THE editorial leader — What arc the Symphony Concerts for ? — in a recent number of Dwight’s Journal of Music throws open an interesting field for discussion on the subject of concert programmes.

Although the article in question has more direct reference to the ways and means of obtaining a series of ideally perfect orchestral concerts in Boston and to the insurmountable difficulties that stand in the way of the complete realization of this object, there is still enough of sound truth in it, applicable as well to all concerts with a serious artistic purpose, to make it worthy the careful attention of everyone interested in musical matters, and especially in the musical culture of our public. That the article is written from a conservative point of view, in so far that the production of any but tried and acknowledged master-works, and all exploring into what is new and not yet of recognized sterling value is strongly deprecated, must not blind those whose instincts are more progressive to the real merits of the writer’s position. Mr. Dwight states at the outset that he would have the concerts appeal to “ a public who wish to be assured every season of some programmes of pure standard music, caring more for the chances of keeping alive their acquaintance with the great, unquestioned master-works, than for any novelty,” Again he says, “ Nor is it the especial province, nor in any sense the duty, of these concerts to introduce the new composers, and cater largely to the passion or the curiosity for novelty. These things they can safely leave to others. They undertake to fill a certain place. Professedly they are, and strive in the best sense to be, classical concerts ; their chief aim is to keep the standard master-works from falling into disregard ; to make Bach and Handel, Haydn and Mozart and Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann, and others worthy of such high companionship, continually felt as living presences and blessed influences among us. Yet they would not he ‘classical’ in any bigoted or narrow sense. Good music is the one thing sought ; when aught presents itself with a convincing proof that it is worthy, it will not be rejected. This sounds well, and would be entirely well, were circumstances different. We do not think that the introducing of new composers can as yet be safely left to others, and it can hardly be doubted that the hearing of their works is now almost an artistic necessity with many of us, especially the younger ones. Not from any Athenian craving after mere novelty as such, not from mere curiosity, but from a need to imbue ourselves thoroughly with the musical spirit of our own time, do we feel impelled to listen to Wagner, Berlioz, Liszt, Gounod, and others. And here let no one for an instant think that we believe that Bach, Handel, Mozart, or Beethoven have had their day, or that their music is any less fresh and vigorous now, or, humanly speaking, ever will be, than it was in their own time. If ever human works were immortal, theirs are ; they belong to no particular age and fashion, but to all ages, and can outlive all fashions. We cannot hear them too much. But vet, with all this, we at times feel a craving after music that belongs distinctly and perhaps exclusively to the time we now live in, for, as George Eliot says, “ None but the ancients can be always classical.” There are a goodly number of composers to-day, of greater or less genius, writing music in as grim earnest, and with as much artistic singleness of purpose, as any man who ever put pen to paper. If there be, perchance, among them some man, the anointed of divine genius, who has laid the foundations of immortality, and is successfully building the ladder by which he is to climb to that high place where he can meet the Beethovens, the Michelagnolos, the Dantes, and Shakespeares on equal footing, all the better. But that is not our affair, as indeed we can now know nothing of it; but say that his works are only of the transitory sort, and will not bear the wear of ages, — does that prove that there is no good and elevating thing in them ? and because they are not fitted for eternity, shall we say that they are not fitted for the uses of the present ? If they are immortal, then small is the need of hurrying them into public notice ; if they are perishable, then let us, in heaven’s name, take them while they are fresh, and before they have staled with age, — always premising that there really is good in them ; and few will be inclined to deny the existence of much good of the really sound sort in the works of men like Gade, Raff, Brahms, Svendsen, and some others. Of these composers Gade, it is true, has had his full share of recognition in our Symphony Concerts (his music came to us, indeed, with the quasi indorsement of Felix Mendelssohn), and Raffs name has figured once or twice on the programmes ; but of Brahms, Max Bruch, Svendsen, the Frenchmen Gounod and Massenet, and some of the young English composers, we have yet to hear the first note ; while the performance, a year or two ago, of Bargiel’s Medea Overture only made us wish for more. Of other modern composers of a more distinctly Zukunft type, such as Wagner, Liszt, and Berlioz, we have indeed had some specimens (with the exception of Berlioz, who, of the three, has, perhaps, the best right to find a place in a symphony programme), for which let us be thankful. We have said that the introduction of the modern composers cannot, in our opinion, be safely left to others, because we do not see where and who the others are that shall present their works in a satisfying manner and in congenial surroundings. With the manner in which their works are performed by, say Mr. Thomas’s orchestra, we have no fault to find, but we have yet to see a programme of Mr. Thomas’s that bears the stamp of any artistic raison d'être whatever. His chief object seems to be to present as many novelties as possible. We find Wagner, Liszt, Berlioz, Volkmann, Hornemann, and others thrown together pell-mell into a programme, with perhaps a movement from a Beethoven symphony, a Strauss waltz, a Meyerbeer march, and some Franz or Mozart songs, and a harp solo by Godefroid. The mere recollection of it makes us groan. What would be said of a programme composed of an unheard Beethoven overture, a set of dances (new) by Schubert, a Bach