Max Pauer

Prof. Max Pauer was born in London, England, October 31, 1866, and is the son of the eminent musical educator, Ernst Pauer, who settled in England in 1851, and aside from filling many of the foremost positions in British musical life, also produced a great number of instructive works, which have been of immeasurable value in disseminating musical education in England. His work on Musical Forms is known to most all music students. Prof. Max Pauer studied with his father at the same time his parent was instructing another famous British-born pianist, Eugen d’Albert. At the age of fifteen he went to Karlsruhe, where he came under the instruction of V. Lachner. In 1885 he returned to London and continued to advance through self-study. In 1887 he received the appointment at the head of the piano department in the Cologne Conservatory. This position he retained for ten years, until his appointment at Stuttgart, first as head teacher in the piano department and later as director of the School. During this period the organization of the famous old conservatory has changed totally. The building occupied was very old and unfit for modern needs. The new conservatory building is a splendid structure located in one of the most attractive parts of the city. The old methods, old equipment, old ideas have been abandoned, and a wholly different atmosphere is said to pervade the institution, while all that was best in the old régime has been retained. Prof. Pauer made his début as a virtuoso pianist in London. Since then he has toured all Europe except the Latin countries. He has published several compositions for the piano. His present tour of America is his first in the New World.


Max Pauer: Acquiring The requisite Technic

“The preservation of one’s individuality in playing is perhaps one of the most difficult, and at the same time one of the most essential tasks in the study of the pianoforte. The kind of technical study that passes the student through a certain process, apparently destined to make him as much like his predecessors as possible, is hardly the kind of technic needed to make a great artist. Technical ability, after all is said and done, depends upon nothing more than physiologically correct motion applied to the artistic needs of the masterpiece to be performed. It implies a clear understanding of the essentials in bringing out the composer’s idea. The pupil must not be confused with inaccurate thinking. For instance, we commonly hear of the ‘wrist touch.’ More pupils have been hindered through this clumsy terminology than I should care to estimate. There cannot be a wrist touch since the wrist is nothing more than a wonderful natural hinge of bone and muscle. With the pupil’s mind centered upon his wrist he is more than likely to stiffen it and form habits which can only be removed with much difficulty by the teacher. This is only an instance of one of the loose expressions with which the terminology of technic is encumbered. When the pupil comes to recognize the wrist as a condition rather than a thing he will find that the matter of the tight, cramped wrist will cease to have its terrors. In fact, as far as touch itself is concerned, the motion of the arm as a whole is vastly more important than that of the wrist. The wrist is merely part of the apparatus which communicates the weight of the arm to the keyboard.

Max Pauer: Innovators Should be Pianists

“In my opinion the technical needs of the piano are likely to be far better understood by the virtuoso pianist than by one who has never been through the experiences which lead to the concert platform. Please do not infer that I would say that all teachers should be virtuoso pianists. I am referring particularly to the makers of methods. I am continually confronted in my teaching with all manner of absurd ideas in piano technic. For instance, one pupil will come and exhibit an exercise which requires her to press hard upon the keyboard after the note is struck. Just why there should be this additional waste of nerve force when it can have no possible effect upon the depressed key I have never been able to find out. There is enough nervous energy expended in pianoforte study as it is without exacting any more from the pupil. Pupils are frequently carried away with some technical trick of this kind like a child with a new toy. They do these things without ever consulting their own judgment.”

The whole idea of technic then is to achieve a position through conscious effort, where one may dispense with conscious effort. Not until this can be accomplished can we hope for real self-expression in playing. Nothing is so odious as the obtrusion of technic in any work of art. Technic is the trellis concealed beneath the foliage and the blossoms of the bower. When the artist is really great all idea of technic is forgotten. He must be absorbed by the sheer beauty of his musical message, his expression of his musical self. In listening to Rubinstein or to Liszt one forgot all idea of technic, and it must be so with all great artists in every branch of art in every age. What we claim when we attend a recital is the individual artist, unrestrained by mechanical bonds.

