Training the Child
“Great care must be taken with the health of the child who has some talent for music, so that he shall not overdo in his piano study. After all a robust physical condition is of the first importance, for without it one can do little.
“A child in good health can begin as early as five or six years. He must be most judiciously trained from the start. As the ear is of such prime importance in music, great attention should be paid to tone study—to listening to and distinguishing the various sounds, and to singing them if possible, in solfeggio.
“At the outset a good hand position must be secured, with correct finger movements. Then there must be a thorough drill in scales, arpeggios, chords, and a variety of finger exercises, before any kind of pieces are taken up. The young student in early years, is expected to play various études, as well as the technic studies I have mentioned—Czerny, Cramer, Clementi, and always Bach. In my position, as member of the faculty of the Conservatoire, a great many students pass before me. If I personally accept any pupils, they naturally must be talented and advanced, as I cannot give my time to the children. Still it is interesting to see the child-thought develop.”
The conversation turned upon the charming studio with its lovely garden—where absolute quiet could be secured in spite of the noise and bustle of one of the busiest quarters of Paris. The studio itself, we were told, had formerly belonged to the painter Decamps, and some of the pictures and furnishings were once his. A fine portrait of Pugno, life size, filling the whole space above the piano, claimed our attention. He kindly rose, as we admired the painting, and sought a photograph copy. When it was found—the last one he possessed—he presented it with his compliments.
We spoke of Mlle. Boulanger’s work in composition, a subject which seemed deeply to interest M. Pugno.
“Yes, she is writing an opera; in fact we are writing it together; the text is from a story of d’Annunzio. I will jot down the title for you.”
Taking a paper which I held in my hand, he wrote,
“La Ville Morte, 4 Acts de d’Annuncio; Musique de Nadia Boulanger et Raoul Pugno”
“You will certainly have it performed in America, when it is finished; I will tell them so,” I said.
The great pianist smiled blandly and accepted the suggestion with evident satisfaction.
With many expressions of appreciation we took our leave of the Oriental studio and its distinguished occupants; and, as we regained the busy, noisy rue de Clicy, we said to ourselves that we had just lived through one of the most unique experiences of our stay in Paris.
By: Raoul Pugno