Tradition and Craft in Piano-Playing

by Tilly Fleischmann

by Ruth Fleischmann (Volume editor) John Buckley (Volume editor)
©2014 Monographs XXVI, 276 Pages
Series: Carysfort Press Ltd., Volume 790


Her book, written in the mid-20th century, is now published in full for the first time. It draws on her long experience as performer, broadcaster what she learnt from her teachers about Liszt’s interpretation of the piano music of his contemporaries, in particular of his friend Chopin, how he wanted his own piano works performed, and what special techniques facilitated the interpretations he favoured, as well as his own virtuoso performance. This is presented in discussions of many well-known works of the classical piano repertoire, and richly illustrated with extracts from the compositions in question. These musical examples have been played and video-recorded for the DVD accompanying the book.
This is a document of considerable historical importance, offering an authoritative account of Liszt's teaching methods as imparted by two of his former students to whom he was particularly close. It contains much valuable information of a kind that is unavailable elsewhere: none of the reminiscences of Liszt published by his students discuss technical matters or interpretation in comparable detail. It records a direct and authentic oral tradition of continental European pianism going back to the nineteenth century.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Dedication
  • Copyright
  • Contents
  • Ruth Fleischmann Preface to the 2014 Edition and Acknowledgements
  • John Buckley Preface to the Musical Examples
  • Gabriela Mayer Preface to the Recordings of the Musical Examples
  • Patrick Zuk Introduction: An Irish Treatise on the Lisztian Tradition of Pianism
  • Klopfübung
  • Scales
  • Arpeggios
  • Thumb-Stretching Exercise
  • Finger-Stretching Exercise
  • Wrist, Arm and Finger Staccato
  • Wrist Octaves
  • Arm Octaves
  • Skipping Octaves and Chords
  • Repeated Octaves
  • Broken Octaves
  • Glissando Scales and Octaves
  • Trills
  • Use of Emphasis
  • Rhythmic Problems
  • Daily Routine
  • Before Performance
  • Position and Movement of the Feet
  • Effect on Tone Quality and Volume
  • Use in Legato Playing
  • Una Corda Pedal
  • Textual Accuracy
  • Misprints
  • Variant Readings
  • Dynamics and Phrasing
  • Pedalling
  • Fingering
  • Metronome Marks
  • Acciaccatura
  • Inverted Turn and Slide
  • Upper Mordent
  • Arpeggio
  • Trill
  • Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 (The ‘Moonlight’)
  • Sonata in F minor, Op. 57 (The ‘Appassionata’)
  • Papillons, Op. 2
  • 24 Preludes, Op. 28
  • Study in E Major, Op. 10, No. 3
  • Nocturne in B major, Op. 32, No. 1
  • Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 1
  • Waltz in A flat major, Op. 42
  • Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2
  • Impromptu in F sharp, Op. 36
  • Fantasy Impromptu in C sharp minor, Op. 66
  • Scherzo in B minor, Op. 20
  • Scherzo in B flat minor, Op. 31
  • Four Ballades
  • Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
  • Ballade No. 2 in F major, Op. 38
  • Ballade No. 3 in A flat, Op. 47
  • Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52
  • Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49
  • Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 35
  • Grosse Paganini Etüden, Bk. II, No. 5 in E major
  • Valse Impromptu
  • Liebesträume, Notturno No. 3
  • Two Concert Studies:
  • Waldesrauschen
  • Gnomenreigen
  • Ballade No.2 in B minor
  • Années de pèlerinage
  • Les jeux d’eau de la Villa d’Este
  • 2 Legends:
  • St. François d’Assise La prédication aux oiseaux
  • St. François de Paule marchant sur les flots
  • Appendix A List of Musical Examples by Chapter
  • Appendix B List of Musical Examples by Composer

←x | xi→


Tradition and Craft in Piano-Playing is now published for the first time in its original unabridged form, sixty-two years after it was written.

The author, Tilly Fleischmann née Swertz, was born in Cork in 1882 to German parents. Her father sent her at the age of nineteen to study at the Royal Academy of Music in Munich with the pianists Bernhard Stavenhagen and Berthold Kellermann, both pupils and close associates of Franz Liszt; she graduated there in 1905. Her years in that great centre of continental culture left an indelible impression, her experiences constituting the foundation for her long career as performer and pedagogue.

