MUSICAL MEMORY - online book

A System To Cultivate The Musical Memory For Musicians.

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70                                               MUSICAL MEMORY.
134.   Amongst English musicians who are living, and who are known to possess exceptional powers of memory, Sir Walter Parratt, Private Organist to the Queen, stands pre-eminent. Sir Walter's memory was evidently developed quite early, for Sir George Grove, in his Dictionary, relates the fact that "at the age of 10 he played on one occasion the whole of the 48 preludes and fugues of Bach by heart without notice." Another exceptional exercise of his wonderful power took place whilst he was organist of St. Paul's Church, Huddersfield. At a competition for a vacant post in the choir, an applicant possessed only one copy of the solo he wished to sing. As he was unable to sing it without the assistance of the printed copy, and it was necessary for him, whilst singing it, to stand in the choir stalls and quite away from the organ, he was on the horns of a dilemma until Sir Walter, then a youth of about 12 or 13, came to his rescue, and after glancing at the music for a moment, accompanied it from memory. In addition to his brilliant gifts as a musician, Sir Walter is a fine chess player, and during a visit to the late Sir Frederick Ouseley at Tenbury, he performed a feat which, like the one recorded of Mendelssohn in par. 123, probably stands alone amongst memory performances. The Rev. J. Hampton, who succeeded the late Sir Frederick Ouseley as Warden of St. Michael's College, Tenbury, was present on the occasion, and has kindly supplied me with the following description of what took place. His narrative runs as follows:—"In one of the lodgings attached to St. Michael's College, Tenbury, some eight or ten men were assembled. Von Hoist and Sir Walter played on the piano in turn such music as was asked for, and always from memory. This went on for some time, when the chess board was brought out, and Sir Walter proposed to play two men in consultation while he remained at the piano, still playing anything asked for, either from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn or Chopin. He never looked at the chess board, but continued to converse with those around, who did all they could to distract him, although without success. His memory never failed him for at least an hour, when the game was won by him, and he told us how he had been watching the chances of a poor fly which had become entangled in a spider's web. Both the antagonists come here occasionally, and have often spoken of the memorable occasion."
135.   We have come to the end of our records, but in them we seem to have touched but the fringe of a deeply interesting subject, and one which could supply many more pages of interesting reading. Such incidents are often known only to private friends and pupils, and the details rarely made public. We should, therefore, be grateful to any of our readers, who, knowing the particulars of any exceptional and uncommon memory performances in connection with music, which it would be interesting to permanently record, would communicate with us, with a view to the insertion of the particulars of such performances in a subsequent issue of this work.
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