#42 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #7 Her students – Walter and John Lindsey Leckie, Frank Mott Harrison, Edith Tulloch

(picture: last known portait of Madame Pratten with Dr. Walter Leckie)

(continue from Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #6)

Apart from Ernest Shand, I tried looking up as much as I could about other students of Madame Pratten. I have mentioned about Dr. Walter Leckie and Dr. John Lindsay Leckie, whom I have learned much from the recent publication Dr Walter Leckie & Don Francisco Tárrega: The unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist by Brian Whitehouse. Madame Pratten had dedicated pieces to both of them: Sadness, Lost Love, A Lament – all available on IMSLP, were dedicated to Dr. John Lindsay Leckie. For Dr. Walter Leckie, Madame Pratten had composed the Hungarian March (tuned in E major), Progressive Preludes and Pieces for Guitar, and Dance of the Witches – Fantasia Grotesque from her Songs without Words and Sketches (p. 28, Whitehouse).

After studying with Madame Pratten, Dr. Walter Leckie went on to study with Tarrega, and Whitehouse’s book suggested that it might be through Madame Pratten that Leckie and Tarrega met. The book also mentioned the mutual respect between Madame Pratten and Tarrega: they exchanged presents, and Tarrega “always kept with thrilled gratitude, the gold bracelet worn by Mistress Pratten that she placed on his wrist, in a moment of emotion after hearing him, as enduring proof of her deep admiration.” (p.42, Whitehouse). This nicely echoed what Frank Mott Harrison wrote of:

p.56, Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten

Another student of Madame Pratten was Frank Mott Harrison, the author of Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten. A google search prompted a few guitar publications of his:

The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, Vol. 34, No. 604 (Jun. 1, 1893), p.363

Harrison also published his edition of the Sor Guitar Method:

A few things from Harrison’s biography of Sor were eye catching…

  1. “It was during the Napoleonic invasion that Ferdinand Sor fled from Spain to see refuge in Englad, and in 1809 he established himself in London as virtuoso and teacher.”

=> 1809 seems too early? Brian Jeffery’s biography of Sor said Sor arrived London in 1815. Stewart Willian Button’s thesis (p.23) pointed out this discrepanncy, but who is right?

2. “The eminent guitar maker LACOTE, of Paris, also made a great many instruments under Sor’s supervision, some of which have a second sounding board.”

=> Double top 19th century guitar? Here is a Lacote with double soundboard, a rear sound hole, and an adjustable neck. And this reminded me of a family of Gelas double top instruments at Bernunzio at the moment

3. “He was also a consummate master of vocal art, and his manuscript of a clever and exhaustive treatise upon singing – written apparently for a favourite pupil – is now in the possession of Madame Sidney Pratten. It is written in French, and has probably never be printed.”

=> Sor attended the Santa Maria de Montserrat as a choir boy. In addition, “Sor’s emphasis was on song accompani­ment and it is a significant fact that whilst in England he published more music for voice and piano than for any other medium.” Why was the vocal treatise published?

In an 2002 issue of Soundboard (Vol. 36 Issue 4, p.50), Richard Long presented Le Ruisseau, an original composition of Harrison. Long wrote: “His [Harrison] musical compositions, while not brilliant, reveal a poetic soul, some occasionally interesting harmonies and modulations, a good knowledge of the upper figerboard, and not a few similarities to his more famous contemporary, Ernest Shand.” Harrison didn’t seem to be performing much, and his writings of Madame Pratten launched his teaching career – he was teaching at the Trinty College London in 1897. Together with his brother, Richard Harrison (who studied with Neapolitan mandolin virtuoso Ferdinando de Cristofaro), they owned a music shop. Richard Harrison wrote a successful mandolin method (where do I find it?!?!), and there is a full page ad with numerous wonderful quotes on the last page of Frank’s edition of Sor’s Method:

Frank Mott Harrison was also an expert on John Bunyan, who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. Okay. I must admit, I had to look up who Bunyan was, and watched a short documentary to learn about him.

Another student mentioned in Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten was Edith Tulloch. Frank Mott Harrison mentioned he missed a 1892 recital that Madame Pratten performed at, her “last important recital”. Madame Pratten sent Harrison a letter, describing the concert:

p.38, Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten

Edith Tulloch apparently came from a huge family with 8 sisters, each received a different artistic training. Although Edith was listed as a student of Madame Pratten, she seemed to have grew to be a soprano, while her sister Ada, also a student of Madame Pratten, performed as a guitarist. Here is a recurring ad in 1893, in The Musical Times, about the Misses Tulloch:

The Musical TImes, October 1, 1893

And a reivew:

From Musical News, Volume 9, p.312, October 19, 2893.