It was the composer and folk music collector Herbert Hughes who suggested she ought to write a book documenting what she had learnt in Munich about the Liszt tradition of piano-playing. After Hughes’s unexpected death in 1937, she resolved to follow his advice; by 1940 she had started the work, and completed it before the death of Arnold Bax in 1953, to whom the book is dedicated. That year her son began a long and unsuccessful quest for a publisher. Ireland was at that time an impoverished country in which the arts generally and music in particular were deplorably neglected. The Arts Council had only just been founded, with a budget of a mere £10,000 per annum, and there was no prospect of securing funding for such a book. The London literary agent Curtis Brown failed to find a publisher in Britain and the USA, as did Aloys Fleischmann’s musician friends and contacts. It was a cause of grief to him and to his mother that the many years of work on the book had been in vain. Shortly before her death in 1967, she remarked sadly to one of her students that perhaps in a hundred years' time somebody might come across the manuscript in a drawer somewhere and might then be able to find a publisher for it.

But partial publication, at least, was to come very much sooner. Four years after Tilly Fleischmann’s death, her student Michael O’Neill decided to try again. As before, the publishers to whom the typescript was sent were impressed by the content but dismayed by its size and by the number of costly music illustrations. O’Neill then abridged it, but still to no avail. So in the early 1980s, he began organising a private publication of the edited version entitled Aspects of the Liszt Tradition. He wrote to hundreds of people; undertook the music engraving himself and had 350 copies printed in 1986, the centenary of Liszt’s death. In 1991 the Wendover music publisher, Kenneth Roberton, reissued the book together with the Theodore Presser Company of Pennsylvania.

A decade later, while doing research for an exhibition in Dachau, the Bavarian town whence the Fleischmanns had come to Cork, the music historian Josef Focht and the director of the District Museum, Ursula Nauderer, discovered the family.1 Aspects of the Liszt Tradition had been presented to the director of the Bavarian State Library in 1986 and included in its exhibition of ←xi | xii→that year Music in Munich 1890-1918. In 2009 Josef Focht began negotiations with the Library about the publication of a digital edition of the whole book, provided the family could deliver one, in its Virtual Library of Musicology.

Whereas typing, editing, checking of references and reproduction of images could be looked after by the Fleischmanns (all of us non-musicians), two essentials lay outside our competence: the digitising of the music examples and the playing and recording of these illustrations. While progress in computer technology had by now impacted on the typesetting of music, it remains a field reserved for musicians familiar with the complex software programmes and is slow and tedious work. At a reception in Dublin during the Aloys Fleischmann centenary celebrations of 2010, Fleischmann’s friend, the composer John Buckley, most generously offered to typeset the 311 musical examples of the book. Similar generosity was shown by Gabriela Mayer, head of the Department of Keyboard Studies at CIT Cork School of Music, who played and recorded the musical examples. She knew of Tilly Fleischmann before ever setting foot in Ireland, having come across Aspects of the Liszt Tradition during her research for her doctoral thesis at the University of Maryland. It so happens that she now occupies the position to which Tilly Fleischmann was appointed in 1919 by the School of Music committee whose members included Terence MacSwiney, Daniel Corkery and Father Christie O’Flynn. Finally, in December 2013, Dan Farrelly of Carysfort Press, Dublin, took up John Buckley’s proposal that he produce a print edition of the book, together with a DVD of the video-recordings. St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra grant-aided the publication; Gabriela Mayer’s department at CIT Cork School of Music funded the DVD.

And so it has come to pass that this year sees a twofold publication of Tilly Fleischmann’s book: one in Ireland where she performed for decades and taught hundreds of students, and the second – in a form which she could never have imagined – in that Bavarian city where she studied over a hundred years ago and accumulated the knowledge recorded in the book.


