Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/749

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


. PIANOFORTE-PLAYING.

use and for practice. In Bach's works we meet with polyphonic treatment in regard not only to quantity, but to quality also ; and it is this treat- ment which gives its peculiar strength, its unsur- passable vitality, and its never-failing freshness, to the music of this great master.

We thus see that at the time when the piano- forte was invented and came into pretty general use (1740-1780) the art of playing had already attained a high degree of efficiency: it pos- sessed indeed one special kind of excellence in which the generality of our present performers are wanting namely, the art of individualising the single parts, and the great tranquillity and dignity of performance which arise from the perfect training of each finger.

With the pianoforte an entirely new style of expression came into existence; the power to play soft or loud (piano, forte) at will, developed by degrees the individual or personal feeling of the performer, and new effects were constantly invented, and applied with more or less success. If formerly, owing to the insufficient means of the instrument, the art of playing was considered from a more objective or external point of view, the richer means of the pianoforte allowed and even suggested the indulgence of more subjective or personal feeling. And thus not only the style of composing, but the manner of playing itself, altered in a material degree. In Sebastian Bach we find a polyphonic treatment founded on science and regulated by strict loyalty to rule and order; we find also a charming piquancy and quaintness of expression, resulting from the adoption of dance movements already mentioned, and many others, to which still greater variety is given by the introduction of short movements, such as the Caprice, Rondo, Burlesca, Echo, etc. Indeed the legacy which Sebastian Bach be- queathed to the world is one of the greatest importance, and of inexhaustible richness and beauty. It was left to his second son, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH (1714-1788) to effect a great change in the principles hitherto observed. Emanuel Bach was the first to profit system- atically by the change of treatment necessitated by the introduction of the hammer; to recog- nise with accuracy and method the great ad- vantages suggested and allowed by the altered condition of things, and to adapt his style of composition to the new method of producing the tone. In Emanuel Bach's sonatas the poly- phonic treatment and rigorous part-writing of his illustrious father disappear by degrees in favour of a more expressive and singing style in short of the lyrical style. In many of his Sonatas we meet with a fantasia-like treatment hitherto unknown; and in his still valuable Essay ' On the true Method of playing the Clavier' (1753) he alludes over and over again to the necessity ' of singing as much as possible on the instrument.' ' Methinks,' he says, ' music ought principally to move the heart, and in this no performer on the pianoforte will succeed by merely thumping and drumming, or by con- tinual arpeggio-playing. During the last few

VOL. II. PT. 12.

��PIANOFORTE-PLAYING.

��737

��years my chief endeavour has been to play the pianoforte, in spite of its deficiency in sustain- ing the sound, as much as possible in a singing manner, and to compose for it accordingly. This is by no means an easy task, if we desire not to leave the ear empty, or to disturb the noble simplicity of the cantabile by too much noise.'

Emanuel Bach's maxims were closely followed by HAYDN (1732-1809) and MOZABT (1756- 1791). In the sonatas and smaller pieces of these great composers, but especially in the 22 concertos of Mozart, we recognise a desire to please and to ingratiate themselves with the public by sweet melody and agreeable har- mony, by an utter absence of eccentricity, spas- modic or fragmentary writing, and by the pre- sence of a certain spontaneous elegance, suffused with ready wit and refreshing cheerfulness, the whole tempered by a never-failing expression of good-nature and innate amiability. Although Haydn and Mozart never forgot their duties to the art, they regarded the taste and likings of the public as of very great importance, and without yielding to its whims and caprices, they courted its legitimate demands loyally and in perfect faith, and sought to effect a satisfactory compromise in doubtful cases. The immense practice of both Haydn and Mozart in writing for the orchestra and for voices, both solo and in chorus, largely influenced their pianoforte com- positions, and as a natural consequence their style of playing. Many of Mozart's most dis- tinguished contemporaries testify to his excel- lence as a player, and to his supreme command over the instrument. His own remarks on pianoforte-playing are characteristic and com- pletely to the point. He declares ' that the performer should possess a quiet and steady hand, with its natural lightness, smoothness, and gliding rapidity so well developed, that the passages should flow like oil.' 'All notes, graces, accents, etc., ought to be brought out with fitting expression and taste.' ' In passages (technical figures) some notes may be left to their fate without notice, but is that right?' ' Three things are necessary for a good performer ' and he pointed significantly to his head, to his heart, and to the tips of his fingers, as symbolical of understanding, sympathy, and technical skill.

A material change in pianoforte-playing took place at this time (1790-1800). The great technical execution of CLEMENTI (1752-1832), DUSSEK (1761-1812), STEIBEI/T (1764-1823), A. E. MULLEB (1767-1817), and J. B. CRAMER (1771-1858), excited continual fresh interest, until at length excellence of technical execution claimed for itself an independent rank and posi- tion, which threw the more modest and less bril- liant pieces of Mozart and Haydn for awhile into the background, dementi's alterations, improve- ments, suggestions, and additions to the develop- ment of technical execution are of the utmost importance. A glance at Nos. I, 3, 15, 20, 22, 23, 24, 27, 31, 34. 37. 44, 63, 65, 76, 86,of his celebrated collection of studies, 'Gradus ad l Parnassum,' i Bepubllshed la Peters'! Edition. No. 147. 3B

�� �