Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing"

Posted by: Jaak

Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 11/06/12 11:34 AM

Aqcuired the book a while ago. It quickly started to reveal itself and also many interesting secrets about the piano.

Among the students of mr. Heinrich Neuhaus (1888 - 1964) were Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Radu Lupu and many more. Horowitz had a few lessons with Neuhaus, and already considered him as his teacher.

In childhood mr. Heinrich Neuhaus was a lot self-taught, despite both his mother and father were pianists. Heinrich's father Gustav was born in Germany near the northern part of river Rhine. Later changed the place and left for Ukraine, Elizavetgrad (now Kirovograd).

Mr. Gustav Neuhaus studied under Ferdinand Hiller, who had known Beethoven personally and was a friend of Felix Mendelssohn etc. Ferdinand Hiller was a very important figure in the field of music in Germany. He was strongly conservative in later life and was opposing Liszt and Wagner.

Mr. Heinrich's mother was the sister of Mr. Felix Blumenfeld who was an outstanding pianist and conductor. Felix Blumenfeld was also teaching the piano at the Conservatory of St. Petersburg. When Felix visited his sister (Heinrich's mother) and her family he had a very strong influence on Heinrich. Mr. Heinrich learned a lot from his uncle and his rare visits, also remembered it later as something extremely positive and inspiring.

The maiden name of Heinrich's mother was Olga Szymanowska. And she was a close relative of Karol Szymanwski - a great pianist and composer of Poland. So mr. Heinrich is also a relative of Karol Szymanowski.

Also at the age of 14 mr. Heinrich had a recital together with
a young violinist Mischa Elman, who became one of the most famous and most recording violonist of his time, later.


It is so interesting how the threads start to connect.
Usually most lines go back to Ludvig van Beethoven through Czerny and Liszt.

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 11/09/12 05:35 PM

Hi.

During the reading process I will pick out ideas that seem to be interesting or valuable and share with you as well.

Mr Heinrich Neuhaus:

"Before beginning to learn an instrument, the learner, wheather a child, adolescent or adult, should already be spiritually in possession of some music; he should, so to speak, carry it in his mind, keep it in his heart and hear it with his mind's ear. The whole secret of talent and of genius is that in the case of a person so gifted, music lives a full life in his brain before he even touches a keyboard or draws a bow across the strings. That is why Mozart as a small child could "at once" play the piano and the violin."


Many things to think here by my opinion. The knowledge about different music and the depth of the way you sense, experience and memorize the music directly affects the quality and ability of playing. Also the ability to play music in your head. Here we start to touch the sa called mental play.

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 11/12/12 11:03 AM

An idea that can be considered interesting.
I have mentioned it somewhere already before, but does not matter.

Idea from Heinrich Neuhaus: The vision of "what to play" defines "how to play". In the long run the "how to play" forms your own "what you play".

Mr Neuhaus considers it extremely important that the learner grasps the artistic image of the piece and makes it as clear as possible before starting to practice the piece. The essence of music or the the poetic substance with all it's phrasing and everything else should be as clear as possible. The knowledge should be acquired also about the theory.

Briefly - the clearer the goal the clearer the means of attaining it.

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 12/29/12 01:14 AM

Hi,

Mr Neuhaus:" One wise writer (Nietzsche) said about writers:" To perfect a style is to perfect ideas. Anyone who does not once agree with this is past salvation."

(Mr Neuhaus continues)
This is the true meaning of technique (style). I often tell my pupils that the word "technique" comes from Greek word τέχνη (techně) and means art. Any improvement of technique is an improvement of art itself and consequently helps to reveal the "content", the hidden meaning; in other words it is the material, the real body of art."

I also researched the word τέχνη. Some say it means all kind of mastery of any kind of craft. Some tend to say it is the ancient Greek word for art. But still it is not a coincidence that the word τέχνη (art or mastery of a craft) is the root for the word technique. Maybe it points to something important...

Best wishes.
Jaak
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 12/29/12 09:01 AM

Originally Posted By: Jaak
Hi,

Mr Neuhaus:" One wise writer (Nietzsche) said about writers:" To perfect a style is to perfect ideas. Anyone who does not once agree with this is past salvation."

(Mr Neuhaus continues)
This is the true meaning of technique (style). I often tell my pupils that the word "technique" comes from Greek word τέχνη (techně) and means art. Any improvement of technique is an improvement of art itself and consequently helps to reveal the "content", the hidden meaning; in other words it is the material, the real body of art."

I also researched the word τέχνη. Some say it means all kind of mastery of any kind of craft. Some tend to say it is the ancient Greek word for art. But still it is not a coincidence that the word τέχνη (art or mastery of a craft) is the root for the word technique. Maybe it points to something important...

Best wishes.
Jaak


Interesting observations.

In English, I don't think "style" overlaps perfectly with "technique," so some might quibble with at least the English version of your opening quotation.

"Style," in English, carries some suggestion of affectation or superficiality.

To the extent I follow the Neuhaus discussion, the proposition is that technique and content are inextricably linked. That makes sense to me.
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 12/31/12 07:30 AM

Hi ClsscLib.

Thank you for your remarks.
I have to agree with you that "style" and "technique" do not overlap perfectly.

And for sure the translation changes the meaning of the original at least minimally.

Happy new year eve to you and everybody else!

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: Cinnamonbear

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 01/06/13 11:28 AM

Hi, Jaak! Good to see you again.

I, too, remember when you referred to this point which I found very useful to keep in mind:

Originally Posted By: Jaak
Idea from Heinrich Neuhaus: The vision of "what to play" defines "how to play". In the long run the "how to play" forms your own "what you play".


But I don't remember this reflection:

Originally Posted By: Jaak
Mr Neuhaus considers it extremely important that the learner grasps the artistic image of the piece and makes it as clear as possible before starting to practice the piece. The essence of music or the the poetic substance with all it's phrasing and everything else should be as clear as possible. The knowledge should be acquired also about the theory.


It seems to me that this means there might be a considerably long muddling about stage when learning a new piece before actual practice begins? Am I understanding this correctly? Sometimes, though, (at least in my limited experience) artistic insights and conceptual epiphanies come only after a degree of fluidity and familiarity with the piece is achieved. So, I guess my question would be, what counts as "practice"? crazy

--Andy
Posted by: landorrano

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 01/06/13 05:57 PM

One has to consider that Neuhaus lived and worked in an extremely high level musical milieu, the highest conceivable ... and maybe simply inconceivable to many. I don't mean talent, but musical culture. By comparison we are mere hacks ... maybe not even that!
Posted by: Cinnamonbear

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 01/08/13 10:01 AM

Originally Posted By: landorrano
One has to consider that Neuhaus lived and worked in an extremely high level musical milieu, the highest conceivable ... and maybe simply inconceivable to many. I don't mean talent, but musical culture. By comparison we are mere hacks ... maybe not even that!


Ah. Point well made, and point taken. I shall go back to muddling, now. Thanks, landorrano! smile
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 01/14/13 02:23 PM

Hi Andy and others,

Glad to see you as well smile

Actually I think that it really needs some experience and some music that is possessed already to create an "artistic" vision.

But for me it makes more and more sense - if you do not have a clear vision of what is being expressed, it is impossible to express it.

It is just like with talking - if you do not have an idea you can not say it. Or if you only know the words of the idea but do not understand the meaning of it, the expression of it (copying) would be strange and would not make sense.

But I think it is a direction where to move - having a clear imagination and vision. Also we live in the most wonderful musical milieu I think - you can get almost whatever information on the web, if you are willing to search for it. And it is something what people of Neuhaus's time even could not dream of.

I am not trying to say how things are but these ideas came into my mind when I read this smile

Best,
Jaak
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 01/14/13 02:43 PM

Hi again smile

Maybe this idea is very well known, but I still point it out from Mr. Neuhaus' book.

