Du côté de Flying Clouds (Harlequin Prélud) (Prelud) (French Edition)
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Reprinted, September, Reprinted, May, Your answer shows a complete misunderstanding of the case. Because you neither play nor sing, it by no means follows that you are unmusical. If you love music and appreciate it, you may be more musical than many pianists or singers; and certainly you may become so. This book is planned for the lover of music, for those who throng the concert and recital halls and the opera—those who have not followed music as a profession, and yet love it as an art; who may not play or sing, and yet are musical.
To satisfy this natural desire which, with many, amounts to a craving or even a passion, and to do so in wholly untechnical language and in a manner that shall be intelligible to the average reader, is the purpose of this book. In carrying it out I have not neglected the personal side of music, but have endeavored to keep clearly before the eyes of the reader, and in 24 their proper sequence, the great names in musical history. In fact, I am most in sympathy with the liberating tendencies of modern music, which lays more stress upon the expression of life and truth than upon the exact form in which these are sought to be expressed.
Nevertheless, I am quite aware that only through the gradual development and expansion of forms that now may be growing obsolete has music achieved its emancipation from the tyranny of form. Therefore, while I would rather listen to a Wagner music-drama than to a Mozart opera, or might go to more trouble to hear a Richard Strauss tone poem than a Beethoven symphony, I am not such an unconscionable heretic as to be unaware of the great, the very great part played by the Mozart opera and the Beethoven symphony in the evolution of music, or their importance in the orderly and systematic study of the art.
Therefore, an ample portion of this book will be found devoted to the classical epoch and its great masters, especially its greatest master, Beethoven, and to the forms in which they worked. Nor do I think that these pages will be found written unsympathetically. But something is due the great body of music-lovers who, being told that they 25 must admire this, that and the other classical composer, because he is classical , find themselves at a loss and think themselves to blame because modern music makes a more vivid and deeper impression upon them. If they only knew it—they are in the right!
But they have needed some one to tell them so. But plenty will be found in it regarding the sonata and the symphony, and, through the latter, the development of the orchestra; and orchestral instruments, their tone quality, scope and purpose are described and explained.
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More, perhaps, than in any work with the same purpose, the great part played by the pianoforte in the evolution of music is here recognized, and I have availed myself of the opportunity to tell much of the story of that evolution in connection with this, the most popular of musical instruments, and its great masters.
Why the greater freedom of technique and expression made possible by the modern instrument has caused the classical sonata to be superseded by the more romantic works of Chopin and others whose compositions are typically pianistic, and how these works differ in form and substance from those of the classicists, are among the many points made clear in these chapters.
The same care has been bestowed upon that portion of the book relating to vocal music—to songs, opera, music-drama and oratorio. In fact, the aim has been to equip the lover of music—that is, of good music of all kinds—with the knowledge which will enable him to enjoy far more than before either an orchestral concert, a piano or song recital, an opera or a music-drama—anything, 26 in fact, in music from Bach to Richard Strauss; to place everything before him from the standpoint of a writer who is himself a lover of music and who, although thoroughly in sympathy with the more advanced schools of the art, also appreciates the great masters of the past and is behind none in acknowledging what they contributed to make music what it is.
But, if you can read and listen, there is no reason why you should not be more musical—a more genuine lover of music—than many of those whose musicianship lies merely in their fingers or vocal cords. There must be practically on the part of every one who attends a pianoforte recital some degree of curiosity regarding the instrument itself. Therefore, it seems to me pertinent to institute at the very outset an inquiry into what the pianoforte is and how it became what it is—the most practical, most expressive and most universal of musical instruments, the instrument of the concert hall and of the intimate home circle.
Knowledge of such things surely will enhance the enjoyment of a pianoforte recital—should be, in fact, a prerequisite to it. The pianoforte is the most used and, for that very reason, perhaps, the most abused of musical instruments. Even its real name generally is denied it. Most people call it a piano, although piano is a musical term denoting a degree of sound, soft, gentle, low—the opposite of forte , which means strong and loud.
The combination of the two terms in one word, pianoforte, signifies that the instrument is capable of being played both softly and loudly—both piano and forte. It was this capacity that distinguished it from its immediate precursors, the old-time harpsichords and clavichords.
One of the first requirements in learning how to understand music is to learn to call things musical by their 30 right names. To speak of a pianoforte as a piano is one of our unjustifiable modern shortcuts of speech, a characteristic specimen of linguistic laziness and evidence of utter ignorance concerning the origin and character of the instrument.
If I were asked to express in a single phrase the importance of this instrument in the musical life of to-day I would say that the pianoforte is the orchestra of the home. Surely out of every ten musical persons, layman or professional, at least nine almost invariably have received their first introduction to music through the pianoforte and have derived the greater part of their musical knowledge from it. Even composers like Wagner and Meyerbeer, whose work is wholly associated with opera, had their first lessons in music on the pianoforte, and Meyerbeer achieved 31 brilliant triumphs as a concert pianist before he turned his attention to the operatic stage.
Yet it also thrills the great audience of the concert hall and rouses it to the highest pitch of enthusiasm.
