By Charles G. Mortimer
AnotherChopin Book •
It is good sews that William efurdoch is about to publish his second book upon Chopin.* Last year it yeas a biograRhy: this year he is dealing with Chopin the musician and is endeavouring to estimate the influence of Chopin's genius upon later corriposers. • The populaity of Chopin continues unabated. Pianists never seem to tire of specializing in his works and I believe
that the audience often breathes a sigh of relief when the Chopin item on the programme is reached, knowing that his ear will never be offeng64. and that his musical feelings will be stimulated.
What is the secret of all this? In the first place it can be truly claimed that Chopin's mastery of the pianoforte was, and still is, a revelation. He grasped that the piano could produce a certain singing tone unlike the timbre of any other instrument. Beethoven, of course, had developed enormously the potentialities of the piano, but there is something about the phrases of Chopin which were a novelty and have entranced the world ever since.
It is, however, a total mistake to regard Chopin merely as a sentimentalist or a writer of exquisite trifles. It is true that he did not work often with the full orchestra and that his pieces are shaped for the most part in the form of studies, preludes, scherzos or waltzes. But his was no emasculated genius. There is something in his style often as rugged and grand as Beethoven. himself, and perhaps themost remarkable composition ever written for the pianoforte is still Chopin's Ballad in F minor. . • But in addition to all this, he, had mas tered the problem of olour ''• and the intermingling of sounds, and it is from this angle that Mr. Murdoch is able to show the debt which composers eike Liszt, Wagner, Strauss and Debussy owe to his genius. The book will also contain a practical commentary on the works of Chopin.
Teaching Birds To Sing!
An interesting experiment has been made recently with the idea of teaching birds to sing tunes: but the experiment has its dangers. In the first place, it has to be remembered that the sounds which birds actually make cannot be expressed in the notation with which we are familiar. Birds -use half-tones and quarter-tones which • it is impossible to write down. however accurately the attempt be made.
Of course, there is a great deal of music which is concerned with bird-song. When Lizzie Lehmann wrote her bird-songs, for instance, she first spent some time in the country trying to get the atmosphere and so far as she could the actual song of the birds. The results were very charming but must be looked upon as a purely conventional idea of what bird-song is really like.
There are many famous songs about the nightingale also, witness Raymond Loughborough's " Song of the Night." with which all broadcast listeners must now be familiar. The refrain of this song. despite its lovely trills. hears no actual relation to anything e, nightingale has ever sung or could sing. It is purely a metter'of association.
To take a classic example, Beethdlen introduced into the slow mosement of his Pastoral Symphony a short passage in which bird notes are imitated, but pis forms no part of the musical structure of the movement; it might almost be called a joke in which Beethoven indulges at the very end of the movement.
Moreover it must be remembered that the conventional pianoforte scale is not the pure scale of.the human voice or even of the violin. It is quite possible to bring together the human voice and' the piano.1 forte, but no expert song writer would ever attempt to follow the human .voice in a rapid succession of notes with an accompanimcnt of the same notes on the piano... The effect would be inevitably blurred. : The violin and the piano can be brought successfully together though the car will detect that the sounds they are .making arc not precisely the same, but CaslOill has inured us to any discrepancy.
So it is with the piano and the full orchestra. Our senses are not jarred when we hear the pianoforte concerto. None the less the human voice is often at its best unaccompanied and a good deal of music has been written for the LAM without accompaniment of any kind.
There is still a further problem in this matter of teaching birds to sing, even if it were practicable. Some birds are, of course, imitative; the blackbird, for instance; and he might pick up some suggestion of our human melodies; but what shall these melodies be?
• Here we can imagine all the experts rushing in, each with his idea of the purest melodies while the public at large would probably want the bird to 'sing them a tune, or part of a tune. with which they are familiar. But the latter are not necessarily the best tunes. Human tunes are also largely a matter of association. It is indeed almost impossible to explain why certain tags of poetry have familiarized themselves and why certain tunes have also achieved this age-long popularity.
To judge a tune purely upon its merits we have to strip it of all such sentimental associations and examine it purely from the musizal point of view, and if we are to determine why one tune is better than another only musical reasons will suffice, and such reasons are technical and require the appreciation of a music'an.
Elena Gerhardt was recently heard at the Wigmore Hall in forty-six songs by Hugo Wolf, assisted by Harry Blank wiih Ivor Newton at the piano, and on the same evening a sonata recital was gi‘en at the Aeolian Hall by Cecilia Hansen and Wilhelm Kempff for pianoforte and siolin; it included Bach's Sonata in G Minor for violin only and ended with Moeares Sonata in B Major No. 14 for pianoforte and violin. It is interesting to note that at the first performance of this sonata the piano part had not yet been written out by the composer, and Mozart accompanied the violinist from memory.