The Fleischmann family is greatly obliged to all those who have made the publication of Tradition and Craft in Piano-Playing possible. We are deeply grateful to Dr John Buckley for undertaking the major task of digitising and formatting the 311 musical examples of the book, to his colleague Seán Mac Liam for his proof-reading; to Dr Gabriela Mayer for taking on the exacting task of playing and video-recording the music illustrations; Dr Dan Farrelly of Carysfort Press Dublin for publishing the print edition; St Patrick’s College Drumcondra for grant-aiding the Carysfort publication, the Department of Keyboard Studies of CIT Cork School of Music for funding the DVD with the recordings of the musical examples. We thank Dr Josef Focht of the Music Department of the University of Munich for the idea of the electronic edition and his support for its realisation, Jürgen Diet of the Bavarian State Library for its publication. We thank the Beethoven Haus, Bonn for help in locating the painting by Wenzel Ulrik Tornøe, ‘Beethoven playing to a blind girl’, and the Bornholms Kunstmuseum of Denmark for granting permission to reproduce it. We thank Hugh McCarthy of the IT staff of the CIT Cork School of Music for his advice. To Dr Séamas de Barra and Dr Patrick Zuk we extend our thanks for twenty-two years of support in all matters concerning the legacy of the Fleischmann musicians.

1 The exhibition ‘Musik in Dachau’, held at the town’s District Museum, served as a pilot study for Josef Focht’s major project, Bavarian Musicians Lexicon Online (BMLO) undertaken for the University of Munich in cooperation with the Bavarian State Library. See: http://www.bmlo.lmu.de/

←xii | xiii→



The musical examples in this publication are typeset directly from the original manuscript of Tilly Fleischmann and also draw on the published editions to which she referred. Fleischmann’s examples are meticulously notated on small pieces of music manuscript paper, which are pasted at intervals into the typescript of the book.

Interestingly, these examples are notated by a number of different hands. Comparison with manuscripts of known provenance reveal the two principal copyists to be Aloys Fleischmann senior and Aloys Fleischmann junior, the author’s husband and son respectively. A small number of examples are in another hand, which can be shown to be that of the author herself. Regrettably, no identifiable samples of Tilly Fleischmann’s music manuscript exist, but the labelling of some of the music examples is clearly in her handwriting and it can safely be assumed that the music notation in these examples is also by her.

Totalling over three hundred in number, the examples fall into two broad categories. The first and by far the most numerous consists of excerpts drawn from the standard piano repertoire, in particular the works of Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt. The works of contemporaneous composers are also included; amongst them are Bax, Moeran, Khachaturian, and Ó Rónáin, the pseudonym of none other than the author’s son Aloys Fleischmann, professor of music at University College Cork and one of the leading composers and cultural figures of the twentieth century in Ireland. The second category of musical examples is comprised of technical exercises devised by the author and suggestions for the interpretation of technical elements such as phrasing, pedalling, fingering, dynamics, articulation and so forth.

Fleischmann’s musical examples are unnumbered in her typescript. This causes no great problem as they are always pasted next to the appropriate text which refers to them. In this publication however, all examples are numbered following the author’s sequence. Where little or no text exists between musical examples, I have labelled them a, b, c, etc. While Fleischmann’s examples are labelled extremely accurately, the labelling is not always entirely consistent; individual movements for example are sometimes referred to by number and at other times simply by tempo indication. All examples are here standardised by movement number.

Though there are occasional references to bar numbers in Fleischmann’s text, the musical examples themselves include no such indications. In keeping with contemporary academic conventions, it seemed to me essential that accurate bar numbering should form part of the captions for the musical examples. I am extremely grateful to the author’s granddaughter Ruth Fleischmann for her assistance in the laborious task of counting and checking bar numbers, which are now included in the example captions.

Bar numbers are counted according to standard convention i.e. beginning with the first full bar and always including the final bar, even if it consists of just a downbeat. There are however, some exceptions to this general rule, particularly in relation to very short musical examples across two bars. In excerpt 125, Bax What the Minstrel Told Us for example, it would make little sense just←xiii | xiv→ to give the second downbeat bar. The first bar, while incomplete, constitutes most of the example, and consequently both bar numbers are given.

Tempo indications are generally included in Fleischmann’s examples drawn from the repertoire. Where she does not include them, I have taken them from the published sources. Tempo markings in lower case and brackets indicate that the tempo has been established earlier in the passage. Fleischmann included time signatures only where they occur in the original score, but for ease of reading, they are included in all examples in this publication, with the exception of the technical examples of the author. These need neither time signatures nor tempo marks.