Very few of the great masters of pianoforte playing have delved very deeply into the technical pedagogical side of their art, as for instance have Tausig, Ehrlich or Joseffy, all of whom have produced remarkable works on technic. Liszt’s contribution to the technic of the instrument was made through his pieces, not through exercises; his contributions to the Lebert and Stark Stuttgart Conservatory method consist of two well-known concert studies. Personally, I am opposed to set methods, that is, those that pretend to teach the pupil factory-wise. Of what value is the teacher if he is not to apply his knowledge with the discretion that comes with experience?

Deppe’s influence to this day is far more theoretical than practical. This does not imply that Deppe did not evolve some very useful ideas in pianoforte work. All of present technic is a common heritage from many investigators and innovators. Pianoforte teaching, as a matter of fact, is one of the most difficult of all tasks. It is easy to teach it along conventional “cut and dried” method lines, but the teachers of real importance are those who have the ability, the gift, the inclination and the experience to make a brand new method for every pupil.

In order to develop the means to communicate one’s message through one’s art with the greatest effectiveness, there must be a mastery of the delicate balance between natural tendencies and discipline. If the student is subjected to too much discipline, stiff, angular results may be expected. If the student is permitted to play with the flabby looseness which some confuse with natural relaxation, characterless playing must invariably result. The great desideratum is the fine equilibrium between nature and discipline. This may seem an unnecessary observation to some, but many students never seem to be able to strike the happy medium between marching over the keys like a regiment of wooden soldiers, or crawling over them like a lot of spineless caterpillars.

Max Pauer: Avoid Machine-Like Playing

There is a certain “something” which defines the individuality of the player, and it seems well nigh impossible to say just what this something is. Let us by all means preserve it. Imagine the future of music if every piece were to be played in the selfsame way by every player like a series of ordinary piano playing machines. The remarkable apparatus for recording the playing of virtuosos, and then reproducing it through a mechanical contrivance, is somewhat of a revelation to the pianist who tries it for the first time. In the records of the playing of artists whose interpretations are perfectly familiar to me, there still remain unquestioned marks of individuality. Sometimes these marks are small shortcomings, but which, nevertheless, are so slight that they do no more than give character. Look at a painting by Van Dyke, and then at one upon a similar subject by Rembrandt, and you will realize how these little characteristics influence the whole outward aspect of an art work. Both Van Dyke and Rembrandt were Dutchmen, and, in a sense, contemporaries. They used pigments and brushes, canvas and oil, yet the masterpieces of each are readily distinguishable by any one slightly familiar with their styles. It is precisely the same with pianists. All of us have arms, fingers, muscles and nerves, but what we have to say upon the keyboard should be an expression of our own minds, not a replica of some stereotyped model.

When I listened to the first record of my own playing, I heard things which seemed unbelievable to me. Was I, af- ter years of public playing, actually making mistakes that I would be the first to condemn in any one of my own pupils? I could hardly believe my ears, and yet the unrelenting machine showed that in some places I had failed to play both hands exactly together, and had been guilty of other errors no less heinous, because they were trifling. I also learned in listening to my own playing, as reproduced, that I had unconsciously brought out certain nuances, emphasized different voices and employed special accents without the consciousness of having done so. Altogether it made a most interesting study for me, and it became very clear that the personality of the artist must permeate everything that he does. When his technic is sufficiently great it permits him to speak with fluency and self-expression, enhancing the value of his work a thousandfold.