suite (performed for the first time), a Handel organ concerto with which the audience were wholly unacquainted, some songs from an entirely unfamiliar opera of Mozart, say the Oca del Cairo, or the Schauspieldirector, and the Allegretto from the Eighth Symphony ? Somnolence or headache can be the only results in either case. No, we are far from wishing to hear the modern music as a novelty, but as music, in a programme constructed upon some really artistic principle. One or, at most, two new things are enough for one concert. And when we do have a new thing performed, let us have it repeated once or twice during the winter, that we may really get acquainted with it. One hearing of a work is nothing. Ask any number of musical people what their impression was on first hearing the Seventh Symphony, and we think that nine out of ten will say that they could make very little out of it. Keeping up the interest, or creating new' interest, in the greatest classic music is a noble ambition for any musical association ; and all other ends and objects that cannot be made to go hand in hand with it should give way to it, as of prime importance. But the programme committee of the Harvard Musical Association should bear in mind that their concerts are virtually the only source to which we can as yet look for the performance of orchestral works on a large scale under fitting and congenial conditions, and that to enlarge their repertory a little, so as to include the works of contemporary composers, would in no wise detract from the purity or artistic symmetry of their programmes, while it would supply a want that Boston has long felt

Again, Mr. Dwight says: “ It is a mistake to suppose that these concerts are for the purpose of bringing famous virtuosos, vocal or instrumental, before the public..... A Symphony Concert in which a Nilsson should be announced to sing, or a Rubinstein to play, were it but a single piece, becomes at once a Rubinstein or Nilsson concert, draws another audience, with another motive ; Beethoven and Mozart lose the place of honor ; it is a Symphony Concert no longer..... Now these concerts seek, as the first end and aim, to make the master compositions .... paramount in interest, so that the music shall be of more consequence than the interpreter, the poem than the reader. Solo performances, of course, fall properly within their scope. But when they are introduced it is always for one or the other of two reasons, or for both : first, because certain important compositions exist in the concerto form, with orchestral accompaniment, which ought to get a hearing, and which otherwise would seldom or never get it, in which case the composition, for its own sake, is inserted in the programme, if there chance to be at hand an artist who, even if not famous, can perform it with a fair degree of skill and in a true artistic style and spirit; . . . secondly, solos are brought in to give variety and elasticity to programmes which otherwise might challenge a too close continuous attention.” We quote this because it is in every way so excellent, and is so complete an answer to all those who, carried away by the first enthusiasm for the superb technique of Mr. Thomas’s orchestra and the brilliant virtuosity of Miss Mehlig and Miss Krebs, have since then taken every occasion to pooh-pooh the Harvard Musical Concerts as slow and poor in the matter of technical efficiency. But we should nevertheless bear in mind a fact regarding concertos (and one which some of our resident soloists themselves seem at times too prone to forget), namely, that one of the prime objects of a concerto is and ever has been just to show off individual virtuosity and highly developed technique. Take the element of bravura out of a concerto, and you at once take away half its vitality. We are most of us inclined to take concertos, especially the older ones, much too religiously. Because the quondam brilliant runs and bravura passages in the old Mozart concertos, for instance, strike us now as technically mere child’s play, we must not forget that they once excited the greatest astonishment, and that they were probably played by their composer with all the fire and brilliancy that we see and wonder at now in Rubinstein’s or Von Bülow’s playing of some of their own hand-racking cadenzas. The old composers did not, certainly, indulge in any very outrageous flights of bravura by our present standard, but they put into their concertos the most brilliant and astonishing things they knew how, and we of the present day should play them in as much of the spirit they were written in as we can. We are far too prone nowadays to treat everything that came from the pen of a classic genius with oppressive and undiscriminating solemnity. We sing Handel’s long roulades, for instance, as ifsome deeply poetical, and usually rather sad, meaning were attached to every note. Docs any one suppose that Handel jotted down all those long flourishes of “ linked sweetness long drawn out ” only in obedience to the promptings of his own mighty genius ? Not a bit of it ! Handel was one of the run-after opera composers of his day, and was straining every nerve to outwrite Buonnocini, who happened just then to be a thought more run after than he ; and he well knew that the public liked roulades, and that, if he did not put plentiful flourishes into his songs, there was not a singer in London who would think it worth his while to sing them. The only difference between him and the mere effect-composers was that he wrote good ones. Just so with Mozart! During his whole life in Vienna he was keeping up a brisk rivalry with Clementi and the Abbé Vogler as a pianist and doing his best to outplay them. Look at the first page or two of Beethoven’s great Eb Concerto, the “Emperor,” and see if all that running from one end of the keyboard to the other does not mean technical display and virtuosity. Look at all the runs and flourishes in the G-major Concerto, that exquisite poem in tones that some of us can hardly mention except in a whisper of reverential awe, and see if even they do not come to much the same thing. That there is in them something much higher and nobler than mere virtuosity and bravura is most true, or else any Herz or Litolff concerto would be as fine as they; but the virtuosity and bravura are distinctly there for all that.

