instrument when we bought it, sixteen years ago. We had a great bargain
in it at the time, for we purchased it of a neighbor who had improved it
very much by use. Mr. Shepard will confirm what I say, Miss.

     (_Emma bows her head thoughtfully, and looks at Shepard

JOHN S. My violin has very much improved during the last twenty years.
On my honor, if Lizzie were a boy, she should learn to play on the
violin, to keep it in the family. Ha, ha, ha!

DOMINIE. That would be curious!

     (_Dominie wishes to take leave with his daughter._)

MRS. S. (_condescendingly_). I hope you will come to see us again soon.
The next time Lizzie will play you Rosellen's "Tremolo;" and Miss Emma
must play us a piece too.

DOMINIE. You are extremely kind! (_Takes leave._)



_(A Letter to a Young Lady Singer.)_

MY DEAR MISS ----,--You are endowed with an admirable gift for singing,
and your agreeable though not naturally powerful voice has vivacity and
youthful charm, as well as a fine tone: you also possess much talent in
execution; yet you nevertheless share the lot of almost all your sisters
in art, who, whether in Vienna, Paris, or Italy, find only teachers who
are rapidly helping to annihilate the opera throughout Europe, and are
ruling out of court the simple, noble, refined, and true art of singing.
This modern, unnatural style of art, which merely aspires to superficial
effects, and consists only in mannerisms, and which must ruin the voice
in a short time, before it reaches its highest perfection, has already
laid claim to you. It is scarcely possible to rescue your talent,
unless, convinced that you have been falsely guided, you stop entirely
for a time, and allow your voice to rest during several months, and
then, by correct artistic studies, and with a voice never forced or
strong, often indeed weak, you improve your method of attack by the use
of much less and never audible breathing, and acquire a correct, quiet
guidance of the tones. You must also make use of the voice in the middle
register, and strengthen the good head-tones by skilfully lowering them;
you must equalize the registers of the voice by a correct and varied use
of the head-tones, and by diligent practice of _solfeggio_. You must
restore the unnaturally extended registers to their proper limits; and
you have still other points to reform. Are you not aware that this
frequent tremulousness of the voice, this immoderate forcing of its
compass, by which the chest-register is made to interfere with the
head-tones, this coquetting with the deep chest-tones, this affected,
offensive, and almost inaudible nasal _pianissimo_, the aimless jerking
out of single tones, and, in general, this whole false mode of vocal
execution, must continually shock the natural sentiment of a cultivated,
unprejudiced hearer, as well as of the composer and singing-teacher?
What must be the effect on a voice in the middle register, when its
extreme limits are forced in such a reckless manner, and when you expend
as much breath for a few lines of a song as a correctly educated singer
would require for a whole aria? How long will it be before your voice,
already weakened, and almost always forced beyond the limits of beauty,
shall degenerate into a hollow, dull, guttural tone, and even into that
explosive or tremulous sound, which proclaims irremediable injury? Is
your beautiful voice and your talent to disappear like a meteor, as
others have done? or do you hope that the soft air of Italy will in time
restore a voice once ruined? I fall into a rage when I think of the many
beautiful voices which have been spoiled, and have dwindled away without
leaving a trace during the last forty years; and I vent my overflowing
heart in a brief notice of the many singing-teachers, whose rise and
influence I have watched for twenty years past.

The so-called singing-teachers whom we usually find, even in large
cities and in musical institutions, I exempt from any special criticism,
for they would not be able to understand my views. They permit soprano
voices to sing scales in all the five vowels at once; begin with _c_
instead of _f_; allow a long holding of the notes, "in order to bring
out the voice," until the poor victim rolls her eyes and grows dizzy.
They talk only of the fine chest-tones which must be elicited, will have
nothing to do with the head-tones, will not even listen to them,
recognize them, or learn to distinguish them. Their highest principle
is: "Fudge! we don't want any rubbish of Teschner, Miksch, and Wieck.
Sing in your own plain way: what is the use of this murmuring without
taking breath? For what do you have lungs if you are not to use them?
Come, try this aria: 'Grâce,' 'grâce!' Produce an effect! Down on your

There are again others who allow screaming,--"the more the better,"--in
order to produce power and expression in the voice, and to make it
serviceable for public performances. They may, indeed, require the
singing of _solfeggio_, and prattle about the requisite equality of the
tones; and they consequently make the pupil practise diligently and
strongly on the two-lined _a_, _b_ flat, _b_, where kind Nature does not
at first place the voice, because she has reserved for herself the slow
and careful development of it. As for the unfortunate gasping medium
voices, which are still less docile, and which sigh in the throat, and
after all can only speak, such teachers postpone the cultivation of
these to the future, or else they exclaim in a satisfied way, "Now we
will sing at sight! Hit the notes! Let us have classical music!" Of
these, also, I forbear to speak.

And as for the singing-teachers, whose business it is to educate the
voice for "the opera of the future," I am really unable to write about
them. In the first place, I know nothing about "the future," the unborn;
and, in the second place, I have more than enough to do with the

And now I come to those who honestly wish to teach better, and who in a
measure do so. But even they are too pedantic: with prejudiced views,
they pursue one-sided aims. Without looking around to the right or to
the left or forwards, and without daily learning, reflecting, and
striving, they run in a groove, always ride their particular hobby, cut
every thing after one pattern, and use up the time in secondary matters,
in incredible trifles. For the formation of a fine tone, not a minute
should be lost, particularly with lady singers, who are not strong, and
usually cannot or ought not to sing more than twenty days in a month,
and who surely ought to be allowed to use their time in a reasonable
manner. Moreover, these are the teachers whom it is most difficult to
comprehend. Though they use only seven tones, they are plunged in
impenetrable mysteries, in incomprehensible knowledge and a multitude of
so-called secrets, out of which, indeed, nothing can ever be brought to
light. For this, however, they do not consider themselves to blame, not
even their hobby-horses; but, as they say, "the higher powers." We will,
for once, suppose that three-fourths of the measures which they are
accustomed to employ in their treatment of the voice and of the
individual are good and correct (the same is true of many
piano-teachers); but the remaining fourth is sufficient to ruin the
voice, or to prevent its proper development, and therefore nothing
correct is to be gained. There are other teachers who never can get
beyond the formation of the tone, and are lost in the pursuit of
_perfection_,--that "terrestrial valley of tears." Truly a beautiful
country, but which is only to be found in Paradise!

Others, instead of thinking, "I will try for the present to do better
than others have done," so harass and torment the poor mortal voices
with their aim at perfect equality and perfect beauty of tone, the
result often is that every thing becomes unequal and far from beautiful.
Some teachers make their pupils so anxious and troubled that, owing to
their close attention to the tone, and the breath, and the
pronunciation, they sing their songs in an utterly wooden manner, and so
in fact they, too, are lost in optimism and in tears; whereas, for
singing, a happy confidence in the ability to succeed is essential.
Others pursue an opposite course, and are guilty of worse faults, as you
will see if you look around. Some of them have no standard of
perfection, but use up the time in an exchange of ideas with their
pupils, with mysterious and conceited "ifs" and "buts." They are very
positive, but only within the narrow circle of their own ideas. They
make no advance in a correct medium path. Some allow pupils to practise
only _staccato_, and others only _legato_, aiming thereby at nobody
knows what. Some allow them to sing too loud, others too feebly; some
philosophize earnestly about beauty in the voice, and others grumble
about unpleasantness in the same; some are enthusiastic about
extraordinary talents, others fret about the want of talent; some have a
passion for making all the sopranos sing alto, others do just the
reverse; some prefer a shadowy, others a clear voice. They all rest
their opinions upon the authority of some famous screaming-master who
has written a singing-system. Upon like authority, some cultivate
chiefly the deep tones, because it is very fine, and "creates an
effect," for soprano voices to be able suddenly to sing like men, or
rather to growl, and because it is the fashion in Paris. Others, on the
contrary, pride themselves upon the head-tones; but they are none of
them willing to pay much attention to the medium voices: that is too
critical and too delicate a matter, and requires too much trouble, for
the modern art of singing. As a last resort, they bethink themselves of
kind Nature, and lay the blame upon her.

Well, I will say no more upon this point, but will proceed. Have I not
already, in my piano instructions, insisted on the importance of a
gradual and careful use of every proper expedient to extend, strengthen,
beautify, and preserve the voice? I am thought, however, to infringe
upon the office of the singing-masters, who hold their position to be
much more exalted than that of the poor piano-teacher. Still, I must be
allowed to repeat that voices are much more easily injured than fingers;
and that broken, rigid voices are much worse than stiff, unmanageable
fingers, unless, after all, they amount to the same thing. I demand of
singing-teachers that they show themselves worthy of their position,
and allow no more voices to go to destruction, and that they give us
some satisfactory results. I believe in fact, in my homely simplicity,
that the whole thing may be accomplished without any mystery, without
trading in secrets or charlatanry; without the aid of modern anatomical
improvement, or rather destruction, of the worn-out throat, through
shortening or increasing the flexibility of the palate, through the
removal of the unnecessary glands or by attempts to lengthen the vocal
passage, or by remedying a great many other things in which Nature has
made a mistake, and on which special doctors for the voice, in Paris and
London, are now employed.

We supply the want of all these by the following little rule:--

Three trifles are essential for a good piano or singing-teacher,--

    _The finest taste,
    The deepest feeling,
    The most delicate ear,_

and, in addition, the requisite knowledge, energy, and some practice.
_Voilà tout!_ I cannot devote myself to the treatment of the throat, for
which I have neither time not fitness; and my lady singers are so busy
with the formation of true tone, and in attention to the care and
preservation of their voices, that they only wish to open their mouths
for that object, and not for anatomical purposes. In piano-playing also,
I require no cutting of the interdigital fold, no mechanical
hand-support, no accelerator for the fingers or stretching machine; and
not even the "finger-rack" invented and used, without my knowledge, by a
famous pupil[A] of mine, for the proper raising of the third and fourth

My dear young lady, if the Creator has made the throat badly for
singing, he alone is responsible. I cannot come to his assistance by
destroying the throat with lunar caustic, and then reconstructing it. If
the throat is really worn out, may it not perhaps be owing to the
teacher, and to his mistaken management?

Nature does many things well, and before the introduction of this modern
fashion of singing produced many beautiful voices: has she all at once
become incapable of doing any thing right?

We will, then, simply return to the _three trifles_ above-mentioned;
and in these we will live and work "with all our heart, with all our
soul, and with all our mind."

[A] Reference is here made to Robert Schumann, who, in order to
facilitate the use of the weaker fingers, employed a machine for raising
the fingers artificially, which resulted in loss of power over them, and
necessitated the abandonment of piano-playing.--_Tr._



Our vocal composers, followed by many singing-teachers and singing
institutions, have almost banished from music the true art of singing;
or, at least, have introduced an unnatural, faulty, and always
disagreeable mode of delivery, by which the voice has been destroyed,
even before it has attained its full development. The consideration of
this fact induces me to communicate some portions from my journal, and
to unite with them a few opinions of the noted singing-master, Teschner,
of Berlin.

       *       *       *       *       *

Must we again and again explain to German composers that, though we do
not require them to compose in Italian, they ought, at least, to learn
to write in German in a manner suited for singing? otherwise, in their
amazing ignorance and infatuation, they will wear out the powers of
opera singers, and torture the public, apparently without a suspicion
that it is possible to write both grand and light operas with true,
characteristic German thoroughness. Even German opera requires a
constant attention to the right use of the voice, and a methodical,
effective mode of singing. It tolerates no murderous attacks on single
male and female voices, or on the full opera company; it is opposed to
that eager searching after superficial effect, which every sincere
friend of the opera must lament.

Is it, then, so difficult to obtain the requisite knowledge of the human
voice, and to study the scores of Gluck, Haydn, Mozart, Rossini,
Bellini, and Donizetti with a special regard to this? Do our vocal
composers make too great a sacrifice to their creative genius in making
a study of those things which are essential? You consider it mortifying
to inquire of those who understand singing, and you are sensitive about
any disturbance of your vain over-estimate of your own powers; but you
are not ashamed to cause the destruction of man's noblest gift,--the
human voice! If taste, feeling, and a fine ear are, and always must be,
the chief requirements in composing for the great public, I ask you how
you can lay claim to these three trifles, when you constantly violate

COMPOSER. If Mrs. N. had executed my aria to-day in as earnest and
masterly a style, and with as agreeable a voice, as she did that of
Rossini yesterday, she would have given as much satisfaction; for it is
much more interesting and expressive both musically and harmonically,
and written with more dramatic effect.

