Debutante - The Choice of a Conductor - Some Final Words of Advice
The violin is an exceptionally sensitive instrument, and, on that account, needs the most careful treatment. It is very liable to get out of order, and in a way quite incomprehensible to those who do not sufficiently appreciate its " delicate constitution."
For this reason, I would counsel anyone possessing a really good violin to have it overhauled carefully from time to time. The instrument must be kept always in " good health." I have made a rule of doing this, and the result has been well worth the trouble.
The Care of a Violin
With regard to the purchase of a violin, it is an erroneous idea to imagine that this is necessarily an expensive undertaking. It should be no difficult matter for the student to obtain a satisfactory instrument at a reasonable price, assuming, of course, that she patronises a reliable dealer.
The strings of the instrument must be good and absolutely correct in their intonation, so as to ensure equal vibration. The violinist, too, would do well to have her bow re-haired at frequent intervals. This is an important point, which experience has taught me is overlooked too often by a very large number of players. Many people make the fatal mistake of continuing to use a bow for years without ever taking the trouble to have it re-haired.
The bridge of a violin, I need scarcely say, must bernade of the right kind of wood - soft and rather old wood is the best-while the violin itself should always be kept in a warm place, neither damp nor yet too dry. Rosin, too, should be kept away from it at all costs, as this substance is apt to destroy the instrument's tone.
The hypercritical may, perhaps, consider these hints are of too elementary a kind. But this is not so. I have noticed that quite experienced players show a marked tendency to overlook these rudimentary points, and their violins have suffered in consequence. Choice of a Teacher
The selection of a good teacher is obviously a matter of supreme importance. It by no means follows that the greatest performer is necessarily the best teacher. No - in my opinion, a really great teacher of the violin is he or she who is, first, a thorough musician, not merely a master of the violin only, but a competent all-round musician, and, secondly, one who makes a point of impressing upon the pupil that intonation is of incalculable value.
Many violin teachers, in my opinion, do wrong in not enforcing the proper method of playing. There is only one method. Naturally the really ambitious student is inclined to try to " run before learning to walk " properly; in other words, is apt to play a great deal too fast. Slow practice is absolutely essential, and should be insisted upon by every teacher of the violin, since a student's earlier efforts with the bow must necessarily be more in the nature of "study " than of "playing." A very long course of study is necessary before one can claim ability to play.
It is impossible to lay down any hard and fast rules on the subject of practice, for, after all, this must necessarily depend to a great extent on the age and strength of a pupil. I would point out, however, that no young student should be allowed to practise when at all fatigued, either in mind or body.
It is inadvisable, too, to force a pupil at the beginning. Three or four hours' practice a day should prove quite sufficient in a student's early days. Satisfactory results can only be obtained so long as the mind remains fresh. It is good policy to allow the student to practise for no longer than an hour at a time, and then to indulge in some other occupation until the next lesson. By following this method, the student will be prevented from becoming bored and depressed by too prolonged work.
And now a few words on the subject of the best " schools " for a violinist to study. Naturally, there are many really sound books, but I am inclined to think that the work by L. Spohr is the best study of the old method. For the modern method Sevcik's ' Violin and Bowing School " can be thoroughly recommended. This latter work, which comprises four volumes, includes no fewer than four thousand bowings. Perhaps Spohr gives more melodious exercises than Sevcik, but he does not enter into so many details. Despite this, however, his is a really admirable school.
Again, for pure violin playing, Bach's sonatas for the violin afford splendid work. Indeed, I think a pupil cannot do better than take one part of a sonata and practise it every day until absolute perfection is achieved. Apart from their artistic worth, these sonatas are to be recommended specially on account of their technical value, both for the right and left hands.
I am a firm believer, again, in the student being accompanied in all exercises by a pianist. Each exercise should be played too slowly, rather than too fast, and if the pianist harmonises the accompaniment, it will prove of considerable assistance to the ear, a point that is, of course, of the utmost importance.
