Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing
About the book
This little book, written at the height of his career by Josef Lhevinne, the inward poet of the piano, is a clear statement of principles based on his lifelong experience in performance and teaching. Lhevinne was, with Rachmaninoff, Schnabel, and Hoffman, one of the great modern masters, and was the first artist invited to teach at the newly formed Julliard Graduate School of Music. Technique, through essential, must be subordinate to musical understanding. Complete knowledge of scales, apprehended not mechanically but musically; understanding of the uses of rests and silence, which Mozart considered the greatest effect in music; a feeling for rhythm and training of the ear; these are the basic elements of a thorough grounding in musicianship and are accordingly emphasized in the opening chapters. The heart of the book is devoted to the attainment of a beautiful tone. Anyone who has heard Lhevinne play or has listened to one of his recordings will know how great were his achievements in that area. The secret lay, at least in part, in the technique he called the arm floating in air, and in the use of the wrists as natural shock absorbers. The achievement of varieties of tone, of the singing, ringing tone, of brilliancy, of delicacy, and of power are all explained in terms of a careful analysis of the ways in which the fingers, hand, wrist, arm, and indeed the whole body function in striking the keys. There are further remarks about how to get a clear staccato and an unblurred legato, about the dangers of undue emphasis on memorization and the need for variety in practicing, and special comments on the use of the pedal, which should be employed with as much precision as the keys. Throughout, specific musical examples are presented as illustrations. The author draws not only upon his own experiences and methods, but upon the examples of Anton Rubenstein and of his teacher, Safonoff, for this remarkably lucid and concise formulation of basic principles.
Josef Lhevinne Biography
Josef Lhévinne (13 December 1874 – 2 December 1944) was a Russian pianist and piano teacher. Lhévinne wrote a short book in 1924 that is considered a classic: Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest it was lay-VEEN.
BiographyJoseph Arkadievich Levin (the name was altered in western Europe by a manager who thought "Lhévinne" more distinctive and less Jewish) was born into a Jewish family of musicians in Oryol south of Moscow. He studied at the Imperial Conservatory in Moscow under Vasily Safonov. He made his public debut at the age of 14 with Ludwig van Beethoven's Emperor Concerto in a performance conducted by his musical hero Anton Rubinstein. He graduated at the top of a class that included both Sergei Rachmaninoff and Alexander Scriabin, winning the gold medal for piano in 1892. In 1895 Levin won the Second International Anton Rubinstein Competition held in Berlin, emerging as the favoured pianist in a group of thirty-three candidates with his performance of Rubinstein's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major. In 1898 Levin married Rosina Bessie, a fellow Moscow Conservatory student, a pianist and winner of the gold medal for piano in her year. The two began to give concerts together, a practice that lasted until his death. Faced with anti-semitism and the political turbulence of the Russian Revolution, they moved to Berlin in 1907. There Lhévinne gained a reputation as one of the leading virtuosi and teachers of his day. They were declared enemy aliens at the outbreak of World War I and became trapped there. They had lost what money they had saved in Russian banks in the 1917 Revolution and were unable to perform in concerts due to the war. They endured years of hardship, surviving on the poor income from a handful of students. After the war they were at last free to leave Germany, and in 1919 emigrated to New York City in the United States. Lhévinne continued his concert career and also taught piano at the Juilliard School. Regarded as one of the supreme technicians of his day by virtually all of his more famous contemporaries (even Vladimir Horowitz admired his pianistic command), he never achieved their level of success with the public. He may have made his excellence look and sound too easy, but he also enjoyed teaching more than performing. He settled into a life of concert tours and teaching. Lhévinne spent time each summer starting in 1922, at Bonnie Oaks, relaxing from public life and sometimes teaching young musicians. He died suddenly from a heart attack in 1944 a few days short of his 70th birthday.
RecordingsLhévinne left only a handful of recordings, some of which are considered to be examples of perfect technique and musical elegance. The discs of the Chopin Études Op. 25, Nos. 6 & 11 recorded for RCA Victor in 1935 and Schulz-Evler's arrangement of Johann Strauss II's Blue Danube Waltz, also for Victor in 1928, are legendary among pianists and connoi ... Read full biography
|Publisher:||Dover Publications Inc.|
|Languages:||| English ||
|Edition Statement:||New edition|
|Publication date:||June 1, 1972|
|First Publication Date:||None|
|Publication City/Country:||New York, NY, United States|