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#1998971 - 12/13/12 01:46 PM Some quotes of Josef Hofmann's
Gomtorus Offline
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Registered: 01/23/12
Posts: 77
Here are a few quotes of Josef Hofmann's, whom I regard as the greatest pianist of the twentieth century, on affected movements and the importance of listening to good music.

Quote:
Question: Is there any justification for the swaying of the body, the nodding of the head, the exaggerated motion of the arms, and all grotesque actions in general while playing the piano, so frequently exhibited not only by amateurs but by concert players, too?

Answer: All such actions as you describe reveal a lack of the player's proper self-control when they are unconsciously indulged in. When they are consciously committed, which is not infrequently the case, they betray the pianist's effort to deflect the auditors' attention from the composition to himself, feeling probably unable to satisfy his auditors with the result of his playing and, therefore, resorting to illustration by more or less exaggerated gesture. General well-manneredness, or its absence, has a good deal to do with the matter.


Quote:
Question: Must I persist in playing classical pieces when I prefer to play dance music?

Answer: If, in your daily life, you wish to be regarded as a lady or a gentleman you are obliged to be careful as to the company you keep. It is the same in musical life. If you associate with the noble thoughts that constitute good—or, as you call it, classical—music, you will be counted with a higher class in the world of music. Remember that you cannot go through a flour-mill without getting dusty. Of course, not all pieces of dance music are bad; but the general run of them are such poor, if not vulgar, stuff as hardly to deserve the name of "compositions." Usually they are mere "expositions" of bad taste. Of these I warn you for your own sake, and if you wish to avoid the danger of confounding the good and the bad in that line it is best to abstain from it entirely. If dance music it must be, why, have you never heard of the waltzes and mazurkas by Chopin?


Quote:
Question: Do you believe the playing of the modern rag-time piece to be actually hurtful to the student?

Answer: I do, indeed, unless it is done merely for a frolic; though even such a mood might vent itself in better taste. The touch with vulgarity can never be but hurtful, whatever form vulgarity may assume—whether it be literature, a person, or a piece of music. Why share the musical food of those who are, by breeding or circumstance, debarred from anything better? The vulgar impulse which generated rag-time cannot arouse a noble impulse in response any more than "dime novels" can awaken the instincts of gentlemanliness or ladyship. If we watch the street-sweeper we are liable to get dusty. But remember that the dust on the mind and soul is not so easily removed as the dust on our clothes.


Here is a link to his book Piano Playing:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/39211/39211-h/39211-h.htm


Edited by Gomtorus (12/13/12 01:58 PM)

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#1998977 - 12/13/12 01:51 PM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
Gomtorus Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/23/12
Posts: 77
And another one that left an impression on me:

Quote:
Question: In the musical manifestations of feeling how does the artist chiefly differ from the amateur?

Answer:
The artist expresses his feelings with due deference to the canons of art. Above all, he plays correctly without allowing this ever-present correctness to make his playing seem lacking in feeling. Without unduly repressing or suppressing his individuality he respects the composer's intentions by punctiliously obeying every hint or suggestion he finds in the annotations, concerning speed, force, touch, changes, contrasts, etc. He delivers the composer's message truthfully. His personality or individuality reveals itself solely in the way he understands the composition and in the manner in which he executes the composer's prescriptions.

Not so the amateur. Long before he is able to play the piece correctly he begins to twist and turn things in it to suit himself, under the belief, I suppose, that he is endowed with an "individuality" so strong as to justify an indulgence in all manner of "liberties," that is, licence. Feeling is a great thing; so is the will to express it; but both are worthless without ability. Hence, before playing with feeling, it were well to make sure that everything in the piece is in the right place, in the right time, strength, touch, and so forth. Correct reading—and not only of the notes per se—is a matter that every good teacher insists upon with his pupils, even in the earliest grades of advancement. The amateur should make sure of that before he allows his "feelings" to run riot. But he very seldom does.

