Hans Schmitt.

The pedals of the piano-forte and their relation to piano-forte playing and the teaching of composition and acoustics. Four lectures delivered at the Conservatory of music, in Vienna online

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THE






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J)edal§ of the Jliano-^orte




AND



THEIR RELATION TO PIANO-FORTE PLAYING AND

THE TEACHING OF COMPOSITION

AND ACOUSTICS.

HAIR LFCTURES DELIVERED AT THE CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC. IN VIEVNA,

Ijy HANS SCH/WITT.

Translated by FREDERICK S. LAW.



171 2 £tyestyut Sir.

COPYRIGHT, 18<W, BY THEO. PRESSEP-






INTRODUCTION.



-o-



The importance of the pedal as an adjunct to artistic piano playing can hardly
he overestimated. It is not too much to say that the effect of almost all modern piano
music (from the earliest compositions of Thalberg and Liszt,) depends upon its skill-
ful use, and yet no question of technic has been so much neglected. While touch
has been analyzed in the most minute manner, every movement of finger, wrist and
arm noted with the greatest accuracy, the study of the pedal, as Hsrr Schmitt re-
marks, has hardly gone beyond the standpoint of instinctive feeling on the part of
the player. To demonstrate the importance of the pedal from an artistic point of
view, and to discover the causes which impel the finished player to his various uses
of it are the objects of the following work, which consists of four lectures originally
delivered by Herr Schmitt in the Vienna Conservatory of Music, and subsequently
collected and published in book form.

( It may be confidently asserted that no one has made so thorough a study of this
subject as Herr Schmitt, and the practical results of his investigations, together with
his position as an acknowledged authority on the question of pedal effects, are such
as to require no apology for an English translation of his work.)

He relates that in a conversation upon the subject with Anton Rubinstein, the
latter expressed himself as follows: " I consider the art of properly using the pedal
as the most difficult problem of higher piano playing, and if we have not as yet heard
the instrument at its best, the fault possibly lies in the fact that it has not been fully
understood how to exhaust the capabilities of the pedal."

As Schmitt justly remarks, this utterance from the lips of such an authority is
of more weight as to the importance of the subject and its present position than any-
thing else that can be adduced.

The student is recommended to read this work at the piano so that the different
uses of the pedal may be practically tested as they occur. Where practicable, the
instrument should be a full grand piano in perfect tune, to ensure the production of
all the effects herein given, this being a point upon which great stress is laid by the
author.

Many of the examples are taken from the most familiar compositions for the

piano, and if possible, they should be studied in their connection with the original,

since many of the more daring examples in the third chapter, taken out of their

proper connection, will sound wild and confused, lacking the working up to a climax

which alone justifies their use.

Translator.



OF THE



PIflP-F0^FE.



CHAPTER I.

He who has talent uses the pedal well, he who has none uses it
badly. This dictum seems to be about the gist of the scanty explanations
on the use of the pedal found in the older piano methods. Thus fur the
question hardly seems to have gone beyond the standpoint of instinctive
feeling on the part of the player, but in view of its importance it seems
well worth the effort to demonstrate its significance and to investigate the
original causes which impel the finished player to his various uses of the
pedal. To reach as far as possible these two aims is the object of this
work.

Presupposing in the reader a practical knowledge of piano playing,
we will omit any explanation of the mechanism of the pedal, and begin
with its most common effect: that of sustaining the tone without the
action of the fingers.

It is well known that on the piano a tone sounds just as long as the
key struck is held down, and ceases to sound when the key is allowed to
rise. But if the pedal be used, the tone sounds as long as the pedal is
held down ; it makes no difference whether the finger be raised before the
foot, or at the same time ; ( whether, for example, a chord be played so :




H— 3— 2£—



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-m-



or so:



Fed.






— <5>-



-&-



Only when the tone must be sustained a longer time than the pedal
is to be held down is it absolutely necessary that the finger remain on
the key.



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



In case of the other fingers this is immaterial, e.g.




This shortening of the touch should be seldom allowed in polyphonic
music; least of all in fugues, as it is only in exceptional cases that all the
voices cease at the same time.

Since, then, every key struck staccato can produce a long tone by the
aid of the pedal, the player thus gains rest for his ringers, which detract
nothing from the length of the sound.

These rests and their skillful use by players and composers are whai
radically distinguish modern music for the piano from that of the oldei
school. The majority of sound effects ( Klangwirkungen ) attained Ivy
modern pianists and composers, depend upon this use of the pedal.

In order to gain a precise notation for the pedal, we will abandon the
usual and unreliable signs for its use, Peel, and :$;, (which indicate the
rising and the falling of the dampers upon the strings), and henceforth
use a line below the staves, upon which, by means of notes and rests, the
exact duration of the pedal can be determined, thus avoiding all possible
misunderstanding.

