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Eddy Brown

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Hubay and Auer: Technic Hints to the Student

Notwithstanding the fact that Eddy Brown was born in Chicago, Ill., and that he is so great a favorite with concert audiences in the land of his birth, the gifted violinist hesitates to qualify himself as a strictly "American" violinist. As he expresses it: "Musically I was altogether educated in Europe--I never studied here, because I left this country at the age of seven, and only returned a few years ago. So I would not like to be placed in the position of claiming anything under false pretenses!


Hubay and Auer: Some Comparisions

"With whom did I study? With two famous masters; by a strange

coincidence both Hungarians. First with Jenˆ Hubay, at the National

Academy of Music in Budapest, later with Leopold Auer in Petrograd.

Hubay had been a pupil of Vieuxtemps in Brussels, and is a justly

celebrated teacher, very thorough and painstaking in explaining to his

pupils how to do things; but the great difference between Hubay and Auer

is that while Hubay tells a student how to do things, Auer, a

temperamental teacher, literally drags out of him whatever there is in

him, awakening latent powers he never knew he possessed. Hubay is a

splendid builder of virtuosity, and has a fine sense for phrasing. For a

year and a half I worked at nothing but studies with him, giving special

attention to technic. He did not believe in giving too much time to left

hand development, when without adequate bow technic finger facility is

useless. Here he was in accord with Auer, in fact with every teacher

seriously deserving of the name. Hubay was a first-class pedagog, and

under his instruction one could not help becoming a well-balanced and

musicianly player. But there is a higher ideal in violin playing than

mere correctness, and Auer is an inspiring teacher. Hubay has written

some admirable studies, notably twelve studies for the right hand,

though he never stressed technic too greatly. On the other hand, Auer's

most notable contributions to violin literature are his revisions of

such works as the Bach sonatas, the Tschaikovsky Concerto, etc. In a way

it points the difference in their mental attitude: Hubay more concerned

with the technical educational means, one which cannot be overlooked;

Auer more interested in the interpretative, artistic educational end,

which has always claimed his attention. Hubay personally was a _grand

seigneur_, a multi-millionaire, and married to an Hungarian countess. He

had a fine ear for phrasing, could improvise most interesting violin

accompaniments to whatever his pupils played, and beside Rode, Kreutzer

and Fiorillo I studied the concertos and other repertory works with him.

