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#420314 - 02/07/09 02:27 PM Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
steinwaymaster Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 52
Loc: New York City
Hi all! I was recently watching different professional pianists play on youtube. I looked at Martha Argerich, Kissin, Glenn Gould, Rubenstein, Richter, Giels, Lang Lang, and of course Horowitz. I noticed, that each pianist had different habits or techniques that only they used. For example, Gould swung his torso in a circular motion, and Lang Lang had his wrists up and his fingers curved. However, Horowitz stood out to me. He disobeyed all the "common" piano technique rules. He looked very stiff and still, with only his head, arms, and fingers moving. He possesses a "flat-fingered" technique, where his hands are literally flat. He is looking at his hands the entire time, when we were taught to look at the piano or the music (if there was any). Now, I know that once you become a great pianist like Horowitz, you can do whatever you want, but I wonder. Did he always play like that? Was that the technique he was taught? And as a piano teacher, would it be okay to say "Always look at your hands, have your hands flat, be stiff, etc... because Horowitz did."? Last, many other pianists, move their bodies to the music, especially in emotional pieces. Is that correct? I know that I'm probably going to get an answer like "It depends on your style" or "Do whatever you like" or even "Whatever you piano teacher says". But I'll ask anyway. Should a student try to play like Horowitz's style or should they play in a "normal and correct" style?
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#420315 - 02/07/09 02:34 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
tucsonpianist91 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 76
Loc: Tucson, AZ
I think that a student should play with the style which is most comfortable. I usually play with curved fingers, but when I'm playing black keys, sometimes I'll use flat fingers, I don't know why. As far as swaying, I don't mind it, as long as it's not terribly distracting, like Lang Lang.

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#420316 - 02/07/09 02:41 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
GreenRain Offline
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Registered: 04/24/08
Posts: 888
Loc: Somewhere in Europe
There is nothing wrong with looking down on hands while playing. Hard advanced pieces, like la campanella, alkan's etudes etc. are impossible to play without looking on hands except if you are professional pianist.

However, the problem is, that some newbies can't learn a piece without memorizing it first- that's a really bad habit.

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#420317 - 02/07/09 03:43 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
pianoloverus Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 20189
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by GreenRain:
There is nothing wrong with looking down on hands while playing. Hard advanced pieces, like la campanella, alkan's etudes etc. are impossible to play without looking on hands except if you are professional pianist.
[/b]
All professional pianists look at their *sometimes* during a performance.

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#420318 - 02/07/09 04:44 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
GreenRain Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/08
Posts: 888
Loc: Somewhere in Europe
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
 Quote:
Originally posted by GreenRain:
There is nothing wrong with looking down on hands while playing. Hard advanced pieces, like la campanella, alkan's etudes etc. are impossible to play without looking on hands except if you are professional pianist.
[/b]
All professional pianists look at their *sometimes* during a performance. [/b]
Of course. I meant to say that it's imposible to play them without looking on keys MOST OF THE TIME, opossed to concert pianists which look on their fingers only sometimes.

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#420319 - 02/07/09 04:51 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Mocheol Offline
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Registered: 12/16/08
Posts: 527
Loc: Dublin, Ireland
Horowitz,s technique may have developed over time.

He sits low stooped over the keyboard with his hand flat and his wrists low down almost as if he was hooking his hands onto the keyboard.

This position enables great leverage to be applied to the keyboard as the natural weight of the arms is brought fully into use.

The flat fingered splayed hand position maximises key coverage and minimises the distances required to cover notes.
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#420320 - 02/07/09 04:52 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
allegro_concerto Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/10/08
Posts: 181
I never felt Horowitz was stiff though, I always thought he was being efficient and not wasting energy by adding unnecessary motion.

I think if you looked more closely at his fingers, you will see he was striking the key with nearly flat fingers (but from an angle) when it came to some fast passages. His fingers changed posture all the time, sometimes they looked traditional, sometimes not. Other times he would curl his little finger inside his hand. The change in posture in different passages probably contributed substantially to his amazing range of colour and dynamics.

It is probably worthwhile to look at the following pianists too:

Stanislav Bunin (grandson of Heinrich Neuhaus)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk1JQk90UbY

Dang Thai Son
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISQ_XKwnftE

Mikhail Pletnev
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5bP1CdfM-8

Other pianists like Cristina Ortiz (youtube videos of her are not very clear), Arcadia Volodos, Claudio Arrau, Stephen Hough are also worthwhile. Admittedly the list is biased as I am listing some of my favourite pianists!