The pedal is the only means of connecting tones which are too far
apart to be connected by fingers alone. In such cases the tones are struck
staccato, and, while they are sustained by the pedal, the hand makes the
skip to the remote keys, not releasing the pedal until they are struck, e.g.:



Effect.

As executed by the hand.
By the foot.




THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



In order to reach a distant key the finger must necessarily observe a
rest, e.g.:



Allegro.



As written.



As played.




=F?-g-f— *—fa— z



r



w



On the other hand, the pedal must also observe a rest before it can be

used a second time, e.g.:

Allegro.

As written — & 1 — &



As played



T



If these two rests occur at the same time, a disconnection between the
two tones is occasioned, which if never so slight, is enough to destroy
continuity of sound, e.g.:



Allegro.




Hand.



Foot,

In order therefore, to preserve the requisite legato, the rests for the
fingers and those for the foot must be so divided that they never come
together. This can be done in the following manner: first strike the key,
and later press the pedal. As soon as the foot is down let the finger be
removed and strike the succeeding key, but after it is struck let the
foot rise, so that in continuing the exercise there is always an alternate
movement : first the fingers and then the foot, e.g.:



Effect.

Execution.
(a) Hand.

(6) Foot.




6



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



Iu order to draw the greatest advantage from the sustaining power of
the pedal, in teaching, the pupil should be made fully conscious of this
shortening of the touch. This is best done by the teacher writing down
as above at a and b, under the notes, their real value as played, and the
exact duration of the pressure of the foot on the pedal, by means of notes
and rests on a special line below the staves. Also, in order to avoid cum-
bering this pedal line with rests of small value, a line can be drawn
through the head of the note when it is wished to show that the foot
presses down the pedal a little later than the note would indicate.

In case this writing out takes too much time from the lesson, let the
teacher play the passage three times: first, precisely as it should be
executed, with the pedal, the fingers rising before the value of the notes
has expired ; then by the fingers alone, without the pedal, using the same
shortened touch, however rough it may seem; and lastly, with the pedal
as at first, to show again by example how the passage should sound. In
this way the pupil learns to appreciate the advantage of this use of the
pedal from the contrast between the two different effects.

In the same manner chords and octaves can be played legato, which,
by the fingers alone cannot be joined at all, or only with great difficulty.
e. g.:

Grave.

&0_ _0_ ritardando.







Ped.-e-



'/



*
v



i ^ ^

I— r



^



1/ 1/



1/



HI



Less extended chords whose tones end together, can also be joined
by the pedal, thus greatly simplifying the fingering. For example, the
following passage from the finale of Beethoven's Sonata in (' major, Op.



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



2, can be easily and surely played with the simple fingering of the com-
mon chord in three parts by using the pedal immediately after each
chord. Each one should be played staccato, but sustained by the pedal,
which is released at the moment the next chord is struck, e. g. :



*-'■ *: -*•-.







Without the pedal tins passage requires such a complicated fingering
as to render it almost impossible of a faultless execution.

The best way to accustom pupils to use the pedal in this manner is to
have them first play the scale of C in triple measure, observing a rest on
the third count, e.g. :

Right H. | ,



:3=5:



-*— rd



£



-*— r-&-



-&-






-£— l



etc.



Left H. | I ' '

The next step is to press down the pedal in the same rhythm, but U



observe the rest on the first count, as follows : a; - ^ p" —

At last the two movements should be executed together, e.g.:



J



etc



R. H.



-1



%z=A






-&-



etc.



C.£2_



Foot



L. H. |

4 *



_L



JL



-&-



_L



T



The tones will, of course, sound throughout the entire measure, since
they are always sustained either by the finger or the foot.

The following exercise can be practised similarly as a study in bind-
ing chords by means of the pedal. First play slowly, counting aloud,*
then more and more rapidly — also in different keys.
R. H. _ .^.



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-*s—



I



(2—



U A X *hh ^



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L. H. an octave lower.
Foot. XP IX-fH *-!*-



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-»■



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THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



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-jg-



mm



-Si






-Si-—



t=g-



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1_*_«__J|



Foot.*-[g-f-*-[ g -j * p 1 * f 1 y "j g '~' N~[ 5 '—N-[ s '— \-*-f-

Even where the tones are connected by the fingers the pedal should
be taken in the same manner. The common rule for legato playing is
that one key must be held down until the next key be struck. But while
the key is down its damper has no effect upon the string, and if the pedal
be used for the succeeding tone at the instant the key is struck the pre-
vious tone, not having been damped, is sustained still longer. In a word :
in legato passages, if the foot move exactly with the fingers the tones
sound as follows:



( a ) As executed by the fingers.
( b ) As executed by the foot,
(c) Effect.