Another review

A review from The Era, November 11, 1893

(Continue to Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #8)

#41 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #6 Her students – Ernest Shand

(Continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #5)

School has just started and I am quite happy. I missed teaching.

I always want to know what other teachers do, learn their tricks, and make my teaching more fun. A glimpse into Madame Pratten’s teaching can’t come more timely:


Be flexible, systematic, have integrety, and encouraging… easier said than done… And be so flexible, to compose according to the students’ abilities:



Of course, Frank Mott Harrison, the author of Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten, was one of Madame Pratten’s students too. But it seems like one of Madame Pratten’s most famous students was left out here: Ernest Shand (1868-1924). Through looking up Madame Pratten’s students, I came across the thesis, The Guitar in England 1800-1924, by Stewart William Button. This is such a great read! I have read Shand’s bio from the preface of Ernest Shand-23 Solos from Victorian England by Stanley Yates, but, Button’s thesis contain not only a detailed biography of Shand, but also that of Madame Pratten, Giulio Regondi, Ferndinand Pelzer, and a whole list of guitarists I knew nothing about: Filippo Verini, Charles Sola, Giuseppe Anelli, Lui Sagrini, Carl Eulenstein, J. A. Nuske, Wilhelm Neuland, Felix Horezsky, Stanislaw Szczepanowski, Leonard Schulz, Elizabeth Mounsey, Herbert J. Ellis, George Marchisio… and there are more names that I am not including here.

Back to Ernest Shand – Button’s thesis included Shand’s first meeting with Madame Pratten around 1888:

“Later, he recalled their first meeting, when Pratten asked him how many hours he practised a day.’ ’Two”, he replied , to which she added, “make it twenty two”. He then performed one of his compositions for her. She was so moved that she wrote “Of course I will teach you, but I cannot teach you anything. You are too great a genius my compositions fade in to the shade after your’s.” (Button, p.157)

Born as Ernest Willian Watson, Shand was a stage name that became his family name after his death. The first edition of his Op.100 Improved Method for the Guitar was too difficult, such that he in the preface to the second edition, he mentioned about getting some help from his friend Arthur Froane, who is also a student of Madame Pratten:

Madame Pratten also encountered a similar problem – having to publish a second simplified method, because the first one was too difficult:

p.58, Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten

There is a section from Shand’s method that discussed about vibrato:

Shand must know Aguado’s method? Was Aguado the first to use a vibrato sign? And were there other guitarists/method books that discussed about using vibrato to sustain, and had a designated vibrato sign?

Aguado Method, p.53
Aguado Method, p.54

A lot of the right hand fingerings are specified in Shand’s method, with carets and dots, which sometimes form frowning faces:

Shand’s Op.48, the Preimer Concerto pour Guitare, was not performed a lot: in 1896 by Shand himself, in 1947 by American guitarist Vahdah Olcott Bickford, and by Julian Bream from 1947 and 1948. Written for guitar and string quartet, the string score did not survived, and Stanley Yates reconstructured the string parts from the piano accompaniment.

As virtuosic and prolific as Shand was, he was born in a time when the popularity of the guiar was in decline. He became a successful stage actor to the point that he was asked to incorporate the guitar in the theatre. Shand responded:

“No one has the interests of the guitar more at heart than myself. I gather from your editorial note that you suggest that I should play the guitar on the stage, and so to help it regain its popularity. I am afraid it would be in vain. The scenery, the height above the proscenium and the general noise would tend to destroythe effect of the instrument. I am anxious to do all I can for the guitar, but in the proper place.’

And he suffered a tragic death:

“During the war Shand visited Nottingham, and before a concert he sang a patriotic song to which a Russian in the audience took offence. The following Monday morning the Russian attacked Shand in his dressing-room. When Louisa arrived she found Shand on the floor . She despatched Phyllis for a Dr. Percy Edgar Tressider, of 12, Shakespeare Street, who gave immediate attention . Shand was seriously ill for several months, and was never to recover fully from the attack. The Russian continued to send threatening le tte r s which deeply disturbed Shand, and althoughhe was awarded damages, the Russian was never caught. Shand’s career, except for composing, was virtually ruined. He found it necessary to retire , and in I918 moved to 140, Salisbury Road, Moseley, Birmingham. Here he died of heart failure on November 28th 1924.” (Button, p.173-174)

New goal for myself: learn more pieces by Shand. Here’s the first one.

