11. 1928-1934    Further Technical Study in Germany and a new publication

As well as broadcasting, James was also giving recitals in Paisley and Leicester.  The Glasgow Evening Times reviewed the Paisley Art Institute Musical Evening on 9th February and reports from the Paisley Daily Express entitled ‘Distinguished Pianist’s Visit’ refers to ‘Mr Ching, who is recognised as one of the leading exponents of Bach opened his programme with that composer’s French Suite in E Minor, in which his artistry and technique were displayed to a marked degree.’

In advance of the concert the paper refers to ‘Mr James Ching, solo pianist, who has already established himself as one of the leading pianoforte players in Britain.  He is an acknowledged authority on Bach, and has given recitals in all the large towns in England and Ireland, but this is his first visit to Scotland…..He is Principal of the Leicester School of Music.’

At some point between 1929 and 1931 (no documentary evidence is available here but he has described it in his various publications) James went to Germany to work with Breithaupt, an acknowledged master on piano technique.  He was greatly influenced by this period of study and on his return to England he started work on a text book showing some of the new ideas he had absorbed in Germany. As mentioned before, it is possible that he had also read a book by Thomas Fielden called The Science of Pianoforte Technique, published in 1927, and been influenced also by those ideas.  Fielden was the senior professor of piano at the Royal College of Music when James was the organ scholar at the College.  In surveying the European field of piano teachers and technical methods Fielden had linked Matthay with Breithaupt in their emphasis on relaxation as a counter balance to the over emphasis on physical athleticism of the 19th century teachers.  Following his own study with Breithaupt, James decided to look into these ideas in a detailed, scientific way. He began a study of his own with the help and backing of Professor Hartridge, Head of Physiology at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Mr Jessop, an Applied Mathematics Senior Lecturer at London University.

The result of this serious study of the mechanics of piano playing came with the publication of a book called ‘Piano Playing: Foundation Principles’, published by Murdock in 1934.  The conclusions reached in this study appeared to contradict the technical principles long promoted by Tobias Matthay, James’ original piano teacher at the Royal Academy of Music. As a result it was not well received by many of Matthay’s supporters in the musical world, despite the fact that it was scientifically researched with technical backing. James continued to promote his new ideas which were similar to those promoted by Fielden in 1927, although the earlier book was not such a scientific study, nor did it attract adverse criticism. Although the book written by James was not universally welcomed at the time, it is probable that the scientific backed theories advanced have never officially been contradicted.