SINGER. You make a mistake, and you always will do so, as long as you
consider the study of the voice as of secondary importance, or, in fact,
pay no attention whatever to it. The latter aria, which is composed with
a regard to the voice, and to the employment of its most agreeable
tones, puts me into a comfortable mood, and gives me a feeling of
success; yours, on the contrary, into one of dissatisfaction and
anticipation of failure. Of what importance is the musical value of a
composition, if it can only be sung with doubtful success, and if the
voice is obliged to struggle with it, instead of having it under
control? You attach less importance to the free, agreeable exercise of
the voice than does the unanimous public. I do not wish to excite
compassion, but to give pleasure by a beautifully developed style of
singing. You pay some attention to adaptability to the piano or the
violin: why are you usually regardless of fitness for the voice?

Critics have often asked, Why does Jenny Lind sing so coolly? why does
she not sing grand, passionate parts? why does she not select for her
performances some of the later German or even Italian operas? why does
she always sing Amina, Lucia, Norma, Susanna, &c.? In reply to these and
similar questions, I will ask, Why does she wish always to remain Jenny
Lind? why does she endeavor to preserve her voice as long as possible?
why does she select operas in which she may use her pure, artistic,
refined mode of singing, which permits no mannerism, no hypocritical
sentiment, and which possesses an ideal beauty? why does she choose
operas in which she can give the most perfect possible image of her own
personality? why operas in which she may allow the marvellous union of
her powers of song to shine conspicuously, without doing violence to her
voice and forcing its tones, or casting doubt upon her lofty, noble, and
beautiful art? why does she first regard the singing, and only
afterwards the music, or both united? This is the answer to the same
questions which are likewise asked about Henrietta Sontag and all great
singers. Even the passionate Schröder-Devrient seldom made an exception
to this rule, although she was not independent of the theatres.

These questions should be an urgent warning to our young female singers
not to sacrifice themselves to any of the modern screaming operas,
unsuited for singing; but to preserve and watch over their voices, and
to guard them from immoderate, continued, and often inartistic exertion;
in fact, to sing always in the voice-register with which nature has
endowed them, and never to shriek; to renounce the present, fashionable,
so-called "singing effects," and the modern scene-screaming, as Jenny
Lind and Henrietta Sontag have always done. Then their voices would
remain useful for the opera, as was formerly the case, from ten to
twenty years; and they would not have to mourn, as is too common, after
a very short time, a feeble, broken voice and departed health.

Let Jenny Lind and Henrietta Sontag be placed as the finest models
before our young, gifted, ambitious singers. They are to be regarded as
miraculous phenomena; especially in our times, when the modern style of
singing has, for reasons difficult to justify, so widely deviated from
the old school which was so fruitful in brilliant results,--that of
Pistocchi, Porpora, and Bernacchi. What could show more clearly the
destructiveness of our present opera style than the sublime beauty of
their singing, combined with their noble, refined, sound voices, such
as may perhaps still be found among you?

       *       *       *       *       *

The managers of our theatres are in want of tenor singers who can act.
They should consider that tenors who have any voices left have never
learned to act, and tenors who are able to act no longer have any
voices; because, as a rule, they either have studied too little, or have
studied erroneously. Unless the voice has received a correct and fine
culture, the German comic operas lead immediately to destruction of the
voice, especially of the sensitive, easily injured German tenor voice.

Here I take occasion to remark upon the universal prejudice, that "a
tenor ought to develop the chest-tones as far as possible, that they are
the finest." In tenors, with very few exceptions, this mistaken
treatment has been speedily followed by the loss both of voice and
health. Nicely shaded singing, from _piano_ onwards, is thereby rendered
impossible; and tones which are always forced must remain unpleasant,
even although powers thus laboriously gained may sometimes have a fine
effect in the opera. A tenor who wishes to preserve his voice and not to
scream in the upper tones, who desires always to have a _piano_ at
command and to possess the necessary shading and lightness as well as
elegance and flexibility, should cultivate the _falsetto_, and endeavor
to bring it down as far as possible into the chest-register. This is as
indispensable as is the use of the head-tones for the soprano. When the
_falsetto_ has too striking a resemblance to the chest-voice, and is
even inferior to it in power, it is the result of want of perseverance
and prudence in its cultivation. It ought to be almost imperceptibly
connected with the chest-register by the introduction of the mixed

       *       *       *       *       *

We shall probably soon be called upon to read an "Address of Young
Female Singers to the Composers of Germany," as follows: "Freedom of
thought! freedom in composition! freedom in the opera! but no
annihilation of the throat! You are hereby notified that we protest
against all operas which are repugnant to the true art of singing; for
it is not in your power to compensate us for the loss of our voices,
although it may be possible for you, after using up our talent as
quickly as possible, to look around for others, with whom you can do the
same. First learn to understand singing, or, rather, first learn to
sing, as your predecessors have done, and as Italian composers still do,
and then we will talk with you again."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What a pedantic outcry about German want of adaptability for singing!
Pray where is there the most singing?" It is, I agree, in Germany. "Is
not singing taught in the public schools? And consider, too, the
innumerable singing clubs, singing societies, and singing institutions!"

That is just the misfortune which requires a thorough investigation. How
many promising voices do these institutions annually follow to the
grave? Who is it who sing in the schools? Boys and girls from thirteen
to fifteen years old. But boys ought not to be allowed to sing while the
voice is changing; and girls, also from physical reasons, ought not to
sing at all at that age. And what kind of instructors teach singing
here? Our epistolary and over-wise age overwhelms our superintendents
and corporations with innumerable petitions and proposals; but no true
friend of humanity, of music, and of singing, has yet been found to
enlighten these authorities, and to prove to them that the most
beautiful voices and finest talents are killed in the germ by these
unsuitable so-called singing-lessons, especially in the public schools.
Girls' voices may be carefully awakened, and skilfully practised, and
made flexible and musical; but they should be used only in _mezzo-voce_,
and only until the period of their development, or up to the thirteenth
year, or a few months sooner or later. This ought also to be done with
great experience, delicacy, practical knowledge and circumspection. But
where are we to find suitable singing-professors, and who is to pay them
a sufficient salary? Therefore, away with this erroneous instruction of
children in singing! away with this abortion of philanthropy and the
musical folly of this extravagant age! Can such a premature, unrefined,
faulty screaming of children, or croaking in their throats, without
artistic cultivation and guidance, compensate for the later inevitable
hoarseness and loss of voice, and for the destruction of the organs of

The tenors who belong to these singing societies and institutions force
out and sacrifice their uncultured voices, and scream with throat,
palate, and nasal tones, in the execution of four-part songs by this or
that famous composer, which are far from beautiful, and which serve only
to ruin the voice. Who was the lady who sang the solo in yonder singing
academy? That girl, a year ago, had a fresh, beautiful, sonorous voice;
but, although she is only twenty years old, it already begins to fail
her, and she screws and forces it, by the help of the chest-tones, up to
the two-lined _a_, without any thing having ever been done for the
adjustment of the voice-registers and for the use of the head-tones, and
without proper direction from a competent superintendent. Instead of
this, he was continually exclaiming: "Loud! forcibly! _con

While even the street boys in Italy sing clearly, and often with great
ability, their national songs, so well suited to the voice, and in their
most beautiful language, our northern voices, which are obliged to
contend with the great difficulties of the German language, are
sacrificed in the most cold-blooded and self-satisfied manner in the
schools and singing societies, while all artistic preparation, by which
alone the voice may be preserved and cultivated, is neglected.

Who are at the head of these institutions and societies? Musicians it is
true; but they are strangers to any special education in singing, or are
not skilful singing-teachers, who understand how to combine methodical
cultivation of the voice with practical execution. Their entire
instruction consists, at most, in hitting the notes and keeping time.
These musicians say: "Whoever joins my society must know how to sing!"
What does that mean? Where are they to learn it? And, even when you have
succeeded in obtaining for your academy a few imprudent but well-taught
singers, does not the preservation of their voices then require the
greatest care and watchfulness? Is that in your power? Have you the
requisite knowledge for it? Are not these few well-educated voices
obliged to sing by the side of singers who have been taught in a wrong
manner, and who have no pure, correct intonation? Then what do these
societies amount to? Do they improve or destroy the voice? They make the
members musical. A fine consolation for the loss of the voice! They
teach them to hit the notes and to keep time. A great comfort after the
voice has been destroyed by false culture!

       *       *       *       *       *

A singing-teacher who has no firm, decided principle, who is constantly
wavering backwards and forwards, and who frequently leads others into
error by his untenable opinions; who cannot quickly discern the special
talent and capacity of his pupils, or discover the proper means to get
rid of what is false or wrong, and adopt the speediest road to success,
without any one-sided theories of perfection; who mistrusts and blames,
worries, offends, and depresses, instead of encouraging; who is always
dissatisfied instead of cordially acknowledging what is good in the
pupil; who at one time rides a high horse instead of kindly offering a
helping hand, and at another time praises as extravagantly as he before
has blamed, and kills time in such ways as these,--he may be an
encyclopædia of knowledge, but his success will always fall short of his
hopes. Firmness, decision, energy, and a delicate, quick perception; the
art not to say too much or too little, and to be quite clear in his own
mind, and with constant considerate kindness to increase the courage and
confidence of his pupils,--these are requisite above all things for a
singing-master as well as for a piano-teacher.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My singers are to be educated for the public, for the stage, and must
therefore sing loud, study hard, force their execution, and make use of
a great deal of breath. How else will they be able to produce an

_Answer._ What, then, is the effect of your culture? I know of none,
except that they at first are applauded, because they are young and
pretty, and are novelties; because they have good voices, and the
benevolent public wishes to encourage them; and then they disappear in a
year or two without leaving any trace.

"The singing-teacher can succeed in cultivating not more than one good
voice in twenty, with any noteworthy result. Hence the decadence of the
art of singing."

_Answer._ Unless some unusual disturbance or sickness occur, all voices
improve till the twenty-fourth year. When this is not the case, it is to
be attributed only to the singing-teacher.

"Many voices acquire a sharp tone, which is the precursor of decay."

_Answer._ All voices are, and will remain, more or less tender, if their
culture is correct.

"Only Jenny Lind and Henrietta Sontag were allowed by the public to give
out their voices naturally and lightly without straining them, and to
sing _piano_ and _pianissimo_, and their celebrity is a justification of
this privilege."

_Answer._ But how would they have obtained their celebrity, if this were
not the true, correct, and pure mode of singing?

"Our singers also try the _piano_ and _pianissimo_; but they can
produce no effect on their audiences by it, as you may see every day."

_Answer._ Good heavens! I should think so! With such a _piano_, with
strained voices, faulty attack, and the use of too much breath,--a
_piano_ which only gurgles in the throat, or deeper! That I do not mean:
I must refer you again to the three trifles mentioned in my eighth

"But some voices have no _piano_, and many singers do not take the right
course to acquire it."

_Answer._ What a wide-spread, groundless excuse! Here we may see the
error of our times. People look for the fault outside of themselves, and
not in themselves. The inventive power of the age is here truly
astonishing! When, owing to false management, the voice soon degenerates
instead of improving with time, it is the consequence of a faulty
formation of the throat, and of the neglect of London throat brushes! If
such badly educated voices can no longer produce a _piano_, it is owing
to the unskilfulness of nature, and to the false construction of the
necessary organs! If the _piano_ is only a wheeze, the reason is found
in the deficiency of palate, and excess of muscles! If several times in
the month, the worn out, weary voice can only groan and sigh, or cannot
emit a sound, it is the result of a change in the weather, or other
meteorological conditions! If we complain of unpleasant, shrieking
tones, occasioned by the mouth being too widely stretched, then "the
rays of sound take an oblique, instead of a direct course"! If the poor,
strained medium voice, even with the help of a great deal of breath, can
only produce dull, hollow, veiled, and unpleasant tones, that is said to
be a necessary crisis, of which cruel Nature requires a great many in
the course of her development of the voice! Finally, if from long and
forced holding of the chest-tones, they are changed into noises like the
bellowing of calves and the quacking of ducks, and the instructor
finally perceives it, then again we have a crisis! And, alas! no one
thinks of "the three trifles."

