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[FOOTNOTE: Ferdinand Hiller.] He also had agreed with my views as
to the Tempo di Menuetto, and had invited me to attend a concert
at which he promised to take it at the proper moderate pace. He
did not keep his word and offered a queer excuse: he laughed, and
confessed that he had been disturbed with all manner of
administrative business, and had only remembered his promise
after the piece had begun; naturally he could not then alter the
tempo, etc. The explanation was sufficiently annoying. Still I
could, at least, flatter myself that I had found somebody to
share my views as to the difference between one tempo and
another. I doubt, however, whether the conductor could be fairly
reproached with a want of forethought and consideration;
unconsciously, perhaps, he may have had a very good reason for
his "forgetfulness." It would have been very indiscreet to risk a
change of tempo which had not been rehearsed. For the orchestra,
accustomed to play the piece in a quick tempo, would have been
disturbed by the sudden imposition of a more moderate pace;
which, as a matter of course, demands a totally different style
of playing.

We have now reached an important and decisive point, an
appreciation of which is indispensable if we care to arrive at a
satisfactory conclusion regarding the execution of classical
music. Injudicious tempi might be defended with some show of
reason inasmuch as a factitious style of delivery has arisen in
conformity with them, and to the uninitiated such conformity of
style and tempo might appear as a proof that all was right. The
evil, however, is apparent enough if only the right tempo is
taken, in which case the false style becomes quite unbearable.

To illustrate this, in the simplest possible way, let us take the
opening of the C minor Symphony

[Musical Score excerpt of the famous main motif from Beethoven's
Fifth]

Usually the fermata of the second bar is left after a slight
rest; our conductors hardly make use of this fermata for anything
else than to fix the attention of their men upon the attack of
the figure in the third bar. In most cases the note E flat is not
held any longer than a forte produced with a careless stroke of
the bow will last upon the stringed instruments. Now, suppose the
voice of Beethoven were heard from the grave admonishing a
conductor: "Hold my fermata firmly, terribly! I did not write
fermatas in jest, or because I was at a loss how to proceed; I
indulge in the fullest, the most sustained tone to express
emotions in my Adagio; and I use this full and firm tone when I
want it in a passionate Allegro as a rapturous or terrible spasm.
Then the very life blood of the tone shall be extracted to the
last drop. I arrest the waves of the sea, and the depths shall be
visible; or, I stem the clouds, disperse the mist, and show the
pure blue ether and the glorious eye of the sun. For this I put
fermatas, sudden long-sustained notes in my Allegro. And now look
at my clear thematic intention with the sustained E flat after
the three stormy notes, and understand what I meant to say with
other such sustained notes in the sequel."

[FOOTNOTE: In the original this fine passage is: "Nun setzen wir
den Fall, die Stimme Beethoven's habe aus den Grabe einem
Dirigenten zugerufen; Halte du meine Fermate lange und furchtbar!
Ich schrieb keine Fermaten zum Spass oder aus Verlegenheit, etwa
um mich auf das Weitere zu besinnen; sondern, was in meinem
Adagio der ganz und voll aufzusaugende Ton fur den Ausdruck der
schwelgenden Empfindung ist, dasselbe werfe ich, wenn ich es
brauche, in das heftig und schnell figurirte Allegro, als wonnig
oder schrecklich anhaltenden Krampf. Dann soll das Leben des
Tones bis auf seinen letzten Blutstropfen aufgesogen werden; dann
halte ich die Wellen meines Meeres an, und lasse in seinen
Abgrund blicken; oder hemme ich den Zug der Wolken, zertheile die
wirren Nebelstreifen, und lasse einmal in den reinen blauen
Aether, in das strahlende Auge der Sonne schauen. Hierfur setze
ich Fermaten, d. h. plotzlich eintretende lang auszuhaltende
Noten in meine Allegro's. Und nun beachte du, welche ganz
bestimmte thematische Absicht ich mit diesem ausgehaltenen Es
nach drei sturmisch kurzen Noten hatte, und was ich mit allen den
im Folgenden gleich auszuhaltenden Noten gesagt haben will."]

Suppose a conductor were to attempt to hold the fermata as here
directed, what would be the result? A miserable failure. After
the initial power of the bow of the stringed instruments had been
wasted, their tone would become thin and thinner, ending in a
week and timid piano: for--(and here is one of the results of
indifferent conducting)--our orchestras now-a-days hardly know
what is meant by EQUALLY SUSTAINED TONE. Let any conductor ask
any orchestral instrument, no matter which, for a full and
prolonged FORTE, and he will find the player puzzled, and will be
astonished at the trouble it takes to get what he asks for.

Yet TONE SUSTAINED WITH EQUAL POWER is the basis of all
expression, [FOOTNOTE: Die Basis aller Dynamik.] with the voice
as with the orchestra: the manifold modifications of the power of
tone, which constitute one of the principal elements of musical
expression, rest upon it. Without such basis an orchestra will
produce much noise but no power. And this is one of the first
symptoms of the weakness of most of our orchestral performances.
The conductors of the day care little about a sustained forte,
but they are particularly fond of an EXAGGERATED PIANO. Now the
strings produce the latter with ease, but the wind instruments,
particularly the wood winds do not. It is almost impossible to
get a delicately sustained piano from wind instruments.

The players, flautists particularly, have transformed their
formerly delicate instruments into formidable tubes
(Gewaltsrohren). French oboists, who have preserved the pastoral
character of their instrument, and our clarinetists, when they
make use of the "Echo effect," are the exceptions.

This drawback, which exists in our best orchestras, suggests the
question: why, at least, do not conductors try to equalise
matters by demanding a somewhat fuller piano from the strings?
But the conductors do not seem to notice any discrepancy.

To a considerable extent the fault lies not so much with the wind
instruments, as in the character of the piano of the strings; for
we do not possess a TRUE PIANO, just as we do not possess a TRUE
FORTE; both are wanting in fulness of tone--to attain which our
stringed instruments should watch the tone of the winds. Of
course it is easy enough to produce a buzzing vibration by gently
passing the bow over the strings; but it requires great artistic
command of the breath to produce a delicate and pure tone upon a
wind instrument. Players of stringed instruments should copy the
full-toned piano of the best winds, and the latter, again, should
endeavour to imitate the best vocalists.

The sustained soft tone here spoken of, and the sustained
powerful tone mentioned above, are the two poles of orchestral
expression. [FOOTNOTE: Dynamik des Orchesters.]

But what about orchestral execution if neither the one nor the
other is properly forthcoming? Where are the modifications of
expression to come from if the very means of expression are
defective? Thus, the Mendelssohnian rule of "getting over the
ground" (des flotten Daruberhinweggehens) suggested a happy
expedient; conductors gladly adopted the maxim, and turned it
into a veritable dogma; so that, nowadays, attempts to perform
classical music correctly are openly denounced as heretical!

I am persistently returning to the question of tempo because, as
I said above, this is the point at which it becomes evident
whether a conductor understands his business or not.

Obviously the proper pace of a piece of music is determined by
the particular character of the rendering it requires; the
question, therefore, comes to this: does the sustained tone, the
vocal element, the cantilena predominate, or the rhythmical
movement? (Figuration). The conductor should lead accordingly.

The Adagio stands to the Allegro as the sustained tone stands to
the RHYTHMICAL MOVEMENT (figurirte Bewegung). The sustained tone
regulates the Tempo Adagio: here the rhythm is as it were
dissolved in pure tone, the tone per se suffices for the musical
expression. In a certain delicate sense it may be said of the
pure Adagio that it cannot be taken too slow. A rapt confidence
in the sufficiency of pure musical speech should reign here; the
languor of feeling grows to ecstasy; that which in the Allegro
was expressed by changes of figuration, is now conveyed by means
of variously inflected tone. Thus the least change of harmony may
call forth a sense of surprise; and again, the most remote
harmonic progressions prove acceptable to our expectant feelings.

None of our conductors are courageous enough to take an Adagio in
this manner; they always begin by looking for some bit of
figuration, and arrange their tempo to match. I am, perhaps, the
only conductor who has ventured to take the Adagio section of the
third movement of the Ninth Symphony at the pace proper to its
peculiar character. This character is distinctly contrasted with
that of the alternating Andante in triple time; but our
conductors invariably contrive to obliterate the difference,
leaving only the rhythmical change between square and triple
time. This movement (assuredly one of the most instructive in the
present respect), finally (in the section in twelve-eight time),
offers a conspicuous example of the breaking up of the pure
Adagio by the more marked rhythms of an independent
accompaniment, during which the cantilena is steadily and broadly
continued. In this section we may recognize, as it were, a fixed
and consolidated reflex

[FOOTNOTE: In the original: "Hier erkennen wir das gleichsam
fixirte Bild des zuvor nach unendlicher Ausdehnung verlangenden
Adagio's, und wie dort eine uneingeschrankte Freiheit fur die
Befriedigung des tonischen Ausdruckes das zwischen zartesten
Gesetzen schwankende Maass der Bewegung angab, wird hier durch

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