THE first concert of the subscription series given in Saunders Theatre in Cambridge was in many respects a delightful occasion. It is not often that we have a chance of hearing music amid such thoroughly congenial surroundings. The architectural beauty of the hall itself, the exquisite good taste of its fittings, all tended to put the mind into a condition favorable to artistic enjoyment: and even if the little pleasurable excitement of looting forward to hearing Mr. Thomas’s excellent orchestra play such a programme in a hall of suitable size had not of itself sufficed to throw us all into the proper musical mood, the entirely aesthetic atmosphere of the place would have done it. Among other excellent qualities as a concert-hall, Saunders Theatre has one which is rare. The stage is low enough ! Those listeners who are seated on the floor do not hear the music vaguely hovering over their heads, but receive the harmonious blast from the orchestra directly in their faces. But it must be admitted that all parts of the hall are not equally good for hearing. The music sounded very brilliant in the gallery and in many parts of the floor, but in all that part of the first balcony that faces the stage the sound is uncomfortably dull and impenetrating. The concert opened fittingly with Beethoven’s great overture, The Consecration of the House. It was played with Mr. Thomas’s usual care, but we have heard much more effective performances of it elsewhere. The two movements of Schubert’s unfinished gem of a symphony in B-minor were indeed wonderfully played as far as delicacy of execution went. We have rarely heard such exquisite blending of the various voices of the orchestra, such delicious contrasts of light and shade. But we think that nine musicians out of ten will agree with us in saying that the performance was spoiled outright by Mr. Thomas’s unaccountably slow tempo in both movements. The symphony was absolutely stretched upon the rack, and seemed to be harmoniously bemoaning its own agonies. A similar fault was evident in Mr. Jacobsohn’s playing of Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. Mr. Jacobsohn knows how to draw the most exquisitely beautiful tone from his instrument, which is evidently a very fine one; he has at times a rare grace, of perhaps rather a salon stamp, in rounding off phrases of a sentimental character, but his style lacks distinction, energy, and above all, variety. The ear tires of hearing a constant succession of sweet Sounds without animat ion or any stirring accent. Mr. John K. Paine’s overture to As You Like It, all who heard it agree in calling one of the most gratifying successes of a composer, who, in the opinion of one of our very highest musical authorities, “ shows that he can write well for the orchestra; that he has plenty to say, and that what he has to say is worth saying and is well said.”

— Of Madame Essipoff’s concerts much might be said, and many a wholesome moral might be drawn from her playing. Madame Essipoff is, as we all expected to find her, certainly a most wonderful executant. Her technique knows only those limits which stern nature has set to all human power, and her fingers recoil only before the impossible. Her absolute independence of finger, her power of making a melody distinctly prominent, no matter what accompanying phrases her hands may be called upon to play simultaneously with it, we have never seen surpassed. Her ease in playing, even in the most finger - racking passages, is absolute. Of sensibility, grace, fire, depth of feeling even, there seems to be no want in her. But with all these fine qualities, we have rarely seen a pianist of her reputation who has made a more questionable impression upon us. Of that fine appreciation of what is most intrinsically great in the works of great composers, that sense of the fitness of things which stamps the brilliant performer as a true artist, we find very little in her. To play with expression, passion, grace, is one thing, but to play with the right expression, passion, or grace, is often a wholly different thing. Madame Essipoff is still young, only twenty-four years of age, and the critic of her playing must grasp at the most natural explanation of the blemishes which every musician must have been struck with in the greater part of it, that is, that she must have been for some time under bad musical influences; at least withdrawn from good and wholesome ones. No piano-forte teacher would allow a pupil to abuse the pedal as she sometimes does; no musician of principle would commend the substitution of a marked forte for a murmuring pianissimo in the opening phrase of a Beethoven sonata. But speaking of good and bad musical influences, we cannot refrain from mentioning a man in this connection, a man of undenied genius and that intense personal fascination and power which goes with genius, but who occupies a more and more questionable place in the esteem of his still admiring brother artists, — Anton Rubinstein. It has become too painfully evident that Rubinstein often plays works of the great masters not as they are, but as his momentary mood impels him to feel them. He either cannot or is often too careless to merge his own fiery individuality in that of the composer. It takes little acumen to see how utterly different Rubinstein’s nature is from that of Beethoven, Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and many other composers. His own national instinct in art is often at variance with theirs. His license in interpreting their works is large indeed. His hot Slavic blood, made more untamable by the general tendency towards intensity of the age he lives in, is ever liable to rebel against that moderation in expression and style which his great predecessors felt to be one of the highest elements in art. Schumann, intense as he is, becomes at times a perfect bull in a china-shop in Rubinstein’s hands; Chopin, whose waltzes and mazurkas used to make the Polish ladies dance until they fainted, is often fit to turn the saints themselves into bacchantes when he speaks to us through Rubinstein’s fingers. How we are tempted to lose sight of the grand original text, and subscribe to the Rubinstein version, saying with Berlioz’s cantatrice, “Parce qu’elle fait mieux ! ” (Because it sounds better !) But the bitter after-taste, the curious twinges of our artist conscience that are certain to ensue upon these fierce pleasures, the aesthetic next day’s headache, all tell us that the intoxicating draught was not pure after all. It may he doubted whether inebriation, either alcoholic or æsthetic, is a proper use of our faculties. But young people have strong heads and digestions, and can indulge in excesses without the immediate evil results that more experienced mortals cannot escape from, although the evil results may be felt later even by the young ones. Now Rubinstein’s influence upon young musicians has been in many cases undeniably bad. Admiration prompts imitation, even over-imitation. Why should not I too be a thunderer ? says the young pianist, and so sets to work premeditatedly to offer to the world his or her modicum of exaggerated passion and sentiment. We think that we can trace somewhat of this influence in Madame Essipoff’s playing. The license she takes in playing standard compositions is great, but it lacks the conviction of spontaneity and originality, and is without either charm or savor. It is painful to think that such rare gifts, such excellent talents, should be allowed to run in so dangerous a channel. Madame Essipoff was evidently meant by nature, and has been fitted by training, to do great things; but she seems now, almost at the outset of her career, to be in the downward path. Such a reputation as hers cannot have been won by playing in the way she did in Boston. If she could be made to feel that she cannot yet walk quite alone, if she would for some time to come he a little timid of freeing herself from the guidance of trustworthy guardians, such as Liszt or Dr. von Bülow, who, as some one has said, is a man of principle, what splendid results might we not expect ! She has already given us a guaranty of her power. Any pianist who can play Liszt’s Study in D-flat as she did must be great. Let us say gladly, and in the face of all our grumbling, that her performance of this piece at least was masterly, superb at every point. Finer playing cannot be desired. Throughout the rest of her playing the very finest qualities were plainly perceptible, but they did not in every case compensate for her faults ; they even threw those faults into more striking relief. Upon the whole, her very faults are of the easily cured sort, if the will be not wanting. Misdirected energy is far better than no energy at all, if it is only willing to be guided aright; otherwise, indeed, it is far worse, but let us hope for the best. A person of Madame Essipoff’s talent has no right to play badly; and we feel sure that she can even now play better than she did. It must be that we have seen her at her worst, not at her best.