       *       *       *       *       *

What occasions the want of success of our singing-teachers, many of whom
are musical, possess a delicate ear, fine culture and feeling, have
studied systems of singing, and exert themselves zealously to teach

They fail in the culture of the tone, which is not to be learned from
books or by one's self, but only from verbal communication. To learn to
produce a clear tone, with a light, free, natural attack; to understand
how to draw forth the sound with the use of no unnecessary breath, and
to cause the sound to strike against the roof of the mouth above the
upper row of teeth; to improve the pronunciation; to adjust the
registers,--these, with many other things, may seem very easy; but to
teach them all in the shortest time, without wearing out the voice and
without falling into errors; to persevere in teaching to the end, even
if the pupil already sings correctly; to know what is still wanting and
how it is to be attained,--all these one must acquire by long and
constant experience.

When Schröder-Devrient came from Vienna to Dresden, a young but already
celebrated singer, though at that time wanting in the proper foundation
for singing, she was not a little surprised when Miksch called her
attention to this deficiency. She devoted herself thoroughly to the
primary formation of the tone under the instruction of Miksch, and must
still remember the old master, and his extraordinary practice in this
particular. Miksch learned it from Caselli, a pupil of Bernacchi. He had
just sung as a young tenor, with great applause, in a concert, and
introduced himself to Caselli, who was present, expecting to receive
his approbation; but the latter, instead of commending, assured him
frankly that his mode of singing was false, and that with such misuse
his voice would succumb within a year, unless he adopted a correct
culture of tone. After much hard struggle, the young Miksch renounced
all further public applause, and studied the formation of tone
assiduously and perseveringly with Caselli, after having previously
allowed his over-strained voice a time for rest.

If a singing-teacher has, by chance, met with a docile pupil, possessed
of a voice of unusual beauty, it frequently happens that the studies are
not pursued with sufficient perseverance; and, perhaps, are continued
only for a few weeks or months, instead of allowing a year or more,
according to circumstances. Richard Wagner agrees with me, when he says,
"Why, then, write operas to be sung, when we no longer have either male
or female singers?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Since modern progress has come to regard "the three trifles" as
belonging entirely to the past, and in their place has proclaimed,
"Boldness, Spirit, Power," two evil spirits have had rule: they go hand
in hand, ruin the voice, wound the cultivated ear, and provide for
us--only empty opera houses. One of these evils has been frequently
alluded to by me. It is "the expenditure of a great deal too much
breath." The finest voices are obliged to practise with full breath
until they shriek, and the result is mere sobbing, and the heavy drawing
of the breath, just at the time when the tone should still be heard.
Even if every thing else could be right, in such a culture of the tone,
which must very shortly relax the muscles of the voice, that one thing,
in itself, would be sufficient to destroy all promise of success.

The second evil endangers even the male voice, which is able to endure
much ill-treatment; while the female voice is quickly forced by it into
a piercing shrillness, or is driven back into the throat, soon to be
entirely exhausted, or is, at least, prevented from attaining a natural,
fine development. This second evil is the reckless and destructive
straining of single tones to their extreme limits, even to perfect
exhaustion. The poor singer urges and squeezes out the voice, and
quivers to the innermost marrow, in order that the two requirements of
"Boldness" and "Power" may be satisfied. But the "Spirit" is still
wanting, which should be shown in a light and well-shaded delivery. The
effect of extreme shading, however, is accomplished in a single
"romanza." The unfortunate, misdirected singer, who must aim at effect,
lays out so much force on single tones, or even on whole lines, and
that, too, in the best register of his voice (the other registers do not
permit this), that the succeeding tones are forced to retire powerless
into the throat; and the beautiful, fresh, youthful tenor or bass voice
concludes with exhausted groaning and mere speaking tones. The "romanza"
is now at an end, and certainly "Boldness, Spirit, and Power" have
worked in union. The task is executed the better, because a rude
accompaniment has probably sustained the singer in a most striking
manner, and has completed the total effect.

By such management, to which I must emphatically add the continual
holding of the tones, even in the _forte_, voices are expected "to come
out," to be developed, inspired, and made beautiful. What healthy ear
can endure such enormities in tone formation, such tortures in singing?
These, then, are the modern contributions for the embellishment of art!
A curse on these evil spirits! If my feeble pen shall assist in bringing
such singing-teachers to their senses, and shall help to save only a
few of our fine voices, I shall consider my mission fulfilled, and the
aim of this book, so far as it concerns singing, accomplished.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have heretofore combated many prejudices, both in earnest and in
sport, successfully and unsuccessfully; but one I find very
obstinate,--it has pursued me incessantly for years. A piano-player,
with a rigid, strained, and vicious touch, proceeding from the arm, may
play a great deal, but his playing is thoroughly vulgar and without
beauty. He feels this himself, and the playing of my pupils pleases him
better. He wishes me to change his style to their better manner; but he
still continues to pound, to bang, to exaggerate, and to play in his own
way, and only wishes his style to be improved, and his power of
execution to be increased. If a performer of this sort is not much more
than twenty years of age, something may yet be done for the improvement
of his touch, and consequently of his style of playing; but this is only
possible by laying aside all his accustomed pieces of music, and by
diligently practising, daily, small easy exercises, which must be played
delicately, with loose fingers, and without allowing the arm to give the
slightest assistance; otherwise, all labor will be thrown away upon
him. How else can you begin, except by laying a proper foundation for a
better style? I have frequently urged this principle both by speech and
in writing; but the difficulty always returns, and especially in the
cultivation of female singers.

A girl of eighteen comes to me: she has heard of the excellent
cultivation of my lady singers, and wishes to obtain the same for
herself. In order that I may hear her voice, she selects the "Erlkönig,"
by Schubert, that perilous piece, which is apt to lead even highly
cultivated singers into frightful atrocities. Heavens! what must I hear?
With the remains of a fine, youthful voice, whose registers are already
broken up and disconnected, she shrieks out the "Erlkönig," between sobs
and groans, with screwed-up chest-tones, and many modern improprieties,
but nevertheless with dramatic talent. The piercing voice, forced to its
utmost, fills me with horror; but also with pity for such a glorious
endowment, and such an unnatural development. At the conclusion, her
voice succumbed to the effort, and she could only groan hoarsely, and
wheeze without emitting a sound. She has, however, frequently produced
great effect in society, and drawn tears with this performance: it is
her favorite piece. Let us abandon this singing for parties, this
melancholy _dilettantismus_, everywhere so obtrusive! The girl is only
eighteen years old: is she beyond salvation? I endeavor to build her
voice up again, gradually, by gentle practice. She succeeds very well in
it, and after six lessons her natural docility arouses hope. The
head-tones again make their appearance, and the practice of _solfeggio_
brings out once more the stifled voice which had been forced back into
the throat by senseless exertions; a better attack begins to be
developed, and the chest-register returns to its natural limits. She now
declared, with her mother's approval, that she really would continue to
study in this way, but she could not give up the performance of her
effective and spirited conception of the "Erlkönig." She came a few
times more: I could perceive that the good structure was tottering.
After a few months, she had entirely sacrificed her voice to this single
"Erlkönig." In such tender years, one such idol is sufficient. What a
price for an "Erlkönig"! The old, experienced singing-teacher, Miksch,
of Dresden (with the exception of Rossini, the last famous champion of
the old school), has often warned me that radical amendment is seldom
possible with such over-strained and broken voices, which already are
obliged to struggle with enfeebled muscles, even although youth may
excite great and decided hopes. There is also another difficulty: that
one of these strong, over-strained voices must hereafter be used with
much less strength, if we wish to cultivate a correct tone; and it is
impossible to tell whether the chest-tones, when they are restored to
their true limit, will ever come out again as powerful and at the same
time as beautiful. Let no musician, however talented and cultivated he
may be, ever adopt the teaching of singing, unless he can combine with
firmness of character great patience, perseverance, and
disinterestedness; otherwise, he will experience very little pleasure
and very little gratitude. Even if the "Erlkönig" does not stand in the
way, every voice presents new and peculiar difficulties.

_A Few Words addressed to Singing-Teachers on the Accompaniment of
Etudes, Exercises, Scales, &c._

It is common for teachers to play their accompaniments as furiously as
if they had to enter into a struggle for life and death with their
singers. At the beginning of the lesson, the lady singer ought to
commence quite _piano_, at _f_ in the one-lined octave, and to sing up
and down from there through five or six notes, without any expenditure
of breath, and should guide and bring out her voice by a gentle practice
of _solfeggio_; and yet you bang, and pound on the keys, as if you had
to accompany drums and trumpets. Do you not perceive that in this way
you induce your pupils to strain and force their voices, and that you
mislead them into a false method? In such a noise, and while you are
making such a monstrous expenditure of strength, to which you add a
sharp, uneasy touch, and a frequent spreading of the chords, how can you
watch the delicate movements of the singer's throat? Is it necessary for
me to explain how such a rude accompaniment must interfere with the
effort to sing firmly and delicately? Are you not aware that a light and
agreeable, but at the same time firm and decided, accompaniment
encourages and sustains the singer, and also assists and inspires her?
You ought, in every way, to seek to cultivate in your pupil the feeling
for the right, the true, and the beautiful; but what is the girl of
eighteen to think of _your_ culture and _your_ sentiment, if you pound
the keys as if you were one of the "piano-furies"?

While this is your mode of accompanying the études, how then do you
accompany the aria, the song? If, for instance, the pupil is singing
tenderly, and wishes to bring out an artistic, delicate shading, you
take advantage of that occasion to make yourself heard, and to annoy the
singer and the audience with your rough shading. A singing-teacher who
does not take pains to acquire a good, delicate touch, and who neglects
to pay constant attention to it, is wanting in the first requirement;
and this is closely connected with the want of "the three trifles."



_Her daughter_ FATIMA, _eighteen years old_.
_Towards the end of the evening, the piano-teacher_, MR. FEEBLE.

DOMINIE (_rather anxiously to Fatima_). Will you do me the favor, Miss,
to play something on the piano? Your aunt has told me a great deal about
your playing.

FATIMA (_smiling graciously_). But, really, the piano is out of
tune,--so my teacher says.

DOMINIE. But does not your teacher attend to having your piano always
kept in tune?

FATIMA. Mamma says it is too expensive to have it tuned so often; it
gets out of tune again so quickly. It is an old, small-legged piano, as
you see: mamma is always saying, when I am older I shall have a
Chickering. The tuner comes regularly once in three months; the time is
not yet up.

DOMINIE. But is your teacher satisfied with the tuning of your piano?

FATIMA. Well, he has got used to it. It is the same with the other
instruments he teaches on.

MRS. N. Now, pet, play us something. Mr. Dominie likes music; he is a
judge of it; his daughters play too.

FATIMA. But what shall I play, mamma?

MRS. N. You have got heaps of notes there. Mr. Dominie, pray select

DOMINIE. But I don't know which pieces Miss Fatima can master, and which
she has now at her fingers' ends.

AUNT. Pray, Mr. Dominie, choose any thing. They are all fine pieces. It
makes no difference to her which she plays.

DOMINIE. But do you play that whole heap?

AUNT. She has played it all. She has played ever since she was ten years
old, and she has a very good teacher. He taught here when my sister used
to accompany her lover's solos on the flute. Oh, those were charming
musical evenings! And the teacher often played the guitar with them
_extempore_. It was just like a concert.

DOMINIE. Indeed! that must have been very fine. Now, Miss, I beg--

FATIMA. But, mamma, just say what I shall play.

DOMINIE. Is not your teacher here this evening? He will know best.

AUNT (_whispers to Dominie_). He is busy this evening, composing some
grand bravoura variations, which are to be dedicated to Fatima on her
eighteenth birthday, the day after to-morrow. You must come to see us on
that day. Fatima will play them at sight.

MRS. N. Fatima, don't hold back any longer. Play "The Huguenots" by
Thalberg: that's a very fine piece.

DOMINIE. Pray do! I have not heard it since I heard Thalberg play it.

AUNT (_to Dominie_). Don't you make your daughters play it then? Oh,
that magnificent choral! That brings tears to my eyes! But the dear
child always takes it too fast: her fingers run away with her.

MRS. N. Here it is. Please turn round so that you can see her hands, Mr.
Dominie. You are such a famous teacher, perhaps you can make some
suggestions. (_I was expected only to admire._)

DOMINIE. I don't like to disturb her freedom in playing; but I will turn
round, if you say so.