It has been a great privilege to work on these musical examples over a period of more than a year. The examples are vital to an understanding of the text; taken together they offer extraordinary insights into the great tradition of piano playing and teaching established by Liszt.

While I never knew Tilly Fleischmann, I consider myself very fortunate to have had her son Aloys Fleischmann as a friend. His warm friendship is fondly remembered by all who knew him, not least myself, who benefited greatly from his wonderful support and encouragement in the early stages of my career. The typesetting of the musical examples in this publication is a small attempt to repay some of that debt to the Fleischmann family.

I am extremely grateful to the College Research Committee, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, a college of Dublin City University for its generous financial support of this publication. I gratefully acknowledge the help of my colleague Seán Mac Liam in St Patrick’s College. Mac Liam was a student of Aloys Fleischmann junior at University College Cork and familiar with the genesis of Tradition and Craft in Piano-Playing. His meticulous proofreading of the musical examples and his insightful and practical suggestions have been invaluable. Any remaining errors are entirely mine.

←xiv | xv→



Tilly Fleischmann’s book presents a fascinating insight to the great golden era of Liszt and to his pedagogical tradition handed down through his students. The multiplicity of Tilly’s own roles, first as a student of Stavenhagen and Kellermann, and later as a practitioner in this tradition, as performer, teacher and scholar, determines a modern approach and results in a truly unique reference book for pianists and teachers.

This is a living, practical compendium of examples that illustrate stylistic interpretation and pianistic solutions which help to illuminate the musical text and make intelligent choices in interpretation. It is committed to the poetry of music, to sound and image, and ultimately to the magic of music making.

Tilly decided to undertake this project at the suggestion of Herbert Hughes because she realized that this tradition could become lost or forgotten. Her dedication to this project means that we now have access to a record of an oral tradition as close to the primary source as possible.

The book brings together the poetical search for the ‘hidden’ musical essence behind the notational blueprint, with scholarly documentation of solutions passed down from Liszt to his students. Practical suggestions are supplemented with contextual consideration of a composer’s style as well as historical material that had influenced interpretation in the past.

Pedagogically, this book is a treasure trove of advice and an invaluable reference book for pianists. It contains advice ranging from technique development, pedalling and phrasing to the skill of score study. It advocates textual accuracy and identifies common pitfalls in interpretation. Texture, articulation, rubato and dynamic shaping are some of the aspects dealt with through specific examples, and extensive chapters are dedicated to individual composers and their works (Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin and Liszt).

The idea of recording musical examples to illustrate the book came from Tilly’s granddaughters, Ruth, Anne and Maeve, and together we decided that video rather than audio examples would work best. The examples are intended to bring to life her suggestions, and I have striven to faithfully illustrate the instructions given in the book. I recorded the examples using a video recorder, which had the advantage of high quality built-in microphones, and the slight disadvantage of a fixed lens. This meant that I was somewhat limited in terms of adjusting the visual span, which results in only a partial view of the piano keyboard. The examples were recorded in the CIT Cork School of Music, in a teaching studio, on a Steinway Model B grand piano.

The recording process was very interesting, although at times challenging because of the brevity of the examples, and the lack of surrounding context. Nonetheless, it was a rich learning experience for me, and I hope that it will enhance the usefulness and relevance of this gem of a book, which was a joy to discover. It was a privilege to be involved in this new edition, and I am ←xv | xvi→grateful to Ruth Fleischmann and John Buckley for their enthusiasm and support and for making this recording project a reality.


XXVI, 276
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (December)
: Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2014. XXVI, 276 pp., 338. b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Ruth Fleischmann (Volume editor) John Buckley (Volume editor)

Tilly Fleischmann née Swertz (1882-1967), who was born in Cork to German parents, studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Munich from 1901 to 1905 with two renowned pianists, Bernhard Stavenhagen and Berthold Kellermann, both pupils and close associates of Franz Liszt, who was not only one of the greatest virtuosi of his age, but perhaps the most influential teacher of his time.


Title: Tradition and Craft in Piano-Playing
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