— Perhaps the most difficult thing to review worthily is a dictionary. Stainer and Barrett’s Dictionary of Musical Terms1 is certainly a valuable work, covering a field that, strange to say, has not been too well worked in our language. That it is not an absolutely complete work is sufficiently proved by the unaccountable absence of the words polyphony and polyphonic. One would naturally expect to find at least a page devoted to this subject in a musical dictionary, but we have searched the book in vain for even the barest mention of it. We notice with great pleasure a lengthy quotation from an excellent article by Mr. Hullah on Musical Nomenclature. His suggestions towards improving our by no means perfect English nomenclature are excellent. The distinction he makes, for instance, between the imperfect fifth (the natural fifth on the 7th degree of the scale) and the diminished fifth (an interval chromatically derived from the perfect fifth by sharpening its lower tone) seems to us admirable, and by no means merely fanciful. Equally good is his suggestion of the term pluperfect, to be applied to the inversions of imperfect intervals, as augmented is already in general use as an antonym to diminished. We cannot, however, quite agree with Mr. Hullah’s doctrine of the minor scale and the intervals resulting therefrom. He says: “ A chromatic scale I should define, with Dr. Crotch, to be a scale containing more than two semitones. The so-called ‘natural’ scale, and all other scales made like it, is not a chromatic scale, neither are any of the ancient scales formed from the arrangement of the same series of sounds in a different order. Of these last the ‘natural’ minor scale is one, and the only one familiar to the modern musician. Only, however, by Means of a most serious alteration has it been reconciled to modern tonality, which above all things demands, as the unequivocal sign, seal, or confirmation of a key, the combination known as the ‘ discord of the dominant seventh.’ Such a combination on the 5th of the natural minor scale is only possible by an alteration, or non-naturalization, which at once brings it under Dr. Crotch’s definition. In the series A, B, C, D, E, F♯, G♯, and A, we find three semitones, and one interval greater than a tone. Moreover, by skips from one note to another of a scale so constituted, we get three other intervals alien to the natural scale, the inversion of the altered second formed by F G♯ the altered fifth formed by C G♯ and its inversion. These intervals are, I conceive, augmentations or diminutions of intervals which would have remained unaltered hut for the artificial process needed to reconcile the minor key with modern tonality ; they are, therefore, I believe, generally called augmented and diminished, accordingly. So all intervals, which the cultivated ear does not reject as cacophonous, formed by notes one or both of which are foreign to the key to which they are introduced, are but augmentations or diminutions of those that are natural to it.” The excellent distinction Mr. Hullah makes is in applying the terms augmented and diminished to chromatic (altered) intervals only. The fourth on the 4th degree, and the fifth on the 7th degree of the major scale are diatonic intervals, and are hence to be called pluperfect and imperfect respectively. But the question we raise is whether the exceptional seconds and fifths of the minor scale, with their inversions (the second on the 6th degree, the seventh on the 7th degree, the fifths on the 3d and 7th degrees, and the fourths on the 4th and 7th degrees2) are really to he regarded as chromatic intervals or not. How does Mr. Hullah defend his use of the term natural as applied to the following scale?