     (_Fatima scurries through the piece excitedly, and plays in a bold
     way,--not, however, without ability, but with a feeble touch,
     without proper fingering, without tone, without time; and gets over
     the first two pages, with her foot always on the pedal, in such a
     senseless, indistinct manner that Dominie, in despair, was forced
     to interrupt with the remark, "But you might take the _tempo_ a
     little more quietly."_)

     (_Fatima leans back amazed, and stops playing, looking at her
     mother with a contemptuous expression._)

AUNT. It is owing to her great execution, and then, too, her youthful
enthusiasm. Don't you like her natural expression?

FATIMA. My teacher always makes me play it so. It is in that way that I
have learned to play so much at sight.

DOMINIE. But don't you study your pieces?

FATIMA. For the last four years I have played only at sight, so that now
I can get on anywhere in the musical clubs. That is what mamma likes.

DOMINIE. But do you not play any scales and études? do you not practise
any exercises?

AUNT. She has not done those things for the last four years. My sister
thinks it is rather a hindrance, and is too pedantic. Her teacher
thinks so too, and he teaches her the fine concert pieces of Döhler,
Liszt, Dreyschock, Willmer, and Thalberg. She learns execution by these.
She has gone through all Thalberg's music; and we have sent to Leipzig
for Willmer's "Pompa di Festa."

DOMINIE. All this shows great enthusiasm, but really a little too much
hot haste.

     (_Dominie wishes to continue the conversation, in order to escape
     the unpleasant necessity of "turning round to the piano."_)

MRS. N. (_interrupts_). My child, just begin again at the beginning, and
let us enjoy the whole of "The Huguenots." Mr. Dominie likes it.

     (_Fatima consents, and hurries through the whole Potpourri with a
     confident, conceited air, to the great despair of Dominie. At the
     choral, the aunt taps him on the shoulder, and whispers._)

AUNT. Is not that touching? It is a little too fast, you will agree; but
then the execution! Has not the girl a great deal of talent? Just hear!

       *       *       *       *       *

But what did Dominie say after the performance was over? He only bowed
stiffly, and what he said to himself will always remain a secret. He
only _felt_.

They go in to supper. All who submitted to hearing the daughter perform
on the badly tuned piano, which was at least a tone and a half too low,
were invited to supper and handsomely treated. The wine was better than
the piano. Presently the teacher, Mr. Feeble, having finished his
birthday bravoura composition, appeared and was introduced. Fatima
whispered to him, giggling, "I played the whole of 'The Huguenots;' it
went splendidly." Mr. Feeble simpered. Dominie and he talked together,
unheard, at the end of the table.

       *       *       *       *       *

DOMINIE. The young lady has talent, Mr. Feeble.

MR. FEEBLE. Indeed she has!

DOMINIE. How is it, Mr. Feeble, that she does not combine serious
studies with her playing?

MR. FEEBLE. Oh! I used to make her play exercises by A.E. Mueller, and
some Etudes of Czerny's, and sometimes a few scales. But the child was
so volatile, and had so little perseverance, and was so quick at
learning every thing! And then her mother wanted her to play modern
pieces for parties, and we had to busy ourselves with those. But our
method has borne good fruit, as you can see. Is not it so?

DOMINIE. Do you not think, with firmness and decision, you could have
set Mrs. N. on the right track? Could not you cultivate the mechanical
powers of your pupil, and combine an understanding of the musical
construction of the piece, with her "playing at sight"? The young lady,
not to speak of other faults, has no tone on the piano.

MR. FEEBLE. She can use the pedal for that, and, when she is older, she
will acquire more strength; her touch is a little too weak at present.
And, besides, she is not to play in public for money, but only in
company, and because it is the fashion. Indeed, my dear sir, if I
insisted on scales and exercises, I should have very few lessons in this
city. I have a wife and children to support, and my old father, the
former organist, is dependent upon me. You can do all this with your own
children; but think how much time it requires to _study_ the music!

     (_The company bid each other "good-night."_)

FATIMA (_flippantly to Dominie_). I believe your daughter Emma is a very
good player; but they say she has not so much talent as your eldest

DOMINIE. Indeed! who told you that?



_(A Discourse on Piano-Playing, delivered to an Audience of Lady

Ladies,--As I am about to make a journey of a few weeks with my
daughters, we will suspend for a short time our musical meetings. On my
return, you will resume them with fresh interest. We will then not only
play and sing together, but occasionally talk upon kindred subjects.
Your friends will be made welcome, provided they are really interested
in simple and noble musical performances, which make no attempt at
display. We will exclude from our circle malicious criticism and idle
curiosity: we require the accompaniment of the violin and 'cello, but
not of those two disturbing elements.

To-day I wish to propound a query in regard to piano-playing, to the
partial solution of which you will perhaps be glad to give some
attention. You may be sure that I shall always speak only upon subjects
which are not even mentioned in the most crowded piano-schools.

_Query._ Why is it that our young, educated ladies, who enjoy the
advantages of sufficient talent, industry, a serious purpose, and all
the necessary aids, are usually dissatisfied with their progress and
with their success in piano-playing?

Their education is a sufficiently careful one, extending to all branches
of knowledge; but their intellectual advancement in music (although it
has been fostered for years, by constantly listening to good music, and
frequently to the performances of distinguished players, and by a
critical comparison of their own performances with these) is still small
in proportion to their power of execution, and to the mechanical
facility which they have acquired. These are certainly essential to a
correct and agreeable rendering of a piece of music: the compositions
which are to be performed ought, however, never to demand the exercise
of all the mechanical skill which has been acquired, for in that case,
by the struggle with mechanical difficulties, only embarrassment,
discouragement, and anxious haste are apt to take the place of boldness,
confidence in one's self, and command of the music. It is the duty of
teachers, in choosing studies for the improvement of technique, to
select only such as are within the mechanical powers of the pupil, in
order that he may make steady progress, and may acquire a pure and
delicate style of execution, retaining at the same time a lively
interest in his pursuit. But why has the acquirement of this technique
been usually unsuccessful?

1. Because you begin to acquire it too late. In order to gain facility
and flexibility of the fingers and wrist (which a child in the sixth or
seventh year, with a skilful teacher, may acquire in four lessons), from
fifteen to twenty lessons, according to the construction of the hand,
are necessary with persons from ten to fourteen years old. For other
reasons also, we must urge that the mechanical facility should usually
be acquired, or at least a complete foundation for it laid in childhood,
and not left to be formed by a course which is destructive of all
spirit, at an age when labor is performed with self-consciousness,--an
age when our ladies are talking a great deal of musical interpretations,
of tenderness and depth of feeling, of poetry and inspiration in
playing, to which they are led by the possession of our classical piano
compositions and immortal master-works, and by intellectual friends and
teachers aiming at the highest culture. You reply: "But even if your
mode of elementary instruction should meet with faithful disciples, how,
in such young pupils, are we to find perseverance and sense enough to
continue these severe exercises, even in your interesting manner?" My
dear ladies, children ought to do it merely from habit, although in many
cases, after the beginning, talent and correct musical instinct may make
their appearance. Uninterrupted enjoyment would indeed be unnatural, and
where you find it vanity will usually be its moving spring, and this
seldom bears good fruit. You may as well ask whether our great literary
men and artists always like to go to school, or whether they did not
delight in a holiday. Let this be the answer to the strange question, Do
your daughters like to play? Good heavens! After they are able to play,
and that without much effort, and a little at sight; when they can
master, with a musical appreciation, easy, graceful salon music, or even
the easier compositions of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Hummel,
Moscheles, &c.,--then they take pleasure in playing, and they play a
great deal, and with enthusiasm.

2. But, in case children should sometimes begin in their sixth year, you
must remember what is said, in the first chapter of this work, with
regard to the prevalent false method of teaching beginners. You,
however, are supposed to have had better and more sensible teachers. Let
me nevertheless quote for your amusement the remark which I have heard
so frequently in the course of my long life as a piano-teacher: "In the
beginning, a poor, rattling piano, that is forty years old, and that is
tuned regularly once a year, and a cheap teacher, will do well enough.
As soon as the children learn to play really well, then we will have a
better piano and a better teacher." Yes; but that time never comes, and
the parents soon conclude that even the most gifted children have no
talent, and take no pleasure in music; and so they stop learning, only
to regret it when they are older. But the parents console themselves,
and after a while the old piano is never tuned at all. But, as I have
told you, I do not refer here to _your_ teachers, for whom I have a
personal regard, and who teach on excellent pianos.

3. Don't be angry with me for my suggestion, ladies: _you do not make
enough use of the minutes_. While our learned education absorbs so much
time, while our friends require so many hours, while, alas! balls and
dinners consume whole days, we must be sparing of the remaining minutes.

"Now I must rush to the piano! I must go to dinner in ten minutes: two
scales, two finger exercises, two difficult passages out of the piece I
have to learn, and one exercise to invent on the dominant and
sub-dominant, are soon done; and then the dinner will taste all the

"My dear Agnes, we might talk for ever about this dreadful snow, it
won't melt the sooner for it: how do you like this passage that I am
going to play to you? It is from a charming Nocturne, by Chopin, and is
so difficult that I shall have to play it over fifty times, or else I
shall always stumble at this place, and I never shall know the Nocturne
to play to any one. Don't you think it is beautiful?--so spiritual and
original! I can tell you it will be something to boast of, when I have
accomplished that. You like it better the oftener I play it? So do I."

"We have an invitation out. Mother has a great deal to arrange, and
directions to give. We shall have to go in ten minutes. I must rush to
the piano, though I am in rather an inconvenient toilette: I may as well
accustom myself to play in it. I shall have to spend three hours this
evening without any music. Well, to make up for it, I will occupy myself
for the next ten minutes with an exercise for this obstinate fourth
finger, though it is pretty dry. That weak finger has been a hindrance
to many a fine passage and scale. That is better! Now I can put on my
tight gloves. Suppose I should put on the left glove on the way."

Well, my young ladies, how many hours do you think all those minutes
would make in a year? But I hear you say, "What is the use of worrying
to pick up all those stray minutes, like lost pins? We have a whole hour
to practise every day, when nothing prevents." Exactly, when nothing

I will now tell you a few of my secrets for piano performers.

If in piano-playing, or in any art, you wish to attain success, you must
resolve to work every day, at least a little, on the technique. Sickness
and other unavoidable interruptions deprive you of days enough.

Practise always with unexhausted energy: the result will be tenfold. Do
you not frequently use the time for practising, when you have already
been at work studying for five or six hours? Have you then strength and
spirit enough to practise the necessary exercises for an hour or more,
and to study your music-pieces carefully and attentively, as your
teacher instructed you? Is not your mind exhausted, and are not your
hands and fingers tired and stiff with writing, so that you are tempted
to help out with your arms and elbows, which is worse than no practice
at all? But, my dear ladies, if you practise properly, several times
every day, ten minutes at a time, your strength and your patience are
usually sufficient for it; and, if you are obliged to omit your regular
"hour's practice," you have, at any rate, accomplished something with
your ten minutes before breakfast, or before dinner, or at any leisure
moment. So, I beg of you, let me have my minutes.

Practise often, slowly, and without pedal, not only the smaller and
larger études, but also your pieces. In that way you gain, at least, a
correct, healthy mode of playing, which is the foundation of beautiful
playing. Do you do this when neither your teacher, nor your father or
mother is present to keep watch over you? Do you never say, "Nobody is

Do you take enough healthy exercise in the open air? Active exercise, in
all weather, makes strong, enduring piano fingers, while subsisting on
indoor-air results in sickly, nervous, feeble, over-strained playing.
Strong, healthy fingers are only too essential for our present style of
piano-playing, which requires such extraordinary execution, and for our
heavy instruments. So I still beg for the minutes: your walks take up
hours enough.

Excessive and fatiguing feminine occupations, and drawing, or painting,
are by no means consistent with an earnest, practical musical education;
not only because both those occupations require so much time, but
because they deprive the fingers of the requisite pliability and
dexterity, while knitting, according to the latest discoveries, produces
an unnatural nervous excitement, which is unfavorable to healthy
progress in music. I at least, in my instruction on the piano, have
never been able to accomplish much with ladies who are devoted to
knitting, crochet, and embroidering. My dear ladies, you who have been
born in fortunate circumstances, and have been educated by your parents,
without regard to expense, should, at least, allow the poor girl in the
country, who is obliged to hide her talents under a bushel, the small
privilege of making a collar for your mother's or your aunt's birthday
present. I assure you your mother or your aunt, if you surprise them
instead with a fine piano performance, will be as much pleased as if you
strained your eyes and bent your back for days and nights over the
needle-work. And now as regards painting: painting and music, though
theoretically so nearly related, agree but poorly in practice; at least,
if you are in earnest about either. You say painters often play on the
guitar and the flute. That may be true: I will allow them those two
instruments. But piano-playing stands on a different footing, even for
mere amateurs. Sweet melodies on those instruments may afford an
agreeable companionship for the painter in his rambles through the woods
and over the hills; but piano-playing should be the friend of a
life-time, ennobled by the elevating enjoyment of lofty master-works.
Therefore, I beg you, do not dissipate your powers too much. Leave the
art of painting to your friends, who are either without talent for
music, or who have no opportunity to study it. Our short lives do not
allow the successful practice of several arts. Of what advantage to our
higher culture is it to be able to do ten things tolerably well; what
gain for the future, for humanity, or for the true happiness of the
individual? And even if you can succeed in painting something which
scarcely can be said to resemble a rose, of what advantage is it, when
we have so many real roses to admire?