(continue to Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #7)

#40 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #5

(Continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #4)


Madame Pratten came from a musical family, with her dad Ferdinard Pelzer being a renowned teacher and sister Giulia also a child prodigy (the Los Romeros of 19th century England?). Why didn’t she use her family name? I wondered about why did she keep the name “Madame Sidney Pratten” throughout her life. Out of devotion to her husband? The Archlute.com gave a different perspective:

“…The denigration of the guitar by 19th Century writers and music critics is well known. Often the denigration appears as a form of backhanded flattery to the artist. To wit, artists such as Regondi, Ferranti, Giuliani, and Sor were often held to be the greatest of virtuosi but then it is speculated such a pity that they play the guitar and not some instrument of higher regard…

…Catharina Pratten would have been well aware of this negative attitude some had toward the guitar. Her father worked hard to champion and disseminate the music of Giuliani and had his fair share of critical reception both as a guitarist and a publisher. During her lifetime the prevailing attitude changed only slightly. Using her husband’s name served the dual purpose of legitimizing the guitar and more importantly his fame would help in extending the audience exposed to the music…”

Going sidetrack, I recall reading something about the different names of the American composer Amy Beach (1867-1944). A quick internet search jogged my memory of yet another story about female musicians (or whatever profession?) who had to change names to gain recognition: born as Amy Cheney, the marriage to Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach in 1885 gave her the name “Mrs. H.H.A. Beach”. Discouraged to be a performing artist, she shifted gears to compositions (would she have composed as many great pieces if it wasn’t for her marriage?). After the husband’s passing in 1910, she toured Europe, and began using the name Amy Beach there, but

“…returned to using Mrs. H. H. A. Beach when she discovered that she already had some recognition for her compositions published under that name. She was once asked in Europe, when still using the name Amy Beach, whether she was the daughter of Mrs. H. H. A. Beach.” (from Thought Co.)

In the last section her essay, To the Girl Who Wants to Compose, published in the Etude Magazine in November 1918, Amy Beach wrote,

“Just one point more. I believe it was Rubinstein who said, “To compose is a pleasure—to publish is a responsibility.” When we think of the tons of music which have been already issued in print, perhaps it is as well for us to pause and remember Rubinstein’s remark before rushing our compositions out to the public. Still, “there is always room at the top,” and always a place for good music in any form or of any kind. Keep on writing, young people, as much as you like, so long as you realize both “the responsibility” and “the pleasure,” and so long as you are willing to give only of your best in every respect.”

As a [forever] music student, this excerpt resonates with me much, especially when one replaces “compose” and “publish” with “play” and “perform” respectively. Too often are we tempted to perform a piece that needs much more polishing, but we can’t hold back our desire to perform a master work before it is ready. But, when is a piece ever ready?

Amy Beach’s change from a performing pianist to a composer reminded me of a similar narrative, Robert Schumann was set to be a pianist, but rumor has it that he messed up his hand by training with a finger-strengthening device. Schumann therefore shifted his energy to composing. These hand strengthening devices reminded me of torture devices… No pain, no gain, right?

Here is a picture of one such device, from an issue of Etude Magazine from 1897 :

This conveniently ties me back to the excerpt above, where Madame Pratten recounted the story of a young singer who paid her hard work and earned her credentials, but failed to gain the approval of the press. Such a telling paragraph. It’s hard to be a musician, who puts immense amount of time and resources into training, and still could not deliver a pleasing result, either to oneself or the audience. Be nice to artists, okay?

(continue to Reminscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #6)

#38 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #4 – Frederick Hymen Cowen

(Continue from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #3)

Chapter 3 of the book provded details to a few concerts Madame Pratten played after the passing of her husband. One of them describes her playing Giuliani’s third concert for terz guitar, with the piano accompaniment by Giuliani’s niece:



As mentioned in my previous post, it doesn’t seem like Madame Pratten composed any pieces for guitar and flute. I wonder what this piece was? Did she compose a guiar/flute duet for this occasion? If not, whose piece did they play? Did she have some unpublished virtuosic guitar/flute duet that she used to play with Robert Sidney Pratten? Just for kicks, I looked up Olut Svensden, and found one piece of news:

Seems like the guitar/flute duet being performed was not an amateur piece. What about “Patten’s Concertstuck movements from Macfarren’s Concerto and Doppler’s Channt d’Amour?” – which Pratten are we talking about…?


Looking up Cowen and The Corsair complicated matters quickly. Frederic Hymen Cowen (1852-1935) was a forgotten British composer who composed many vocal works. Born in Jamaica, he followed his family to England at 4, showed high aptitude in music, and had his first piece published at the age of 6:

From Musical Times, November 1, 1898

(The Jstor link that contains the short biography of Cowen from 1898 wrote completely in the lens of the imperial England…)

For better or worse, Cowen was called the “English Schubert”. Although not the most reliable source, Cowen’s name appeared in Philip Bone’s The Guitar and Mandolin: Biographies of Celebrated Players and Composers, in Moritz Hauptmann’s entry :

Bone, p.146

This excerpt reflected a few interesting things:

1) I have come across Hauptmann before, but mainly as a music theorist. I didn’t know he actually played and composed for the guitar. And there is indeed a piece of his for guitar and violin on IMSLP.

