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Gustav Saenger

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The Editor as a Factor in "Violin Mastery"

The courts of editorial appeal presided over by such men as Wm. Arms Fisher, Dr. Theodore Baker, Gustav Saenger and others, have a direct relation to the establishment and maintenance of standards of musical mastery in general and, in the case of Gustav Saenger, with "Violin Mastery" in particular. For this editor, composer and violinist is at home with every detail of the educational and artistic development of his instrument, and a considerable portion of the violin music published in the United States represents his final and authoritative revision.

"Has the work of the editor any influence on the development of 'Violin Mastery'?" was the first question put to Mr. Saenger when he found time to see the writer in his editorial rooms. "In a larger sense I think it

has," was the reply. "Mastery of any kind comes as a result of striving

for a definite goal. In the case of the violin student the road of

progress is long, and if he is not to stray off into the numerous

by-paths of error, it must be liberally provided with sign-posts. These

sign-posts, in the way of clear and exact indications with regard to

bowing, fingering, interpretation, it is the editor's duty to erect. The

student himself must provide mechanical ability and emotional instinct,

the teacher must develop and perfect them, and the editor must neglect

nothing in the way of explanation, illustration and example which will

help both teacher and pupil to obtain more intimate insight into the

musical and technical values. Yes, I think the editor may claim to be a

factor in the attainment of 'Violin Mastery.'





"The work of the responsible editor of modern violin music must have

constructive value, it must suggest and stimulate. When Kreutzer,

Gavinies and Rode first published their work, little stress was laid on

editorial revision. You will find little in the way of fingering

indicated in the old editions of Kreutzer. It was not till long after

Kreutzer's death that his pupil, Massart, published an excellent

little book, which he called 'The Art of Studying R. Kreutzer's …tudes'

and which I have translated. It contains no less than four hundred and

twelve examples specially designed to aid the student to master the

_…tudes_ in the spirit of their composer. Yet these studies, as

difficult to-day as they were when first written, are old wine that need

no bush, though they have gained by being decanted into new bottles of

editorial revision.


[Illustration: GUSTAV SAENGER, with hand-written note]


"They have such fundamental value, that they allow of infinite variety

of treatment and editorial presentation. Every student who has reached a

certain degree of technical proficiency takes them up. Yet when studying

them for the first time, as a rule it is all he can do to master them in

a purely superficial way. When he has passed beyond them, he can return

to them with greater technical facility and, because of their infinite

variety, find that they offer him any number of new study problems. As

with Kreutzer--an essential to 'Violin Mastery'--so it is with Rode,

Fiorillo, and Gavinies. Editorial care has prepared the studies in

distinct editions, such as those of Hermann and Singer, specifically for

the student, and that of Emil Kross, for the advanced player. These

editions give the work of the teacher a more direct proportion of

result. The difference between the two types is mainly in the fingering.

In the case of the student editions a simple, practical fingering of

positive educational value is given; and the student should be careful

to use editions of this kind, meant for him. Kross provides many of the

_Ètudes_ with fingerings which only the virtuoso player is able to

apply. Aside from technical considerations the absolute musical beauty

of many of these studies is great, and they are well suited for solo

performance. Rode's _Caprices_, for instance, are particularly suited

for such a purpose, and many of Paganini's famous _Caprices_ have found

a lasting place in the concert repertory, with piano accompaniments by

artists like Kreisler, Eddy Brown, Edward Behm and Max Vogrich--- the

last-named composer's three beautiful 'Characteristic Pieces' after

Paganini are worth any violinist's attention.





"In this country those intrusted with editorial responsibility as

regards violin music have upheld a truly American standard of

independent judgment. The time has long since passed when foreign

editions were accepted on their face value, particularly older works. In

a word, the conscientious American editor of violin music reflects in

his editions the actual state of progress of the art of violin playing

as established by the best teachers and teaching methods, whether the

works in question represent a higher or lower standard of artistic



"And this is no easy task. One must remember that the peculiar

construction of the violin with regard to its technical possibilities

makes the presentation of a violin piece difficult from an editorial

standpoint. A composition may be so written that a beginner can play it

in the first position; and the same number may be played with beautiful

effects in the higher positions by an artist. This accounts for the fact

that in many modern editions of solo music for violin, double

fingerings, for student and advanced players respectively, are

indicated--an essentially modern editorial development. Modern

instructive works by such masters as Sevcik, Eberhardt and others have

made technical problems more clearly and concisely get-at-able than did

the older methods. Yet some of these older works are by no means

negligible, though of course, in all classic violin literature, from

Tartini on, Kreutzer, Spohr, Paganini, Ernst, each individual artist

represents his own school, his own method to the exclusion of any other.

