+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

they are doing to their children, who need be born
three times as strong as other children, to undergo
the discipline.

Herz, a prince in his art, came out in the
musical world at a very early age. He has related
through what a series of exercises, or rather of
torments, he passed, in order to acquire the
hot-house talent of which his father was so proud.
When he was only three years and a half old,
Henri Herz's father (who had settled in his plans
that his child should be a prodigy) got made for
him a little piano of the height of a chair, and
with a compass of about four octaves. Henri
sat himself upon a stool; his father did the same;
and the two amused themselves, several hours
daily, trying which should move his fingers the
quickest over the narrow keys of the toy instrument.
As the child grew bigger, they gave him
a larger piano, always in proportion to his
stature. At six years, he was promoted to the
honour of playing on a piano of natural dimensions,
and his father made him a present of a pair
of boots with yellow tops.

"You see," he said, " I consider you henceforward
as a man, and treat you as such. Endeavour
to deserve my kindness, by wearing out your
boots as little, and your piano as much, as you
can." At eight years old, Henri Herz's father
gave him a new proof of his consideration, by
purchasing him a silver watch, which was hung up
over the instrument. The object of the watch
was to indicate the hours of labour to the boy,
who was condemned, besides the studies of the
day, to practise exercises and scales from eight
in the evening until eleven.

At eleven, a maid-servant entered, with a
singular apparatus invented by Herz's father.
It consisted of a pulley fastened to the ceiling,
through which pulley ran a long rope, one end of
which was tied to a stick about half a yard long.
To each end of the stick were fastened two bits
of string, at the ends of which dangled a couple
of rings. The little prodigy passed the medium
and the annular fingers of both his hands through
the rings, and the servant set the apparatus in
motion by making the rope run through the
pulley. This mode of training, according to M.
Herz senior, ensured the independent action of
those rebellious members, the second and third

When the silver watch marked midnight, that
is, after an hour of these strange gymnastics, the
labours of the day concluded, and everybody
went to bed. Half dead with exhaustion, the
poor child fell asleep almost before he could get.
into bed. But at six in the morning, his father,
who slept in the adjoining chamber, knocked
at the wall, shouting, " Come, Henri; it is six
o'clock, my boy. Quick, to the piano!" The
wretched lad had to get up, and stumbling with
sleepiness, dipped his face in cold water, to
awaken himself completely, and then returned to
row his galley;—that is, to resume his piano
practice. If Henri Herz could support this
existence, and if his musical education were
advanced by it, it was only because he was gifted
with unusual physical and moral strength. Any
other child would have died under the task, or
become an idiot.

Are women less capable than men, of excelling
on the piano? M. Commettant is inclined to
think so. In fact, a very small number of women
out of the vast multitude who devote themselves
to the study of the instrument, have acquired a
great reputation. We may cite Mesdames Pleyel,
Escudier-Kastner, Massart, Schumaun, Wartel,
and Mdlle. Josephine Martin. The rest, with a
few exceptions, are confounded in a mediocrity
which is called respectable, one hardly knows

For some years past, Madame Pleyel has been
settled in Belgium, where she conducts a piano
class at the Conservatoire of Brussels. Mdlle.
Martin's name is celebrated throughout Europe.
An indefatigable labourer, she forgets that she is
a first-class pianist, to confine herself exclusively
to the professor's duties, giving lessons for from
twelve to fourteen hours per day. What a task!
How can a woman, a young lady, endure the
fatigue? But we forget that women, feeble
under certain circumstances in which men show
themselves strong, become indefatigable under
certain other circumstances where men are weak.
At the piano, when it is a question of giving
lessons; at balls, when it is a question of dancing;
one weak woman is as good as two strong men.
Thanks to this feminine aptitude, Mdlle.
Josephine Martin reckons her pupils by hundreds,
among whom might be quoted amateurs of rare
talent and artists in high repute.

The professor of the piano, who is himself no
performer, is a mysterious being, well worthy of
exercising the sagacity of observant minds. To
teach what one does not know, appears, in fact,
at first sight, an inexplicable mystery; and we
naturally ask for what strange reason the
professor of this class has not himself in some
degree profited by the lessons which he gives to
others. Of these individuals, some are very
wretched. Others are very well off; their pupils
are numerous, unfailing, and profitable. No
one in the world of art has ever heard their
names pronounced; they have never
published anything; no journal has ever mentioned
them; no one has ever listened to their
performancefor the stringent reason that they
cannot play; never have they brought forward any
of their pupils; and yet, in a certain subterranean
world, they pass for phoenixes, they are
consulted respecting new operas which they
never go to see, and great performers whom they
never go to hear, about new music which they
do not know, and about the history of music, of
which they are completely ignorant. To every
question put to them, they reply without hesitation,
and pronounce their judgments with the
disdainful air which, in default of modesty, sits
well on transcendent merit.

Among the pianists for dancing evening
parties, there are bad, tolerable, good, and