the second finger over the first, the little finger under the third (left hand), and the third over the little finger (left hand also).
From these discrepancies it would appear that Bach's own fingering was more varied than the description of it which has come down to us, and that it was free in the sense not only of employing every possible new combination of fingers, but also of making use of all the old ones, such as the passing of one long finger over another. Emanuel Bach restricts this freedom to some extent, allowing for instance the passage of the second finger over the third, but of no other long finger. Thus only so much of Bach's method has remained in practical use to the present lay as Emanuel Bach retained, and as is absolutely essential for the performance of his works.
Emanuel Bach's fingering has been practically that of all his successors until the most recent times; Clementi, Hummel, and Czerny adopted it almost without change, excepting only the limitation caused by the introduction of the pianoforte, the touch of which requires a much sharper blow from the finger than that of the clavichord or harpsichord, in consequence of which the gentle gliding of the second finger over the third, which was allowed by Emanuel Bach, has become unsuitable, and is now rarely used.
In the teaching of all the above-named masters, one principle is particularly observed,—the thumb is not used on a black key except (as Emanuel Bach puts it) 'in cases of necessity,' and it is the abolition of this restriction which forms the latest development of fingering. Modern composersn, and in particular Chopin and Liszt, have by their invention of novel passages and difficulties done once more for the thumb what Bach did for it, and just as he redeemed it from a condition of uselessness, so have they freed its employment from all rules and restrictions whatsoever. Hummel, in his 'Art of playing the Pianoforte,' says 'We must employ the same succession of fingers when a passage consists of a progression of similar groups of notes .... The intervention of the black key changes the symmetrical progression so far only as the rule forbids the use of the thumb on the black keys." But the modern system of fingering would employ absolutely the same order of fingers throughout such a progression without considering whether black keys intervene or no. Many examples of the application of this principle may be found in Tausig's edition of Clementi's 'Gradus ad Parnassum,' especially in the first study, a comparison of which with the original edition (where it is No. 16) will at once show its distinctive characteristics. That the method has immense advantages and tends greatly to facilitate the execution of modern difficulties cannot be doubted, even if it but rarely produces the striking result ascribed to it by Von Bülow, who says in the preface to his edition of Cramer's Studies, that in his view (which he admits may be somewhat chimerical), a modern pianist of the first rank ought to be able by its help to execute Beethoven's 'Sonata Appassionata' as readily in the key of F♯ minor as in that of F minor, and with the same fingering!There are two methods of marking fingering, one used in England and the other in all other countries. Both consist of figures placed above the notes, but in the English system the thumb is represented by a ×, and the four fingers by 1, 2, 3, and 4, while in Germany, France, and Italy, the first five numerals are employed, the thumb being numbered 1, and the four fingers 2, 3, 4, and 5. This plan was probably introduced into Germany—where its adoption only dates from the time of Bach—from Italy, since the earliest German fingering (as in the example from Ammerbach quoted above) was precisely the same as the present English system, except that the thumb was indicated by a cypher instead of a cross. The same method came into partial use in England for a short time, and may be found spoken of as the 'Italian manner of fingering' in a treatise entitled 'The Harpsichord Illustrated and Improv'd,' published about 1740. Purcell also adopted it in his 'Choice Collection' quoted above, but with the bewildering modification, that whereas in the right hand the thumb was numbered 1, and so on to the little finger, in the left hand the little finger was called the first, and the thumb the fifth.
[ F. T. ]