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without that power. In the same way Mendels- sohn played the piano because it was his nature. He possessed great skill, certainty, power, and rapidity of execution, a lovely full tone all in fact that a virtuoso could desire, but these qualities were forgotten while he was playing, and one almost overlooked even those more spiritual gifts which we call fire, invention, soul, apprehension, etc. When he sat down to the instrument music streamed from him with all the fullness of his inborn genius, he was a centaur, and his horse was the piano. What he played, how he played it, and that he was the player all were equally rivetting, and it was impossible to separate the execution, the music, and the executant. This was absolutely the case in his improvisations, so poetical, artistic, and finished ; and almost as much so in his execution of the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, or himself. Into those three masters he had grown, and they had become his spiritual property. The music of other composers he knew, but could not produce it as he did theirs. I do not think, for instance, that his execution of Chopin was at all to be compared to his execution of the masters just mentioned; he did not care particularly for it, though when alone he played everything good with interest. In playing at sight his skill and rapidity of comprehension were astonishing, and that not with P. F. music only, but with the most complicated compositions. He never practised, though he once told me that in his Leipzig time he had played a shake (I think with the 2nd and 3rd fingers) several minutes every day for some months, till he was perfect in it.'
' His staccato,' says Mr. Joachim, ' was the most extraordinary thing possible for life and crispness. In the Friihlingslied (Songs without Words, Bk. v, No. 6) for instance, it was quite electric, and though I have heard that song played by many of the greatest players, I never experienced the same effect. His playing was extraordinarily full of fire, which could hardly be controlled, and yet was controlled, and combined with the greatest delicacy.' ' Though lightness of touch, and a de- licious liquid pearliness of tone,' says Another of his pupils, ' were prominent characteristics, yet his power in fortes was immense. In the passage in his G minor Concerto where the whole orchestra makes a crescendo the climax of which is a 6-4 chord on D, played by the P.F. alone, it seemed as if the band had quite enough to do to work up to the chord he played.' As an instance of the fulness of his tone, the same gentleman mentions the 5 bars of piano which begin Beethoven's G major Concerto, and which, though he played them perfectly softly, filled the whole room.
'His mechanism,' says 2 another of his Leipzig pupils, ' was extremely subtle, and developed with the lightest of wrists (never from the arm) ; he therefore never strained the instrument or ham- mered. His chord-playing was beautiful, and based on a special theory of his own. His use of the pedal was very sparing, clearly defined, and therefore effective ; his phrasing beautifully
l Mr. W. 8. Boclutro. X Mr. Otto Goldschmidt.
��clear. The performances in which I derived the most lasting impressions from him were the 32 Variations and last Sonata (Op. ui) of Bee- thoven, in which latter the Variations of the final movement came out more clearly in their struc- ture and beauty than I have ever heard before or since.* Of his playing of the 32 Variations, Professor Macfarren remarks that ' to each one, or each pair, where they go in pairs, he gave a character different from all the others. In play- ing at sight from a MS. score he characterised every incident by the peculiar tone by which he represented the instrument for which it was 8 written.' In describing his playing of the gih Symphony, Mr. Schleinitz testified to the same singular power of representing the different in- struments. A still stronger testimony is that of Berlioz, who, speaking of the colour of the Hebrides Overture, says that Mendelssohn ' suc- ceeded in giving him an accurate idea of it, such is his extraordinary power of rendering the most complicated scores * on the Piano.'
His adherence to his author's meaning, and to the indications given in the music, was ab- solute. Strict time was one of his hobbies. He alludes to it, with an eye to the sins of Hiller and Chopin, in a letter of May 23, 1834, and somewhere else speaks of 'nice strict tempo' as something peculiarly pleasant. After intro- ducing some ritardandos in conducting the In- troduction to Beethoven's 2nd Symphony, he excused himself by saying 5 that ' one could not always be good,' and that he had felt the in- clination too strongly to resist it. In playing, however, he never himself interpolated a ritar* dando, or 'suffered it in any one else. It espe- cially enraged him when done at the end of a song or other piece. ' Es steht nicht da ! ' he would say ; ' if it were intended it would be written in they think it expression, but it is sheer 7 affectation.' But though in playing he never varied the tempo when once taken, he did not always take a movement at the same pace, but changed it as his mood was at the time. We have seen in the case of Bach's A minor Fugue (p. 274) that he could on occasion intro- duce an individual reading ; and his treatment of the arpeggios in the Chromatic 8 Fantasia shows that, there at least, he allowed himself great latitude. Still, in imitating this it should be remembered how thoroughly he knew these great masters, and how perfect his sympathy with them was. In conducting, as we have just seen, he was more elastic, though even there his variations would now be condemned as moderate by some conductors. Before he con- ducted at the Philharmonic it had been the tradition in the Coda of the Overture to Egmoiit to return to a piano after the crescendo ; but this he would not suffer, and maintained the fortis- simo to the end a practice now always followed.
He very rarely played from book, and his prodigious memory was also often shown in his
See Dom, p. 998. 4 ' Voyage musical,' Letter 4.
Mr. Kellow Pjre. Mr. von BQlow.
i Mrs. Moscheles and Mr. Roclutro. Letter to Fanny, NOT. 14. 1840.