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A System To Cultivate The Musical Memory For Musicians.

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MUSICAL MEMORY.
67
music from memory, it may not be uninteresting to make a slight ■digression into some of the by-paths of musical criticism of past years and see how those who guided public opinion, regarded memory playing when it was the exception rather than the rule. In the year 1861, the late Sir (then Mr.) Charles Halle gave a series of Beethoven Recitals at St. James's Hall, when he played the whole of the piano Sonatas. After the first "recital," which included the first four Sonatas, the following notice, from the pen of the late Mr. J. W. Davison, appeared in "The Times" of May 20th, and shows that his playing them from memory was looked upon in no favourable light. " Mr. Charles HalleY' says the Times' critic, "has undertaken a no less arduous than honourable task. A good many pianists (virtuosi included) would be somewhat at a loss to play any one of the Sonatas of Beethoven, even with the music to refer to at convenience; but Mr. Halle proposes to essay them all in a series of eight concerts—we beg pardon, ' recitals'—and if the per­formance of Friday may be regarded as a precedent, all without book. However doubtful the wisdom of such a risk, it is impossible not to admire the artistic self-reliance that suggested it. No less than 35 Sonatas for the pianoforte alone are published under the name of Beethoven; and supposing, as is most likely to be the case, the three early ones, which—though printed 13 years before the set of trios dedicated to Prince Lichnowski (Op. 1)—Beethoven himself repudiated, and the two Sonatinas (Op. 49) omitted from the scheme, Mr. Halle will still have 30 Sonatas, for the most part works of a large calibre, to commit (or re-commit, for possibly in earlier days the feat may have been already accomplished) to memory! The tenth labour of a musical Hercules would scarcely amount to more." After a criticism of the performance the writer continues :—" All these four Sonatas, as we have hinted, were given with no other index than that of memory to aid the performer. The entirely successful result proved that in this instance he required no other; but we confess we shall not be sorry if at the next 'recital,' when the Three Sonatas, Op. 10, and No. 1, of Op. 14, are to be performed, we obtain a glimpse of the printed music on the desk of the pianoforte. // nefautpas tenter les dieux."
128. That the Times' critic did not get that ardently desired glimpse of the printed music may be gathered from his second notice of the same series of recitals, which appeared on June 3rd, and runs as follows :—" Mr. Charles Halle" is progressing triumphantly with the exceptional task he has set himself—that of performing in immediate succession the whole of Beethoven's pianoforte Sonatas. Since we last alluded to the subject he has played the three Sonatas, Op. 10, the Sonata Patetica, and the two Sonatas Op. 14, the Sonata in B flat Op. 22, and the Sonata in A flat Op. 26, (with the well-known Variations and Funeral march)—all as before without the advantage of the music to refer to. On this last point, while according to Mr. Halld the credit due to an exertion of the faculty of retention almost unprecedented—we are by no means inclined to retract what was said in allusion to his first recital. When he appears at the instrument even his warmest admirers and most enthusiastic panegyrists can hardly feel otherwise than apprehensive; while mere impartial hearers who may happen to know the Sonatas almost
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