and conscious of doing something. Heaven knows how such "quadrupeds" find their way from the village church to our opera theatres. But "dragging" is not a characteristic of the elegant conductors of these latter days; on the contrary they have a fatal tendency to hurry and to run away with the tempi. THIS TENDENCY TO HURRY is so characteristic a mark of our entire musical life latterly, that I propose to enter into some details with regard to it. Robert Schumann once complained to me at Dresden that he could not enjoy the Ninth Symphony at the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts because of the quick tempi Mendelssohn chose to take, particularly in the first movement. I have, myself, only once been present at a rehearsal of one of Beethoven's Symphonies, when Mendelssohn conducted; the rehearsal took place at Berlin, and the Symphony was No. 8 (in F major). I noticed that he chose a detail here and there--almost at random--and worked at it with a certain obstinacy, until it stood forth clearly. This was so manifestly to the advantage of the detail that I could not but wonder why he did not take similar pains with other nuances. For the rest, this incomparably bright symphony was rendered in a remarkably smooth and genial manner. Mendelssohn himself once remarked to me, with regard to conducting, that he thought most harm was done by taking a tempo too slow; and that on the contrary, he always recommended quick tempi as being less detrimental. Really good execution, he thought, was at all times a rare thing, but short-comings might be disguised if care was taken that they should not appear very prominent; and the best way to do this was "to get over the ground quickly." This can hardly have been a casual view, accidentally mentioned in conversation. The master's pupils must have received further and more detailed instruction; for, subsequently, I have, on various occasions, noticed the consequences of that maxim "take quick tempi," and have, I think, discovered the reasons which may have led to its adoption. I remembered it well, when I came to lead the orchestra of the Philharmonic Society in London, 1855. Mendelssohn had conducted the concerts during several seasons, and the tradition of his readings was carefully preserved. It appears likely that the habits and peculiarities of the Philharmonic Society suggested to Mendelssohn his favourite style of performance (Vortragsweise)-- certainly it was admirably adapted to meet their wants. An unusual amount of instrumental music is consumed at these concerts; but, as a rule, each piece is rehearsed once only. Thus in many instances, I could not avoid letting the orchestra follow its traditions, and so I became acquainted with a style of performance which called up a lively recollection of Mendelssohn's remarks. The music gushed forth like water from a fountain; there was no arresting it, and every Allegro ended as an undeniable Presto. It was troublesome and difficult to interfere; for when correct tempi and proper modifications of these were taken the defects of style which the flood had carried along or concealed became painfully apparent. The orchestra generally played mezzoforte; no real forte, no real piano was attained. Of course, in important cases I took care to enforce the reading I thought the true one, and to insist upon the right tempo. The excellent musicians did not object to this; on the contrary, they showed themselves sincerely glad of it; the public also approved, but the critics were annoyed and continued so to browbeat the directors of the society that the latter actually requested me to permit the second movement of Mozart's Symphony in E flat to be played in the flabby and colourless way (ruschlich herunter spielen) they had been accustomed to--and which, they said, even Mendelssohn himself had sanctioned. The fatal maxims came to the front quite clearly when I was about to rehearse a symphony by a very amiable elderly contrapuntist, Mr. Potter, [Footnote: Cipriani Potter, 1792-1871, pianist and composer, author of "Recollections of Beethoven." etc.] if I mistake not. The composer approached me in a pleasant way, and asked me to take the Andante rather quickly as he feared it might prove tedious. I assured him that his Andante, no matter how short its duration might be, would inevitably prove tedious if it was played in a vapid and inexpressive manner; whereas if the orchestra could be got to play the very pretty and ingenious theme, as I felt confident he meant it and as I now sang it to him, it would certainly please. Mr. Potter was touched; he agreed, and excused himself, saying that latterly he had not been in the habit of reckoning upon this sort of orchestral playing. In the evening, after the Andante, he joyfully pressed my hand. I have often been astonished at the singularly slight sense for tempo and execution evinced by leading musicians. I found it impossible, for instance, to communicate to Mendelssohn what I felt to be a perverse piece of negligence with regard to the tempo of the third movement in Beethoven's Symphony in F major, No. 8. This is one of the instances I have chosen out of many to throw light upon certain dubious aspects of music amongst us. We know that Haydn in his principal later symphonies used the form of the Menuet as a pleasant link between the Adagio and the final Allegro, and that he thus was induced to increase the speed of the movement considerably, contrary to the character of the true Menuet. It is clear that he incorporated the "Landler," [Footnote: A South German country dance in 3/4 time, from which the modern waltz is derived.] particularly in the "Trio"--so that, with regard to the tempo, the designation "Menuetto" is hardly appropriate, and was retained for conventional reasons only. Nevertheless, I believe Haydn's Menuets are generally taken too quick; undoubtedly the Menuets of Mozart's Symphonies are; this will be felt very distinctly if, for instance, the Menuetto in Mozart's Symphony in G minor, and still more that of his Symphony in C major, be played a little slower than at the customary pace. It will be found that the latter Menuet, which is usually hurried, and treated almost as a Presto, will now shew an amiable, firm and festive character; in contrast with which, the trio, with its delicately sustained [music score excerpt] is reduced, as usually given, to an empty hurry-skurry (eine nichtssagende Nuschelei). Now Beethoven, as is not uncommon with him, meant to write a true Menuet in his F major Symphony; he places it between the two main Allegro movements as a sort of complementary antithesis (ein gewissermassen erganzender Gegensatz) to an Allegretto scherzando which precedes it, and to remove any doubt as to his intentions regarding the Tempo he designates it NOT as a Menuetto: but as a Tempo di Menuetto. This novel and unconventional characterization of the two middle movements of a symphony was almost entirely overlooked: the Allegretto scherzando was taken to represent the usual Andante, the Tempo di Menuetto, the familiar "Scherzo" and, as the two movements thus interpreted seemed rather paltry, and none of the usual effects could be got with them, our musicians came to regard the entire symphony as a sort of accidental hors d'oeuvre of Beethoven's muse--who, after the exertions with the A major symphony had chosen "to take things rather easily." Accordingly after the Allegretto Scherzando, the time of which is invariably "dragged" somewhat, the Tempo di Minuetto is universally served up as a refreshing "Landler," which passes the ear without leaving any distinct impression. Generally, however, one is glad when the tortures of the Trio are over. This loveliest of idylls is turned into a veritable monstrosity by the passage in triplets for the violoncello; which, if taken at the usual quick pace, is the despair of violoncellists, who are worried with the hasty staccato across the strings and back again, and find it impossible to produce anything but a painful series of scratches. Naturally, this difficulty disappears as soon as the delicate melody of the horns and clarinets is taken at the proper tempo; these instruments are thus relieved from the special difficulties pertaining to them, and which, particularly with the clarinet, at times render it likely to produce a "quack" [FOOTNOTE: Anglice, "a goose,"] even in the hands of skilful players. I remember an occasion when all the musicians began to breathe at ease on my taking this piece at the true moderate pace: then the humorous sforzato of the basses and bassoons at once produced an intelligible effect; the short crescendi became clear, the delicate pianissimo close was effective, and the gentle gravity of the returning principal movement was properly felt. Now, the late Capellmeister Reissiger, of Dresden, once conducted this symphony there, and I happened to be present at the performance together with Mendelssohn; we talked about the dilemma just described, and its proper solution; concerning which I told Mendelssohn that I believed I had convinced Reissiger, who had promised that he would take the tempo slower than usual. Mendelssohn perfectly agreed with me. We listened. The third movement began and I was terrified on hearing precisely the old Landler tempo; but before I could give vent to my annoyance Mendelssohn smiled, and pleasantly nodded his head, as if to say "now it's all right! Bravo!" So my terror changed to astonishment. Reissiger, for reasons which I shall discuss presently, may not have been so very much to blame for persisting in the old tempo; but Mendelssohn's indifference, with regard to this queer artistic contretemps, raised doubts in my mind whether he saw any distinction and difference in the case at all. I fancied myself standing before an abyss of superficiality, a veritable void. SOON after this had happened with Reissiger, the very same thing took place with the same movement of the Eighth Symphony at Leipzig. The conductor, in the latter case, was a well-known successor of Mendelssohn at the Gewandhaus concerts.
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