1 A Dictionary of Musical Terms. Edited by J. STAINER, M. A., Mus. Doc., and W. A. BARRETT, Mus. Bach. Boston : Oliver Ditson & Co.

Does he call it natural because it is composed simply of “white” notes? If so, it and the scale of C-major would be the only natural ones. Yet, according to the usual meaning of the word, it seems an ill-chosen term to apply to a scale which requires “ a most serious alteration ” before it can be accepted by modern ears as belonging to any definite tonality at all. It is true that the scale we have quoted above corresponds exactly enough to that of the ancient Æolian mode, as our major scale corresponds to the Ionian mode; but we cannot see that this is an argument to prove its naturalness. The modern ear so naturally and instinctively demands the authentic cadence to define a key, that we cannot even force ourselves to feel that a scale without a leading note (that is, without the semitone between the seventh degree and the octave of the tonic) has any definite tonality at all. Hence the alteration of the seventh degree, not of what Mr. Hullah calls the “ natural ” minor scale to form something artificial that the modern ear requires, but of the old Æolian mode, which sounds unnatural and unsatisfactory to the modern ear, to get something which the ear can naturally and instinctively accept as a minor scale. Hence we have the following series,

which we cannot help regarding as the only real, and if you will, natural minor scale. We are forced by our ear itself to regard the G-sharp as an essential part of the scale, not as an accidental note. Indeed, the sharp might have been written in the signature, as follows,

so that it should not have even the outward appearance of an accidental, were it not for the inconvenience of having two signatures of one sharp, one with F-sharp for G-major, and another with G-sharp for A-minor. To be sure, the diabolus between the sixth and seventh degrees is to a certain extent unmelodious, and this defect has been well enough remedied by sharpening the sixth degree in the ascending scale, which gives us what is generally known as the melodic minor scale,

which is indeed incapable of diatonic harmonization, but which the ear readily accepts, under certain conditions, as a minor scale, the minor third between the tonic and the third degree making a sufficient distinction between it and the major scale to be easily grasped. The attempts to remedy the “ diabolus ” in the descending scale have not been so successful, and the ear accepts the following,

as a minor scale only' when the minor character of the composition in which it figures is impressed upon it by some other means (such, for instance, as a minor triad on the first note). Heard by' itself, this scale is accepted by the ear as a minor scale only when the minor character of the piece has been previously established, and even then only fora distance not exceeding an octave. So true is this that Liszt, wishing to eliminate the ‘‘'diabolus ” from a long descending scale in one of his piano forte pieces, found himself forced to make the following compromise.

Thus we should prefer to consider the harmonic minor scale as the only natural one, and all the intervals resulting from it as diatonic (minordiatonic if you will). And instead of calling the exceptional intervals of this scale augmented and diminished (since they confessedly bring about no change of key), we would propose that the fourth on the 7th degree, the fifths on the 2d and 7th degrees, and the seventh on the 7th degree be called imperfect; and the second on the 6th degree, the fourth on the 4th and 6th degrees, and the fifth on the 3d degree be called pluperfect. They are essential intervals of the scale (leitereigenen intervallc), and we cannot regard them as chromatic or altered.

The mistakes we have noticed in the dictionary are very few. Point d’orgue (Fr.) is, as usual, wrongly translated,. “ pedalpoint,” instead of “hold or “cadenza. We wonder how Mr. Stainer would translate, La diva a fait un point d’orgue a la fin de “ah non credca ” qui lui valut force bravas des plus frenetiques ! But these errors are, as we have said, very rare, and most of the definitions are excellent, the explanations sufficiently clear and to the point. We heartily recommend the book.

— Robert Thallon’s The Boat of my Lover3 shows much sensibility to what is musical in music, and is carried through with a certain verve that takes hold of the listener. The end is unworthy of the rest of the song. In fact its only claim to the name of cud is that nothing conics after it.

  1. We make no mention of the second on the 7th degree, or the seventh on the 1st degree, as these intervals are unquestionably minor and major, respectively.
  2. The Boat of my Laver. Song. Words by the author of John Halifax, Gentleman. Music by ROBERT THALLON, JR. New York : G. Schirmer.