Then there were the conservatory lessons! Attendance at a European

conservatory is very broadening musically. Not only does the individual

violin pupil, for example, profit by listening to his colleagues play in

class: he also studies theory, musical history, the piano, _ensemble_

playing, chamber-music and orchestra. I was concertmaster of the

conservatory orchestra while studying with Hubay. There should be a

national conservatory of music in this country; music in general would

advance more rapidly. And it would help teach American students to

approach the art of violin playing from the right point of view. As it

is, too many want to study abroad under some renowned teacher not,

primarily, with the idea of becoming great artists; but in the hope of

drawing great future commercial dividends from an initial financial

investment. In Art the financial should always be a secondary



"It stands to reason that no matter how great a student's gifts may be,

he can profit by study with a great teacher. This, I think, applies to

all. After I had already appeared in concert at Albert Hall, London, in

1909, where I played the Beethoven Concerto with orchestra, I decided to

study with Auer. When I first came to him he wanted to know why I did

so, and after hearing me play, told me that I did not need any lessons

from him. But I knew that there was a certain 'something' which I wished

to add to my violinistic make-up, and instinctively felt that he alone

could give me what I wanted. I soon found that in many essentials his

ideas coincided with those of Hubay. But I also discovered that Auer

made me develop my individuality unconsciously, placing no undue

restrictions whatsoever upon my manner of expression, barring, of

course, unmusicianly tendencies. When he has a really talented pupil the

Professor gives him of his best. I never gave a thought to technic while

I studied with him--the great things were a singing tone, bowing,

interpretation! I studied Brahms and Beethoven, and though Hubay always

finished with the Bach sonatas, I studied them again carefully with






"At the bottom of all technic lies the scale. And scale practice is the

ladder by means of which all must climb to higher proficiency. Scales,

in single tones and intervals, thirds, sixths, octaves, tenths, with the

incidental changes of position, are the foundation of technic. They

should be practiced slowly, always with the development of tone in mind,

and not too long a time at any one session. No one can lay claim to a

perfected technic who has not mastered the scale. Better a good tone,

even though a hundred mistakes be made in producing it, than a tone that

is poor, thin and without quality. I find the Singer _Finger¸bungen_ are

excellent for muscular development in scale work, for imparting the

great strength which is necessary for the fingers to have; and the

Kreutzer _Ètudes_ are indispensable. To secure an absolute _legato_

tone, a true singing tone on the violin, one should play scales with a

perfectly well sustained and steady bow, in whole notes, slowly and

_mezzo-forte_, taking care that each note is clear and pure, and that

its volume does not vary during the stroke. The quality of tone must be

equalized, and each whole note should be 'sung' with a single bowing.

The change from up-bow to down-bow and _vice versa_ should be made

without a break, exclusively through skillful manipulation of the wrist.

To accomplish this unbroken change of bow one should cultivate a loose

wrist, and do special work at the extreme ends, nut and tip.


"The _vibrato_ is a great tone beautifier. Too rapid or too slow a

_vibrato_ defeats the object desired. There is a happy medium of

_tempo_, rather faster than slower, which gives the best results. Carl

Flesch has some interesting theories about vibration which are worth

investigating. A slow and a moderately rapid _vibrato, from the wrist_,

is best for practice, and the underlying idea while working must be

tone, and not fingerwork.


Staccato is one of the less important branches of bow technic. There

is a knack in doing it, and it is purely pyrotechnical. _Staccato_

passages in quantity are only to be found in solos of the virtuoso type.

One never meets with extended _staccato_ passages in Beethoven, Brahms,

Bruch or Lalo. And the Saint-SaÎns's violin concerto, if I remember

rightly, contains but a single _staccato_ passage.


"_Spiccato_ is a very different matter from _staccato_: violinists as a

rule use the middle of the bow for _spiccato_: I use the upper third of

the bow, and thus get most satisfactory results, in no matter what

_tempo_. This question as to what portion of the bow to use for

_spiccato_ each violinist must decide for himself, however, through

experiment. I have tried both ways and find that by the last mentioned

use of the bow I secure quicker, cleaner results. Students while

practicing this bowing should take care that the wrist, and never the

arm, be used. Hubay has written some very excellent studies for this

form of 'springing bow.'


"The trill, when it rolls quickly and evenly, is a trill indeed! I never

had any difficulty in acquiring it, and can keep on trilling

indefinitely without the slightest unevenness or slackening of speed.

Auer himself has assured me that I have a trill that runs on and on

without a sign of fatigue or uncertainty. The trill has to be practiced

very slowly at first, later with increasing rapidity, and always with a

firm pressure of the fingers. It is a very beautiful embellishment, and

one much used; one finds it in Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, etc.


"Double notes never seemed hard to me, but harmonics are not as easily

acquired as some of the other violin effects. I advise pressing down the

first finger on the strings _inordinately_, especially in the higher

positions, when playing artificial harmonics. The higher the fingers

ascend on the strings, the more firmly they should press them, otherwise

the harmonics are apt to grow shrill and lose in clearness. The majority

of students have trouble with their harmonics, because they do not

practice them in this way. Of course the quality of the harmonics

produced varies with the quality of the strings that produce them. First

class strings are an absolute necessity for the production of pure

harmonics. Yet in the case of the artist, he himself is held

responsible, and not his strings.


"Octaves? Occasionally, as in Auer's transcript of Beethoven's _Dance of

the Dervishes_, or in the closing section of the Ernst Concerto, when

they are used to obtain a certain weird effect, they sound well. But

ordinarily, if cleanly played, they sound like one-note successions. In

the examples mentioned, the so-called 'fingered octaves,' which are very

difficult, are employed. Ordinary octaves are not so troublesome. After

all, in octave playing we simply double the notes for the purpose of

making them more powerful.


"As regards the playing of tenths, it seems to me that the interval

always sounds constrained, and hardly ever euphonious enough to justify

its difficulty, especially in rapid passages. Yet Paganini used this

awkward interval very freely in his compositions, and one of his

'Caprices' is a variation in tenths, which should be played more often

than it is, as it is very effective. In this connection change of

position, which I have already touched on with regard to scale playing,

should be so smooth that it escapes notice. Among special effects the

_glissando_ is really beautiful when properly done. And this calls for

judgment. It might be added, though, that the _glissando_ is an effect

which should not be overdone. The _portamento_--gliding from one note to

another--is also a lovely effect. Its proper and timely application

calls for good judgment and sound musical taste.





"I usually play a 'Strad,' but very often turn to my beautiful

'Guillami,'" said Mr. Brown when asked about his violins. "It is an old

Spanish violin, made in Barcelona, in 1728, with a tone that has a

distinct Stradivarius character. In appearance it closely resembles a

Guadagnini, and has often been taken for one. When the dealer of whom I

bought it first showed it to me it was complete--but in four distinct

pieces! Kubelik, who was in Budapest at the time, heard of it and wanted

to buy it; but the dealer, as was only right, did not forget that my

offer represented a prior claim, and so I secured it. The Guadagnini,

which I have played in all my concerts here, I am very fond of--it has a

Stradivarius tone rather than the one we usually associate with the

make." Mr. Brown showed the writer his Grancino, a beautiful little

instrument about to be sent to the repair shop, since exposure to the

damp atmosphere of the sea-shore had opened its seams--and the rare and

valuable Simon bow, now his, which had once been the property of

Sivori. Mr. Brown has used a wire E ever since he broke six gut strings

in one hour while at Seal Harbor, Maine. "A wire string, I find, is not

only easier to play, but it has a more brilliant quality of tone than a

gut string; and I am now so accustomed to using a wire E, that I would

feel ill at ease if I did not have one on my instrument. Contrary to

general belief, it does not sound 'metallic,' unless the string itself

is of very poor quality.





"In making up a recital program I try to arrange it so that the first

half, approximately, may appeal to the more specifically musical part of

my audience, and to the critics. In the second half I endeavor to

remember the general public; at the same time being careful to include

nothing which is not really _musical_. This (Mr. Brown found one of his

recent programs on his desk and handed it to me) represents a logical

compromise between the strictly artistic and the more general taste:"





I. Beethoven . . . . . Sonata Op. 47 (dedicated to Kreutzer)


II. Bruch . . . . . . Concerto (G minor)


III. (a) Beethoven . . . . Romance (in G major)

(b) Beethoven-Auer . . Chorus of the Dervishes

(c) Brown . . . . . Rondino (on a Cramer theme)

(d) Arbos . . . . . Tango


IV. (a) Kreisler . . . . La Gitana

(Arabo-Spanish Gipsy Dance of the 18th Century)

(b) Cui . . . . . . Orientale

(c) Bazzini. . . . . La Ronde des Lutins



"As you see there are two extended serious works, followed by two

smaller 'groups' of pieces. And these have also been chosen with a view

to contrast. The _finale_ of the Bruch concerto is an _allegro

energico_: I follow it with a Beethoven _Romance_, a slow movement. The

second group begins with a taking Kreisler novelty, which is succeeded

by another slow number; but one very effective in its working-up; and I

end my program with a brilliant virtuoso number.





"My own personal conception of violin mastery," concluded Mr. Brown,

"might be defined as follows: 'An individual tone production, or rather

tone quality, consummate musicianship in phrasing and interpretation,

ability to rise above all mechanical and intellectual effort, and

finally the power to express that which is dictated by one's imagination

and emotion, with the same natural simplicity and spontaneity with which

the thought of a really great orator is expressed in the easy,

unconstrained flow of his language.'"









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