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Piano and Song

CHAPTER IV.

A CONVERSATION WITH MRS. SOLID, AND FOUR LESSONS TO HER DAUGHTER.

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 [32]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 [33]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 method?

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 [34]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, [35]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 [36]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, [37]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 lessons.

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 [38]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 homœopathy 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 [39]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, [40]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 [41]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 improving.

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 [42]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 punishment.

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 [43]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 [44]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 ridiculous.

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 [45]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 this.

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."[46] 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. [47]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. [48]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 [49]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 [50]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 [51]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 [52]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 [53]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 [54]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 [55]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.

[56]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 pieces?

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 [57]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 [58]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.


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