2) Although Cowen is largely forgotten today, it is great to see him being listed amongst celebrities such as von Bulow, Sullivan, and Joachim.

3) I have come across Joseph Joachim in my 19th century performance practice class. His Bach recordings were amongst the earliest recordings ever made, and gave us a glimpse into how to play in a 19th century manner. I love his Romance in C. And there is nothing more romantic about the F-A-E Sonata and its relationship with Brahm’s 3rd Symphony – all a big-in-circle game between Robert and Clara Schumann, Brahms, Joachim, and Albert Dietrich. I have never known Joachim played the guitar before switching to the violin though. All I could find was “Joseph’s interest in music was stimulated by hearing his older sister, who studied voice and accompanied herself on the guitar. He became fixated on the violin when his father brought him a toy violin from a fair.”

Thanks to the internet, one can find the reduction to The Consair on IMSLP. The Consair is a cantata for four soloists, chorus, orchestra, and the guitar. Since there’s only a reduction, the specific instrumentation is unclear. The reduction is divided into 5 PDF files, and a few guitar entrances marked, on p. 19 – 21 of segment 1, and p.19, 20, and 26 of segment 5 – a bit of symmetry there?

Segment 1, p.19 of PDF
Sengment 1, p.20 of PDF

I only listed the above two excerpts, because that’s basically what the sections marked “guitar” do – chordal accompaniment and arpeggios. I assume the guitar would be playing during the recitatives and tremolo (with continuous strumming, not the Recuerdos de la Alhambra-type).

Cowen’s autobiography, My Art and My Friends, is also available on IMSLP. I only quickly glanced through it, and although The Corsair was mentioned a few times, there was not any references made to the guitar part or Madame Sidney Pratten. Why did Cowen incorporate the guitar in a work where it would be so difficult to hear? I am not aware of any 19th century large choral work that employs the guitar with an orchestra and/or a chorus (maybe Mahler’s 7th Symphony from 1904-5 is one, if we extend the 19th century to the 19th century style), so The Corsair is quite a special work. Why did Cowen not mentioned it at all? Because of the guitar’s bad reputation? Because it’s not worth mentioning? Or maybe Cowen deliberately left it out in his autobiography? Perhaps the commissioner of the piece asked for a guitar part?

From Musical Times, November 1, 1898

(continue to Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten #5)

#36 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #3 Robert

(Continuing from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #2)


Robert Sidney Pratten was a talented flautist and a perfect match for Mademe Pratten. Unfortenately, he died quite young – at the age of 44, after 14 years of marriage with Mademe Sidney Pratten.

Would they have played (or even performed) as a flute/guitar duo? If they did, it would have been quite special – at least by today’s standards, since I can’t think of a contemporary guitar/flute duo that has a female guitarist and a male flautist. Why are flutes and guitars assigned to specific genders?

My teacher once said that he would organize a tango dance lesson between the guitar and the flute studios. I could not tell if he was serious or joking but I am always serious. I am still waiting for that dance session to happen.

One can find a few compositions and method book by Madame Sidney Pratten on IMSLP. These compositions bear sentimental titles: Forgotten, Sadness, A Lost Love, A Lament, Sehnsucht – are these all composed for Robert? A few letters mentioned about these compositions:


This website showed a list of Madame Pratten’s compositions. I wonder where can one find all her other compositions, and the Instruction for the Guitar tuned in E-major? It also doesn’t look like there are any compositions for flute and guitar.

Of the few scores that are available on IMSLP, the set Sadness, Lost Love, A Lament bears a dedication: “To her friend and pupil Dr. John Lindsay Leckie. This reminded me of a recent purchase I made: Dr Walter Leckie & Don Francisco Tárrega: The unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist, a fascinating book that details the relationship between Tárrega and Dr. Walter Leckie, an English physician and amateur guitarist. Leckie was a memeber of high society, and he took lessons from Madame Pratten before meeting Tárrega, and therefore this book also included a biography of her. It is from this book that I found out John Lindsay Leckie was Walter Leckie’s older brother. Another thing I found out from this book answered a question I had from my previous post: how did Madame Pratten notate her compositions in open E tuning? Did she notate the music at pitch? Or did she notate the music as if the guitar is tuned in standard tuning?

