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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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