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Tivadar Nachez

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Joachim and Léonard as Teachers

Tivadar Nachez, the celebrated violin virtuoso, is better known as a concertizing artist in Europe, where he has played with all the leading symphonic orchestras, than in this country, to which he paid his first visit during these times of war, and which he was about to leave for his London home when the writer had the pleasure of meeting him. Yet, though he has not appeared in public in this country (if we except some Red Cross concerts in California, at which he gave his auditors of his best to further our noblest war charity), his name is familiar to every violinist. For is not Mr. NachÈz the composer of the "Gypsy Dances" for violin and piano, which have made him famous?

Genuinely musical, effective and largely successful as they have been, however, as any one who has played them can testify, the composer of the "Gypsy Dances" regards them with mixed feelings. "I have done other work that seems to me, relatively, much more important," said Mr. NachÈz, "but when my name happens to be mentioned, echo always answers 'Gypsy Dances,' my little rubbishy 'Gypsy Dances!' It is not quite fair. I have published thirty-five works, among them a 'Requiem Mass,' an orchestral overture, two violin concertos, three rhapsodies for violin and orchestra, variations on a Swiss theme, Romances, a Polonaise (dedicated to Ysaye), an Evening Song, twelve classical masterworks of the 17th century--to say nothing of songs, etc.--and the two concertos of Vivaldi and Nardini which I have edited, practically new creations, owing to the addition of the piano accompaniments and orchestral score. I wrote the 'Gypsy Dances' as a mere boy when I was studying with H. LÈonard in Paris, and really at his suggestion. In one of my lessons I played Sarasate's 'Spanish Dances,' which chanced to be published at the time, and at once made a great hit.

So Léonard said to me: "Why not write some Hungarian Gypsy dances--there must be wonderful material at hand in the music of the Tziganes of Hungary. You should do something with it!"

I took him at his word, and he liked my 'Dances' so well that he made me play them at his musical evenings, which he gave often during the winter, and which were always attended by the musical Tout Paris I may say that during these last thirty years there has been scarcely a violinist before the public who at one time or the other has not played these 'Gypsy Dances.' Besides the original edition, there are two (pirated) editions in America and six in Europe.


The Beginning of a Violinistic Career: Player With Liszt

"No, Léonard was not my first teacher. I took up violin work when a boy of five years of age, and for seven years practiced from eight to ten hours a day, studying with Sabathiel, the leader of the Royal Orchestra in Budapest, where I was born, though England, the land of my adoption, in which I have lived these last twenty-six years, is the land where I have found all my happiness, and much gratifying honor, and of which I have been a devoted, ardent and loyal naturalized citizen for more than a quarter of a century. Sabathiel was an excellent routine teacher, and grounded me well in the fundamentals--good tone production and technical control. Later I had far greater teachers, and they taught me much, but--in the last analysis, most of the little I have achieved I owe to myself, to hard, untiring work: I had determined to be a violinist and I trust I became one. No serious student of the instrument should ever forget that, no matter who his teacher may be, he himself must supply the determination, the continued energy and devotion which will lead him to success.

"Playing with Liszt--he was an intimate friend of my father--is my most precious musical recollection of Budapest. I enjoyed it a great deal more than my regular lesson work. He would condescend to play with me some evenings and you can imagine what rare musical enjoyment, what happiness there was in playing with such a genius! I was still a boy when with him I played the Grieg F major sonata, which had just come fresh from the press. He played with me the D minor sonata of Schumann and introduced me to the mystic beauties of the Beethoven sonatas. I can still recall how in the Beethoven C minor sonata, in the first movement, Liszt would bring out a certain broken chromatic passage in the left hand, with a mighty _crescendo_, an effect of melodious thunder, of enormous depth of tone, and yet with the most exquisite regard for the balance between the violin and his own instrument. And there was not a trace of condescension in his attitude toward me; but always encouragement, a tender affectionate and paternal interest in a young boy, who at that moment was a brother artist.

"Through Liszt I came to know the great men of Hungarian music of that time: Erkel, Hans Richter, Robert Volkmann, Count Geza Zichy, and eventually I secured a scholarship, which the King had founded for music, to study with Joachim in Berlin, where I remained nearly three years. Hubay was my companion there; but afterward we separated, he going to Vieuxtemps, while I went to LÈonard.


Joachim as a Teacher and Interpreter

"Joachim was, perhaps, the most celebrated teacher of his time. Yet it is one of the greatest ironies of fate that when he died there was not one of his pupils who was considered by the German authorities 'great' enough to take the place the Master had held. Henri Marteau, who was not his pupil, and did not even exemplify his style in playing, was chosen to succeed him! Henri Petri, a Vieuxtemps pupil who went to Joachim, played just as well when he came to him as when he left him. The same might be said of Willy Burmester, Hess, Kes and Halir, the latter one of those Bohemian artists who had a tremendous 'Kubelik-like' execution. Teaching is and always will be a special gift. There are many minor artists who are wonderful 'teachers,' and vice versa!

"Yet if Joachim may be criticized as regards the way of imparting the secrets of technical phases in his violin teaching, as a teacher of interpretation he was incomparable! As an interpreter of Beethoven and of Bach in particular, there has never been any one to equal Joachim. Yet he never played the same Bach composition twice in the same way. We were four in our class, and Hubay and I used to bring our copies of the sonatas with us, to make marginal notes while Joachim played to us, and these instantaneous musical 'snapshots' remain very interesting. But no matter how Joachim played Bach, it was always with a big tone, broad chords of an organ-like effect. There is no greater discrepancy than the edition of the Bach sonatas published (since his death) by Moser, and which is supposed to embody Joachim's interpretation. Sweeping chords, which Joachim always played with the utmost breadth, are 'arpeggiated' in Moser's edition! Why, if any of his pupils had ever attempted to play, for instance, the end of the Bourée in the B minor Partita of Bach la Moser, Joachim would have broken his bow over their heads!




"After three years' study I left Joachim and went to Paris. Liszt had

given me letters of introduction to various French artists, among them

Saint-SaÎns. One evening I happened to hear LÈonard play Corelli's _La

Folia_ in the _Salle Pleyel_, and the liquid clarity and beauty of his

tone so impressed me that I decided I must study with him. I played for

him and he accepted me as a pupil. I am free to admit that my tone,

which people seem to be pleased to praise especially, I owe entirely to

LÈonard, for when I came to him I had the so-called 'German tone' (_son

allemand_), of a harsh, rasping quality, which I tried to abandon

absolutely. LÈonard often would point to his ears while teaching and

say: '_Ouvrez vos oreilles: ÈcoutÈz la beautÈ du son!_' ('Open your

ears, listen for beauty of sound!'). Most Joachim pupils you hear

(unless they have reformed) attack a chord with the nut of the bow, the

German method, which unduly stresses the attack. LÈonard, on the

contrary, insisted with his pupils on the attack being made with such

smoothness as to be absolutely unobtrusive. Being a nephew of Mme.

Malibran, he attached special importance to the 'singing' tone, and

advised his pupils to hear great singers, to _listen_ to them, and to

try and reproduce their _bel canto_ on the violin.


"He was most particular in his observance of every _nuance_ of shading

and expression. He told me that when he played Mendelssohn's concerto

(for the first time) at the Leipsic _Gewandhaus_, at a rehearsal,

Mendelssohn himself conducting, he began the first phrase with a full

_mezzo-forte_ tone. Mendelssohn laid his hand on his arm and said: 'But

it begins _piano!_' In reply LÈonard merely pointed with his bow to the

score--the _p_ which is now indicated in all editions had been omitted

by some printer's error, and he had been quite within his rights in

playing _mezzo-forte_.


"LÈonard paid a great deal of attention to scales and the right way to

practice them. He would say, _'Il faut filer les sons: c'est l'art des

maÓtres_. ('One must spin out the tone: that is the art of the

masters.') He taught his pupils to play the scales with long, steady

bowings, counting sixty to each bow. Himself a great classical

violinist, he nevertheless paid a good deal of attention to _virtuoso_

pieces; and always tried to prepare his pupils for _public life_. He had

all sorts of wise hints for the budding concert artist, and was in the

habit of saying: 'You must plan a program as you would the _mÈnu_ of a

dinner: there should be something for every one's taste. And,

especially, if you are playing on a long program, together with other

artists, offer nothing indigestible--let _your_ number be a relief!'





"While studying with LÈonard I met Sivori, Paganini's only pupil (if we

except Catarina Caleagno), for whom Paganini wrote a concerto and six

short sonatas. LÈonard took me to see him late one evening at the _HÙtel

de Havane_ in Paris, where Sivori was staying. When we came to his room

we heard the sound of slow scales, beautifully played, coming from

behind the closed door. We peered through the keyhole, and there he sat

on his bed stringing his scale tones like pearls. He was a little chap

and had the tiniest hands I have ever seen. Was this a drawback? If so,

no one could tell from his playing; he had a flawless technic, and a

really pearly quality of tone. He was very jolly and amiable, and he and

LÈonard were great friends, each always going to hear the other whenever

he played in concert. My four years in Paris were in the main years of

storm and stress--plain living and hard, very hard, concentrated work. I

gave some accompanying lessons to help keep things going. When I left

Paris I went to London and then began my public life as a concert






"What is the happiest remembrance of my career as a _virtuoso_? Some of

the great moments in my life as an artist? It is hard to say. Of course

some of my court appearances before the crowned heads of Europe are dear

to me, not so much because they were _court_ appearances, but because of

the graciousness and appreciation of the highly placed personages for

whom I played.


"Then, what I count a signal honor, I have played no less than _three_

times as a solo artist with the Royal Philharmonic Society of London,

the oldest symphonic society in Europe, for whom Beethoven composed his

immortal IXth symphony (once under Sir Arthur Sullivan's baton; once

under that of Sir A.C. Mackenzie, and once with Sir Frederick Cowen as

conductor--on this last occasion I was asked to introduce my new Second

concerto in B minor, Op. 36, at the time still in ms.) Then there is

quite a number of great conductors with whom I have appeared, a few

among them being Liszt, Rubinstein, Brahms, Pasdeloup, Sir August Manns,

Sir Charles HallÈ, L. Mancinelli, Weingartner and Hans Richter, etc.

Perhaps, as a violinist, what I like best to recall is that as a boy I

was invited by Richter to go with him to Bayreuth and play at the

foundation of the Bayreuth festival theater, which however my parents

would _not_ permit owing to my tender age. I also remember with pleasure

an episode at the famous Pasdeloup Concerts in the _Cirque d'hiver_ in

Paris, on an occasion when I performed the F sharp minor concerto of

Ernst. After I had finished, two ladies came to the green room: they

were in deep mourning, and one of them greatly moved, asked me to 'allow

her to thank me' for the manner in which I had played this

concerto--she said: _'I am the widow of Ernst!'_ She also told me that

since his death she had never heard the concerto played as I had played

it! In presenting to me her companion, the Marquise de Gallifet (wife of

the General de Gallifet who led the brigade of the _Chasseurs d'Afrique_

in the heroic charge of General Margueritte's cavalry division at Sedan,

which excited the admiration of the old king of Prussia), I had the

honor of meeting the once world famous violinist Mlle. Millanollo, as

she was before her marriage. Mme. Ernst often came to hear me play her

late husband's music, and as a parting gift presented me with his

beautiful 'Tourte' bow, and an autographed copy of the first edition of

Ernst's transcription for solo violin of Schubert's 'Erlking.' It is so

incredibly difficult to play with proper balance of melody and

accompaniment--I never heard any one but Kubelik play it--that it is

almost impossible. It is so difficult, in fact, that it should not be






"My violin? I am a Stradivarius player, and possess two fine Strads,

though I also have a beautiful Joseph Guarnerius. Ysaye, Thibaud and

Caressa, when they lunched with me not long ago, were enthusiastic about

them. My favorite Strad is a 1716 instrument--I have used it for

twenty-five years. But I cannot use the wire strings that are now in

such vogue here. I have to have Italian gut strings. The wire E cuts my

fingers, and besides I notice a perceptible difference in sound quality.