Max Pauer: Broad Understanding necessary

“It would be a great mistake for the student to imagine that by merely acquiring finger dexterity and a familiarity with a certain number of pieces he may consider himself profi- cient. There is vastly more to piano-playing than that. He must add to his digital ability and his repertoire and comprehensive grasp of the principles of music itself. The pupil should strive to accomplish as much as possible through mental work. The old idea of attempting to play every single study written by Czerny, or Cramer or the other prolific writers of studies is a huge mistake. A judicious selection from the works of these pedagogical writers is desirable but certainly not all of them. They are at best only the material with which one must work for a certain aim, and that aim should be high artistic results. It should be realized by all students and teachers that this same study material, excellent in itself, may actually produce bad results if not properly practiced. I have repeatedly watched students practicing industriously, but becoming worse and worse and actually cultivating faults rather than approaching perfection. The student must always remember that his fingers are only the outward organs of his inner consciousness, and while his work may be mechanical in part he should never think mechanically. The smallest technical exercise must have its own direction, its own aim. Nothing should be done without some definite purpose in view. The student should have pointed out to him just what the road he must travel is, and where it leads to. The ideal teacher is the one who gives the pupil something to take home and work out at home, not the one who works out the student’s lesson for him in the class room. The teacher’s greatest mission is to raise the consciousness of the pupil until he can appreciate his own powers for developing an idea.

Max Pauer: Freedom From Convention

“Oh the horror of the conventional, the absolutely right, the human machine who cannot make an error! The balance between the frigidly correct and the abominably loose is a most difficult one to maintain. It is, of course, desirable that the young student pass through a certain period of strict discipline, but if this discipline succeeds in making an automaton, of what earthly use is it? Is it really necessary to instruct our little folks to think that everything must be done in a “cut and dried” manner? Take the simple matter of time, for instance. Listen to the playing of most young pupils and you will hear nothing but a kind of “railroad train” rhythm. Every measure bumps along precisely like the last one. The pupil has been taught to observe the bar signs like stone walls partitioning the whole piece off into sections. The result as a whole is too awful to describe. As a matter of fact, the bar signs, necessary as they are as guide-posts when we are learning the elements of notation, are often the means of leading the poorly trained pupil to a wholly erroneous interpretation. For instance, in a passage like the following from Beethoven’s F minor Sonata, Opus 2, No. 1 (dedicated to Joseph Haydn), Beethoven’s idea must have been the following:

before it was divided into measures by bar lines as now found printed:

The trouble with the pupil in playing the above is that he seems inclined to observe the bar lines very carefully and lose all idea of the phrase as a whole. Music should be studied by phrases, not by measures. In studying a poem you strive first of all to get the poet’s meaning as expressed in his phrases and in his sentences; you do not try to mumble a few words in an arbitrary manner. The pupil who never gets over the habit of playing in measures, who never sees the composer’s message as a whole rather than in little segments can never play artistically. Many students fail to realize that in some pieces it is actually misleading to count the beats in the measure. The rhythm of the piece as a whole is often marked by a series of measures, and one must count the measures as units rather than the notes in the measures. For instance, the following section from a Chopin Valse, Opus 64, No. 1 (sometimes called the Minute Valse), may best be counted by counting the measures thus:

Every pupil knows that the first beat in each ordinary measure of four-quarter time carries a strong accent, the third beat the next strongest, and the second and fourth beats still weaker accents. In a series of measures which may be counted in fours, it will be found that the same arrangement often prevails. The pupil will continually meet opportunities to study his work along broader lines, and the wonderful part of it all is that music contains so much that is interesting and surprising, that there need be no end to his investigations. Every page from a master work that has been studied for years is likely to contain some unsolved problem if the student can only see it right and hunt for it. 

Max Pauer: Questions in Style, Interpretation, Expression

and Technic of Pianoforte Playing

1. Define technical ability.
2. Describe some useless technical tricks.

3. Do great pianists devote much time to writing upon piano technic?

4. State the evils of too much discipline.

5. How may machine-like playing be avoided?

6. State how faults are most frequently developed.

7. Why must one seek to avoid conventions?

8. Should music be studied by phrases or measures?

9. Play the Chopin Valse Opus 64, No. 1, indicating how it may best be counted.

10. Where must the student find his problems?

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