Hungarian March, a piece dedicated to Walter Leckie, in the open-E tuning, provides the answer:

From Dr Walter Leckie & Don Francisco Tárrega: The unlikely tale of an English Gentleman and a Spanish Guitarist, p.28

So Madame Sidney Pratten’s students who learn both open E and standard tunings would have to learn the notes of the freboard on two different tunings!

A female music virtuoso whose husband was Robert – it’s hard for me to not think about Clara and Robert Schumann. Not much was said in Reminiscenes of Madame Sidney Pratten regarding the love story before the Prattens, but Robert and Clara Schumann’s engagement was strongly opposed by Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck, who was their piano teacher. Allowed by the court, Robert and Clara got married the night before she turned 21.

Robert and Clara.

Madame Pratten remained devoted to her husband throughout his life.


The story between the Schumanns seemed to be more complicated, but the truth would never be known. Relationhips… always complicated. Let’s just watch something simple here? This clip of Widmung, taken from the movie, A Poet’s Love, is a clip I always show in my music theory class. Clara heard Robert’s song for the first time, and she immediately joined him in playing the melody on the piano. That’s the level of aural skills we should all strive for.

(Continue to Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #4)

#35 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #2 the Crimean War

(Continuing from Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #1)


Many people teach, but not many begins teaching at the age of 17, and even less would have their apartment being paid for!


There is a detailed wikipedia page on the life of Lord Fotzroy Somerset, who was the commander of the British troops in Crimean War (1853-1856). At first glance, I thought the “Lord Raglan’s March” might be a composition to celebrate Lord Somerset’s victory in the Crimean War, but Somerset actually died in June 1855 before the Siege of Sevastopol was concluded in September of the same year. So the Lord Raglan’s March might actually be composed to celebrate Somerset’s promotion to Baron Raglan of Raglan on October 1852. It was just my fantasy that the Lord Raglan’s March was composed for the Crimean War. I wanted the fantasy to be true though, as that would make the Siege of Sevastopol the inspiration of two guitar pieces – the other being “Sebastopol: A descriptive fantaisie for the guitar” by Henry Worrall.

According to Old Time Party, Henry Worrall was born in 1825 (one year later than Madame Pratten), and moved to the States in 1835. He was a guitar performer, teacher, and composer, and he was responsible for filing copyrights to two open tuning songs: his arrangement of Spanish Fandango (in open G), and Sebastopol (in open D). Sebastopol was a march inspired by the Siege of Sevastopol. Both of these tunes were influential in the development of the country blues:

“During the latter 1800s, the Lyon & Healy company in Chicago pioneered the mass production of acoustic guitars. By the turn of the century, their many models were sold under various names in catalogs issued by companies such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward. Many of these catalog-bought guitars arrived with a tutorial pamphlet featuring tuning instructions and music for rudimentary instrumentals. Two of the most common of these instructive instrumentals, “Spanish Fandango” and “The Siege of Sebastopol,” predated the Civil War. The music for “Spanish Fandango” required that the guitar’s strings be tuned to an open-G chord (the strings tuned DGDGBD, from low to high), while “The Siege of Sebastopol” was in open D (DADF#AD). “Spanish Fandango” in particular served as a starting point for countless rural players.”

– an excerpt from Talking Guitar, by Jas Obrecht, found on WBUR.

Spanish Fandango and Sebastopol might be easy to play, but they prompted a lot of thoughts. For one, the way they were notated is interesting: they are notated as if the guitar is in standard tuning. If one plays the music as notated, the outcome would not make sense.

Madame Sidney Pratten apparently had quite an output for music tuned to an open E chord. Was the Lord Raglan’s March in open E? She even had a method book for Open E – Instructions For the Guitar tuned in E major (see the picture below, taken from the last page of one of her pieces. Did Madame Sidney Pratten also notate her open-E music as if the guitar is tuned in standard tuning? (More on this on the next post)

The idea of using openings as a pedagogical tool is growing on me: what about a beginning guitar class that only studies songs in open D and open G tuning? Students can get chords with just one or two left hand fingers (no need to worry about chord shapes and transitions), and maybe it would be easier to teach harmonic functions (I, IV, and V share the same shape, so position alone would indicate harmonic functions)? Moreover, open tuning songs lend itself to a lot of discussions related to history, society, and culture: music and life in 19th century, country blues, folk music, rock and roll, etc.

I have always wondered why are opening tunings not more popular. Because it is associated with music of “simple harmonies” (folk, blues)? Because the music is not serious enough, since it only takes one finger sliding up and down the to play different chords? But what’s wrong with things being simple? Moreover, guitar music in opening tunings can actually be quite sophisticated. Or maybe open tuning is too difficult: learning notes on a standard-tuning fretboard is difficult enough, let alone learning notes on a fretboard of non-standard tunings?

