Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/755

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

pianist with the two right hands. Theodor Kullak (1818– [App. p.748 "date of death 1882"]), a pupil of Agthe (1790) and Carl Czerny (1791–1857), most valued as teacher (among his pupils are Charles Wehle, Xaver Scharwenka, Erika Lie, Helene Magnus, Grünfeld, Alma Holländer (Haas), Heinr. Hofmann), is also one of the most excellent, thoughtful, and poetical of performers; in playing tender passages and pianissimo he had in his best time (1842–1852) no rival. Rudolph Willmers (1821–1878) was a pupil of Hummel; his specialities were the shake and the staccato, and in those departments of playing he produced extraordinary effects. We have to mention also the celebrated Antoine Rubinstein (1829–), a pupil of Villoing of Moscow. Rubinstein is a performer of Titanic force, yet capable of producing the softest, most ethereal tones; he is besides the interpreter of all imaginable styles and schools. The late Carl Tausig (1841–1871), a pupil of Liszt, possessed the most patiently, trained and most carefully refined technical execution, and had in certain branches of pianoforte-playing no rival. If at times wanting in enthusiasm and warmth of feeling, the perfection of his technical execution was, on the other hand, sufficient to afford his audience the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. Hans von Bülow (1830–) has given many proofs of a prodigious memory, which is however not always faithful to the original text of the composer, and for this reason has not the same value for the earnest musician which the general public seems to attach to it. His undertaking to play the five most advanced and most difficult Sonatas of Beethoven at one sitting, though in itself a prodigious feat, seems one of those exaggerations of the present time, which are also to be found amongst less interesting and noble occupations than pianoforte-playing. Beethoven himself would have been the first to deprecate such undertakings, as at once exhausting for the performer and wearisome for the listener. With regard to intelligence, knowledge, memory and technical execution, Bülow stands deservedly very high, and the programmes of his recitals embrace the masters of all schools and styles. Johannes Brahms's (1833–) style of playing differs greatly from that of Liszt and his disciples. His piano works are founded on the polyphonic system of Sebastian Bach, strongly influenced by Robert Schumann; his style is exceedingly intricate, and presents many difficulties for the executant—difficulties which are hardly in proportion with the actual effect they produce; and his pieces demand for a clear execution a muscular force and a sustaining power, which few players possess; at the same time their earnestness, solid substance, and intellectual, logical development, are matters of deep interest for the true musician.

The distinguished pianists, Thalberg, Liszt, and Chopin, exercised a great influence on their contemporaries, and we find among those who followed the style and school of Thalberg, Theodor Döhler, Leopold von Meyer, Rudolph Willmers, Emile Prudent, A. Goria, Henri Ravina, and Vincent Wallace. Among those who inclined towards the style of Liszt are Antoine Rubinstein, Hans von Bülow, Carl Tausig, Charles Valentin Alkan, Henry Litolff, Camille Saint-Saëns; and among those who felt Frederic Chopin's influence are Eduard Wolff, Jacob Rosenhain, Stephen Heller, Julius Schulhoff, Joseph Wieniawski, Xaver Scharwenka, and Moritz Moszkowski. But Mendelssohn and Schumann also exercised a great influence upon a number of excellent musicians, who followed the maxims of those illustrious masters in their style both of composition and performance. Mendelssohn's style is reproduced in the works of the Dane, Niels W. Gade (1817–), William Sterndale Bennett, Otto Goldschmidt, Wilhelm Kalliwoda, and Carl Reinecke, whilst reminiscences of Schumann are to be found in the works of Woldemar Bargiel, Theodor Kirchner, Rudolph Volckmann, and Adolph Jensen.

In looking back over the growth and development of pianoforte-playing in the last hundred years we find that the rupture between the school of Mozart (called by Fétis 'les pianistes harmonistes') and that of Clementi ('les pianistes brillants') took place about 1780. Beethoven, whose first piano compositions were published between 1790 and 1800, appears as a connecting or mediating link between these schools; with Carl Maria von Weber romantic expression comes into the foreground; whilst Franz Schubert inclines more towards the lyrical phase. After this time (1830–1840) the technical school appears entirely in the ascendant; Mendelssohn and Schumann then succeed in diverting attention towards their poetical and classical tendency; whilst the genial Pole, Frederic Chopin, refines and polishes the technical material, and reintroduces the charming effect of a sweet, supple, and singing style of playing. With Liszt and Thalberg, Rubinstein and Tausig, the brilliancy of technical execution reaches its culminating point; with regard to rapidity, force, ingenuity of combinations, and dazzling effect, it is not too much to assert that the highest point has been gained, and that with respect to quantity of notes and effects our present players are unrivalled; whether the quality is as good as it formerly was (about 1825) may be questioned. Our present Grand or Concert pianos offer to the performer every possible advantage and facility, but the perfection of the instruments has in itself tended to lessen the earnest study on the part of the player which was formerly necessary for the production of tone. This defect is partly due to the ignorance of too many of the present pianists in regard to the construction of the instrument on which they perform. Whilst every player on the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, or violoncello is intimately acquainted with the interior of his instrument, few pianists are able to describe the distinctive peculiarity of a Vienna, half-English, or English mechanism, to appreciate the difference between the actions of an Erard, a Pleyel, a Broadwood, a Steinway, or a Collard Grand