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Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga
Souls Naked Souls Aureoled  



Part 3






'Latin feeling and German training'*

Venezuelan pupil of
Gottschalk and Anton Rubinstein
wife of d'Albert
teacher of MacDowell and Egon Petri

'The secret of power lies in relaxation; or I might say, power is relaxation. This word, however, is apt to be misunderstood. You tell pupils to relax, and if they do not understand how and when they get nowhere. Relaxation does not mean to flop all over the piano; it means, rather, to loosen just where it is needed and nowhere else ["rolling the weight"]. [...] Many artists and musicians have told me I have a special quality of tone; if this is true I am convinced this quality is the result of controlled relaxation

- Teresa Carreño, quoted in Rudolph M Breithaupt, Die natürliche Klaviertechnik, Vol II [School of Weight-Touch] (Leipzig 1905, English translation 1909)


'Never mind the "stiffen" when you practise, you can always relax when you play'**

English pupil of Reinecke and Clara Schumann
apostle of Brahms
teacher of Kathleen Dale

'[...] Brahms's manner of interpretation was free, very elastic and expansive; but the balance was always there - one felt the fundamental rhythms underlying the surface rhythms. His phrasing was notable in lyric passages. In these a strictly metronomic Brahms is as unthinkable as a fussy or hurried Brahms in passages which must be presented with adamantine rhythm. Behind his often rugged, and almost sketchy playing, there never failed to appear that routined and definite school of technique without which he might sometimes have become almost a caricature of himself. When Brahms played, one knew exactly what he intended to convey to his listeners: aspiration, wild fantastic flights, majestic calm, deep tenderness without sentimentality, delicate, wayward humour, sincerity, noble passion. In his playing, as in his music and in his character, there was never a trace of sensuality.

'His touch could be warm, deep, full, and broad in the fortes, and not hard even in the fortissimos; and his pianos, always of carrying power, could be as round and transparent as a dewdrop. He had a wonderful legato. He belonged to that racial school of playing which begins its phrases well, ends them well, leaves plenty of space between the end of one and the beginning of another, and yet joins them without any hiatus. One could hear that he listened very intently to the inner harmonies, and of course he laid great stress on good basses.

'Like Beethoven, he was most particular that his marks of expression (always as few as possible) should be the means of conveying the inner musical meaning. The sign < >, as used by Brahms, often occurs when he wishes to express great sincerity and warmth, applied not only to tone but to rhythm also. He would linger not on one note alone, but on a whole idea, as if unable to tear himself away from its beauty. He would prefer to lengthen a bar or phrase rather than spoil it by making up the time in a metronomic bar.

'[...] perhaps the most important essential in starting to reproduce a work of Brahms [is] tempo. The tendency is usually to play the andantes too slowly, and the quick movements, scherzos, &c, too quickly. All Brahms's passages, if one can call them passages, are strings of gems, and that tempo which can best reveal these gems and help to characterize the detail at the same time as the outlines of a great work must be considered to be the right tempo. There is no doubt that the same artist will take a different tempo at a different time of life. The balance of dignity with detail comes with experience, but in gaining the one, the artist must not lose the other. Artists are, of course, not only of different temperaments but of different schools of craft. Therefore, one must not uphold one single and only way of arriving at a great goal, the aim being surely to arrive at conveying the highest message in any great work. I heard Brahms say once, "Machen Sie es wie Sie wollen, machen Sie es nur schön" ("Do it how you like, but make it beautiful"). [...]

- Fanny Davies, 'Some Personal Recollections of Brahms as Pianist and Interpreter', Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music, Vol I (London 1929). Davies heard Brahms between 1884 and 1896. Her account valuably includes a performance analysis of the C minor Piano Trio Op 101 documenting a run-through in private by Brahms, Joachim and Hausmann (Clara Schumann turning pages). Additionally, a metronome guide verified by Joachim:

I Allegro energico - crotchet circa 104
II Presto non assai - minim 84-92
III Andante grazioso - crotchet 72/Quasi animato - 'a little forward,' crotchet 92
IV Allegro molto - dotted crotchet 120/Meno allegro - 'much discussed.' dotted crotchet 88-72/poco a poco stringendo - crotchet 76>100>108>120



* Claudio Arrau, quoted in Joseph Horowitz, Conversations with Arrau (New York 1982)
** Fanny Davies, quoted in Mathilde Verne, Chords of Remembrance (London 1936)


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