We will understand it all better in other days if we remain faithful now. If, however, we should forget for a moment that art demands our loyalty, there will be no joy or peace in it for us. Worse, perhaps, than starting out upon the wrong path, is the deserting of the right one. Sometimes out of impatience we do this; out of impatience and self-love, which is the worst of all. “Truth is the beginning of all good, and the greatest of all evils is self-love."
With the trials that music costs us, with its pains and discouragements, we might easily doubt all these promises which are contained in our ideals, but we shall be forever saved from deserting them if we remember that these ideals have been persistently held by great men. They have never given them up. One of the strongest characteristics of Bach and of Beethoven was their determination to honor their thoughts. Sometimes we find the same persistence and faithfulness in lesser men.
I am sure you will see this faith beautifully lived in the few facts we have about the life of Johann Christian Kittel, a pupil of Bach, and it is strongly brought out by the pretty story told of him, that when pleased with a pupil’s work he would draw aside a curtain which covered a portrait of Bach and let the faithful one gaze upon it for a moment. That was to him the greatest reward he could give for faithfulness in the music task.
And this reminds us of how the teacher, Pistocchi, who, in teaching the voice, kept in mind a pure tone, a quiet manner of singing, and the true artistic way of doing. Among his pupils was a certain Antonio Bernacchi, who, after leaving his master, began to display his voice by runs and trills and meaningless tones. And this he did, not because of true art, for that was not it, but because it brought him the applause of unthinking people.
Once, when the master, Pistocchi, heard him do this he is said to have exclaimed: “Ah, I taught thee how to sing, and now thou wilt play;” meaning that the true song was gone and the pupil no longer sang out of the heart, but merely out of the throat. Pistocchi kept his ideal pure.
We have then among our ideals two of first importance. The ideal perception of music, as being the true heart-expression of great men; and the ideal of our doings, which is the true heart-expression of ourselves. And to keep these ideals is difficult in two ways: The difficulty of keeping the pure intention of great men ever before us, and the difficulty of keeping close and faithful to the tasks assigned us. Then we can say with the little child:
“Master, I do not understand what thou hast said, yet I believe thee.”
THE ONE TALENT.
“Then he which had received the
one talent came.”—Matthew, XXV: