What is it to be musical? You will not be so, if your eyes are fixed on the notes with anxiety and you play your piece laboriously through; you will not be so, if (supposing that somebody should turn over two pages at once) you stop short and cannot proceed. But you will be so if you can almost foresee in a new piece what is to follow, or remember it in an old one,—in a word, if you have not only music in your fingers, but also in your head and heart.
But how do we become musical? This, my young friend, is a gift from above; it consists chiefly of a fine ear and quick conception. And these gifts may be cultivated and enhanced. You will not become musical by confining yourself to your room and to mere mechanical studies, but by an extensive intercourse with the musical world, especially with the Chorus and the Orchestra.
Become in early years well informed as to the extent of the human voice in its four modifications. Attend to it especially in the Chorus, examine in what tones its highest power lies, in what others it can be employed to affect the soft and tender passions.
Pay attention to national airs and songs of the people; they contain a vast assemblage of the finest melodies, and open to you a glimpse of the character of the different nations.
Fail not to practise the reading of old clefs, otherwise many treasures of past times will remain a closed fountain to you.
Attend early to the tone and character of the various instruments; try to impress their peculiar sound on your ear.
Do not neglect to attend good Operas.
Highly esteem the Old, but take also a warm interest in the New. Be not prejudiced against names unknown to you.
Do not judge a composition from the first time of hearing; that which pleases you at the first moment, is not always the best. Masters need to be studied. Many things will not become clear to you till you have reached a more advanced age.
In judging of compositions, discriminate between works of real art and those merely calculated to amuse amateurs. Cherish those of the former description, and do not get angry with the others.
Melody is the battle-cry of amateurs, and certainly music without melody is nothing. Understand, however, what these persons mean by it: a simple, flowing and pleasing rhythmical tune; this is enough to satisfy them. There are, however, others of a different sort, and whenever you open Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, or any real master, their melodies meet you in a thousand different shapes. I trust you will soon be tired of the inferior melodies, especially those out of the new operas; and of all vulgar ones.
If, while at the piano, you attempt to form little melodies, that is very well; but if they come into your mind of themselves, when you are not practising, you may be still more pleased; for the internal organ of music is then roused in you. The fingers must do what the head desires; not the contrary.
If you begin to compose, work it out in your head. Do not try a piece on your instrument, except when you have fully conceived it. If your music came from your heart and soul, and did you feel it yourself,—it will operate on others in the same manner.
If Heaven has bestowed on you a fine imagination, you will often be seated at your piano in solitary hours, as if attached to it; you will desire to express the feelings of your heart in harmony, and the more clouded the sphere of harmony may perhaps be to you, the more mysteriously you will feel as if drawn into magic circles. In youth these may be your happiest hours. Beware, however, of abandoning