Spohr was one of the first to devote editorial attention to his own

method, one which, despite its age, is a valuable work, though most

students do not know how to use it. It is really a method for the

advanced player, since it presupposes a good deal of preliminary

technical knowledge, and begins at once with the higher positions. It is

rather a series of study pieces for the special development of certain

difficult phases, musical and technical, of the violinist's art, than a

method. I have translated and edited the American edition of this work,

and the many explanatory notes with which Spohr has provided* it--as in

his own 9th, and the Rode concerto (included as representative of what

violin concertos really should be), the measures being provided with

group numbers for convenience in reference--are not obsolete. They are

still valid, and any one who can appreciate the ideals of the

_Gesangsscene_, its beautiful _cantilene_ and pure serenity, may profit

by them. I enjoyed editing this work because I myself had studied with

Carl Richter, a Spohr pupil, who had all his master's traditions.


*Transcriber's note: Original text read "provied".





"That the editorial revisions of a number of our greatest living

violinists and teachers have passed through my editorial rooms, on their

way to press, is a fact of which I am decidedly proud. Leopold Auer, for

instance, is one of the most careful, exact and practical of editors,

and the fact is worth dwelling on since sometimes the great artist or

teacher quite naturally forgets that those for whom he is editing a

composition have neither his knowledge nor resources. Auer never loses

sight of the composer's _own ideas_.


"And when I mention great violinists with whom I have been associated as

an editor, Mischa Elman must not be forgotten. I found it at first a

difficult matter to induce an artist like Elman, for whom no technical

difficulties exist, to seriously consider the limitations of the average

player in his fingerings and interpretative demands. Elman, like every

great _virtuoso_ of his caliber, is influenced in his revisions by the

manner in which he himself does things. I remember in one instance I

could see no reason why he should mark the third finger for a

_cantilena_ passage where a certain effect was desired, and questioned

it. Catching up his violin he played the note preceding it with his

second finger, then instead of slipping the second finger down the

string, he took the next note with the third, in such a way that a most

exquisite _legato_ effect, like a breath, the echo of a sigh, was

secured. And the beauty of tone color in this instance not only proved

his point, but has led me invariably to examine very closely a fingering

on the part of a master violinist which represents a departure from the

conventional--it is often the technical key to some new beauty of

interpretation or expression.


"Fritz Kreisler's individuality is also reflected in his markings and

fingerings. Of course those in his 'educational' editions are strictly

meant for study needs. But in general they are difficult and based on

his own manner and style of playing. As he himself has remarked: 'I

could play the violin just as well with three as with four fingers.'

Kreisler is fond of 'fingered' octaves, and these, because of his

abnormal hand, he plays with the first and third fingers, where virtuose

players, as a rule, are only too happy if they can play them with the

first and fourth. To verify this individual character of his revisions,

one need only glance at his edition of Godowsky's '12 Impressions' for

violin--in every case the fingerings indicated are difficult in the

extreme; yet they supply the key to definite effects, and since this

music is intended for the advance player, are quite in order.


"The ms. and revisions of many other distinguished artists have passed

through my hands. Theodore Spiering has been responsible for the

educational detail of classic and modern works; Arthur Hartmann--a

composer of marked originality--Albert Spalding, Eddy Brown, Francis

MacMillan, Max Pilzer, David Hochstein, Richard Czerwonky, Cecil

Burleigh, Edwin Grasse, Edmund Severn, Franz C. Bornschein, Leo

Ornstein, Rubin Goldmark, Louis Pershinger, Louis Victor Saar--whose ms.

always look as though engraved--have all given me opportunities of

seeing the best the American violin composer is creating at the present






"The revisional work of the master violinist is of very great

importance, but often great artists and distinguished teachers hold

radically different views with regard to practically every detail of

their art. And it is by no means easy for an editor like myself, who is

finally responsible for their editions, to harmonize a hundred

conflicting views and opinions. The fiddlers best qualified to speak

with authority will often disagree absolutely regarding the use of a

string, position, up-bow or down-bow. And besides meeting the needs of

student and teacher, an editor-in-chief must bear in mind the artistic

requirements of the music itself. In many cases the divergence in

teaching standards reflects the personal preferences for the editions

used. Less ambitious teachers choose methods which make the study of the

violin as _easy_ as possible for _them_; rather than those which--in the

long run--may be most advantageous for the _pupil_. The best editions of

studies are often cast aside for trivial reasons, such as are embodied

in the poor excuse that 'the fourth finger is too frequently indicated.'