My dear ladies, I warn you, generally, do not be afraid of the
so-called classical, heavy music, especially Beethoven's, if you desire
to learn from it, only or chiefly, repose, lightness, facility,
elasticity, graceful, delicate playing, and a fine touch. It is
necessary to play such music after those brilliant qualities have
already been, to a certain degree, acquired by mere studies and
appropriate pieces. It is, however, still more foolish and impractical,
when parents (who perhaps are skilful musicians, but who have no
recollection of their own youth) hold the mistaken opinion that their
children ought, from the very beginning, to practise and play only fine
classical music, in order that the children's ears may not be injured by
false progressions, by insignificant finger exercises, and by easily
comprehensible Italian airs, and that they themselves may not be ruined
body and soul. Gracious heavens! how much pure music, suited to the
piano, have not my daughters, as well as many others whom I have brought
up to be fine performers, played and studied!--such, for instance, as
the music of Hünten, Czerny, Burgmüller, Kalkbrenner, A. and J. Schmitt,
Herz, and many others. Who finds fault now with their musical culture,
with their sound taste, or their want of love for classical music? What
a long road a child has to travel through Etudes of Cramer, Moscheles,
and Chopin, before he comes to Bach's Well-tempered Clavichord, or
before he is able, or ought even, to study Beethoven's Sonate
Pathétique! It is not well, though quite in the spirit of the times, to
condemn without experience, from one's own prejudiced point of view, the
methods which those skilled in their business have for years
successfully tried and practised. It is possible to make pupils musical
in the above way, but they will be only dull, clumsy bunglers on the
piano; not fine artists, who alone can give a worthy and noble
interpretation of classical music. I desire that my daughters may never
forget my well-considered instructions, sustained by the experience of
many years; and that they may, in grateful remembrance of their father
and teacher, repay to their pupils what they owe to him.

But I see among my audience several beginners in singing, and I beg to
be allowed a word to them. So long as many of our German song composers
consider it beneath their dignity to study the art of singing in the old
Italian master-works, and under the guidance of well-qualified singing
masters,--as Gluck, Naumann, Hasse, Händel, Haydn, Mozart, Salieri,
Winter, and others have done,--I warn you to take care of your tender
voices, which are so easily ruined, and not to allow yourselves to be
misled by ingenious opinions, and by music otherwise good. The loss of
your voices follows in the footsteps of modern tortures in singing, as
you may see sufficiently in all our theatres, or, indeed, may experience
yourselves in numberless German songs. Apply also to singing what I have
just said about piano-playing: as you should choose for the piano music
suited to the piano, so for your studies in singing select only that
which is adapted to the voice; under the guidance of prudent and
educated teachers, not of modern voice breakers, who allow you to
scream, "in order to bring out the voice." When you have acquired a good
technique, when your attack is sure, and a certain skilfulness in
singing has been developed, then only you may try, by way of experiment,
a few pieces of such spirited but unskilled song composers, who
frequently commit sins in every line against correct representation, the
register of the voice, the breathings, the pronunciation, and a hundred
other things.

Look around and see who sing these so-called classical songs. They are
either singers who do not know what singing is, and who have no taste
for it, which, in consequence of their education, they never can have;
or those who no longer have any voice, and accordingly sing every thing,
or, rather, declaim it, because they cannot sing. I recommend you to
sing (to mention the names of two only of our most excellent song
composers) the charming songs of Fr. Schubert and Mendelssohn, who, in
constant intercourse with the most judicious masters of singing in
Vienna and Italy, have striven constantly to compose scientifically, and
have at the same time produced clever songs; but you should sing them
not too often, or too many of them. Singing in the German language, and
in syllables, and often with clumsy melodies, requires a great deal of
voice, and easily leads to many faults and to a false manner. Remember
how strictly Jenny Lind selected, for performance in her concerts, the
songs of Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann. In this way she succeeded
in winning great success, even with small, short songs.

Finally, one more secret for performers, which weighs heavy in the
balance. You ought, especially if you have not received good early
instruction, to acquire a habit of moving the fingers very frequently,
at every convenient opportunity; and particularly of letting them fall
loosely and lightly upon any hard object, while the hand lies upon
something firm, in an extended position.

You must accustom yourselves to do this unconsciously. For example,
while reading, at table, or while listening to music, allow your hand to
lie upon the table, raise the fingers, and let them fall, one at a time,
quite independently of the wrist; particularly the weak fourth and fifth
fingers, which require to be used a hundred times more than the others,
if you wish to acquire evenness in the scales. If it attracts attention
to do this on the table, then do it in your lap, or with one hand over
the other. To drum with your fingers and stretch your hands on the backs
of other people is not often practicable, and is not necessary. That was
only pardoned in the zealous and original Adolph Henselt, who, though
otherwise such a modest and amiable artist, even now, in St. Petersburg,
makes himself ridiculous in this way, by his practice of finger

Now you perceive the reason why I cannot answer the question which has
been asked me innumerable times. How much do your daughters practise? I
cannot count up the finger movements and the stray ten minutes just
spoken of; but it is certain that they practise fewer hours in the day
than many thousands who learn nothing, for they never practise and
never have practised wrongly, but always correctly and advantageously.

One thing more. After my experienced, watchful eye had observed in our
circle many moving fingers in consequence of my lecture, a distinguished
lady of Vienna whispered in my ear: "But, my dear Herr Wieck, my Amelia
is not to be a professional player: I only want her to learn a few of
the less difficult sonatas of Beethoven, to play correctly and fluently,
without notes." My dear ladies, I do not aim with you at any thing more
than this. A great many circumstances must combine for the formation of
fine concert performers; in fact, the whole education, from the earliest
youth, must have reference to this end. If this were not so, Germany
especially, on account of its natural musical talent, would be able
annually to furnish thousands of _virtuoso_ performers.

Has my lecture been too long to-day? I ask your pardon. My desire to
make myself useful to you must be my excuse, if I cannot dispose of such
an extensive subject in a few words. I have not yet exhausted it.



My daughters play the music of all the principal composers, and also the
best salon music. Limited views of any kind are injurious to art. It is
as great a mistake to play only Beethoven's music as to play none of it,
or to play either classical or salon music solely. If a teacher confines
himself to the study of the first, a good technique, a tolerably sound
style of playing, intelligence, and knowledge are generally sufficient
to produce an interpretation in most respects satisfactory. The music
usually compensates for a style which may be, according to
circumstances, either dry, cold, too monotonous or too strongly shaded,
and even for an indifferent or careless touch. Interest in the
composition frequently diverts the attention of even the best player
from a thoroughly correct and delicate mode of execution, and from the
effort to enhance the beauty of the composition, and to increase its
appreciation with the hearer. In the performance of classical music,
inspiration--that is, the revelation of an artistic nature and not
empty affectation--can be expected only from an artist, and not from a
pupil. Therefore, with more advanced pupils, I take up in my lessons, in
connection with a sonata by Beethoven, a nocturne or waltz by Chopin,
and a piece by St. Heller or Schulhoff, Henselt, C. Meyer, &c. Elegance
and polish, a certain coquetry, nicety, delicacy, and fine shading
cannot be perfected in the study of a sonata by Beethoven; for which,
however, the latter pieces present much greater opportunities. Besides
this, variety is much more sustaining to the learner; it excites his
interest; he does not so soon become weary, and is guarded from
carelessness; his artistic knowledge is increased, and he is agreeably
surprised to find himself able to perform three pieces so distinct in

       *       *       *       *       *

"Expression cannot be taught, it must come of itself." But when are we
to look for it? When the stiff fingers are fifty or sixty years old, and
the expression is imprisoned in them, so that nothing is ever to be
heard of it? This is a wide-spread delusion. Let us look at a few of
those to whom expression has come of itself. X. plays skilfully and
correctly, but his expression continues crude, cold, monotonous; he
shows too pedantic a solicitude about mechanical execution and strict
time; he never ventures on a _pp._, uses too little shading in _piano_,
and plays the _forte_ too heavily, and without regard to the instrument;
his _crescendi_ and _diminuendi_ are inappropriate, often coarse and
brought in at unsuitable places; and--his _ritardandi_! they are tedious
indeed! "But Miss Z. plays differently and more finely." Truly, she
plays differently; but is it more finely? Do you like this gentle violet
blue, this sickly paleness, these rouged falsehoods, at the expense of
all integrity of character? this sweet, embellished, languishing style,
this _rubato_ and dismembering of the musical phrases, this want of
time, and this sentimental trash? They both have talent, but their
expression was allowed to be developed of itself. They both would have
been very good players; but now they have lost all taste for the ideal,
which manifests itself in the domain of truth, beauty, and simplicity.
If pupils are left to themselves, they imitate the improper and
erroneous easily and skilfully; the right and suitable with difficulty,
and certainly unskilfully. Even the little fellow who can hardly speak
learns to use naughty, abusive words more quickly and easily than fine,
noble expressions. What school-master has not been surprised at this
facility, and what good old aunt has not laughed at it? But you say, "It
is not right to force the feelings of others!" That is quite
unnecessary; but it is possible to rouse the feelings of others, to
guide and educate them, without prejudicing their individuality of
feeling, and without restraining or disturbing them, unless they are on
the wrong path. Who has not listened to performers and singers who were
otherwise musical, but whose sentiment was either ridiculous or

       *       *       *       *       *

It is generally acknowledged that, among other things, I have succeeded
more or less with all my scholars in the attainment of a fine touch.
People desire to obtain from me the requisite exercises for the
development of this; but not much can be gained from these. The
important thing is _how_ and _when_ they are to be used; and that most
careful attention shall be paid in the selection of other études and
pieces, in order that nothing shall be played which shall endanger the
confirmation of the correct touch already acquired, or shall undo what
has been accomplished in the lessons. As I have said before, it does not
depend upon much practising, but upon correct practising; and that the
pupils shall not be allowed to fall into errors. I am constantly asked,
"How many hours a day do your daughters practise?" If the number of
hours spent in practising gives the measure of the standing of a
_virtuoso_, then my daughters are among the most insignificant, or in
fact should not belong to the order at all.

This is the place for me to explain myself more fully with regard to
playing with a loose wrist, in order that I shall not be misunderstood.
The tones which are produced with a loose wrist are always more tender
and more attractive, have a fuller sound, and permit more delicate
shading than the sharp tones, without body, which are thrown or fired
off or tapped out with unendurable rigidity by the aid of the arm and
fore-arm. A superior technique can with few exceptions be more quickly
and favorably acquired in this way than when the elbows are required to
contribute their power. I do not, however, censure the performance of
many _virtuosos_, who execute rapid octave passages with a stiff wrist;
they often do it with great precision, in the most rapid _tempo_,
forcibly and effectively. It must, after all, depend upon individual
peculiarities whether the pupil can learn better and more quickly to
play such passages thus or with a loose wrist. The present style of
bravoura playing for _virtuosos_ cannot dispense with facility in octave
passages; it is a necessary part of it.

I will now consider the use of loose and independent fingers, in playing
generally; _i.e._, in that of more advanced pupils who have already
acquired the necessary elementary knowledge. The fingers must be set
upon the keys with a certain decision, firmness, quickness, and vigor,
and must obtain a command over the key-board; otherwise, the result is
only a tame, colorless, uncertain, immature style of playing, in which
no fine _portamento_, no poignant _staccato_, or sprightly accentuation
can be produced. Every thoughtful teacher, striving for the best result,
must, however, take care that this shall only be acquired gradually, and
must teach it with a constant regard to individual peculiarities, and
not at the expense of beauty of performance, and of a tender, agreeable

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a mortifying fact for many critics, artists, composers, and
teachers, that the general public show much more correct judgment and
appreciation of a fine, noble piano performance, and of a simple, pure,
well-taught style of singing, and also understand the characteristics
of the performer, much more quickly than they do. The sensibility and
appreciation of beauty with the public is less prejudiced, less
spurious, more receptive, and more artless. Its perceptions are not
disturbed by theories, by a desire to criticise, and many other
secondary matters. The public do not take a biassed or stilted view. The
admiration for Jenny Lind is a striking proof of this, as is also the
appreciation of many piano-players.

