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There was a book on learning piano playing that I must have seen near 50 years ago. In there there was a detailed description of some all-time great -- I think Godowski.

The story as I remember it ran thus:

Godowski was practising for 14 hours a day for two years straight. One day when he got up from the piano he was so utterly fatigued that he could not hold his arms to the piano. In that moment he discovered a quality of touch that was super-gentle non-struggling, non-violent. And that touch became his hallmark then on.

So:

  • Is it Godowski I am remembering?
  • And does anyone have a reference to this?
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    The story does not come from Harold Schonberg's The Great Pianists, but the book does contain this: "Godowsky could slave away for twenty-hour stretches" (p. 345). So Godowsky is a candidate in the respect of practicing a lot. