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List Of Contents | Contents of On Conducting
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Variation-form, however, becomes apparent when strongly
contrasting parts are placed in juxtaposition, without any link
to connect them. Beethoven often contrives to convert this same
weakness into a source of strength; and he manages to do so in a
manner which excludes all sense of accident or of awkwardness:
namely--at the point which I have described above as marking the
limits of the laws of beauty with regard to the sustained tone
(in the Adagio), and the unfettered movement (in the Allegro)--he
contrives to satisfy, in a seemingly abrupt way, the extreme
longing after an antithesis; which antithesis, by means of a
different and contrasting movement, is now made to serve as a
relief. This can be observed in the master's greatest works. The
last movement of the Sinfonia eroica, for instance, affords
excellent instruction in this respect; it should be understood as
a movement consisting of a greatly expanded series of variations;
and accordingly it should be interpreted with as much variety as
possible. To do this properly, here as in all similar cases, the
above mentioned weakness of the Variation-form, and the
disadvantage which is felt to result from it, must be taken into
account. Single and separate variations are frequently seen to
have had each an independent origin, and to have merely been
strung together in a conventional manner. The unpleasant effects
of such fortuitous juxtaposition are particularly felt in cases
where a quiet and sustained theme is followed by an exceptionally
lively variation.

The first variation on that most wonderful theme in Beethoven's
grand Sonata in A major for piano and violin (Kreutzer) is an
example. Virtuosi always treat this as "a first variation" of the
common type--i.e., a mere display of musical gymnastics, which
destroys all desire to listen any further. It is curious that,
whenever I have mentioned the case of this variation to anyone,
my experience with the tempo di minuetto of the eighth symphony
has been repeated. Everybody agreed with me "on the whole"; but
in particular, people failed to see what I was aiming at.
Certainly (to go on with the example) this first variation of
that lovely sustained theme is of a conspicuously lively
character; when the composer invented it he could hardly have
thought of it as immediately following the theme, or as being in
direct contact with it. The component parts of the Variation-form
are each complete in themselves, and perhaps the composer was
unconsciously influenced by this fact. But, when the entire piece
is played, the parts appear in uninterrupted succession. We know
from other movements of the master's (for instance the second
movement of the C minor symphony, the Adagio of the great quartet
in E flat, and above all from the wonderful second movement of
the great sonata in C minor, Op. III), which are all written in
the form of Variations, but in which the parts are conceived as
standing in immediate connection, how deftly and delicately the
links between the different variations can be contrived. A player
who, in a case like that of the so-called "Kreutzer-Sonata,"
claims the honour of representing the master in full, might, at
least, attempt to establish some sort of relation and connection
between the sentiment of the theme and that of the first
variation; he might begin the latter at a more moderate pace, and
gradually lead up to the lively movement. Pianoforte and violin
players are firmly persuaded that the character of this variation
differs considerably from that of the theme. Let them then
interpret it with artistic discrimination, and treat the first
part of the variation as a gradual approach to the new tempo;
thus adding a charm to the interest the part already possesses
per se.

A stronger case, of similar import, will be found in the
beginning of the first Allegro 6-8 after the long introductory
Adagio of the string quartet in C sharp minor. [FOOTNOTE: Op.
131.] This is marked "molto vivace," and the character of the
entire movement is thus appropriately indicated. In quite an
exceptional way, however Beethoven has, in this quartet, so
arranged the several movements that they are heard in immediate
succession, without the customary interval; indeed they appear to
be developed one from the other according to certain delicate
laws. Thus the Allegro immediately follows an Adagio full of a
dreamy sadness, not to be matched elsewhere in the master's
works. If it were permitted to interpret the Allegro as showing a
state of feeling, such as could in some sort be reproduced in
pictorial language, (deutbares Stimmungsbild) one might say that
it shews a most lovely phenomenon, which arises, as it were, from
the depths of memory, and which, as soon as it has been
apprehended, is warmly taken up, and cherished. Evidently the
question, with regard to execution, here is: how can this
phenomenon (the new Allegro theme) be made to arise naturally
from the sad and sombre close of the Adagio, so that its abrupt
appearance shall prove attractive rather than repellant? Very
appropriately, the new theme first appears like a delicate,
hardly distinguishable dream, in unbroken pp, and is then lost in
a melting ritardando; thereafter, by means of a crescendo, it
enters its true sphere, and proceeds to unfold its real nature.
It is obviously the delicate duty of the executants to indicate
the character of the new movement with an appropriate
modification of tempo--i.e., to take the notes which immediately
succeed the Adagio for a link, and so unobtrusively to connect
them with the following that a change in the movement is hardly
perceptible, and moreover so to manage the ritardando, that the
crescendo, which comes after it, will introduce the master's
quick tempo, in such wise that the molto vivace now appears as
the rhythmical consequence of the increase of tone during the
crescendo. But the modifications here indicated are usually
overlooked; and the sense of artistic propriety is outraged by a
sudden and vulgar vivace, as though the whole piece were meant
for a jest, and the gaiety had at last begun! People seem to
think this "classical." [FOOTNOTE: For further comments upon this
Quartet see Appendix B.]

I may have been top circumstantial, but the matter is of
incalculable importance. Let us now proceed to look still more
closely into the wants and requirements of a proper performance
of classical music. In the foregoing investigations I hoped to
have elucidated the problem of the modification of tempo, and to
have shewn how a discerning mind will recognise and solve the
difficulties inherent in modern classical music. Beethoven has
furnished the immortal type of what I may call emotional,
sentimental music--it unites all the separate and peculiar
constituents of the earlier essentially naive types; sustained
and interrupted tone, cantilena and figurations, are no longer
kept formally asunder--the manifold changes of a series of
variations are not merely strung together, but are now brought
into immediate contact, and made to merge one into the other.
Assuredly, the novel and infinitely various combinations of a
symphonic movement must be set in motion in an adequate and
appropriate manner if the whole is not to appear as a
monstrosity. I remember in my young days to have heard older
musicians make very dubious remarks about the Eroica. [FOOTNOTE:
Beethoven's Symphony, No. III.]  Dionys Weber, at Prague, simply
treated it as a nonentity. The man was right in his way; he chose
to recognise nothing but the Mozartian Allegro; and in the strict
tempo peculiar to that Allegro, he taught his pupils at the
Conservatorium to play the Eroica! The result was such that one
could not help agreeing with him. Yet everywhere else the work
was thus played, and it is still so played to this day! True, the
symphony is now received with universal acclamations; but, if we
are not to laugh at the whole thing, the real reasons for its
success must be sought in the fact that Beethoven's music is
studied apart from the concert-rooms--particularly at the piano--
and its irresistible power is thus fully felt, though in rather a
round-about way. If fate had not furnished such a path of safety,
and if our noblest music depended solely upon the conductors, it
would have perished long ago.

To support so astounding an assertion I will take a popular
example:--Has not every German heard the overture to Der
Freyschutz over and over again? I have been told of sundry
persons who were surprised to find how frequently they had
listened to this wonderful musical poem, without having been
shocked when it was rendered in the most trivial manner; these
persons were among the audience of a concert given at Vienna in
1864, when I was invited to conduct the overture. At the
rehearsal it came to pass that the orchestra of the imperial
opera (certainly one of the finest orchestras in existence), were
surprised at my demands regarding the execution of this piece. It
appeared at once that the Adagio of the introduction had
habitually been taken as a pleasant Andante in the tempo of the
"Alphorn," [FOOTNOTE: A sentimental song by Proch.] or some such
comfortable composition. That this was not "Viennese tradition"
only, but had come to be the universal practice, I had already
learnt at Dresden--where Weber himself had conducted his work.
When I had a chance to conduct Der Freyschutz at Dresden--
eighteen years after Weber's death--I ventured to set aside the
slovenly manner of execution which had prevailed under Reissiger,
my senior colleague. I simply took the tempo of the introduction
to the overture as I felt it; whereupon a veteran member of the
orchestra, the old violoncellist Dotzauer, turned towards me and
said seriously: "Yes, this is the way Weber himself took it; I
now hear it again correctly for the first time." Weber's widow,
who still resided at Dresden, became touchingly solicitous for my
welfare in the position of Capellmeister. She trusted that my
sympathy with her deceased husband's music would bring about
correct performances of his works, for which she had no longer

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