       *       *       *       *       *

The age of progress announces, in piano-playing also, "a higher beauty"
than has hitherto existed. Now, I demand of all the defenders of this
new style, wherein is this superior beauty supposed to consist? It is
useless to talk, in a vague way, about a beauty which no one can
explain. I have listened to the playing--no, the thrumming and
stamping--of many of these champions of the modern style of beauty; and
I have come to the conclusion, according to my way of reasoning, that it
ought to be called a higher,--quite different, inverted beauty,--a
deformed beauty, repugnant to the sensibilities of all mankind. But our
gifted "age of the future" protests against such cold conservatism. The
period of piano fury which I have lived to see, and which I have just
described, was the introduction to this new essay, only a feeble
attempt, and a preliminary to this piano future. Should this senseless
raging and storming upon the piano, where not one idea can be
intelligently expressed in a half-hour, this abhorrent and rude
treatment of a grand concert piano, combined with frightful misuse of
both pedals, which puts the hearer into agonies of horror and spasms of
terror, ever be regarded as any thing but a return to barbarism, devoid
of feeling and reason? This is to be called music! music of the future!
the beauty of the future style! Truly, for this style of music, the ears
must be differently constructed, the feelings must be differently
constituted, and a different nervous system must be created! For this
again we shall need surgeons, who lie in wait in the background with the
throat improvers. What a new and grand field of operations lies open to
them! Our age produces monsters, who are insensible to the plainest
truths, and who fill humanity with horror. Political excesses have
hardly ceased, when still greater ones must be repeated in the world of
music. But comfort yourselves, my readers: these isolated instances of
madness, these last convulsions of musical insanity, with however much
arrogance they may be proclaimed, will not take the world by storm. The
time will come when no audience, not even eager possessors of
complimentary tickets, but only a few needy hirelings, will venture to
endure such concert performances of "the future."

       *       *       *       *       *

I ought to express myself more fully with regard to expression in
piano-playing. It is difficult to perform this task, at least in
writing; for it can more easily be practically explained to individual
learners. Intelligent teachers, who are inclined to understand my
meaning, will find abundant material, as well as all necessary
explanations, in the preceding chapters; and I will merely say that a
teacher who is endowed with the qualities which I have designated as
"the three trifles" will seek to excite the same in his pupils; will
refine and cultivate them, according to his ability, with
disinterestedness, with energy, and with perseverance; and truth and
beauty will everywhere be the result. Thus he will remain in the
present, where there is so much remaining to be accomplished. These
three trifles certainly do not have their root in folly, want of talent,
and hare-brained madness; therefore the possessors of the latter must
look to the "future," and proclaim a "higher," that is, an "inverted

_Rules for Piano Pupils._

You must never begin to learn a second piece until you have entirely
conquered the first.

You ought to fix your eyes very carefully on the notes, and not to trust
to memory; otherwise, you will never learn to play at sight.

In order to avoid the habit of false fingering, you should not play any
piece which is not marked for the proper fingers.

You should learn to play chords and skipping notes, without looking at
the keys, as this interferes with a prompt reading of the notes.

You must learn to count nicely in playing, in order always to keep
strict time.

To use for once the language of the times, which boldly proclaims, "Such
things as these belong to a stand-point which we have already reached,"
I wish that the musicians of "the future" may as happily reach their
"stand-point," not by hollow phrases and flourishes, and the threshing
of empty straws, but by practical, successful efforts, and striving for
that which is better.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What is the value of your method, in the instruction of pupils who have
for years played many pieces from notes, but have played them badly,
and whom we are called upon to lead into a better way of playing?"

A reply to this frequent inquiry can be found in my first chapter. Above
all things, let the notes which have already been played be laid aside
for a long time; for a mistaken style of playing these has become so
confirmed that to improve them is hopeless, and the tottering edifice
must fall to the ground. First, improve the touch; help to acquire a
better and more connected scale; teach the formation of different
cadences on the dominant and sub-dominant; and the construction of
various passages on the chord of the diminished seventh, to be played
with correct, even, and quiet fingering, _legato_ and _staccato_,
_piano_, and _forte_; pay strict attention to the use of loose fingers
and a loose wrist; and allow no inattentive playing. You may soon take
up, with these studies, some entirely unfamiliar piece of music, suited
to the capacity of the pupil. It is not possible or desirable to attempt
to make a sudden and thorough change with such pupils, even if they
should show the best intentions and docility. You should select a light,
easy piece of salon music, but of a nature well adapted to the piano,
which shall not be wearisome to the pupil, and in the improved
performance of which he will take pleasure. But, if you still find that
he falls into the old, faulty manner of playing, and that the recently
acquired technique, which has not yet become habitual, is endangered by
it, lay this too aside, and take instead some appropriate étude, or
perhaps a little prelude by Bach. If, in the place of these, you choose
for instruction a ponderous sonata, in which the music would distract
the attention of the pupil from the improved technique, you give up the
most important aim of your instruction, and occupy yourself with
secondary matters; you will censure and instruct in vain, and will never
attain success. You must consider, reflect, and give your mind to the
peculiar needs of the pupil, and you must teach in accordance with the
laws of psychology. You will succeed after a while, but precipitation,
compulsion, and disputes are useless. The improvement of a soprano
voice, ruined by over-screaming, requires prudence, patience, calmness,
and modesty, and a character of a high type generally. It is also a very
thankless task, and success is rare; while on the piano a fair result
may always be accomplished.

       *       *       *       *       *

I return once more to the subject so frequently discussed, that I may
try to relieve the universal difficulty of our lady pianists. I have
heard much playing of late, in parties both small and large, on
well-tuned and on ill-tuned pianos, on those with which the performer
was familiar, and on those to which she was unaccustomed; from the timid
and the self-possessed; from ladies of various ages, possessed of more
or of less talent, and in various cities: the result was always the

We hear from the ladies that they could play their pieces at home before
their parents or their teachers; but this is never sufficient to enable
them to save their hearers from weariness, anxiety, and all sorts of
embarrassment. My honored ladies, you play over and over again two
mazourkas, two waltzes, two nocturnes, and the Funeral March of Chopin,
the Mazourka and other pieces by Schulhoff, the Trill-Etude, and the
Tremolo by Carl Meyer, &c.: "it makes no difference to you which." You
might be able to master these pieces pretty well, but, instead of this,
you yourselves are mastered. You become embarrassed, and your hearers
still more so: the affair ends with apologies on both sides, with
equivocal compliments, with encouragement to continue in the same
course, with acknowledgment of fine hands for the piano, with uneasy,
forced congratulations to the parents and teacher; but it is always a
happy moment when the fatal soirée is over. The next day I am forced to
sigh again over the same, miserable, poorly and tediously performed
Funeral March of Chopin, and over the timorous B major Mazourka by
Schulhoff. The left hand is always left in the lurch in the difficult,
skipping basses of this piece, and in others of the present style, which
are rich in harmony and modulations. The bass part in this piece is apt
to suffer from timid and false tones; frequently the fundamental tone is
omitted, or the little finger remains resting upon it, instead of giving
the eighth note with a crisp, elastic, and sprightly touch, and the
chords are tame and incomplete. You do not give them their full value;
you leave them too quickly, because you are afraid of not striking the
next low note quickly enough; but, on the other hand, you do not strike
it at all, and one missing tone brings another one after it. The right
hand, being the most skilful, is supposed to play with expression, and
really does so; but this only makes the performance the worse. The
fundamental tone is wanting, and you are led to make a mistake in the
skip, and strike the wrong key. Finally, the whole thing is ended in
terror. I have an uneasy night; I dream of your fine hands, but the
false and the weak notes start up between like strange spectres or will
o' the wisps, and I wake with the headache, instead of with pleasant

Allow me to give you a piece of advice. Play and practise the bass part
a great deal and very often, first slowly, then quicker, during one or
two weeks, before playing the right hand with it, in order that you may
give your whole attention to playing the bass correctly, delicately, and
surely. Even when you can get through the mazourka tolerably well, you
must not think, on that account, that you will be able to play it in
company, under trying circumstances. You ought to be able to play the
piece by yourself with ease, very frequently, perfectly, and distinctly,
and in very rapid _tempo_, before you trust yourself to perform it even
slowly in company. At least, practise the more difficult passages for
the right hand very frequently, particularly the difficult and bold
conclusion, that it may not strike the hearer as rough, weak, tame, or
hurried. It is an old rule, "If you begin well and end well, all is
well." You ought to practise the skipping bass over and over again by
itself, otherwise it will not go. An incorrect or deficient bass,
without depth of tone and without accentuation, ruins every thing, even
the good temper of the hearer. One thing more: you know very well
Chopin's Nocturne in E flat, and have played it, among other things, for
the last four weeks. Suddenly you are called upon to play in company.
You choose this Nocturne because you have played it nearly every day for
four weeks. But alas! the piano fiends have come to confuse you! You
strike a false bass note, and at the modulation the weak little finger
touches too feebly: bah! the fundamental tone is wanting. You are
frightened, and grow still more so; your musical aunt is frightened
also; the blood rushes to your teacher's face, and I mutter to myself,
"_C'est toujours la même._" The present style of skipping basses
requires a great deal of practice and perfect security; it is necessary
for you to know the piece by heart, in order to give your whole
attention to the left hand. It is also essential that you shall have
acquired a clear, sound touch; otherwise, you cannot give a delicate
accent and shading. You must never allow yourself, _without previous
preparation_, to play those pieces of music in company, in which an
elegant mode of execution is all-important; otherwise, you will be taken
by surprise by unexpected difficulties. You must always pay special
attention to the fundamental tones, even if there should be
imperfections elsewhere. Where one fault is less important than another,
of two evils choose the least. You have been playing now for six or
eight years: are you repaid for the trouble, if it only enables you to
prepare embarrassments for others? You are not willing to play easy,
insignificant pieces; and such pieces as you choose require industry,
earnestness, and perseverance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Young ladies, it is easy to discover the character of a person from his
manner of standing, walking, moving, and speaking, from the way he bows,
puts on and takes off his hat, or the arrangements of the household; and
we seldom are in error about it. It is also possible to infer beforehand
how you will play and what sort of a performance you will give, from the
manner in which you take your seat at the piano. You sidle up to the
piano lazily, bent over in a constrained manner; in your embarrassment,
you place yourself before the one-lined or two-lined _c_, instead of
before _f_; you sit unsteadily, either too high or too low, only half on
the seat, leaning either too much to the right or to the left; in a
word, as if you did not belong to the fatal music-stool. Your manner
awakens no confidence, and in this way announces that you have none
yourself. How do you expect to exercise control over a grand seven
octave piano, if you do not sit exactly in the middle, with the body
erect and the feet on the two pedals? You are not willing to look the
friend straight in the face, with whom you are to carry on a friendly,
confidential discourse! Even if your attitude and bearing were not so
injurious and dangerous for the performer as it is, still propriety and
good sense would require that you should excite the confidence of your
hearers in you and in your playing by a correct position of the body,
and by a certain decision and resolution, and should prepare him to form
a good opinion of you.

There are, indeed, many _virtuosos_ who think they give evidence of
genius, by throwing themselves on to the music-stool in a slovenly,
lounging manner, and try to show in this way their superiority to a
painstaking performance, and to make up by a showy _nonchalance_ for
what is wanting in their playing. You are, however, a stranger to such
assertion of superior genius, and to such an expression of intensity of
feeling; you do it only from embarrassment, and from a modest want of
confidence in your own powers, which is quite unnecessary. Our great
masters, such as Field, Hummel, Moscheles, Mendelssohn, and others, had
no taste for such improprieties, for such manifestations of genius. They
applied themselves to their task with earnest devotion, and with respect
for the public.