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It is the king of instruments, and the reason for its supremacy is not far to seek. But this is not all. He has music, all that music can give, within the grasp of his two hands, under his ten fingers. The pianoforte can render anything in music. Besides music of its own, it can reproduce the orchestra or the voice with even greater fidelity than the finest engraving renders a painting; for only to the eyes 32 of one familiar with the painting does the engraving suggest the color scheme of the original, whereas, through certain nuances of technique that are more easily felt than described, the pianoforte virtuoso who is playing an arrangement of an orchestra composition can make his audience hear certain instruments of the orchestra—even such characteristic effects as the far-carrying pizzicato, or the rumbling of the double basses or their low growl; the hollow, reverberating percussions of the tympani; sustained notes on the horns; the majestic accents of trombones; the sharp shrill of piccolos; while some of the most effective pianoforte pieces are arrangements of songs.
This is one of the many services of Liszt, the giant of virtuosos and a giant among composers, to his art. It has been said that Liszt played the whole orchestra on the pianoforte. He did even more. He developed the technique of the instrument to such a point that the suggestion of many of the clang tints of the orchestra has become part of its heritage. This dual capacity of the pianoforte, the fact that it has a tone quality wholly peculiar to itself, so that when, for example, we are playing Chopin we never think of the orchestra, while at the same time it can take up into itself and reproduce, or at least suggest, the tone colors of other instruments, is one of its most remarkable characteristics.
Quite as remarkable and as interesting and important is the circumstance that these tone tints are wholly dependent upon the player.
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There is nothing peculiar to the make of the strings, the sounding-board, the hammers, that tends to produce these effects. It rests in his hands alone, whereas the conductor of an orchestra is dependent upon a hundred players, some of whom may have no more soul than so many wooden Indians. Even supposing a conductor to be gifted with a highly poetic and musically sensitive nature, it is impossible that so many men of varying degrees of temperament as go to make up an orchestra, and none of them probably a virtuoso of the highest rank, will be as sympathetically responsive to his baton as a pianoforte is to the fingers of a musical poet like Paderewski; for the fingers of a great virtuoso are the ambassadors of his soul.
This personal, one-man control of the instrument has been of inestimable value to the pianoforte in establishing itself in its present unassailable position. Moreover, in controlling it the pianist commands all the resources of music. With his two thumbs alone he can accomplish what no player upon any other instrument 34 in common use is capable of doing with all ten fingers. He can sound together the lowest and the highest notes in music, for all the notes of music as we know it simply await the pressure of the fingers upon the keys of the pianoforte.
It is the one instrument capable of power as well as of sweetness and grace which places the whole range of harmony and counterpoint at the disposal of one player.
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A vocalist can sing an air, but can you imagine a vocalist singing through an entire programme without accompaniment? After half a dozen unaccompanied songs the singing even of the greatest prima donna would become monotonous for lack of harmony. The violin and violoncello, next to the pianoforte the most frequently heard instruments in the concert hall, labor under the same disadvantage as the singer. They are dependent upon the accompaniment of others. The pianist, on the other hand, has the inestimable advantage of being able to play melody and accompaniment on one instrument at the same time—all in one.
While singing with some of his fingers the tender melodic phrase of a Chopin nocturne, he completes with the others the exquisite weave of harmony, and reveals the musical fabric to us in all its beauty. Moreover, it is the pianist himself who does this, not some one else at his signal, which the intermediary possibly may not wholly understand. When Paderewski is at the pianoforte we hear Paderewski—not some one else of a less sensitive temperament whom he is directing with a baton. A poet is at the instrument and we hear the poet. How delightful, too, it is to go through the pianoforte score of a Wagner music-drama and, as you play the wonderful music—all placed within the grasp of your ten fingers—watch the scenic pictures and the action pass in imagination before your eyes in your own music room without the defects inseparable from every public performance, because the success of a performance depends upon the co-operation of so many who do not co-operate.
Yes, the pianoforte is the king of instruments because it is the most independent of instruments and because it makes him who plays upon it independent. It would be difficult to overestimate the debt that music owes to the pianoforte. As a symphony simply is a sonata for orchestra, 36 it follows that through the sonata and thus through the pianoforte the form in which the classical composers cast their greatest works was established. Here, however, it may be observed that in addition to its constant use as an instrument for the concert hall and the home, and for the delight of great audiences and the joy of the amateur player and his familiar circle, many of the great composers, even when writing orchestral works, have used the pianoforte for their first sketches, testing their harmonies on it, and often, no doubt, while groping over the keys in search of the psychical note, hit upon accidental improvements and new harmonies.
Even Wagner, who understood the orchestra as none other ever has, employed the pianoforte in sketching out his ideas. The pianoforte has in many other ways been a boon to some of the most famous composers. Many of them 37 were pianists, and by public performances of their own works materially accelerated the appreciation of their music. Mozart was a youthful prodigy, and later a virtuoso of the highest rank.
Beethoven, before he was overtaken by deafness, introduced his own pianoforte compositions to the public and was the musical lion of the Viennese drawing-rooms. Mendelssohn was a pianist of the same smooth, affable, gentlemanly type as his music. Schumann began his musical career as a virtuoso, but strained the fourth finger of his right hand in using a mechanical apparatus which he had devised for facilitating the practice of finger exercises.
His wife, Clara Wieck, however, who was the most famous woman pianist of her time, substituted her fingers for his. Liszt literally hewed out the way for his works on the keyboard. Brahms was a pianist of solid, scholarly attainments.