(Continue to Reminiscenes of Madame Sidney Pratten #3 )

#34 Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #1 child prodigies, the terz guitar

From Wikipedia,

“Catharina Josepha Pratten (15 November 1824* – 1895) was a German guitar virtuoso, composer and teacher, also known as Madame Sidney Pratten.  She was born Catharina Josepha Pelzer in Mülheim on the 15 November 1824, the daughter of the German guitarist and music teacher Ferdinand Pelzer.  On 24 September 1854, she married the flautist Robert Sidney Pratten.”

* many other sources said Pratten’s birth year was 1821

The internet is so great because there are new resources being made available every day. One such resources are old books that are digitized. I am referring to my friend Daniel Nistico again, as I learned about this short and sweet book from 1899 – Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten by Frank Mott Harrison – from his website. Daniel has provided highlights of the book on his site. I would like to do the same, and hopefully I am not repeat too much of what he has already mentioned. Of course, the best way to learn about Madame Sidney Pratten is to read this book yourself.


I have always wondered what kind of a childhood did famous music prodigies have – Mozart, Clara Schumann, Edward and Leonard Leonard Schulz, Giulio Regondi, and of course, Madame Sidney Pratten (coincidentally, Leonard Schulz, Regondi and Pratten were all based in London?!). I can’t speak for sure if all of these musicians had a rough childhood, but Clara had “an unyielding father“, Friedrich Wieck (who was teacher of Clara’s future husband Robert Schumann), and Regondi’s self-proclaomed father treated him harshly after learning about the kid’s musical talent. Pratten had probably received rigorous training as well. But she had a strong mind:



What can be more adorable than the image of two “little” virtuosi, with angelic look (Regondi) and locks (Pratten), playing guitar duets on a table (some say a piano top, could that be a different concert?)?

It made a lot of sense that Pratten played a terz guitar – a 19th century guitar with shorter scale and tuned to G, and mostly featured in chamber music. Today (or even back in the 19th century), one can put a capo on the third fret of the guitar to mimic a terz guitar (see details of terz guitar at earlyromanticguitar.com and Tecla).

Many questions here:

  • terz guitar was used a lot in guitar duets – the terz guitar usually plays the first part, and the standard guitar the second. Did Regondi played a standard guitar while Pratten played a terz guitar? I have never heard any accounts of Regondi performing on a terz guitar. And from the picture below, Regondi’s guitar didn’t seem to be too big?
Giulio Regondi at the Royal Adelphi Theatre in London in 1831
  • Perhaps both Pratten and Regondi were playing terz guitars? If so, the guitars would be in the same tuning, and that would open up a lot more options for their repertoire (although they probably could learn music very fast…)
  • Unrelated to Pratten – from the Regondi picture – was he reading music that is placed on the floor?! It might be seen as unprofessional today, but that’s acceptable (perhaps, cute) for a child, especially for a prodigy? Moreover, using a music stand might just completely block the audience’s view.
  • (there are a lot more questions about Regondi I would like to discuss. See here)
  • To echo an earlier point – many guitar duets were written for terz/standard guitars – it makes perfect sense then that Pratten and Regondi played the terz guitar, as they both played duets with their fathers.
  • It was mentioned that Pratten performed Giuliani’s Third Concerto – a concerto for terz guitar. So lucky that the great Giuliani wrote a terz guitar concerto, and it happened that your daughter could play it? I have flipped through issues of the Giulianiad in the Special Collections of the Sibley Music Library, and faintly remember there were much praise on Giuliani’s third concerto. Is it trying to perpetuate Giuliani’s legacy and prasing the concerto? Or was it really trying to praise the little Pratten? And the editors of the Giulianiad were believed to be… Ferdinand Pelzer (Pratten’s dad), Leonard Schulz (who also performed Giuliani’s third concerto), and Felix Horetzky (a student of Giuliani). I should go re-read the Giulianiad to find more clues…


And now, a few questions regarding Madame Pratten’s harmony lessons:

  • Often times, I find students (music majors) uninterested in learning figured bass (maybe I sensed it wrong and they actually loved it?). Is it because it doesn’t matter to most of them, since they do not play a chordal instrument?
  • “matter-of-fact’ solutions” – was the instruction not good? There are multiple ways to realize the same figures and a complete bass line, no?
  • Was figured bass included in Pratten’s training, because that was part of a “complete” music education for a “music major”? Or did she learn it because she was a guitarist?
  • Has the curriculum and students’ attitude toward the curriculum not changed since 1830s?

Concluding chapter 1 of the book, the author wrote:


It’s a pity the author decided more detail s of Madame Pratten’s childhood would be boring… I want to know more! Perhaps that’s why this book is so great, short and concise. Just like the guitar solo of Little Wing?