A large and varied experience is required for a correct estimate of
musical talent in the young. Do not be deceived by the early evidences
of talent; for instance, interest in melodies, correct feeling for time,
an instinct for accenting the important notes, inclination for some
peculiar though often perverted style of performance, quick
apprehension, a natural aptitude for playing, a nice hearing, animation,
rapid progress, docility, superficial gayety; even if all or a part of
these traits are observable in early youth, they must not excite too
sanguine hopes. I have often met with such phenomena, and have been
called upon to educate such little piano prodigies. They advanced quite
rapidly, and understood every thing readily, if I did not make too much
demand upon their wavering attention. I dreamed of the extraordinary
surprises that these marvellous youths would create at twelve or
fourteen years of age; but the fulfilment of my ideal I saw only in my
mind's eye, for just then the improvement came to a sudden
stand-still,--a fatal moment, when the teacher is perplexed to know what
to do next. The musical nature seemed to have exhausted itself, to have
out-lived itself. The pupil even felt this: his interest in the piano
and in music generally grew feeble, his playing suddenly became
careless, powerless, spiritless; he played with evident indifference.
Out into the fresh air! into open natural scenes! Now for a journey! I
allowed a long vacation to intervene; the pupil was quite contented, and
had no desire for the piano, or, if so, only jingled a little. At last
we began again, but we spent our time without much result; he was
nevertheless still musical, but he finally ranked at best with dozens of
other players, and ended as an ordinary piano teacher. Similar halts in
progress occur in fact with all pupils, especially with female scholars;
but they are not usually so lasting, so discouraging, or so significant
of exhaustion. They are surmounted, after a short interval, by the
discontinuance of serious musical studies; perhaps by reading at sight
for a while; by occupying the pupil for a time with the theory, or with
attempts at composition or improvisation; by allowing him to listen to
other players better or worse; by giving him interesting books to read;
by making him acquainted with Beethoven, or in other ways.

From our observation of such sudden changes, and of the frequent
occurrence of unskilful management, we can explain the sudden appearance
and equally sudden disappearance of innumerable infant prodigies in our
age, who have excited hopes, and have almost all of them been lost, or
have passed out of sight, and resulted in nothing of value.

I have always preferred a gradual, even a slow development, step by
step, which often made no apparent progress, but which still proceeded
with a certain constancy, and with deliberation, and which was combined
with dreamy sensibility and a musical instinct, requiring slow
awakening, and even with a certain flightiness, one for which the
patient labor and perseverance of six years or more was required, and
where childishness allowed no encouragement to sordid speculations for
the future. In such cases, when my instructions were not disturbed by
untoward circumstances, the result has always been a desirable one. But
how much patience and perseverance has this required! I have reflected
much and have often spoken, both seriously and playfully, of the slow
advancement of my pupils. Allow me here to describe five phases or
stages of human development.

_First Stage._ In the first two or three years, man is far behind the
animal, whose quick instinct distinguishes the good from the bad, the
useful from the injurious. The child, without hesitation, rolls off the
table, or knocks his brains out, or destroys himself with poisonous
herbs or arsenic. Nevertheless, let him at that age hear plenty of pure
sounds, music, singing, &c. He will soon learn to listen, like the
little black poodle. He already has a dim suspicion that other things
exist which are not evil, besides mamma, papa, the nurse, the doll, and
the sound of words.

_Second Stage._ From the fourth to the seventh year, instinct is
developed; which, in the animal, surprises the observer in the first two
weeks of life. Now we should begin with the technique, at least with the
correct movement of the fingers upon the table. The child should be told
that he shall soon produce the pleasant tones, which he has been
accustomed to hear from infancy; but that for this a quick and quiet
movement of the fingers is necessary, which must be acquired by daily
practice. This is entirely in accordance with nature, for man is
appointed to learn. Let the child lay his hand upon the table, and
knock upon it with the first finger (_i.e._, the thumb) stretched out,
without using the muscles of the arm, then with the second, third, and
fourth fingers, in an almost perpendicular position, and with the fifth
finger extended. Then let him strike a third with the first and third
fingers together; a fourth, with the first and fourth fingers; first
with the right hand, then with the left hand, and afterwards with both
together, &c.

_Third Stage._ From the seventh to the twelfth year. At this stage
unruliness makes its appearance, and at the same time--the notes; but
not Beethoven. That would indeed be an unfortunate musical indulgence.
Violent outbreaks of untamed strength; unexpected freaks; alternations
of rude instinct and quick intelligence, of lofty fancy and artless
simplicity; disobedience; much appetite, &c.,--all these must be shaped,
and made subservient to the object we have in view. Do you understand
me, gentlemen?

_Fourth Stage._ Excellent parents, who desire to see the ripe fruits of
your care and labor, have patience! First there comes the foreshadowing
of manhood,--a very interesting period. The youth steps out of the
animal into the human kingdom, and often is unable to forget his
earlier condition, but revels in sweet remembrance of it. Try now,
gently and timidly, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and the like. This
extraordinary being, "one-fourth animal and three-fourths human,"
requires to be awakened, excited, and to have the imagination aroused;
and, above all, requires the most careful guidance. It is necessary to
stir and agitate the nature, in order that reflection, conscience, the
sensibilities of the soul, feeling, creative power, and all inward
conditions shall be developed; and that out of this chaos shall be
brought a clear and beautiful order.

_Fifth Stage._ The adult man in his eighteenth year. The year, however,
varies with individuals, and can be modified at will. If I should enter
into details of the four earlier stages of humanity, and treat in
addition of the adult man, I should be obliged to write a philosophical
work on the subject, and that might not be entertaining. I should be
obliged to beg your indulgence for a tedious book, and my daughters
certainly would not thank me for it; they are very sensitive. But I
must, nevertheless, secretly whisper in your ear that "my daughters,
like the daughters of many others, have been carried through these five
stages in the most careful and thorough manner." I ought to know that
best. Here you have the answer to many strange questions.


I warn pianists, and others also, in playing:

1. Against any showy and unsuitable display. Why should you wish to
attract attention, and to create an effect by foppishness and all sorts
of grimaces, or by curious and marvellous exhibitions of
_virtuoso_-ship? You have only to play musically and beautifully, and to
deport yourselves with modesty and propriety. Direct your whole
attention to the business in hand,--that is, to your performance; and
endeavor to secure for it the interest of the public, who are so easily
rendered inattentive. We want no more public performances from eccentric

2. Do not devote yourself exclusively to pieces calculated to show the
skill of the performer. Why desire always to show off your power in
octave passages, your trills, your facility in skips, your unprecedented
stretches, or other fantastic feats? You only produce weariness,
satiety, and disgust, or, at least, you make yourselves ridiculous.

3. Play good music in a musical and rational manner. The public are
tired of hearing Potpourris, made up of odds and ends, tedious Etudes,
Rhapsodies, Fantasias without fancy, dismal monotonies and endless,
cheap, silly cadences that mean nothing. Learn to understand the age,
and the world in which you live.

4. Do not make yourselves ridiculous by new inventions in piano-playing.
I mention, for example, one of the most foolish affectations of modern
times. You try to quiver on a note, just as violin and 'cello players
are unfortunately too much inclined to do. Do not expose yourselves to
the derision of every apprentice in piano manufacture. Have you no
understanding of the construction of the piano? You have played upon it,
or have, some of you, stormed upon it, for the last ten years; and yet
you have not taken pains to obtain even a superficial acquaintance with
its mechanism. The hammer, which by its stroke upon the string has
produced the sound, falls immediately when the tone resounds; and after
that you may caress the key which has set the hammer in motion, fidget
round on it as much as you please, and stagger up and down over it, in
your intoxicated passion,--no more sound is to be brought out from it,
with all your trembling and quivering. It is only the public who are
quivering with laughter at your absurdity.

5. Give up the practice of extreme stretches. Widely dispersed harmonies
may sometimes produce a good effect, but not by too frequent and too
eager an employment of them at every opportunity. Even the greatest
beauties in art can lead to mannerism, and this again to one-sidedness.
Art should be many-sided, and you must never produce the impression that
you are inclined to make the means an end. I beg you to reflect that too
much practice of very wide stretches enfeebles the muscles and the power
of the hand and fingers, endangers an even, sound touch, and makes the
best style of playing a doubtful acquisition. Teachers ought therefore
to use great prudence, and only gradually to permit their pupils,
especially young girls, to practise great extensions and wide stretches.
To learn to be able to strike ten notes is quite enough.

6. Before you perform a piece, play a few suitable chords, and a few
appropriate passages or scales up and down (but play no stupid trash,
such as I have heard from many _virtuosos_), in order to try whether the
condition of the instrument presents any unexpected difficulties. Try
carefully also the unavoidable pedal. A creaking, rattling, grating
pedal is a frightful annoyance; I wonder if the piano of "the future" is
to suffer from this also. Chopin's Funeral March, with obligato
accompaniment of a squeaking pedal sentiment, even although the
omissions and mistakes in the bass do not occur,--alas! who can describe
the effect of this melancholy march?

7. I have written a special article on the manner of sitting at the
piano, and I will refer you once more to that.

8. Use no mechanical aids in practising, not even the dumb key-board;
although, with very careful use, that is not without value. Strength
will come with time; do not try to hurry nature. The table is the best
"dumb key-board," as I have already explained. The "hand-guide" is also
unnecessary: its value is compensated by its disadvantages.

9. Do not let your hearers crowd too near while you are playing. Do not
play the same piece _da capo_. You may be justified in breaking off in
the midst of a piece, if there is loud and continuous talking, &c.

I hope you will give me the honor of your company again at my soirées: I
am no writer of comedies, but I can tell you a great deal that is
interesting and amusing which I have myself experienced.



_(An Evening Party at Mr. Gold's.)_


MR. GOLD, _the banker (fond of music)._
MRS. GOLD _(sings, and is an invalid.)_
MR. SILVER, _bookkeeper (formerly a singer with Strauss)._
MR. PIOUS, _a friend of the family (a musical impostor, and a hypocrite
MR. FORTE, _a foreign piano virtuoso (of weak nerves)._
DOMINIE, _a piano-teacher._
EMMA, _his daughter._

     (_Mrs. Gold has just been singing in the modern Italian manner;
     suddenly alternating exaggerated high and low tones, given in a
     jerking manner, with inaudible _pianissimo_ in the throat, and
     quavering on every note, with many ornaments, and always a quarter
     of a tone too flat. She sang all the four verses of "Fondly I Think
     of Thee" by Krebs._)

DOMINIE. Will you not go on, Mrs. Gold? The piano is a little too high,
and you are obliged to accustom yourself a little to it.

MRS. GOLD. I cannot sing any more. That beautiful song has taken such
hold of me, and I feel so badly. (_Whispers to Dominie._) Mr. Forte did
not accompany me well, either: sometimes he did not come in right, and
played too feebly; and sometimes he improvised too much in playing, and
overpowered my voice, which is a little weak just now.

DOMINIE (_aside to Emma_). What an evening of singing! Oh dear!

MR. GOLD (_who has been earnestly talking about stocks all the evening
in an adjoining room, rushes in, but rather late, after the close of the
song, and impetuously presses his wife's hand_). Marvellous!
magnificent! delicious! wonderful! My dear, you are in excellent voice
this evening. If Jenny Lind could only have heard you!

MR. PIOUS. Charming! superb! how touching! There is a religious
character in this piece, something holy about it! I beg of you, do sing
that air by Voss, "True Happiness." That will make our enjoyment
complete; it is truly ravishing! There is something divine in singing,
and your expression, your feeling, Madam! You give yourself up so
entirely to the composition!

     (_Mrs. Gold has already taken up "True Happiness," and can hardly
     wait while Mr. Forte murmurs off the introduction, quite after his
     own fancy, with a sentimental _piano_. Mr. Pious drops a tear at
     the close of the introduction, the four bars of which have been
     transformed into eight bars by the great _virtuoso_. During the
     tremulous, affected performance of "True Happiness," Mr. Pious
     rolls up his moistened eyes; and, at the end of the first verse,
     where the accompanist once more gives the reins to his fancy, he
     says, "I am speechless, I cannot find words to express my

DOMINIE (_aside to Emma_). That you may call forged sentiment, the
counterfeit of feeling. You hear now how one ought _not_ to sing. For an
earnest, true musician, such a warmth in singing is only empty
affectation, disgusting, sentimental rubbish, and hollow dissimulation.
You will, however, frequently meet with such amateur infelicities.

