talks with master violinists and teachers
(Part of "Classical Music Sheets Library")


I. Eugène Ysaye
The Tools of Violin Mastery
II. Leopold Auer
A Method without Secrets
III. Eddy Brown
Hubay and Auer: Technic: Hints to the Student
IV. Mischa Elman
Life and Color in Interpretation. Technical Phases
V. Samuel Gardner
Technic and Musicianship
VI. Arthur Hartmann
The Problem of Technic
VII. Jascha Heifetz
The Danger of Practicing Too Much.
Technical Mastery and Temperament
VIII. David Hochstein
The Violin as a Means of Expression
IX. Fritz Kreisler
Personality in Art
X. Franz Kneisel
The Perfect String Ensemble
XI. Adolfo Betti
The Technic of the Modern Quartet
XII. Hans Letz
The Technic of Bowing
XIII. David Mannes
The Philosophy of Violin Teaching
XIV. Tivadar Nachéz
Joachim and Léonard as Teachers
XV. Maximilian Pilzer
The Singing Tone and the Vibrato
XVI. Maud Powell
Technical Difficulties: Some Hints for the Concert Player
XVII. Leon Sametini
XVIII. Alexander Saslavsky
What the Teacher Can and Cannot Do
XIX. Toscha Seidel
How to Study
XX. Edmund Severn
The Joachim Bowing and Others
XXI. Albert Spalding
The Most Important Factor in the Development of an Artist
XXII. Theodore Spiering
The Application of Bow Exercises to the Study of Kreutzer
XXIII. Jacques Thibaud
The Ideal Program
XXIV. Gustav Saenger
The Editor as a Factor in "Violin Mastery"
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The courts of editorial appeal presided over by such men as Wm. Arms Fisher, Dr. Theodore Baker, Gustav Saenger and others, have a direct relation to the establishment and maintenance of standards of musical mastery in general and, in the case of Gustav Saenger, with "Violin Mastery" in particular. For this editor, composer and violinist is at home with every detail of the educational and artistic development of his instrument, and a considerable portion of the violin music published in the United States represents his final and authoritative revision.

"Has the work of the editor any influence on the development of 'Violin Mastery'?" was the first question put to Mr. Saenger when he found time to see the writer in his editorial rooms. "In a larger sense I think it has," was the reply. "Mastery of any kind comes as a result of striving for a definite goal. In the case of the violin student the road of progress is long, and if he is not to stray off into the numerous by-paths of error, it must be liberally provided with sign-posts. These sign-posts, in the way of clear and exact indications with regard to bowing, fingering, interpretation, it is the editor's duty to erect. The student himself must provide mechanical ability and emotional instinct, the teacher must develop and perfect them, and the editor must neglect nothing in the way of explanation, illustration and example which will help both teacher and pupil to obtain more intimate insight into the musical and technical values. Yes, I think the editor may claim to be a factor in the attainment of 'Violin Mastery.'


"The work of the responsible editor of modern violin music must have constructive value, it must suggest and stimulate. When Kreutzer, Gavinies and Rode first published their work, little stress was laid on editorial revision. You will find little in the way of fingering indicated in the old editions of Kreutzer. It was not till long after Kreutzer's death that his pupil, Massart, published an excellent little book, which he called 'The Art of Studying R. Kreutzer's Études' and which I have translated. It contains no less than four hundred and twelve examples specially designed to aid the student to master the Études in the spirit of their composer. Yet these studies, as difficult to-day as they were when first written, are old wine that need no bush, though they have gained by being decanted into new bottles of editorial revision.


Gustav Saenger

"They have such fundamental value, that they allow of infinite variety of treatment and editorial presentation. Every student who has reached a certain degree of technical proficiency takes them up. Yet when studying them for the first time, as a rule it is all he can do to master them in a purely superficial way. When he has passed beyond them, he can return to them with greater technical facility and, because of their infinite variety, find that they offer him any number of new study problems. As with Kreutzer—an essential to 'Violin Mastery'—so it is with Rode, Fiorillo, and Gavinies. Editorial care has prepared the studies in distinct editions, such as those of Hermann and Singer, specifically for the student, and that of Emil Kross, for the advanced player. These editions give the work of the teacher a more direct proportion of result. The difference between the two types is mainly in the fingering. In the case of the student editions a simple, practical fingering of positive educational value is given; and the student should be careful to use editions of this kind, meant for him. Kross provides many of the études with fingerings which only the virtuoso player is able to apply. Aside from technical considerations the absolute musical beauty of many of these studies is great, and they are well suited for solo performance. Rode's Caprices, for instance, are particularly suited for such a purpose, and many of Paganini's famous Caprices have found a lasting place in the concert repertory, with piano accompaniments by artists like Kreisler, Eddy Brown, Edward Behm and Max Vogrich—- the last-named composer's three beautiful 'Characteristic Pieces' after Paganini are worth any violinist's attention.


