“I have been for some time making a collection of sonatas a tre, two violins and ’cello—delightful old things by Sammartini, Leclair, the Englishman Boyce, Friedemann Bach and others. This is material from which the amateur could derive real enjoyment and profit. The Leclair sonata in D minor we have played some three hundred times; and its slow movement is one of the most beautiful largos I know of in all chamber music. The same thing could be done in the way of transcription for chamber music which Kreisler has already done so charmingly for the solo violin. And I would dearly love to do it! There are certain ‘primitives’ of the quartet—Johann Christian Bach, Gossec, Telemann, Michel Haydn—who have written music full of the rarest melodic charm and freshness. I have much excellent material laid by, but as you know,” concluded Mr. Betti with a sigh, “one has so little time for anything in America.”
THE TECHNIC OF BOWING
Hans Letz, the gifted Alsatian violinist, is well fitted to talk on any phase of his Art. A pupil of Joachim (he came to this country in 1908), he was for three years concertmaster of the Thomas orchestra, appearing as a solo artist in most of our large cities, and was not only one of the Kneisels (he joined that organization in 1912), but the leader of a quartet of his own. As a teacher, too, he is active in giving others an opportunity to apply the lessons of his own experience.
When asked for his definition of the term, Mr. Letz said: “There can be no such thing as an absolute mastery of the violin. Mastery is a relative term. The artist is first of all more or less dependent on circumstances which he cannot control—his mood, the weather, strings, a thousand and one incidentals. And then, the nearer he gets to his ideal, the more apt his ideal is to escape him. Yet, discounting all objections, I should say that a master should be able to express perfectly the composer’s idea, reflected by his own sensitive soul.
THE KEY TO INTERPRETATION
“The bow is the key to this mastery in expression, in interpretation: in a lesser degree the left hand. The average pupil does not realize this but believes that mere finger facility is the whole gist of technic. Yet the richest color, the most delicate nuance, is mainly a matter of bowing. In the left hand, of course, the vibrato gives a certain amount of color effect, the intense, dramatic tone quality of the rapid vibrato is comparable on the violin to the tremulando of the singer. At the same time the vibrato used to excess is quite as bad as an excessive tremulando in the voice. But control of the bow is the key to the gates of the great field of declamation, it is the means of articulation and accent, it gives character, comprising the entire scale of the emotions. In fact, declamation with the violin bow is very much like declamation in dramatic art. And the attack of the bow on the string should be as incisive as the utterance of the first accented syllable of a spoken word. The bow is emphatically the means of expression, but only the advanced pupil can develop its finer, more delicate expressional possibilities.