Of course, wire strings are practical; they do not 'snap' on the concert

stage. Speaking of strings that 'snap,' reminds me that the first time I

heard Sarasate play the Saint-SaÎns concerto, at Frankfort, he twice

forgot his place and stopped. They brought him the music, he began for

the third time and then--the E string snapped! I do not think _any_

other than Sarasate could have carried off these successive mishaps and

brought his concert to a triumphant conclusion. He was a great friend of

mine and one of the most _perfect_ players I have ever known, as well as

one of the greatest _grand seigneurs_ among violinists. His rendering of

romantic works, Saint-SaÎns, Lalo, Bruch, was exquisite--I have never,

never heard them played as beautifully. On the other hand, his Bach

playing was excruciating--he played Bach sonatas as though they were

virtuoso pieces. It made one think of Hans von B¸low's _mot_ when, in

speaking of a certain famous pianist, he said: 'He plays Beethoven with

velocity and Czerny with expression.' But to hear Sarasate play romantic

music, his own 'Spanish Dances' for instance, was all like glorious

birdsong and golden sunshine, a lark soaring heavenwards!





"You ask about my compositions? Well, Eddy Brown is going to play my

Second violin concerto, Op. 36 in B flat, which I wrote for the London

Philharmonic Society, next season; Elman the Nardini concerto in A,

which was published only shortly before the outbreak of the war. Thirty

years ago I found, by chance, three old Nardini concertos for violin and

bass in the composer's _original_ ms., in Bologna. The best was the one

in A--a beautiful work! But the bass was not even figured, and the task

of reconstructing the accompaniment for piano, as well as for orchestra,

and reverently doing justice to the composer's original intent and idea;

while at the same time making its beauties clearly and expressively

available from the standpoint of the violinist of to-day, was not easy.

Still, I think I may say I succeeded." And Mr. NachÈz showed me some

letters from famous contemporaries who had made the acquaintance of this

Nardini concerto in A major. Auer, Thibaud, Sir Hubert Parry (who said

that he had "infused the work with new life"), Pollak, Switzerland's

ranking fiddler, Carl Flesch, author of the well-known _Urstudien_--all

expressed their admiration. One we cannot forbear quoting a letter in

part. It was from Ottokar Sevcik. The great Bohemian pedagogue is

usually regarded as the apostle of mechanism in violin playing: as the

inventor of an inexorably logical system of development, which stresses

the technical at the expense of the musical. The following lines show

him in quite a different light:


"I would not be surprised if Nardini, Vivaldi and their

companions were to appear to you at the midnight hour in

order to thank the master for having given new life to

their works, long buried beneath the mold of figured

basses; works whose vital, pulsating possibilities these

old gentlemen probably never suspected. Nardini emerges

from your alchemistic musical laboratory with so fresh

and lively a quality of charm that starving fiddlers will

greet him with the same pleasure with which the bee

greets the first honeyed blossom of spring."





"And now you want my definition of 'Violin Mastery'? To me the whole art

of playing violin is contained in the reverent and respectful

interpretation of the works of the great masters. I consider the artist

only their messenger, singing the message they give us. And the more one

realizes this, the greater becomes one's veneration especially for

Bach's creative work. For twenty years I never failed to play the Bach

solo sonatas for violin every day of my life--a violinist's 'daily

prayer' in its truest sense! Students of Bach are apt, in the beginning,

to play, say, the _finale_ of the G minor sonata, the final _Allegro_ of

the A minor sonata, the _Gigue_ of the B minor, or the _Preludio_ of the

E major sonata like a mechanical exercise: it takes _constant_ study to

disclose their intimate harmonic melodious conception and poetry! One

should always remember that technic is, after all, only a _means_. It

must be acquired in order to be an unhampered master of the instrument,

as a medium for presenting the thoughts of the great creators--but

_these thoughts_, and not their medium of expression, are the chief

objects of the true and great artist, whose aim in life is to serve his

Art humbly, reverently and faithfully! You remember these words:

"'In the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious, periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise!...'"





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