     (_Mrs. Gold has finished singing all the verses of "True
     Happiness," and seems now to have almost entirely recovered. Mr.
     Gold continues to converse about stocks in the adjoining room.
     Dominie remains with Emma at the end of the parlor, depressed and

MR. FORTE (_keeps his seat at the piano, and says in French to Mrs.
Gold_). Madam, you have reached the climax of the beautiful in music. I
count it one of the happiest moments of my artistic tour to be allowed
to breathe out my soul at the piano, in the presence of one like
yourself. What a loss, that your position must prevent you from
elevating the German opera to its former greatness, as its most radiant

MRS. GOLD (_by this time quite well_). I must confess that Jenny Lind
never quite satisfied me when she was here. She is, and must always
remain, a Swede,--utterly cold. If she had been educated here, she would
have listened to more passionate models than in Stockholm, and that
would have given the true direction to her sensibility.

MR. FORTE. You are quite right; you have a just estimate of her. In
Paris, where she might have heard such examples, she lived in perfect
retirement. I was giving concerts there at the time; but she refused to
sing in my concerts, and therefore she did not even hear me.

MR. SILVER (_whom the excitement of the singing has at length reached_).
Do you feel inclined now, Madam, to execute with me the duet from "The
Creation," between Adam and Eve?

MRS. GOLD. Here is "The Creation," but we will sing it by and by. Mr.
Forte is just going to play us his latest composition for the left hand,
and some of the music of that romantic, deeply sensitive Chopin.

MR. GOLD (_rushes in from his stock discussion_). Oh, yes! Chopin's B
major mazourka! That was also played at my house by Henselt, Thalberg,
and Dreyschock. Oh, it is touching!

ALL (_except Mr. Silver, Dominie, and Emma_). Oh, how touching!

DOMINIE (_to his daughter_). If he plays it in the same manner in which
he accompanied "True Happiness," you will hear how this mazourka should
_not_ be played. It, by the way, is not at all _touching_: it gives
quite boldly the Polish dance rhythm, as it is improvised by the
peasants in that country; but it is, however, idealized after Chopin's

     (_Mr. Forte plays several perilous runs up and down with various
     octave passages, all the time keeping his foot on the pedal; and
     connects with these immediately, and without a pause, the mazourka,
     which he commences _presto_. He played it without regard to time or
     rhythm, but with a constant _rubato_, and unmusical jerks. A few
     notes were murmured indistinctly _pp._, and played very
     _ritardando_; then suddenly a few notes were struck very rapidly
     and with great force, so that the strings rattled; and the final B
     major chord cost the life of one string._)

MR. GOLD. Excellent! bravissimo! What a comprehension of the piece! Such
artistic performances make one even forget the stock-exchange!

MRS. GOLD. You agitate my inmost nerves! The English poet, Pope, holds
that no created man can penetrate the secrets of nature; but you have
penetrated the secrets of my soul. Now do play at once the F sharp minor
mazourka, opus 6.

MR. PIOUS. What a musical evening Mrs. Gold has prepared for us! What
sublime sorrow lies in this production!

MR. SILVER (_aside_). What would Father Strauss say to this affected,
unmusical performance, that bids defiance to all good taste?

DOMINIE. Mrs. Gold, it would be well to send for the tuner to replace
this broken B string. The next one will break soon, for it is already
cracked, and its tone is fallen.

MR. FORTE (_with a superior air_). It is of no consequence. That
frequently happens to me; but I never mind it. The piano is a
battle-field where there must be sacrifices.

DOMINIE (_whispers to Emma_). He thinks that if the sound is not
musical, still it makes a noise; and tones out of tune produce more
effect than those that are pure.

EMMA. Where did he learn piano-playing?

DOMINIE. My child, he has not _learned_ it. That is genius, which comes
of itself. Instruction would have fettered his genius, and then he would
have played distinctly, correctly, unaffectedly, and in time; but that
would be too much like the style of an amateur. This uncontrolled
hurly-burly, which pays no regard to time, is called the soaring of

     (_Mr. Forte storms through various unconnected chords with the
     greatest rapidity, with the pedal raised; and passes without pause
     to the F sharp minor mazourka. He accents vehemently, divides one
     bar and gives it two extra quarter notes, and from the next bar he
     omits a quarter note, and continues in this manner with extreme
     self-satisfaction till he reaches the close; and then, after a few
     desperate chords of the diminished seventh, he connects with it
     Liszt's Transcription of Schubert's Serenade in D minor. The second
     string of the two-lined b snaps with a rattle, and there ensues a
     general whispering "whether the piece is by Mendelssohn, or Döhler,
     or Beethoven, or Proch, or Schumann," until finally Mr. Silver
     mentions Schubert's Serenade. Mr. Forte concludes with the soft
     pedal, which in his inspired moments he had already made frequent
     use of._)

DOMINIE (_to Emma_). You should never play in company, without
mentioning previously what you are going to perform. You observe, as
soon as the Serenade was mentioned, it put a stop to the guessing.

ALL (_except Mr. Silver and Dominie_). What a glorious performance! what
an artistic treat!

MRS. GOLD. What spirituality in his playing!

MR. SILVER (_asking Mr. Forte for information_). I noticed, in the
Serenade, you made only one bar of the two where it modulates to F
major, in your rapid playing of the passage. Was that accidental?

EMMA (_aside_). He ought to have played a little slower just there.

MR. FORTE. In such beautiful passages, every thing must be left to the
suggestion of one's feelings. Perhaps another time I may make three
bars, just as inspiration and genius may intimate. Those are æsthetic
surprises. Henselt, Moscheles, Thalberg, and Clara Wieck do not execute
in that manner, and consequently can produce no effect, and do not

DOMINIE (_to Emma_). I hope that your natural taste and your musical
education will preserve you from such preposterous extravagances.

EMMA. Such playing makes one feel quite uncomfortable and worried.
Probably that is what you call "devilish modern"?


EMMA. But do people like it?

DOMINIE. Certainly: a great many people do. It has the superior air of
genius, and sounds very original.

     (_Mrs. Gold has "The Creation" in her hand, and Mr. Silver leads
     her to the piano for the execution of the grand duet between Adam
     and Eve. Mr. Forte is exhausted, and Dominie plays the
     accompaniment. Mr. Silver sings intelligently and unaffectedly;
     Mrs. Gold, as before, but with still less regard to time, and more
     out of tune; but she tries to compensate for this by introducing
     very long ornaments at the _fermate_ in the _allegro_, sung with
     her thin, piercing, over-strained voice; and she frequently rolls
     up her black eyes. At the conclusion, Mrs. Gold was led to the
     arm-chair, in great exhaustion of feeling._)

MR. PIOUS. The divine art of music celebrates its perfect triumph in
such interpretations of Haydn. Mrs. Gold, were those delicious _fermate_
of your own invention?

MRS. GOLD. NO: the charming Viardot-Garcia first introduced them as
Rosina in "The Barber of Seville," and I had them written down by a
musician in the theatre. But the employment of them in this duet is my
own idea. I have already surprised and delighted a great many people
with them in parties. The grand, rushing, chromatic scale with which the
artistic Garcia astonishes every one, when acting the dreaming, fainting
Amina in "La Somnambula," I introduce in the grand aria of the divine
"Prophet;" rather timidly, it is true, for the boldness of a Garcia can
only be acquired on the stage.

EMMA. But, father, Jenny Lind sang in this duet in Vienna, quite simply,
and with a pure religious spirit.

DOMINIE. That is the reason Mrs. Gold says that Jenny Lind sings too
coldly, and ought to listen to more passionate models. But we will talk
more about this at home.

MRS. GOLD. Now, Mr. Dominie, will not your daughter Emma play us some
little trifle? Afterwards I will execute with Mr. Silver, "By thy loving
kindness, O Lord," and a few duets by Kücken, and finish, if the company
wishes, with the "Grâce" aria.

DOMINIE. Will you allow me first to replace this broken string?

     (_After Dominie has finished, Mr. Forte strides up to the piano,
     and plays his Etude for the left hand, with the right hand extended
     towards the company._)

DOMINIE (_to Mr. Forte, after the conclusion of the piece_). Would it
not have been easier and more to the purpose, if you had used both

MR. FORTE. We must forgive old people such pedantic observations. You
entirely mistake my stand-point. Do you not see that I am standing with
one foot in the future? Are you not aware that the public wish not only
to listen, but to see something strange? Do you not perceive also that
my appearance of ill-health produces a great musical effect?

MR. PIOUS. Do you not feel the special charm and the fine effect which
is produced by the left hand playing alone, and no less by the right
hand extended?

DOMINIE. Is it so? Well, probably feeling has taken a false direction
with me. I shall be obliged to accustom myself to such Parisian flights
of sentiment.

     (_Emma played Chopin's Ballad in A flat major, after Dominie had
     previously announced it. The company were attentive._)

MR. FORTE (_at the conclusion_). Bravo! A very good beginning, Mr.
Dominie. I am sorry that I am obliged to take leave now: I am obliged to
go to two more soirées this evening, and have many letters of
introduction to deliver.

MR. SILVER. Miss Emma, I have just heard that you play finely a great
deal of Chopin's music. Let us hear his two latest nocturnes.

MRS. GOLD (_to Emma_). Have you heard the famous Camilla Pleyel play
Kalkbrenner's charming D minor concerto? Do you not also play such
brilliant music? for example, Döhler's beautiful, pathetic Notturno in D
flat. Mr. X. lately played that to us enchantingly.

EMMA. I know it. I am teaching it to my little sister, Cecilia.

DOMINIE. Will you allow her now to play Chopin's two nocturnes, Opus

       *       *       *       *       *

I will say nothing about the conclusion of the singing,--the "Grâce"
aria. At midnight there was a grand supper, washed down with sweet wine,
and seasoned with bitter recollections of this musical evening.



I have received the following communication from an old literary friend,
to whom I sent my eighth chapter, requesting his opinion of it:--


     _There are unreceptive times, but
     that which is eternal outlives all
     times._--JOH. VON MÜLLER.

MY DEAR FRIEND,--I have read your eighth chapter. What you facetiously
call "the three trifles" seem to me to be three most important points,
even if you had described them simply as _fine_ taste, _deep_ feeling,
and _a good_ ear. Who expects superlative excellence from the age in
which he lives, and who dares to attack it, in its most vulnerable
parts? You grow more harsh and disagreeable, and you do not seem to
consider how many enemies you make, among those who think that they have
long ago advanced beyond these three points. Just now, too, when there
is so much said about "the intellectual" in music, and about "the inner
nature of the future," and when such fine expressions are invented about
it, you come forward with your three unseasonable trifles in the
superlative degree. Do you imagine that our intelligent age cannot
discern your hidden satire?

You say that our times are in need of your three trifles, _and_ the
necessary knowledge and experience. _Voilà tout!_

As for Prince Louis Ferdinand, Dussek, Clementi, Himmel, Hummel, C.M.v.
Weber, Beethoven, &c.,--who has not heard all about them?

After them, comes the period of "piano fury," and the compositions
appropriate for it. Now the three trifles required are _distorted_
taste, _hypocritical_ feeling, and a _depraved_ ear, combined with the
necessary superficiality and some power of production. _Voilà tout!_

After that, musicians bethink themselves once more of the genuine three
trifles, and return to reason, and we are allowed to take delight in
Chopin, Mendelssohn, Fr. Schubert, Robert Schumann, and a few others of
the same sort, and again in Beethoven.

These were succeeded by mere dry imitators; they were not, however, of
much significance.

Finally, the very latest progress introduces a still more extravagant
piano fury. The three trifles are now _distorted_ taste, _no_ feeling,
and _no_ ear for tone; and with these are required the necessary
audacity, immeasurable vanity, senseless exhibitions of strength, a poor
touch upon the piano, and what they call "intellect." The compositions
are now embellished with appropriate pictures on the cover, and with
attractive title-pages. In addition, there is much talk about a "higher
beauty," "the stand-points which have been already surmounted,"
"artistic flights," and the "misunderstanding of the inner
consciousness," "Genius must be free," &c.

My old conservative friend, you are seen through. Your influence, and
more especially your ideas about singing, belong only to a past age.
They date from the last century. You will be derided with your Jenny
Lind and Henrietta Sontag. They are lifeless images of singers, to be
kept in a glass case. Are you willing to remain ignorant of the
magnificent modern style of voice? Can you not go forward with the
advancing age? Progressive philosophers will rap you over the knuckles.
You imagine that our times will stop for a couple of lectures! You will
yet have to learn what "intellect" signifies. In short, I should not
like to stand in your shoes. You should conclude your book with "Pater,

Even in misfortune,

Your sympathizing friend,


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