Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Schnabel the Teacher

Artur Schnabel once famously said: "First hear, then play."   Figuring out what he might have meant has taken me quite a while, not only in terms of my own playing but also exploring whether it is possible to train children to give priority to listening.

One of the critical aspects of this admonition is its implication that passive hearing is irrelevant.  In a way it implies a rewording: Hearing is more important than playing. 

If you agree you certainly would not dream of going through the motions of playing, doing the kind of exercises some pianists (the late Charles Rosen, among others) boast they practice while reading novels.

When I listen to anyone play I figure out first of all whether they are listening first.  If they aren't, I leave, regardless of the ticket price.