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#1998984 - 12/13/12 02:21 PM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21583
Loc: Oakland
He may have been a good pianist, but his taste in music was sorely lacking.
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#1998999 - 12/13/12 02:47 PM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1299
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
Hofmann always looks angry. I think he had issues, but a great pianist. He was also one of the first designers of the windshield wiper.
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#1999004 - 12/13/12 02:55 PM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21583
Loc: Oakland
My favorite quote about Hofmann came from Rachmaninoff while he was inspecting a new car, and goes something like this: "Hofmann thinks I am the greatest pianist, and I think he is. But Hofmann thinks he is the greatest automobile mechanic among pianists, and I know I am!"
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#1999080 - 12/13/12 05:39 PM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
Tim Adrianson Offline
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Registered: 08/07/10
Posts: 1060
On the whole, pretty repellent commentary. Serves to remind us how openly racist and intolerant many of the classical music proponents were in that day. Gives a good indication of why many to this day regard classical music lovers as condescending snobs.
Fortunately, though, times do change -- and IMO today's classical practitioners are far more respectful to other "musics", and many can execute convincingly in crossover idioms (Yo Yo Ma and Christopher O'Riley come immediately to mind).

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#1999302 - 12/14/12 08:01 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
Numerian Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 1075
There is much more in his book of interest to pianists than is indicated by these quotes. Hoffman's issues came later in his life when he was struggling with alcoholism, which began to affect his career. I don't think that is why he always looks glum in his photographs. Hardly anybody in the early 1900's looked happy on camera. The process could take quite some time, and the norm was to look serious and sober, not frivolous. No doubt photographers at the time reinforced this look, rather than telling everyone to say "Cheese!". I think of the major composers, the only one consistently smiling in front of the camera was Erik Satie (who died in 1925), but he was way ahead of his time in almost every other respect.

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#1999435 - 12/14/12 02:07 PM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
Hoffmann was born in an era of class snobbery, (1876) so that by the time he was in his
20s and 30s 1906 you have the late victorian/edwardian era so his societal mannerisms are
fully ingrained in his overall personality..in reading about many people from this era
many lamented for the pre WWI era, the days of kings and queens in europe..

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#1999618 - 12/14/12 11:29 PM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: BDB]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Originally Posted By: BDB
He may have been a good pianist, but his taste in music was sorely lacking.

What do you think was wrong with Hofmann's musical tastes? Jazz and dance music clearly are not the artistic equals of classical music; thus I can understand why Hofmann would shun dance music and ragtime. Just as a comic book does not compare to Shakespeare, Jazz and other forms of popular music do not compare to classical music.


Edited by LaReginadellaNotte (12/14/12 11:30 PM)

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#1999625 - 12/14/12 11:54 PM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8890
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
Originally Posted By: BDB
He may have been a good pianist, but his taste in music was sorely lacking.

What do you think was wrong with Hofmann's musical tastes?

Nothing. He was a man of his time, and IMO very unfair to compare him with 'accepted' policies today.

He thought nothing of making cuts in Schumann's Kreisleriana, abhorrent these days, but he felt justified in doing so, and he was hardly the first or the last to lend an honest (so he felt) helping hand to the great composers.

What of it. Hofmann was a very, very great pianist, and if the likes of him were active today -with attendant attention to the printed note- well then he would be at the pinnacle.

Our sadly missed Charles Rosen would agree, he thought Hofmann the most awesome technician in his experience.
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#1999644 - 12/15/12 12:45 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21583
Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: LaReginadellaNotte
Originally Posted By: BDB
He may have been a good pianist, but his taste in music was sorely lacking.

What do you think was wrong with Hofmann's musical tastes? Jazz and dance music clearly are not the artistic equals of classical music; thus I can understand why Hofmann would shun dance music and ragtime. Just as a comic book does not compare to Shakespeare, Jazz and other forms of popular music do not compare to classical music.


I did not say that there was anything wrong with Hofmann's tastes, as far as they went. I said that it was lacking. Had he been open to new ideas about music, he, as President of Curtis, could have gone a long ways towards promoting the advancement of all kinds of music, including classical. Had he had a more open mind, he might have spent the final years exploring new ideas for music, rather than bottles. It is something you should certainly learn to take to heart.
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#1999653 - 12/15/12 01:30 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: BDB]
polyphasicpianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/11
Posts: 1238
Originally Posted By: BDB
I did not say that there was anything wrong with Hofmann's tastes, as far as they went. I said that it was lacking. Had he been open to new ideas about music, he, as President of Curtis, could have gone a long ways towards promoting the advancement of all kinds of music, including classical. Had he had a more open mind, he might have spent the final years exploring new ideas for music, rather than bottles. It is something you should certainly learn to take to heart.



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#1999654 - 12/15/12 01:46 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
argerichfan Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 8890
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
BDB, very easily said in hindsight. Who knows.
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#1999657 - 12/15/12 01:54 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Tim Adrianson]
carey Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6353
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: Tim Adrianson
On the whole, pretty repellent commentary. Serves to remind us how openly racist and intolerant many of the classical music proponents were in that day.

Elitist and intolerant, OK - but openly racist ?????

Quote:
Gives a good indication of why many to this day regard classical music lovers as condescending snobs.

Many ?? Ah yes - those members of our society who to this day find it necessary to belittle anything they don't understand. Their intolerance extends far beyond classical music.....
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#2000088 - 12/16/12 01:08 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: BDB]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Originally Posted By: BDB
I did not say that there was anything wrong with Hofmann's tastes, as far as they went. I said that it was lacking. Had he been open to new ideas about music, he, as President of Curtis, could have gone a long ways towards promoting the advancement of all kinds of music, including classical. Had he had a more open mind, he might have spent the final years exploring new ideas for music, rather than bottles. It is something you should certainly learn to take to heart.

I understand what you're saying, but I don't think that a musician should be so open-minded as to endorse popular music. I don't think that the President of Curtis should explore artistically inferior music. I can understand the benefits of exploring twentieth century "classical" music (e.g. Prokofiev, Barber, Rachmaninov), but not popular music.

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#2000111 - 12/16/12 03:47 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21583
Loc: Oakland
Who, even the President of Curtis, should be the final word on what is "artistically inferior"? Thankfully, Curtis has grown beyond that, and their faculty members have broader minds these days.

Frankly, if you think that Prokofiev, Barber, and Rachmaninov are the high points of 20th century music, your education is sorely lacking.
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#2000507 - 12/17/12 12:01 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
I think that Josef Hofmann, the former President of Curtis and one of the greatest technicians in the history of piano playing, is certainly a reliable authority on what constitutes "artistically inferior" music. Even today, conservatories focus primarily on classical music. There is a reason why people are expected to audition with Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and contemporary compositions, as opposed to auditioning with dance music.

Regarding Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, and Barber, I didn't say that those people were the greatest twentieth century composers. I merely cited a few examples of twentieth century composers whose piano music particularly interests me (and who are worthy of having been played by respectable musicians, such as Horowitz). If we were to make a list of the greatest twentieth century composers, surely people such as Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, and Bartok would have to be included.

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#2000522 - 12/17/12 12:57 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21583
Loc: Oakland
Stravinsky, Debussy, and Ravel all wrote ragtime music, which was on Hofmann's list of music to be avoided. But then, I think he did not care for their music, nor Bartok's, either.
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#2000530 - 12/17/12 01:21 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Wouldn't you agree that it is the "classical"- rather than the "ragtime"- compositions of those composers that secured their places in history?

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#2000533 - 12/17/12 01:34 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21583
Loc: Oakland
I do not think that their place in history is any more secure than dozens of other composers who wrote in more popular styles, like Kern, Handy, Gershwin, Ellington, Rodgers, Waller, Monk, Arlen, Warren, Jobim, etc.
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#2000538 - 12/17/12 01:55 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: Gomtorus]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Composers who wrote in popular styles might be remembered by many, but they aren't as well-respected- within artistic circles- as classical composers. There is a difference between popular success and artistic success.

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#2000545 - 12/17/12 02:29 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: LaReginadellaNotte]
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21583
Loc: Oakland
Josef Hofmann's obituary. Judging from that, I would say that Hofmann's success, artistic or otherwise, was fleeting, at best.
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#2000547 - 12/17/12 02:37 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: BDB]
LaReginadellaNotte Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/09
Posts: 390
Alcohol appears to have cut Hofmann's career short, but he certainly accomplished a lot of amazing things- both technically and musically. I've never heard anyone play scales or repeated notes with the speed and accuracy that Hofmann did.

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#2000632 - 12/17/12 09:47 AM Re: Some quotes of Josef Hoffman's [Re: BDB]
carey Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/13/05
Posts: 6353
Loc: Phoenix, Arizona
Originally Posted By: BDB
Josef Hofmann's obituary. Judging from that, I would say that Hofmann's success, artistic or otherwise, was fleeting, at best.


Really? Even the article began by referring to Hofmann's long and varied career...

Thanks for posting the obit, however - lots of other interesting stuff on the page as well !!!!
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