LVB: So as long as we are on intervals, and I didn’t ask you about it, do you have anything —

LT: Well, he applied numbers to –, see the numbers were used in several different ways, as I remember. Numbers were used for intervals too. Now if you had in a melody, well say the melody starts on the tonic and then goes to the dominant, there’s kind of a relationship of filling in the interval. All right call the tonic 1 and the dominant going up to 5, sort of filling 1,2,3,4,5 as you’re going up or as you’re holding the tonic note before you go into that, but it grows out of the tonic somehow and then growing up into 5. And I think that’s a good idea – as a general approach to intervals, although you might also… in a phrase you might say the opposite depending on how the phrase was.


MT to DB: Control is like the numbers on a micrometer — never jumping from one to another more than one apart, but going through all the numbers to reach the desired one.

MT to DB: When slurring from low to high, you get the high note from the level of the preceding low note. Drive the low note to the desired level of the high note.


LVB: Did Tabuteau have special ways of teaching the playing of intervals?

WR: Well, he would pick out an interval and starting out on a basic one, say a fifth, and if you play the scale connecting all 5 notes and then maybe play the chord, a major chord, up to the fifth and then play the fifth. The fifth was supposed to come out exactly where the scale was when it was beautifully connected. The whole object was to get the low note in most cases to go to the high note in intensity and dynamic without their being any space in between at all. He compared it to, on the tapes, to the horse jumping over the hurdle. When he got to the top note, he was already on top of the hurdle, and he had done his work and the next note took care of itself.


LVB: Would you like to talk about intervals?

JMk: Oh yes, very much so. That was one of the earliest things too that you must play the life of the intervals, the real value of the interval to play an “a” and then a fifth higher, an “e”, consecutively with the preparation for the interval, the pressing off of the low note and the arrival of the high note in good form, the arrival being an achievement rather than impact was very important to him and that the low note must sound as though it is going to go to exactly the note it is going to go to. No mistake about it whatsoever, it is a calculated leap. If you leap a certain distance you know where you’re going to, just like a dancer’s going to leap a certain distance, he or she knows exactly the distance they are going to leap and they know how they are going to land. It’s not going to look like a difficult thing, and you have to push off in order to make it, like a high jumper has to push off a certain amount in order to achieve altitude. And that was very much the case with him. Also upward intervals were played on an under curve upward, and down intervals were played on an over curve downward on a loop of some sort or other, that give you a feeling of motion and of driving something just as much as, I suppose rushing down a roller coaster and sort of coasting up the other side. There’s a certain trajectory that the notes come on and you provide it and the notes come on it.

Joseph Robinson remembering his lessons with Tabuteau in Nice

From his book: Long WindedChicago: Joshua Tree Publishing, 2018.

With kind permission of the author