P



1ST



-& —



:s>~



f



— *



-U, • » L



i



P



&-



-7ST& -



—&■&■



This mingling of sounds can only be avoided by pressing down the
pedal after the key is struck.

_ i
[a) As executed by the fingers.



(6) As executed by the foot. (



(c) Effect.



-&-



-<9-



- 3

-gs-



-&-



+*-f^-



-L*_



S— r»-



r>-



S>-



In the following passage from Heller's Etude, Op. 4(5, No. 11, if the
pedal be used exactly at the beginning of each measure the effect is bad,
Since the last tone of the measure previous will be prolonged into the
measure following; but if it be taken with the second sixteenth of each
measure the passage will sound clear.



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



Andante.




Sipis



a. bad._^ L



-U



Foot.



+



44



t



b. good."



-0-0






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& IP I



The first Song without Words by Mendelssohn, should also be played
in the same manner, the pedal coining on the second sixteenth of each
quarter note.

An excellent pedal exercise is to play the scale of C in triple measure,
pressing down the pedal on the second count and letting it rise on the
first. This should be practised until it can be played in rather a quick
tempo.

In legato passages where the tones are preceded by grace notes it is
particularly difficult to use the pedal in this way, because the player is
apt to press it down before reaching the principal tone, thus creating dis-
sonance. The following exercise will remedy this fault, but one must be
careful to lift the fingers with precision in playing the small notes and
only bring the pedal down after the principal note has been reached. It
should also be practised until it can be played rapidly.

etc. etc.




This habit of taking the pedal after the tone is absolutely necessary
to the player if he wishes his playing to sound clear. It is at first diffi-
cult because the foot, to a certain extent, moves out of time with the



10



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



fingers. No one, however, should shrink from the labor of acquiring it
since it is an indispensable requirement for artistic playing and is cer-
tainly not so difficult as the similar effort in filling the bellows of a
harmonium or cabinet organ.

It is the more necessary, as only in rare cases can the foot move
simultaneously with the fingers, e.g. : at the beginning of a composition
or after a general rest. In playing staccato tones it is also allowable, since
rests occur between the notes; in all other cases the pedal must be used
later, even if the difference in time be very slight, as otherwise either
gaps between the tones, or dissonant harmonies result.

But few players are aware of the necessity of this rule; those of fine
musical feeling generally observe it instinctively — others do not, and this
neglect is the chief reason that the pedal is used so frequently with bad
effect.

The pedal not only connects tones which are remote from each other
but also serves to sustain them, e.g. :



Effect.



As executed by the hand.



:E:



■&-






3E



-£—



■&-



By the foot.



1.

I



-<s>-



.11



The greater the distance between the keys to be struck and the smaller
the hand of the player the more frequently must the pedal be used.
Modern compositions for the piano abound in extensions and widely
spread chords which cannot be reached, even by the largest hand. Such
chords must be played arpeggio, %. c, one tone after the other, the \\ hole
being sustained by the pedal.

In this case only the first tone possesses the full value of the written
note, each successive tone coming a little later than the one preceding,
but by the rapidity witli which this is generally executed the loss of time
is almost imperceptible.

The following passage from Schumann's Kreisleriana, No. 2, affords
an example of this. Without the pedal the left hand part would sound
very broken.



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



11



Nicht schnell




t=8*z






l?=>tw



:ffii- t-tf




i i

r



etc.



f^^-l — J-W— « - g*— J -r^-J-^






ped. - |-r— f



*



X



If f f II



In widely extended chords the pedal should be used at the beginning
of the arpeggio, since otherwise all the tones will not sound together. If
it be used after the chord has begun, only the later tones will be sustained,
those first played being previously silenced by the fall of the dampers, e.g.:



As written.



As executed.



Foot.



(a)




( b ) good



We now arrive at a freedom of playing which belongs distinctively
to the realm of the virtuoso, who uses the pedal as a means of increasing
the power of his touch. In legato playing the grade of power is limited,
being dependent both upon the pressure from the arm and upon the
raising of the fingers ; the higher the fingers are lifted the stronger will
be the touch But the fingers cannot be raised a greater distance than
they are long, so that in legato playing their strength is partly limited by
their length. If this be insufficient, nothing remains but to abandon the
legato. In this case the fingers play staccato while the tones are con-
nected by the pedal.



12



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



Fortissimo passages must therefore often be played staccato, even
when the legato is expressly indicated. Concert literature, especially that
of late years, abounds in examples of this style of playing, e.g.: measures
132 and 133 in Rubinstein's D minor Concerto, the beginning of Weber's
Concertstuck, and the run before the last two pauses in the variations in
E flat by Mendelssohn.

Also the following passage at the end of Schumann's Kreisleriana,
No. 3, must be played staccato, although in the original the legato is ex-
pressly marked by slurs.