Neuhaus: "Mastery of the art of working, of learning compositions - which is one of the reliable criteria of pianists maturity - is characterized by an unwavering determination and an ability not to waste time. The greater the part played in this process by willpower (going straight to the goal) and concentration, the better the result. The greater the passivity and inertia - the greater the time needed for learning a composition, while interest in it inevitably flags."

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 02/13/13 03:17 PM

Hi,

Just another piece of idea that is very elementary in a way. But when to look at the idea with a bigger depth - is it still so elementary or maybe it is so widespread instead? Or does it have any meaning to you at all?

Mr Heinrich Neuhaus:
"In order to speak and be entitled to be heard it is essential not only to know how to speak, but first of all have something to say. It is as simple as twice two makes four, yet it is not difficult to show that hundreds and even thousands are constantly guilty of breaking that law."

Any thoughts welcome.

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: woodog

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 02/13/13 04:13 PM

Maybe just that mastering all the Hanon exercises at a very fast tempo means that you know how to speak, but an all Hanon recital would be a speech unworthy of a listener?

bad analogy maybe, but it seem's apt in Forrest-world.

Forrest
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 02/24/13 01:13 PM

Dear Woodog,

I think that if the Hanon exercises are very musical and beautiful in ones mind and musical vision and the technical expression of that material is excellent, this would still contain all - the vision or artistic image, technical execution and performance.

The question here might be - is that content interesting enough?

But still I think that even Hanon exercises should be played in a musical way not just coldly mechanically. Developing just mechanical und unsensitive habits is never good in my opinion.

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 02/24/13 01:20 PM

Hi again smile

Neuhaus: "I should like to tell here about one of my childish whims, (which coincided in time with the thoughts I have just described when I was fifteen).

Thinking about art and science, about their mutual relations and contradictions, I came to the conclusion, for some reason or other, that mathematics and music are situated at the extreme poles of the human spirit, that these two antipodes limit and determine the whole spiritual and creative activity of man and that situated between them is everything that mankind has created in the field of science and art."

Maybe it is very abstract and subjective but...
How would you interpret that or what existential value can you see in this thought, if any?

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: daviel

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 02/24/13 01:21 PM

Great thread Jaak! Thanks.
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 03/29/13 04:44 PM

Hi again,

It is told by mr Neuhaus in the context of teaching students but what he is saying could be probably motivating for everybody involved in playing the piano.

Mr Neuhaus:

"I want to emphasize the importance of impressing upon every pupil from the very beginning, just how precious is the stuff with which he/she will be dealing all his life if he really devotes himself to the service of art.

I never fail to feel that I am in presence of a miracle as I explain to my pupils the works of genius of the great musicians, and we strive together to the best of our abilities to fathom their depth, probe their mysteries, understand their structure and raise ourselves to their lofty heights.

I know that it is the awareness of the miracle and the joy it brings - the joy of sensing it and knowing it for what it is - which gives a meaning to my life, which forces me as a teacher to work much harder than "staff regulations" require and give myself without stinting."

--------------

Maybe it is the point where all knowledge about the music history, lives of the composers etc. becomes so valuable. If you know more about these values the pieces become more than just "pieces". And it can also create a bigger respect towards the pieces and from there a better listening a gentle and honest approach.

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 07/06/13 06:19 AM

Dear All,

From now on I would like to start posting regularly - one post each Saturday. I will write here points from Neuhaus' book authentically that I consider important, and I will add my comments as well, until the book has been gone through. So everybody could get the "pearls" from the book.


Neuhaus:
"But what is "the artistic image of a musical composition" but music itself, the living fabric of sound, musical language with its rules, its component parts, wich we call melody, harmony, polyphony, etc., a specific formal structure, an emotional and poetic content?

How many times have I heard pupils who have had no real musical or artistic schooling, i.e., no aesthetic education, who are musically insufficiently developed, attemt to render the compositions of great composers!