Miss Marie Hall, the world-famous violinist, who in these pages gives special hints to readers of Every Woman' s Encyclopaedia. She is one of the many brilliant pupils of Herr Sevcik, and her career has been signalised by the greatest success. She is known in all parts of the musical world Photo, Foitlsham & Banfield
When to Make a Debut
Let me now touch on the subject of violin playing from a professional point of view. In the first place, I must say that I do not think it advisable for a violinist to make a debut in public before nineteen or twenty years of age. There is so much real hard study associated with the attainment of anything like perfection in violin- playing, that a too early bow to the public may easily mar a violinist's whole career.
It is well, too, for a violinist to gain as much experience of playing in public as possible before making her professional debut. Above all else, the young player needs confidence, and this, of course, can only be obtained by the pupil gradually becoming used to the sensation of playing before an audience.
The Importance of a Good Conductor
To a beginner making a first appearance, a sympathetic conductor is a true guardian angel. He helps her with his own experience, enriching her work as she progresses, coaxing her to touch success, and showing her how to grasp it. Therefore, the inexperienced artiste should select the very best conductor available.
In making a choice, the fact should be remembered that it is not always the man with the greatest name who will meet present requirements. A really great musician is needed, and a debutante will be fortunate indeed if he is also a violinist - such as Arbos and Willie Hess, who, when wielding the baton, identify themselves so thoroughly with the soloist that their orchestras and the artist are always in such absolute accord as to ensure the best possible results.
For perfect pleasure in concerted music, a violinist must surely always plead for orchestral accompaniment in place of only the use of a pianoforte; for the piano does not blend with the violin. It kills the note instead of aiding its fulfilment, whereas the orchestra, with its strings and wood-wind, carries it on in the right quality.
Does any executant, I wonder, obtain such real and satisfying pleasure from his or her art as the solo violinist who has a sympathetic conductor at the head of a faultless orchestra ? I scarcely think this would be possible.
A Personal Experience
The first time I experienced this delight was when I was eighteen, and my master,
Professor Sevcik, sent me to Vienna to play with the Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Professor Prill, at the Grosse Musik Vereinsaal. But I cannot pretend that the idea of the enterprise was pleasant. Quite the reverse ! Indeed, a more wretched creature than I felt before making my first appearance, after my year of study under Sevcik, it would be impossible to imagine. It was, in fact, only my wish to realise his hopes for me that helped me to conquer my dread of the occasion and screw up my courage to the necessary pitch.
I did my best to keep the knowledge of my approaching debut from friends and fellow-students, wishing to face the ordeal unknown as much as possible; and I fondly hoped that my strategy had been successful. But as I went on to the platform to play the Ernst and Tchaikovsky concertos and a number of other pieces, I was troubled to see in front another Sevcik pupil.
I firmly believe that had it not been for the dread of hurting the feelings of my master, I should have turned and fled, regardless of my own future.
There is still another hint to be given about public performances which may prove of value to professional violinists. If possible, they would do well to play before-hand in the hall where their performance is to be given. By doing so they will become accustomed to their surroundings, and will also learn how to use their tones to the best advantage.
And now, most earnestly, let me remind would-be artistes that where music is concerned their education can never really be at an end. After all, the violin is only one small department of the art of music, and the violinist has much indeed to learn from all the others. This being so, I am quite convinced that ambitious students would do well to endeavour to hear as much good music as possible, and I would recommend their attendance at all the best concerts of orchestral and chamber music.
Let them, too, go to the opera, and carefully note which are the vocalist's best effects and how these effects are obtained.
Finally, let me say that, even though a professional violinist may perhaps never attain to the starry heights of her ambition, her affection for her art will in itself, if she really loves music, prove at all times a compensation of enormous value.
And so, to would-be artistes all the world over, let me say, "Good luck and God speed to you ! "
248l The Art3