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#1431149 - 05/06/10 11:44 PM Horowitz' Technique
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
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Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
I'm sure that you are aware that Horowitz had an extremely unorthodox approach to the piano. He frequently played with low wrists, flat fingers, and a curled pinky. He played runs with a type of stratching motion, striking the key with an outstretched finger and then quickly pulling it back.

Many pianists who tried to follow Horowitz' technique had injuries. Does anyone have any theories as to how Horowitz was able to become the greatest virtuoso using a system of technique that would injure most people?


Edited by LaReginadellaNotte (05/06/10 11:56 PM)

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#1431150 - 05/06/10 11:48 PM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
Mark_C Offline
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I don't think we understand how Horowitz did what he did at all. smile

I mean, even forget the stuff you said. How about how he generated so much power with so little movement? How about how he got such SOFT sounds, and with such unfailing control, out of a piano which by most accounts was unusually bright?
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#1431159 - 05/06/10 11:59 PM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Mark_C]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
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Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Those are all important questions, and I don't know if anyone can answer them. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but wonder how certain hand positions would provide one person with the most brilliant technique, but injure almost everyone else. Normally, approaches to technique that are potentially injurious will result in significant technical limitations, even if you don't actually injure yourself.

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#1431160 - 05/06/10 11:59 PM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Mark_C]
Horowitzian Offline
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The simple answer is that he was doing what came most natural to him. That's why he is the "one and only" Volodya. smile
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#1431164 - 05/07/10 12:04 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
Mark_C Offline
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Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
Those are all important questions, and I don't know if anyone can answer them. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but wonder how certain hand positions would provide one person with the most brilliant technique, but injure almost everyone else.....

I think you're trying to understand fine details of a subject when we don't even know about the large details. That's hard to do.

But since you're raising it.....I don't agree that those hand positions would necessarily injure most people more than "normal" hand positions. Lots of people get injured with the latter, and I don't think we know how many people would get injured with Horowitz's. I think the main problem would be that they just wouldn't play very well.
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#1431165 - 05/07/10 12:04 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Horowitzian]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
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Registered: 11/23/09
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Horowitzian, so you believe that a technique that is natural for one person might not be natural for everyone else? That may be true, although it flies in the face of the logic of pedagogues such as Taubman who insist that everyone's anatomy is essentially the same and thus motions that are healthy for one pianist are automatically healthy for everyone. Those teachers would argue that what constitues a healthy or natural technique applies to everyone.


Edited by LaReginadellaNotte (05/07/10 12:05 AM)

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#1431167 - 05/07/10 12:08 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
Mark_C Offline
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Look at how different people's seating positions are when they drive.

(My driving position makes most people laugh.) smile

Look at how differently people stand.
Or walk.

Quote:
That may be true, although it flies in the face of the logic of pedagogues such as Taubman who insist that everyone's anatomy is essentially the same and thus motions that are healthy for one pianist are automatically healthy for everyone.

I recently had one lesson with a Taubman follower.
That was all I could take. ha


Edited by Mark_C (05/07/10 12:14 AM)
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#1431172 - 05/07/10 12:12 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Mark_C]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
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Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
Look at how different people's seating positions are when they drive.

(My driving position makes most people laugh.) smile

Look at how differently people stand.
Or walk.

That is true, but certain types of sitting or standing (e.g. collapsing the neck and back) can lead to injury- just as certain hand positions can cause injury at the keyboard. I just thought that it's a little strange that Horowitz could do something that normally would be injurious, yet have it work for him.

What didn't you like about the Taubman teacher?


Edited by LaReginadellaNotte (05/07/10 12:12 AM)

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#1431175 - 05/07/10 12:15 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
Mark_C Offline
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Basically what you said. smile

I think it's a travesty -- the idea that there's any single physical way to do anything.

(There were personal reasons too -- we just weren't a good match -- but I think the Taubman stuff was involved in that too.)
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#1431176 - 05/07/10 12:17 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Mark_C]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
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Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
So you would agree with Horowitz that there is no one right technique that will work for everyone? If you subscribe to the theory that technique must be tailor-made to an individual's specific hand type, then I can see why it wouldn't surprise you that certain approaches will injure some people while working very effectively for others.

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#1431183 - 05/07/10 12:33 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Mark_C]
Horowitzian Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark_C
[...]

I think it's a travesty -- the idea that there's any single physical way to do anything.

[...]


Exactly my thoughts. smile
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Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1431186 - 05/07/10 12:41 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Horowitzian]
beet31425 Online   content
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Registered: 06/12/09
Posts: 3764
Loc: Bay Area, CA
Originally Posted By: Horowitzian
Originally Posted By: Mark_C
[...]