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#420321 - 02/07/09 07:16 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Horowitzian Offline
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Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
My philosophy is to remain comfortable. Horowitz did what was comfortable for him. Incidently, I've tried copying his posture as exactly as possible. I screwed my artist bench down and moved it farther out than I usually do. It was hideously uncomfortable! But it worked for him and that's what counts, right? ;\)

I prefer to sit with my bench at max height (it's a Jansen, BTW). That puts my forearms about parallel with the floor while allowing my shoulders to hang naturally. I place my bench so that my knees are just under the front of the keybed and the bench is centered on the gap between the E and F above middle C. \:\)
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#420322 - 02/07/09 07:35 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
allegro_concerto Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/10/08
Posts: 181
Which comes back to the original question of the original post:

Should a student try to play like Horowitz's style or should they play in a "normal and correct" style?

At the end of the day, a student must be able to evaluate all the information given and choose the best method that works for his/her playing. It is no use to try to "copy Horotwitz" blindly, student will end up playing not quite like Horowitz and not quite him/herself.

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#420323 - 02/07/09 08:43 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
There's only one Horowitz. ;\)

It's probably for the best that students learn the "correct" way first. Once they have good basic technique down as a habit, then they should be allowed to experiment a bit. JMHO! \:\)
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#420324 - 02/07/09 09:45 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
jscomposer Offline
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Registered: 10/27/08
Posts: 537
Loc: The Boogie Down
Horowitz's approach was that technique comes about through the music, not the other way around. That's all you really need to know.
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#420325 - 02/07/09 09:59 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
argerichfan Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 9040
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Horowitzian:
There's only one Horowitz. ;\)
And only one Argerich. You don't seriously think her piano playing is any less spontaneous? You don't seriously think she has ever thought twice about her technique?

Whah-evah, Horowitz is really in a separate league. Whew, the gods smiled when Horowitz was born. And Martha would agree...
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#420326 - 02/07/09 11:40 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
 Quote:
Originally posted by jscomposer:
Horowitz's approach was that technique comes about through the music, not the other way around. That's all you really need to know. [/b]
You know, I knew that, but it didn't really hit me until I saw your post. \:o It is true; he played differently for different music. ;\)
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#420327 - 02/07/09 11:41 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
 Quote:
Originally posted by argerichfan:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Horowitzian:
There's only one Horowitz. ;\)
And only one Argerich. You don't seriously think her piano playing is any less spontaneous? You don't seriously think she has ever thought twice about her technique?

Whah-evah, Horowitz is really in a separate league. Whew, the gods smiled when Horowitz was born. And Martha would agree... [/b]
;)

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#420328 - 02/08/09 07:25 AM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Jim B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/08
Posts: 46
Loc: Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Franz Mohr mentions in his book "My Life with the Great Pianists" that Horowitz preferred pianos with a very light action. I assume this influenced his technique in one way or another. There are some points in the "Horowitz in Moscow" DVD where it looks like he's literally grazing the keys, yet producing a beautiful, delicate tone. I tried to mimic this on my Pramberger and produced nothing but dead air. On the same DVD I noticed that Horowitz curls the pinky finger of his right hand during certain runs. Another no-no according to my teacher when I was taking lessons.

Oh to have the maestro's talent and his "wrong" techniques, even for one day...
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#420329 - 02/08/09 11:24 AM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
babama Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/08
Posts: 808
Loc: Netherlands
Here's a nice example of his flat finger playing.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS5LRRsNYZk

I also noticed an almost opposite technique when watching kissin. When he has to play fast multiple chords/octaves, he sometimes plays with his wrists really high and fingers downwards almost vertical.

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#420330 - 02/08/09 05:37 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
 Quote:
Originally posted by babama:
Here's a nice example of his flat finger playing.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS5LRRsNYZk

I also noticed an almost opposite technique when watching kissin. When he has to play fast multiple chords/octaves, he sometimes plays with his wrists really high and fingers downwards almost vertical. [/b]
That is superb. I love that video.

Compare that to the Mozart Sonata K. 330 from Moscow:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd7Q7vhNB-I
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#420331 - 02/08/09 05:38 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jim B:
Franz Mohr mentions in his book "My Life with the Great Pianists" that Horowitz preferred pianos with a very light action. I assume this influenced his technique in one way or another. There are some points in the "Horowitz in Moscow" DVD where it looks like he's literally grazing the keys, yet producing a beautiful, delicate tone. I tried to mimic this on my Pramberger and produced nothing but dead air. On the same DVD I noticed that Horowitz curls the pinky finger of his right hand during certain runs. Another no-no according to my teacher when I was taking lessons.

Oh to have the maestro's talent and his "wrong" techniques, even for one day... [/b]
Don't feel too bad; it is just barely is possible on an "ordinary" S&S D. ;\)

And I've always curled my pinkie just like Horowitz. I did a double take the very first time I saw him play on YT. My teacher never has complained about it, and it doesn't give me any trouble.
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#420332 - 02/08/09 10:32 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
ocd Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/10/06
Posts: 201
Loc: North East
 Quote:
Originally posted by Horowitzian:

I prefer to sit with my bench at max height (it's a Jansen, BTW). [/b]
I just bought a set of longer legs for my Jansen bench. Using the legst it came with at max height it was just not high enough for me. The legs can be ordered from a Jansen dealer.

ocd
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#420333 - 02/08/09 10:39 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
 Quote:
Originally posted by ocd:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Horowitzian:

I prefer to sit with my bench at max height (it's a Jansen, BTW). [/b]
I just bought a set of longer legs for my Jansen bench. Using the legst it came with at max height it was just not high enough for me. The legs can be ordered from a Jansen dealer.

ocd [/b]
That's excellent. Mine is just right at max height, but I've heard others complain that their Jansen bench wouldn't go up far enough.

Thanks for posting that!
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#2093140 - 05/31/13 11:11 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: steinwaymaster]
Blue Ranger Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/31/13
Posts: 15
Agree that finding a posture that works best for u is the best.

But having said that, VH has the most beautiful piano playing hands to look at, especially when he did runs.
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#2093171 - 06/01/13 01:06 AM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: pianoloverus]
JoelW Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 5088
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Quote:
Originally posted by GreenRain:
There is nothing wrong with looking down on hands while playing. Hard advanced pieces, like la campanella, alkan's etudes etc. are impossible to play without looking on hands except if you are professional pianist.
All professional pianists look at their *sometimes* during a performance.


I don't know what you're talking about. It's very common for professionals to have their eyes glued to the keys (not hands btw), especially for intense or fast pieces/passages.

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#2093174 - 06/01/13 01:13 AM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 5088
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Blue Ranger
Agree that finding a posture that works best for u is the best.


I know you're new and all, but you might want to consider not typing like this on forums. It's sort of frowned upon. Just a little heads-up.



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#2093180 - 06/01/13 01:41 AM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: JoelW]
argerichfan Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 9040
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally Posted By: JoelW
It's sort of frowned upon.

Much like resurrecting zombie threads.

Personally I don't much care either way, though many of the contributors have long been inactive. And I didn't really need to be reminded of my post. crazy
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#2093342 - 06/01/13 01:41 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: steinwaymaster]
SBP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/12/12
Posts: 258
I always find that I play way too heavily when I screw the bench down low. I'm around 6'2, and so sitting really low makes me feel like a Hobbit. I can see where there would be technical advantages to sitting down low, but I just don't like it. I like sitting as high as I can, because it makes it easier to play lightly and quickly.
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#2093369 - 06/01/13 02:42 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: allegro_concerto]
JoelW Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 5088
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: allegro_concerto

Stanislav Bunin (grandson of Heinrich Neuhaus)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk1JQk90UbY



Somehow, being the huge Bunin fan I am, I never knew this. Both Bunin's grandad and dad (Stanislav Neuhaus) look very much like him in my opinion. Stanislav Bunin's hands also look exactly like his dad's.

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#2093778 - 06/02/13 06:21 AM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: argerichfan]
Blue Ranger Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/31/13
Posts: 15
Originally Posted By: argerichfan
Originally Posted By: JoelW
It's sort of frowned upon.

Much like resurrecting zombie threads.

Personally I don't much care either way, though many of the contributors have long been inactive. And I didn't really need to be reminded of my post. crazy


Didn't know such unspoken rule exists in forums. No problem. Typing in full isn't a big deal for me.

Just to add on to this thread, I read from somewhere, which I have forgotten the provenance, that VH himself claimed that keeping your wrists low while one played made you more aware of the tone colours. This is totally unproven so take it with a pinch of salt.
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#2342406 - 10/28/14 01:00 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: steinwaymaster]
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1653
I have been retraining with the flat finger technique after many years of using the curled fingers tech. I think that the technique I have been using has caused a friction in my tendons that has become inflammatory.
Do I notice Horowitz frequent use of 2 3 4 fingering , often avoiding 5 ?
I think he can sit low because he plays on light down-weight actions , with a slightly heavier up-weight.


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#2342412 - 10/28/14 01:17 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: rintincop]
phantomFive Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 2236
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: rintincop
I have been retraining with the flat finger technique after many years of using the curled fingers tech.

How has that worked for you?
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#2342413 - 10/28/14 01:21 PM Re: Vladimir Horowitz's Technique [Re: steinwaymaster]
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1653
Horowitz interview (discusses his technique):
http://nettheim.com/horowitz/horowitz32.html
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