According to the old-time formulas, it was generally accepted that

ascending passages should be played on the open strings and descending

ones using the fourth finger. It stands to reason that the use of the

fourth finger involves more effort, is a greater tax of strength, and

that the open string is an easier playing proposition. Yet a really

perfected technic demands that the fourth finger be every bit as strong

and flexible as any of the others. By nature it is shorter and weaker,

and beginners usually have great trouble with it--which makes perfect

control of it all the more essential! And yet teachers, contrary to all

sound principle and merely to save effort--temporarily--for themselves

and their pupils, will often reject an edition of a method or book of

studies merely because in its editing the fourth finger has not been

deprived of its proper chance of development. I know of cases where,

were it not for the guidance supplied by editorial revision, the average

teacher would have had no idea of the purpose of the studies he was

using. One great feature of good modern editions of classical study

works, from Kreutzer to Paganini, is the double editorial numeration:

one giving the sequence as in the original editions; the other numbering

the studies in order of technical difficulty, so that they may be

practiced progressively.





"What special editorial work of mine has given me the greatest personal

satisfaction in the doing? That is a hard question to answer. Off-hand

I might say that, perhaps, the collection of progressive orchestral

studies for advanced violinists which I have compiled and annotated for

the benefit of the symphony orchestra player is something that has meant

much to me personally. Years ago, when I played professionally--long

before the days of 'miniature' orchestra scores--it was almost

impossible for an ambitious young violinist to acquaint himself with the

first and second violin parts of the great symphonic works. Prices of

scores were prohibitive--and though in such works as the Brahms

symphonies, for instance, the 'concertmaster's' part should be studied

from score, in its relation to the rest of the _partitura_--often,

merely to obtain a first violin part, I had to acquire the entire set of

strings. So when I became an editor I determined, in view of my own

unhappy experiences and that of many others, to give the aspiring

fiddler who really wanted to 'get at' the violin parts of the best

symphonic music, from Bach to Brahms and Richard Strauss, a chance to do

so. And I believe I solved the problem in the five books of the 'Modern

Concert-Master,' which includes all those really difficult and important

passages in the great repertory works of the symphony orchestra that

offer violinistic problems. My only regret is that the grasping attitude

of European publishers prevented the representation of certain important

symphonic numbers. Yet, as it stands, I think I may say that the five

encyclopedic books of the collection give the symphony concertmaster

every practical opportunity to gain orchestral routine, and orchestral






"What I am inclined to consider, however, as even more important, in a

sense, than my editorial labors is a new educational classification of

violin literature, one which practically covers the entire field of

violin music, and upon which I have been engaged for several years.

Insomuch as an editor's work helps in the acquisition of 'Violin

Mastery,' I am tempted to think this catalogue will be a contribution of

real value.


"As far as I know there does not at present exist any guide or hand-book

of violin literature in which the fundamental question of grading has

been presented _au fond_. This is not strange, since the task of

compiling a really valid and logically graded guide-book of violin

literature is one that offers great difficulties from almost every

point of view.


"Yet I have found the work engrossing, because the need of a book of the

kind which makes it easy for the teacher to bring his pupils ahead more

rapidly and intelligently by giving him an oversight of the entire

teaching-material of the violin and under clear, practical heads in

detail order of progression is making itself more urgently felt every

day. In classification (there are seven grades and a preparatory grade),

I have not chosen an easier and conventional plan of _general_

consideration of difficulties; but have followed a more systematic

scheme, one more closely related to the study of the instrument itself.

Thus, my 'Preparatory Grade' contains only material which could be

advantageously used with children and beginners, those still struggling

with the simplest elementary problems--correct drawing of the bow across

the open strings, in a certain rhythmic order, and the first use of the

fingers. And throughout the grades are special sub-sections for special

difficulties, special technical and other problems. In short, I cannot

help but feel that I have compiled a real guide, one with a definite

educational value, and not a catalogue, masquerading as a violinistic






"One of the most significant features of the violin guide I have

mentioned is, perhaps, the fact that its contents largely cover the

whole range of violin literature in American editions. There was a time,

years ago, when 'made in Germany' was accepted as a certificate of

editorial excellence and mechanical perfection. Those days have long

since passed, and the American edition has come into its own. It has

reached a point of development where it is of far more practical and

musically stimulating value than any European edition. For American

editions of violin music do not take so much for granted! They reflect

in the highest degree the needs of students and players in smaller

places throughout the country, and where teachers are rare or

non-existent they do much to supply instruction by meticulous regard for

all detail of fingering, bowing, phrasing, expression, by insisting in

explanatory annotation on the correct presentation of authoritative

teaching ideas and principles. In a broader sense 'Violin Mastery' knows

no nationality; but yet we associate the famous artists of the day with

individual and distinctively national trends of development and

'schools.' In this connection I am convinced that one result of this

great war of world liberation we have waged, one by-product of the

triumph of the democratic truth, will be a notably 'American' ideal of

'Violin Mastery,' in the musical as well as the technical sense. And in

the development of this ideal I do not think it is too much to claim

that American editions of violin music, and those who are responsible

for them, will have done their part."


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