Sehr aufgeregt.



As written.




-f^J^-



as executed.



r-P r




fcfc2:



— I



si-t^n-i-



-3-»-



-E-A

»-3 — I-



■=! - N3-



I



Sr




Foot.



The crossing of the two parts can only be surely executed when each
hand, after striking its key, is raised high enough to allow the other hand
to slip under it. The degree of staccato depends upon the strength re-
quired ; the stronger the tone the more staccato the touch, until the
utmost force is required, when the greatest possible staccato must be
employed, in order to gain rests between the tones long enough to admit
of the whole arm being raised high enough above the key-board to be
thrown with full force upon the keys.

In this way only, for example, will the finale of the Etude, No. 25,
from Heller's Op. 47, attain its proper brilliancy and effect. Still shorter



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



13



and stronger should be the touch in the beginning of Rubinstein's D
minor Concerto, and in the chords of the left hand in the following ex-
ample, which is taken from Liszt's Etude, No. 1.

(Prelude.) 8va

Presto. - -T" :*:




a ) As written

A






m






W-






(6) As executed.

-N-



pB^^±



I



t^^*



la
9



&



I



— e-



-s>-
i \



.1



r






44?-



1



Timid instructors may be not a little alarmed at the freedom of touch
here recommended. Many will not be able to rid themselves of the idea
that the character of a tone struck with the pedal becomes different as
soon as the finger is taken from the key. That it is in nowise altered can
be practically tested by turning away from the player and endeavoring
to detect the moment in which the finder is withdrawn, while at the
same time, the tone is sustained by the pedal. In this way it will be
made perfectly clear that for the duration of a tone it is entirely imma-
terial while the dampers are raised, whether the finger holds down the
key or not.

Those not physically strong and whose finders are weak must find
assistance in the staccato if they wish to vie with those of strong physique,
and who possess a naturally strong touch.

Such a manner of playing in passages where the pedal is not ad-
missible would of course be broken and disconnected, but in all cases
where the pedal can be used the effect is precisely the same whether the
tones are played legato or staccato, provided they are struck with the
same force.

Tin's use of the pedal also serves to beautify the touch. The more
time one has to prepare the touch the finer it can be made. The pauses



J4 THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.

between the tones can be utilized by arranging the Angers while in th«
air, in such a way that the finger which is to play the strongest tone is
held somewhat stiffly and more bent than the others, so that its tip pro-
jects, and in consequence, strikes with a stronger touch. For instance:
in the following four measures, if it be desired to bring out, first, the
lowest tone, then the second, third and fourth tones in succession, with
more strength than the others in the same chord — first the thumb, and
then the second, third and fifth fingers must be successively held more
stiffly and bent than the others, so that one after the other the C, E, O
and C may be struck more strongly than the other tones of the chord, e.g.:



&

e



-s- — F g F g F

—8 1 >-0 <S> u



— s-



-l§-



>-&- 1 -&- -&-

This use of the staccato in connection with the pedal, also serves as a
means of repose from the labor of playing. Even the mere holding of a
full and extended chord somewhat strains the muscles, and compositions,
which, like the most difficult piano music of the present day, are full of
daring chords and stretches can hardly be played to an end without the
rests made possible by the pedal.

After great extensions it is of advantage — particularly to players with
small hands, to close the hands when in the air in order to rest the mus-
cles from the strain of the previous stretching. Even so mighty a pianist
as Rubinstein does not disdain to avail himself of this advantage and
after fortissimo chords, frequently raises his clenched hands high over
the keyboard, thus resting his fingers and gaining fresh strength for re-
newed efforts. Many an uninitiated observer may have regarded this as
an exaggerated mannerism— indeed, as a serious fault which he only
pardons in the virtuoso because he produces so fine and powerful a tone
in spite of his so called fault, which is in reality, the cause of the
admired effect.

In this connection it must be remarked that this closing of the hand
should be involuntary ; the player should not will it directly but allow
it to occur instinctively.

If after playing staccatissimo the hand be allowed complete relaxa-
tion it will of itself rise— the stronger the touch and the greater the
relaxation, the greater the height it will reach. This allows it a brief
period of rest, but one long enough to renew strength for a fresh attack.
The shock of a staccato touch is decidedly greater than that of a touch
which retains the keys, and as on the piano the moment of percussion is



THE PEDALS OF THE PIANO-FORTE.



15



alone to be considered, staccato chords can be played with much more
force than those requiring tbe fingers to be kept down.

(Another, and a favorite use of the pedal with many players must


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Online LibraryHans SchmittThe pedals of the piano-forte and their relation to piano-forte playing and the teaching of composition and acoustics. Four lectures delivered at the Conservatory of music, in Vienna → online text (page 1 of 7)