I think it's a travesty -- the idea that there's any single physical way to do anything.

[...]


Exactly my thoughts. smile


I agree with this in principle.

On the other hand, I'm starting with a Taubman teacher in 4 weeks. It will be pretty reconstructive-- hand rotations and C major scales only at least for several lessons. But I've heard nothing but wonderful things about her, and at this point, I'm still recovering from a long-term injury and don't know how to play anything without fatigue and pain. I'll let you know how it goes.... smile

-Jason
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#1431202 - 05/07/10 12:57 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: beet31425]
keyboardklutz Offline
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I scratch the keys. Scratching (non-piano) is pretty much universal.
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#1431203 - 05/07/10 12:57 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: beet31425]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Originally Posted By: beet31425
I agree with this in principle.
On the other hand, I'm starting with a Taubman teacher in 4 weeks. It will be pretty reconstructive-- hand rotations and C major scales only at least for several lessons. But I've heard nothing but wonderful things about her, and at this point, I'm still recovering from a long-term injury and don't know how to play anything without fatigue and pain. I'll let you know how it goes.... smile

I think I'd have a good chance to get you out of the fatigue and pain without Taubman. smile

But good luck with the teacher!! Sounds like it could be good.

How would I do it? Look at exactly how you play, and consider it in light of the symptoms.
You might want to consider seeing someone who can do that kind of stuff anyway. It doesn't require Taubman or any other particular method.
BTW.....this isn't my work; I hope I'm not making it sound like it is.
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#1431213 - 05/07/10 01:17 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Mark_C]
Frozenicicles Offline
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Registered: 09/02/09
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Loc: Canada
I think that everyone lies on a bell-curve. For people near the average, a generally successful technique would work very well. But people near the extremes would have a hard time. This goes for all kinds of things - clothing, medicine, and learning. Horowitz likely disregarded the naysayers and found the technique that was perfect for him. Others who are on different parts of the bell-curve, when attempting it, would injure themselves.

It is useful to find out what generally works for people so that we have a guideline, and to try out this method first instead of something extreme (just like how a lot of people would try on the medium sized shirt first).

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#1431214 - 05/07/10 01:22 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Frozenicicles]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Frozenicicles
.....(just like how a lot of people would try on the medium sized shirt first).

I thought men only try large and extra-large, and woman only try small and petite. ha
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#1431220 - 05/07/10 01:47 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Mark_C]
Rui725 Offline
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Registered: 11/19/09
Posts: 953
If you look at his fingers when he strikes the key, they are not perfectly straight. They appear straight because they are so long, but they are perfectly relaxed.


Edited by Rui725 (05/07/10 01:50 AM)

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#1431224 - 05/07/10 02:08 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Rui725]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Rui725
If you look at his fingers when he strikes the key, they are not perfectly straight. They appear straight because they are so long, but they are perfectly relaxed.

Yes -- the "straight fingers" thing is at least exaggerated.
I think it varied according to what kind of passage it was.
Chords: mostly straight fingers
Passagework: mostly curved

In fact, IIRC.....Harold Schonberg commented on it in some of his reviews.

But I think it's true that Horowitz played with straight fingers (or straight-ish) to an unusual extent.
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#1431286 - 05/07/10 07:41 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
I'm sure that you are aware that Horowitz had an extremely unorthodox approach to the piano. He frequently played with low wrists, flat fingers, and a curled pinky. He played runs with a type of stratching motion, striking the key with an outstretched finger and then quickly pulling it back.
I think there are lots of pianists who play with low writs or flat fingers or a curled pinky. But since this way of playing is not the way the majority of pianists play and Horowitz is very great, these parts of H's playing get talked about as being something unique to him(which they aren't).
I wouldn't personally say H used a scratching motion.

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#1431299 - 05/07/10 08:32 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: pianoloverus]
Varcon Offline
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Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Perhaps the 'scratching' is what my teacher called 'wiping' or 'sliding' and she was adamantly opposed to it. On the other hand (no pun intended) she advocated very low wrists for some parts and very high wrists for some parts, curved fingers for some and very flat fingers for some. One hand might be using a low wrist and flat fingers and the other high wrist and finger tips.

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#1431329 - 05/07/10 09:42 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
I'm sure that you are aware that Horowitz had an extremely unorthodox approach to the piano. He frequently played with low wrists, flat fingers, and a curled pinky. He played runs with a type of stratching motion, striking the key with an outstretched finger and then quickly pulling it back.

Many pianists who tried to follow Horowitz' technique had injuries. Does anyone have any theories as to how Horowitz was able to become the greatest virtuoso using a system of technique that would injure most people?