"In this country those intrusted with editorial responsibility as regards violin music have upheld a truly American standard of independent judgment. The time has long since passed when foreign editions were accepted on their face value, particularly older works. In a word, the conscientious American editor of violin music reflects in his editions the actual state of progress of the art of violin playing as established by the best teachers and teaching methods, whether the works in question represent a higher or lower standard of artistic merit.

"And this is no easy task. One must remember that the peculiar construction of the violin with regard to its technical possibilities makes the presentation of a violin piece difficult from an editorial standpoint. A composition may be so written that a beginner can play it in the first position; and the same number may be played with beautiful effects in the higher positions by an artist. This accounts for the fact that in many modern editions of solo music for violin, double fingerings, for student and advanced players respectively, are indicated—an essentially modern editorial development. Modern instructive works by such masters as Sevčik, Eberhardt and others have made technical problems more clearly and concisely get-at-able than did the older methods. Yet some of these older works are by no means negligible, though of course, in all classic violin literature, from Tartini on, Kreutzer, Spohr, Paganini, Ernst, each individual artist represents his own school, his own method to the exclusion of any other. Spohr was one of the first to devote editorial attention to his own method, one which, despite its age, is a valuable work, though most students do not know how to use it. It is really a method for the advanced player, since it presupposes a good deal of preliminary technical knowledge, and begins at once with the higher positions. It is rather a series of study pieces for the special development of certain difficult phases, musical and technical, of the violinist's art, than a method. I have translated and edited the American edition of this work, and the many explanatory notes with which Spohr has provided it—as in his own 9th, and the Rode concerto (included as representative of what violin concertos really should be), the measures being provided with group numbers for convenience in reference—are not obsolete. They are still valid, and any one who can appreciate the ideals of the Gesangsscene, its beautiful cantilene and pure serenity, may profit by them. I enjoyed editing this work because I myself had studied with Carl Richter, a Spohr pupil, who had all his master's traditions.


"That the editorial revisions of a number of our greatest living violinists and teachers have passed through my editorial rooms, on their way to press, is a fact of which I am decidedly proud. Leopold Auer, for instance, is one of the most careful, exact and practical of editors, and the fact is worth dwelling on since sometimes the great artist or teacher quite naturally forgets that those for whom he is editing a composition have neither his knowledge nor resources. Auer never loses sight of the composer's own ideas.

"And when I mention great violinists with whom I have been associated as an editor, Mischa Elman must not be forgotten. I found it at first a difficult matter to induce an artist like Elman, for whom no technical difficulties exist, to seriously consider the limitations of the average player in his fingerings and interpretative demands. Elman, like every great virtuoso of his caliber, is influenced in his revisions by the manner in which he himself does things. I remember in one instance I could see no reason why he should mark the third finger for a cantilena passage where a certain effect was desired, and questioned it. Catching up his violin he played the note preceding it with his second finger, then instead of slipping the second finger down the string, he took the next note with the third, in such a way that a most exquisite legato effect, like a breath, the echo of a sigh, was secured. And the beauty of tone color in this instance not only proved his point, but has led me invariably to examine very closely a fingering on the part of a master violinist which represents a departure from the conventional—it is often the technical key to some new beauty of interpretation or expression.

"Fritz Kreisler's individuality is also reflected in his markings and fingerings. Of course those in his 'educational' editions are strictly meant for study needs. But in general they are difficult and based on his own manner and style of playing. As he himself has remarked: 'I could play the violin just as well with three as with four fingers.' Kreisler is fond of 'fingered' octaves, and these, because of his abnormal hand, he plays with the first and third fingers, where virtuose players, as a rule, are only too happy if they can play them with the first and fourth. To verify this individual character of his revisions, one need only glance at his edition of Godowsky's '12 Impressions' for violin—in every case the fingerings indicated are difficult in the extreme; yet they supply the key to definite effects, and since this music is intended for the advance player, are quite in order.

"The ms. and revisions of many other distinguished artists have passed through my hands. Theodore Spiering has been responsible for the educational detail of classic and modern works; Arthur Hartmann—a composer of marked originality—Albert Spalding, Eddy Brown, Francis MacMillan, Max Pilzer, David Hochstein, Richard Czerwonky, Cecil Burleigh, Edwin Grasse, Edmund Severn, Franz C. Bornschein, Leo Ornstein, Rubin Goldmark, Louis Pershinger, Louis Victor Saar—whose ms. always look as though engraved—have all given me opportunities of seeing the best the American violin composer is creating at the present time.


"The revisional work of the master violinist is of very great importance, but often great artists and distinguished teachers hold radically different views with regard to practically every detail of their art. And it is by no means easy for an editor like myself, who is finally responsible for their editions, to harmonize a hundred conflicting views and opinions. The fiddlers best qualified to speak with authority will often disagree absolutely regarding the use of a string, position, up-bow or down-bow. And besides meeting the needs of student and teacher, an editor-in-chief must bear in mind the artistic requirements of the music itself. In many cases the divergence in teaching standards reflects the personal preferences for the editions used. Less ambitious teachers choose methods which make the study of the violin as easy as possible for them; rather than those which—in the long run—may be most advantageous for the pupil. The best editions of studies are often cast aside for trivial reasons, such as are embodied in the poor excuse that 'the fourth finger is too frequently indicated.' According to the old-time formulas, it was generally accepted that ascending passages should be played on the open strings and descending ones using the fourth finger. It stands to reason that the use of the fourth finger involves more effort, is a greater tax of strength, and that the open string is an easier playing proposition. Yet a really perfected technic demands that the fourth finger be every bit as strong and flexible as any of the others. By nature it is shorter and weaker, and beginners usually have great trouble with it—which makes perfect control of it all the more essential! And yet teachers, contrary to all sound principle and merely to save effort—temporarily—for themselves and their pupils, will often reject an edition of a method or book of studies merely because in its editing the fourth finger has not been deprived of its proper chance of development. I know of cases where, were it not for the guidance supplied by editorial revision, the average teacher would have had no idea of the purpose of the studies he was using. One great feature of good modern editions of classical study works, from Kreutzer to Paganini, is the double editorial numeration: one giving the sequence as in the original editions; the other numbering the studies in order of technical difficulty, so that they may be practiced progressively.


"What special editorial work of mine has given me the greatest personal satisfaction in the doing? That is a hard question to answer. Off-hand I might say that, perhaps, the collection of progressive orchestral studies for advanced violinists which I have compiled and annotated for the benefit of the symphony orchestra player is something that has meant much to me personally. Years ago, when I played professionally—long before the days of 'miniature' orchestra scores—it was almost impossible for an ambitious young violinist to acquaint himself with the first and second violin parts of the great symphonic works. Prices of scores were prohibitive—and though in such works as the Brahms symphonies, for instance, the 'concertmaster's' part should be studied from score, in its relation to the rest of the partitura—often, merely to obtain a first violin part, I had to acquire the entire set of strings. So when I became an editor I determined, in view of my own unhappy experiences and that of many others, to give the aspiring fiddler who really wanted to 'get at' the violin parts of the best symphonic music, from Bach to Brahms and Richard Strauss, a chance to do so. And I believe I solved the problem in the five books of the 'Modern Concert-Master,' which includes all those really difficult and important passages in the great repertory works of the symphony orchestra that offer violinistic problems. My only regret is that the grasping attitude of European publishers prevented the representation of certain important symphonic numbers. Yet, as it stands, I think I may say that the five encyclopedic books of the collection give the symphony concertmaster every practical opportunity to gain orchestral routine, and orchestral mastery.


"What I am inclined to consider, however, as even more important, in a sense, than my editorial labors is a new educational classification of violin literature, one which practically covers the entire field of violin music, and upon which I have been engaged for several years. Insomuch as an editor's work helps in the acquisition of 'Violin Mastery,' I am tempted to think this catalogue will be a contribution of real value.

"As far as I know there does not at present exist any guide or hand-book of violin literature in which the fundamental question of grading has been presented au fond. This is not strange, since the task of compiling a really valid and logically graded guide-book of violin literature is one that offers great difficulties from almost every point of view.

"Yet I have found the work engrossing, because the need of a book of the kind which makes it easy for the teacher to bring his pupils ahead more rapidly and intelligently by giving him an oversight of the entire teaching-material of the violin and under clear, practical heads in detail order of progression is making itself more urgently felt every day. In classification (there are seven grades and a preparatory grade), I have not chosen an easier and conventional plan of general consideration of difficulties; but have followed a more systematic scheme, one more closely related to the study of the instrument itself. Thus, my 'Preparatory Grade' contains only material which could be advantageously used with children and beginners, those still struggling with the simplest elementary problems—correct drawing of the bow across the open strings, in a certain rhythmic order, and the first use of the fingers. And throughout the grades are special sub-sections for special difficulties, special technical and other problems. In short, I cannot help but feel that I have compiled a real guide, one with a definite educational value, and not a catalogue, masquerading as a violinistic Baedeker.


"One of the most significant features of the violin guide I have mentioned is, perhaps, the fact that its contents largely cover the whole range of violin literature in American editions. There was a time, years ago, when 'made in Germany' was accepted as a certificate of editorial excellence and mechanical perfection. Those days have long since passed, and the American edition has come into its own. It has reached a point of development where it is of far more practical and musically stimulating value than any European edition. For American editions of violin music do not take so much for granted! They reflect in the highest degree the needs of students and players in smaller places throughout the country, and where teachers are rare or non-existent they do much to supply instruction by meticulous regard for all detail of fingering, bowing, phrasing, expression, by insisting in explanatory annotation on the correct presentation of authoritative teaching ideas and principles. In a broader sense 'Violin Mastery' knows no nationality; but yet we associate the famous artists of the day with individual and distinctively national trends of development and 'schools.' In this connection I am convinced that one result of this great war of world liberation we have waged, one by-product of the triumph of the democratic truth, will be a notably 'American' ideal of 'Violin Mastery,' in the musical as well as the technical sense. And in the development of this ideal I do not think it is too much to claim that American editions of violin music, and those who are responsible for them, will have done their part."

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