Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Save the Best for First

The general assumption behind piano lessons is that the notes have to come first--actually, the beat has to come first, followed by the notes, the right ones.  Only after laying down the law does "expression" come up as an extra-added-on, arbitrary aspect of the music.  By this time it more likely conforms to the teacher's idea of how the music goes than to the child's spontaneous feel.

It doesn't have to be this way: Touch, the most expressive aspect of piano playing, can be the starting point if finger technique (based on a generalized notion of the mechanics of the hand) is reserved for a time when the fingers are large enough to fit on the piano keys without canceling out the hand's sensitivity.

Busoni was right to maintain that technical exercises should be given out like toxic medicines.  This is as true for the beginner as for the advanced player. 

After a recent recital in California, I received some praise from the audience on my legato touch.  I believe that legato comes from ear sensitivity to overtones, directly reflected in touch.  This is a proper starting point for children and a source of lasting satisfaction to all who listen to them play.