1) There are a lot of things in anyone's technique that are invisible. Horowitz' fingers often look flat, but that doesn't mean he fails to maintain an arch or bridge. You may not be able to see it.

2) Horowitz performed on his own Steinway D almost exclusively, and it had a feather light action.

3) Horowitz didn't always play with flat fingers. Look at some of his vids playing Scarlatti.

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#1431332 - 05/07/10 09:49 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Phlebas]
Batuhan Offline
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Registered: 09/21/09
Posts: 875
Loc: Istanbul
Originally Posted By: Phlebas
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
I'm sure that you are aware that Horowitz had an extremely unorthodox approach to the piano. He frequently played with low wrists, flat fingers, and a curled pinky. He played runs with a type of stratching motion, striking the key with an outstretched finger and then quickly pulling it back.

Many pianists who tried to follow Horowitz' technique had injuries. Does anyone have any theories as to how Horowitz was able to become the greatest virtuoso using a system of technique that would injure most people?


1) There are a lot of things in anyone's technique that are invisible. Horowitz' fingers often look flat, but that doesn't mean he fails to maintain an arch or bridge. You may not be able to see it.

2) Horowitz performed on his own Steinway D almost exclusively, and it had a feather light action.

3) Horowitz didn't always play with flat fingers. Look at some of his vids playing Scarlatti.


So is he cheating ?
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#1431356 - 05/07/10 10:19 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Batuhan]
mikelovespiano Offline
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Registered: 04/14/10
Posts: 65
lol no, like Pheblas said, horowitz often performed on his own steinway&sons, it's a bit of a stretch calling it cheating.

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#1431361 - 05/07/10 10:24 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: mikelovespiano]
Kreisler Offline



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Horowitz could play any piano in the world and be just fine. If light actions actually made people sound better, people with Casio Privias and upright pianos would be flying through Liszt rhapsodies at breakneck speed.
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#1431403 - 05/07/10 11:12 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Kreisler]
Rui725 Offline
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Registered: 11/19/09
Posts: 953
Romantic music is played mainly with a warmer tone, thus with the flatter part of the finger as opposed to say baroque and classical where playing the rounded tip is optimal. Naturally the fingers would appear straighter in romantic repertoire as well. Thus, the difference between Scarlatti and his romantic, late romantic technique.


Edited by Rui725 (05/07/10 11:19 AM)

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#1431414 - 05/07/10 11:22 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Rui725]
hophmi Offline
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Registered: 03/15/10
Posts: 101
I think Horowitz did what worked for Horowitz. Having a rubber wrist didn't hurt. The famous story, which is in Schonberg's biography, is that one of his students (I forget which) asked him how he practiced his octaves, and he answered that he did so slowly, dropping his hand from the wrist - the same as everybody else.

Glenn Gould is another example of a pianist with a wildly unorthodox technique who nevertheless was able to do just about anything at the piano.

Lang Lang's another example; I remember when I saw him for the first time I was sure his arms were going to fall off before the end of the performance because his motion seemed so jerky.

I don't think pianists should try to emulate these people. Personally, I think Kissin has the most fluid motion; the piano is truly an extension of the person in his case.

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#1431420 - 05/07/10 11:31 AM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Kreisler]
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Horowitz could play any piano in the world and be just fine.


I'm sure that's right, but I think the extreme lightness of the action of his piano may have allowed him to play with flatter fingers, etc.

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#1431436 - 05/07/10 12:05 PM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: Kreisler]
Horowitzian Offline
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Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Horowitz could play any piano in the world and be just fine. If light actions actually made people sound better, people with Casio Privias and upright pianos would be flying through Liszt rhapsodies at breakneck speed.


Proof positive. By all accounts, Scriabin's Bechstein was pretty run down by the time Horowitz played it during his Soviet Union tour.
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#1431492 - 05/07/10 01:17 PM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: hophmi]
2301 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/21/10
Posts: 14
Originally Posted By: hophmi

Glenn Gould is another example of a pianist with a wildly unorthodox technique who nevertheless was able to do just about anything at the piano.


Maybe so, but he did develop focal dystonia and thoracic outlet syndrome.


Edited by 2301 (05/07/10 01:18 PM)

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#1431507 - 05/07/10 01:38 PM Re: Horowitz' Technique [Re: 2301]
Mark_C Offline
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Registered: 11/11/09
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Loc: New York
...and he had a lot more than that too. smile

Question: If we could play like Glenn Gould -- I mean really play like him -- and we knew it would lead to "focal dystonia and thoracic outlet syndrome," would we still play that way?

I think we would.

And then we'd try to get treatment for those things. smile
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