Musical language was not clear to them; instead of speech, they achieved only some sort of muttering; instead of a clear idea - only some meagre fragments of thought; instead of a strong emotion - some abortive pangs; instead of profound logic - "effect without cause", and istead of a poetic image - a prosaic shadow. And of course, so-called technique was
consequently also inadequate.

This is the kind of playing you get if the artistic image is distorted, or is not at the core of the rendering, or is altogether absent.

Diametrically opposed, for instance, is the performance of Sviatoslav Richter. When sight-reading a piece for the first time. whether a piano composition, an opera, a symphony, anything - he immediately gives an almost perfect rendering, both from the point of view of content and from the point of view of technical skill (in this case, one and the same thing)"

-----------------------

My question here would be - is there a possibility to say anything clear or meaningful if you do not know what do you want to say?

Is it possible to express yourself on the instrument if you can not see the imagination or the vision of the piece in your head (mental sphere)?

And how likely would be a successful interpretation of a piece if you would not know and imagine the performance in your head with all its details?

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: wr

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 07/06/13 09:12 AM

Originally Posted By: Jaak


My question here would be - is there a possibility to say anything clear or meaningful if you do not know what do you want to say?

Is it possible to express yourself on the instrument if you can not see the imagination or the vision of the piece in your head (mental sphere)?

And how likely would be a successful interpretation of a piece if you would not know and imagine the performance in your head with all its details?



Unfortunately, I've heard all too many performances where the pianist seemed quite clear about what they wanted to say, but what they wanted to say was not very interesting.
Posted by: Arghhh

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 07/06/13 03:44 PM

Originally Posted By: Jaak

-----------------------

(1) My question here would be - is there a possibility to say anything clear or meaningful if you do not know what do you want to say?

(2) Is it possible to express yourself on the instrument if you can not see the imagination or the vision of the piece in your head (mental sphere)?

(3) And how likely would be a successful interpretation of a piece if you would not know and imagine the performance in your head with all its details?

Best wishes,
Jaak


(1) I don't think it is possible. To me part of working on a piece is deciding what it is going to say. It's not done being worked on, even if it is note-perfect (which never happens, haha)until I've decided that. Classical era music especially is structured to have a sort of "question-response" or "antecedent-consequent" phrases. The response has to be related in some way to the opening question. Did you have something else in mind?

(2) I enjoy playing the music more if I have a mental image of the music (not always a visual image, but sometimes just an emotional image), and if I enjoy it more, I'm more involved, and if I'm more involved I believe a better performance will result.

(3) I'd really like to know. Maybe my belief in my previous answer is not really true, that the performance is only better in my mind. Or maybe this is the difference between a well-crafted approach and one that really speaks to the audience?


I'll be looking for your entry next week wink
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 07/20/13 05:45 PM

Hi again,

The idea of Mr. Neuhaus is very clear here. He is talking about teaching and children. But I think that in a way every
pianist or musician at all is always (or should be) a teacher to himself/herself. And when to see yourself as a "student" of
yourself all this is still valid in the learning process of a mature person and also in the work of top pianists.


Mr Neuhaus:

"When a child plays an exercise or study, a piece which is purely instructive and devoid of artistic content, he may, still, at will, play faster or slower, louder or more softly, with or without nuances; in other words, there is in his performance an inevitable element of uncertainty, an arbitrary quality; it will be "just playing" without any clear aim (playing for the sake of playing and not playing for the sake of music); it will be "playing as it comes" (and very often it doesn't "come").

In order that it should "come", in order to derive real use from this technical instrumental work (I mean work aimed at mastering the instrument and the player's movements),
it is essential to set the pupil very clear aims and tasks and not to depart from them until they are fully met;
for instance: to play the study or exercise at a given speed and none other; with given strength, and neither louder nor softer.

