for the Pianist
of “Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing”
by Josef Lhevinne. Paperback, 48 pages.
August 1972, Dover Publications.
in a lucid, simple style “Basic Principles in Pianoforte
Playing” by Josef Lhevinne is a short read and has many
useful problem solving methods. Lhevinne manages to effectively
illustrate all the ideas he presents by applying each principle
to excerpts from well-known classical pieces, mainly from
Chopin, Rubeinstein, Lizt and Schumann. The book covers
topics such as musicianship, memorization, accuracy in playing
but the main emphasis of the book is devoted to the secret
of beautiful tone production.
book has six chapters. In chapter one Lhevinne discusses
the importance of good foundation in real musicianship and
argues that a complete knowledge of notation should be drilled
into the pupil at the first lesson, and how rests are just
as important as notes. According to Lhevinne, rhythm must
be felt from within and cannot be taught. He suggests that
a student should hear rhythmic music as much as possible
or could accompany more rhythmic singers and violinists.
two deals with the importance of musicianship and fine touch.
He emphasizes that a good knowledge and identification by
ear of the keys, the common chords, and the seventh chords
are very important. Furthermore, a pupil should try to listen
to oneself while playing, and this is the exact same advice
that my piano teacher used to give me as I always found
this a difficult task to do. The importance of good touch
is an individual matter and the nature of the player's hand
has an important role here. One general principle of good
tone production is that the piano key must go all the way
down to the “key bottom”.
three presents the importantce of securing a fine tone.
The author discusses the secret of how to produce a beautiful
tone by playing with a particular part of the finger which
is covered with cushions of flesh and the important role
of arm and hand. Furthermore, the ringing and singing tone
is produced by touching the key with the larger surface
of the first joint of the finger and the wrist should always
theme of chapter four is how to acquire delicacy and power
in pianoforte playing. Lhevinne stresses the need for mental
attitude (emotions, moods, and thoughts) and recommends
that while playing, the fingers should be on the surface
of the keys and the technique of the “arm floating in air”
to acquire delicacy. While playing the forte passages if
a performer wants to produce good tone but not noise, then
like Rubins-tein's, the wrist must always be free from stiffness
and make use of the natural arm and shoulder weight.
five is devoted to accuracy in playing. Lhevinne argues
that the level of inaccuracy while playing can be reduced
if one keeps their concentration and has the will to practice
slowly. He further suggests that the fingering for the passages
must be well chosen and the easiest hand position should
be adapted. For producing various good staccatos he proposes
it can be achieved by raising the wrist position, by wiping
the fingers on the keys, and in some cases the action of
the whole fore arms is involved. He advises on playing legato
notes and how the notes should float into each other by
having the same tonal colour, in other words, the kind of
touch employed to each key should be the same.
six Lhevinne suggests not to tax the memory but to memorize
phrase by phrase, not measure by measure. The thing to remember
is the thought not the symbols. Also, one should have firm
grasp of the elements of harmony to memorize well. Regular
practice should be maintained instead of memorizing now
and then. Variety should be introduced while practicing
with different speeds, different touches, and different
rhythms. He further points out the disadvantages of playing
brilliantly and how much study has to be put into peddling
to bring out the overall beauty of a musical piece.
“Basic principles in Pianoforte playing” is an interesting
read giving suggestions to many problems that many pianists
are faced with in their musical life. This book is relevant
to all pianists regardless of their level and can be a helpful
tool to answer many of their queries.
author has recently graduated from the Department of Music,
York University, Canada. She is currently residing at Dhaka
and giving piano lessons.
by Prema Humayun