-Talking of pianists and piano-forte virtuosity brings us insensibly to a subject of rather vital, if unpoetical, importance to one part of the musical education of our country, namely, that of piano-stools. Now that many of our prominent physicians and surgeons are laying weak spines, abdominal tumors, contracted chests, and all sorts of anatomical irregularities to the charge of piano-forte practising, it seems high time that as much as possible should be done to prevent these abnormal outgrowths of music. We ourselves have had considerable experience with pianostools of various descriptions, and must confess to never yet having seen a really good one. Of all the various kinds, the old-fashioned stool that screws up and down is the most abominable. Let anybody try to sit down and rest on one for half an hour, and he will begin to appreciate what a seat he has been practising on, sometimes for perhaps three hours on a stretch. In piano-forte playing worthy of the name the arms from the shoulder down must have perfect freedom, and must in no wise be called into requisition to balance the body. If the scat is continually turning, even in the slightest degree, from side to side (and with what wabbling motion, if the stool is at all old, pianists know too well), the body as continually tends to be thrown out of balance by any at all violent side motion of the arms ; and as the player has absolutely no firm support, he must keep his balance by bending, and twisting his spine from side to side. Add to this that the pedal of a square piano forte (when will that insane instrument, whose only proper place is in a museum of antiquities, at last fall into disuse and give way to the rational upright ?), at which full nineteen twentieths of all practising is done nowadays, is a good long foot to the right of the middle of the keyboard, opposite which the player sits, and we see under what hygienic conditions practising is usually done. The solid four-legged stool is much better, but not so good as a chair of the proper height. The old idea that a piano-stool should not have a back may be regarded as pretty well exploded. To have a support to the back while playing quiet passages is a great and entirely innocent comfort. But if the player sits back in his chair so that the front of the seat comes forward to the inside of his knee-joint, he has only the weight of that part of his leg below the knee to act as ballast to his whole body. He should sit as near the edge of his chair as is consistent with having a firm seat, and then, with his heels firmly planted on the floor, the weight of his legs will easily and naturally counterbalance any horizontal or vertical motion of his arms, however violent, and his arms will be at perfect liberty. Now to bring the back of the chair up to the body, the seat should not be more than nine or ten inches deep for an average man. The seat itself should be as cool as possible. Cane-bottom is the best, with the rough side of the cane turned uppermost, as less slippery than the polished side. The legs of the chair should flare considerably, so that there shall be no possibility of tipping over, or resting on two legs. That the chair should be perfectly firm in every way, and that nobody should be allowed, even for ten minutes, to practise on a rickety chair, is a matter of course.

— Before closing we must say a few words about M. Frédéric Boskowitz, the young Hungarian pianist, who has lately come to Boston. Judging from the little that we have heard of his playing, and that too in a most unfavorable hall, we should hail him as a most valuable and solid addition to our already brilliant array of resident pianists. In a pupil of Liszt, great executive ability and dashing verve in playing is never surprising ; and in this respect M. Boscowitz more than satisfies all expectations we may have been led to form of him. His playing also shows that exquisite delicacy that can only come from great strength, In the light and graceful as well as the strong and fiery phases of piano-forte playing he is alike excellent. Of his playing of the more thoughtful or deeply passionate piano-forte compositions we can hardly judge as yet, although his really superb rendering of Sebastian Bach’s great Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue points to his being in no degree wanting in the higher kind of musical sentiment and understanding. We hope that we shall all have the privilege this winter of hearing him under the best conditions that our city can afford.