(Continue to Reminiscences of Madame Sidney Pratten – #2)

#32 All By Myself

Over the years, I have compiled a list of music called “music that makes me cry”. On the top of the list is Glenn Gould’s arrangement of the Prelude to Act 1 of Meistersinger by Wagner.

Toward the end of the piece, Gould overdubbed a second piano part to the prelude. In a Rolling Stone interview, he explained:

“The Meistersinger is not a problem because it’s so contrapuntal that it plays itself, although I must say it’s the only place where I’m going to have to cheat, because I’m going to have to put earphones on for the last three minutes, for the place where he brings back all the themes, and you have to play it four hands. It’s a piece that I’ve played just as a party piece all my life, and you can get through the first seven minutes fine, and then you say, “OK, which themes are we leaving out tonight?” — there’s just no way. So I will do it as an overdub.”

It was certainly possible to feature a guest artist to play that second part. But Gould did it himself anyways. In a way, it makes sense – why involve another pianist for just 3 minutes of music? What if Gould wanted to play this live? Would the other pianist just sit there and wait? And maybe this was not meant to be performed live? And sure, it’s fun to play with others, but you know yourself best (or, do we really know ourselves?) and it was a good chance to carry our an entire concept all on your own.

It’s quite easy to “make music with yourself” today, with a loop pedal or an app. But back then, why would artists go to studio and record a full album all by themselves? For maximum control? Because it was a novel idea and not many have done that? It’s a challenge to play with oneself? An opportunity to reflect different sides of the artist?

I don’t have an answer (what do I have answers for?). And different people do the same thing for different reasons. I do hope to make an album all by myself in the future. I will let you know how it feels when the album is finished. But until then, I would like to share a few older recordings I know of that are studio productions, with artists performing with themselves.

Sabicas – Flamenco Variations on Three Guitars from 1960. The album cover is pretty clever, right? An album review from the April 1960 issue of Billboard says the following:

Should flamenco be categorized as folk…? If not, what should it be labelled as? Should music be categorized? I went to far… Let’s just say, three guitars playing tremolo sounds amazing, and it is great to see it was a guitarist who made a trio recording with himself?

(See the April 1960 issue of Billboard here, and see another post about a few things I found interesting from the same issue here.)

And allow me to digress – the solo guitar album Ole, La Mano!, by Juan Serrano:

I just find it funny that these two flamenco albums have the same color scheme and overlay image… The Sabicas album was released by Decca, and the Serrano released by Elektra. Was there a consensus for flamenco album covers?

After the Sabicas “trio” album, Conversations with Myself by Bill Evans from 1963 “followed”:

Like the Sabicas album, this is also a “trio” album, with Evans overdubbing two tracks over himself. Sure… while you were in the studio, why not? Evans would later release two more albums with self-overdubs: Further Conversations with Myself (1967) and New Conversations (1978).

Another guitar album came in 1966: Music for Two Guitars/Music for One Guitar by Rey de la Torre (released by Epic Records):

My friend Anthony LaLena told me about this album. I was so glad to know yet another “play-with-yourself” album made by a guitarist. This album has a very long descriptive (but not very poetic) title, because one side 1 of the album contains three duet pieces, and side 2 has the solo pieces. Must Spanish guitar albums all share the same color scheme and “repetition” aesthetics for their covers?

The aforementioned Wagner arrangement by Glenn Gould came from the 1973 album Glenn Gould Plays His Own Transcriptions of Wagner Orchestral Showpieces:

Jimmy Raney album, Solo, from 1976 is the last “self-duo” album I would like to mention:

This album has the best title…! The back cover explains the rationale:

Bonus: this one is not really a full recording. It’s a video of Julian Bream (RIP) playing Luigi Boccherini’s Fandango with himself. Musicality aside, it is very dramatic – two Breams in suits of contrasting colors, throwing dirty looks at each other, as if they were in a competition, trading licks and trying to out play their opponents. The footage comes from the documentary, ¡Guitarra! from 1985.

#30 Jean François Salomon, the harpolyre, guitar playing and singing

(Picture: Harpo-lyre (ca.1830), André Augustin Chevrier, The Met, NYC)

The following entry of Jean Francois Salomon is taken from François-Joseph Fétis’s Biographie universelle des musiciens (see the original on p.387 of the this PDF). This is translated with the help of the trusty Google Translate, so… please pardon my French. I have also attached Salomon’s entry in Philip J. Bone’s The guitar and mandolin: biographies of celebrated players and composers for these instruments. It looks like Bone translated Fétis’s entry, with slightly more information.

I wish I had a chance to play a harpolyre, and read Salomon’s method book. Where can I find them?