If the aim of the study is to develop an even sound, then not a single accidental accent should be tolerated; similarly, not a single acceleration or slowing down. If they happen, they should be corrected immediately, etc. (It is assumed that an intelligent teacher will not set his pupil an impossible task."


Of course without a teacher it becomes inevitable to have a part of your mind observing the practicing process (like the teacher) and then making adequate decisions to change things and take action. This is the skill of being objectively aware of yourself (it is probably not possible 100%) while playing and not getting lost in the illusion of music. The deep and precise craft of listening and then uniting listening and deep cognition of your body.

Best Wishes,
Jaak


P.S.

Dear Arghhh

Interesting observations.

1) Yes I had something like that in mind. I generally agree. The question-answer type of structure might not be that simple for me. There are many emotions and colors. And in the ideal version all the parts of the piece form one whole under one line.

2) I completely agree. I enjoy playing a lot more if I have an image and idea of the piece as well. And I also believe a better version will result.

3) I believe the answer can not be fixed completely. But I think the less clear is the idea in the interprets mind, the more diffuse and vague is the playing action.

And the ability to observe your own action as objectively as possible and ability to compare it with your mental imagi - for me important part of a well-crafted approach.

Part of this post is also connected to 3 questions form the previous post and your ideas as well. At least I think so.
Posted by: Jaak

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 07/27/13 05:12 AM

Dear all,

Here let me apologise once again Because I bring out material that is directed to teaching and that uses child as an example.
But again let me say that every adult can see herself/himself as a student of her/his intelligent mind. So hopefully you forgive me.

Mr. Neuhaus:

"What happens when, instead of an educational exercise or study, the child plays a real musical composition, even though a very simple one? First (and that is the decisive moment in his work), his emotional state will be quite different; it will be heightened compared to when he is practising "useful" exercises or dry-as-dust studies.

Secondly, it will be much easier to show him - since his own intuition will tend that way - the tone quality, the tempo, nuances, acceleration, etc. (if justified by the piece) and consequently the ways of playing that are required for performing the composition so as to make it clear, meaningful and expressive, i.e. in a manner "adequate to its content"."

-----

The most important essence and message of this text for me was showing the importance of understanding the musical idea before practising.

The clearer is the musical idea the easier is to be sure of what you are trying to express and also how to do it (if you have proper technical skills).

And if one needs to develop technical skills, then I guess that being sure and clear about the musical idea is a big step nearer to using right playing technique.

Best wishes,
Jaak
Posted by: wr

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 07/27/13 06:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Jaak

Mr. Neuhaus:

"What happens when, instead of an educational exercise or study, the child plays a real musical composition, even though a very simple one? First (and that is the decisive moment in his work), his emotional state will be quite different; it will be heightened compared to when he is practising "useful" exercises or dry-as-dust studies.

Secondly, it will be much easier to show him - since his own intuition will tend that way - the tone quality, the tempo, nuances, acceleration, etc. (if justified by the piece) and consequently the ways of playing that are required for performing the composition so as to make it clear, meaningful and expressive, i.e. in a manner "adequate to its content"."



That would have made sense for me when I was a child.

But now that I am already well past the half-century mark in years, I find that a "heightened emotional state" often gets in the way of learning what I want to learn about how to play the piano. I love "dry as dust" exercises for that very reason - I can focus on the physical aspect of playing the instrument, and I really need that at this point in my life (because I didn't get a good grounding in it when I was a child). And, best of all, working on that stuff is fascinating and is not really "dry as dust" at all.
Posted by: Arghhh

Re: Heinrich Neuhaus and his book "The Art of Piano Playing" - 07/27/13 09:42 AM

Completely agree with wr. In addition, if I am playing a real piece, I find myself wanting to play it faster than I can technically do that. When playing exercises I don't have a pre-conceived notion of how fast I "should be able to play this".

OTOH (there always is with me), I sometimes find on real pieces that if I stop focusing so much on the technique that the piece becomes easier to play and execute correctly.