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Musical Pedagogics

50. "Herr Stein is completely daft on the subject of his
daughter. She is eight years old and learns everything by heart.
Something may come of her for she has talent, but not if she goes
on as she is doing now; she will never acquire velocity because
she purposely makes her hand heavy. She will never learn the most
necessary, most difficult and principal thing in music, that is
time, because from childhood she has designedly cultivated the
habit of ignoring the beat."

(Augsburg, October 23, 1777, to his father. Nanette Stein
afterward married Andreas Streicher, who was Schiller's companion
in his flight to Franconia. As Frau Streicher she became
Beethoven's faithful friend and frequently took it upon herself
to straighten out his domestic affairs.)

51. "If she does not get some thoughts and ideas (for now she has
absolutely none), it will all be in vain, for God knows, I can
not give her any. It is not her father's intention to make a
great composer out of her. 'She shall,' he says, 'not write any
operas, or arias, or symphonies, but only great sonatas for her
instrument and mine!' I gave her her fourth lesson today, and so
far as the rules of composition and her exercises are concerned I
am pretty well satisfied with her. She wrote a very good bass to
the first minuet which I set her, and has already begun to write
in three parts. It goes, but she gets bored too quickly. I can
not help her; progress is impossible, she is too young even if
she had talent. Unfortunately she has none; she must be taught
artificially; she has no ideas, there are no results, I have
tried in every sort of way. Among other things it occurred to me
to write down a very simple minuet and to see if she could write
a variation on it. In vain. Well, thought I, it is because she
does not know how to begin. I then began a variation of the first
measure and told her to continue it in the same manner; that went
fairly well. When she had made an end I asked her to begin
something of her own,--only the first voice, a melody. She
thought a full quarter of an hour, and nothing came. Thereupon I
wrote four measures of a minuet and said to her: 'Now look what
an ass I am; I have begun a minuet and can't finish even the
first part; be good enough to finish it for me.' She thought it
impossible. At length she produced a little something to my joy.
Then I made her finish the minuet, i.e. only the first voice. For
her home work I have given her nothing to do except to alter my
four measures and make something out of them, to invent another
beginning, to keep to the harmony if she must, but to write a new
melody. We shall see what comes of it tomorrow."

(Paris, May 14, 1778, to his father. The pupil was the daughter
of the Duke de Guines, an excellent flautist. "She plays the harp
magnificently," writes Mozart in the same letter; "has a great
deal of talent and genius, and an incomparable memory. She knows
200 pieces and plays them all by heart." When it came to paying
Mozart for the lessons the Duke was anything but a nobleman.)

52. "The Andante is going to give us the most trouble, for it is
full of expression and must be played with taste and accurately
as written in the matter of forte and piano. She is very clever
and learns quickly. The right hand is very good but the left
utterly ruined. I can say that I often pity her when I see that
she is obliged to labor till she gasps, not because she is unapt,
but because she can't help it,--she is used to playing so, nobody
ever taught her differently. I said to her mother and her that if
I were her regular teacher, I would lock up all her music, cover
the keyboard with a handkerchief, and make her practice both
hands at first slowly on nothing but passages, trills, mordents,
etc., until the difficulty with the left hand was remedied; after
that I am sure I could make a real clavier player out of her. It
is a pity; she has so much genius, reads respectably, has a great
deal of natural fluency and plays with a great deal of feeling."

(Mannheim, November 16, 1777, to his father. The pupil was Rose
Cannabich, to whom the sonata referred to is dedicated. Her
father, whom Mozart admired greatly as an able conductor, was
Chapelmaster of the excellently trained orchestra at Mannheim. He
lived from 1731 to 1798. [The Andante from which trouble was
expected was that which Mozart wrote with the purpose that it
should reflect the character of Rose Cannabich, a lovely and
amiable girl, according to all accounts. H.E.K.])

53. "This E is very forced. One can see that it was written only
to go from one consonance to another in parallel motion,--just as
bad poets write nonsense for the sake of a rhyme."

(From the exercise book of the cousin of Abbe Stadler who took
lessons in thorough-bass from Mozart in 1784. It is preserved in
the Court Library in Vienna.)

54. "My good lad, you ask my advice and I will give it you
candidly; had you studied composition when you were at Naples,
and when your mind was not devoted to other pursuits, you would,
perhaps, have done wisely; but now that your profession of the
stage must, and ought to, occupy all your attention, it would be
an unwise measure to enter into a dry study. You may take my word
for it, Nature has made you a melodist, and you would only
disturb and perplex yourself. Reflect, 'a little knowledge is a
dangerous thing;'--should there be errors in what you write, you
will find hundreds of musicians in all parts of the world capable
of correcting them, therefore do not disturb your natural gift."

(To Michael Kelly, the Irish tenor, to whom Mozart assigned the
parts of Basilio and Don Curzio at the first performance of "Le
Nozze di Figaro" in 1786. Kelly had asked Mozart whether or not
he should study counterpoint. [See No. 8. Three years later Kelly
returned to England, began his career as composer of musical
pieces for the stage. He was fairly prolific, but failed to
impress the public with the originality of his creative talent.
He went into the wine business, which fact led Sheridan to make
the witty suggestion that he inscribe over his shop: "Michael
Kelly, Composer of Wines and Importer of Music." He was born in
1764 and died in 1826. H.E.K.])

55. "This is generally the case with all who did not taste the
rod or feel the teacher's tongue when boys, and later think that
they can compel things to their wishes by mere talent and
inclination. Many succeed fairly well, but with other people's
ideas, having none of their own; others who have ideas of their
own, do not know what to do with them. That is your case."

(In a letter written in 1789 to a noble friend criticizing a
symphony.)

56. "Do not wonder at me; it was not a caprice. I noticed that
most of the musicians were old men. There would have been no end
of dragging if I had not first driven them into the fire and made
them angry. Out of pure rage they did their best."

(Reported by Rochlitz. Mozart was rehearsing the Allegro of one
of his symphonies in Leipsic. He worked up such a fit of anger
that he stamped his foot and broke one of his shoe-laces. His
anger fled and he broke into a merry laugh.)

57. "Right! That's the way to shriek."

(At a rehearsal of "Don Giovanni" the representative of Zerlina
did not act realistically enough to suit Mozart. Thereupon he
went unnoticed on the stage and at the repetition of the scene
grabbed the singer so rudely and unexpectedly that she
involuntarily uttered the shriek which the scene called for. [The
singer was Teresa Bondini, the place Prague, and the time before
the first performance of the opera which took place on October
29, 1787. H.E.K.])