The harpolyre was introduced to London in the Harmonicon in December 1829. The article borne the subtitle that indicated Salomon as a “Professor of singing and of the Guitar”.

This led me to think – it’s obvious that the guitar (or many pluck string instruments throughout history) is a popular instrument because of its power to accompany singing. Wouldn’t it be nice if I can teach guitar and singing at the same time? Start advertising my lessons to be guitar lessons, plus guitar and singing combined lessons?

Many guitarists had a close connection with singer:

  • Sor was a choir boy, and later taught singing in London (Fernando Sor – Composer and Guitarist, Brian Jeffery, p.14);
  • Mauro Giuliani’s son Michele Giuliani was “the guitarist, composer, and singing teacher at the Paris Conservatory (see here);
  • Matteo Bevilacqua “moved to Vienna where he established himself as a singer, flautist, guitarist, and composer”, and he “he was a tenor at the Esterházy chapel” (Soundboard, Volume XXXVIII, No. 4, 2012, p.102 and 116)
  • Legnani’s debut as an operatic tenor was in Ravenna in 1807 at the age of 17, and had a singing career that spanned 17 years (see here);
  • Carulli published L’Harmonie appliquée à la Guitare (Harmony applied to the Guitar) and Solfèges avec accompagnement de guitare, Op.195 – two treatises that provided concepts and exercises to educate singers and guitarists about harmonies, accompaniment, and arrangement; Carulli also taught his son Gustavo guitar playing and singing, and his son went on to be a successful vocal teacher;
  • Ferdinand Pelzer, apart from teaching his daughters Catharina (better known as Madame Sidney Pratten) and Giulia Pelzer the guitar, published Music for the People, based on his Universal System of Instruction in Music and revolutionized the national system of singing and music in England (see theguitar-blog.com).

I have benefited from singing in a choir as a kid for four years myself, as it allows me to sing backup vocals in my bands with ease. My guitar teacher, Dr. Nicholas Goluses would often times ask me to sing the melody of the pieces I was working on, to explore interpretive possibilities.

From his Rules & Maxims for Young Musicians, Robert Schumman said,

“Love your instrument, but do not vainly suppose it the highest and only one. Remember that there are others equally fine. Remember also, that there are singers; and that the highest expression possible to music, is reached by chorus and orchestra.ac”

“A great deal is to be learned from singers and songstresses. But do not believe everything they tell you.”

“Sing in choruses industriously, especially the middle voices. This will make you a good reader, and intelligent as a musician.”

From François-Joseph Fétis’s Biographie universelle des musiciens:

Salomon (M.), guitar teacher, born in Besançon, in 1786, died in the same city, on February 19, 1831, became known, in 1828, by the invention of a three-neck guitar called Harpolyre , this instrument was mounted with twenty-one strings; six of these strings were placed on the center of the middle, called the ordinary neck, and tuned as on the common guitar. The left neck, intended for the basses, was mounted by seven strings tuned in semitones, from the low E to the bass of the double bass; finally the right handle, called the diatonic handle, was mounted with strings sounding C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Sound oppositions of good effect were noted between the middle and right necks, and the strings on the left neck provided vigorous bass notes. The conception of the harpolyre seemed destined to save the guitar from the entire abandonment with which it is threatened, by the varied resources which it offered to the performers; however, this invention was not successful, no artist having wished to devote himself to the study of the difficulties of the use of the three necks, although Solomon had had a method engraved for the harpolyre, and that Sor was composed studies and exercises for this instrument.

We owe Solomon the invention of an ingenious machine to which he gave the name of tuner. It consists of a mechanism made up of sonorous metallic blades, tuned to the degrees of the chromatic scale, and of a toothed cylinder, moved by a clockwork movement, which makes each blade resonate at will, giving a determined intonation. This intonation is repeated for as long as necessary to tune in unison a note of the piano, harp, or any other fixed-sounding instrument which is to be partitioned. In spite of the advantages which the tuner presented for the practice of the tuning of the instruments, it does not succeed only with the harpolyre. After having had an unnecessary long stay in Paris to have his inventions adopted there, Salomon returned to Besançon, where the fatigue of his efforts, and the sorrow of having dissipated in trials the fruit of his labors and his savings, the led to the tomb at the age of forty-five. One engraved of its composition: 1 Twelve divertissementsfor the guitar, op. 1; Paris, Launer. 2 Waltzes for the Guitar, Op. 2; ibid. 3 Contredanses and waltzes idem; Paris, Aulagnier. 4 Air varie (Charmant ruisseau) for the harp; Paris, Janet.

From The guitar and mandolin : biographies of celebrated players and composers for these instruments, p.261, by Philip J. Bone: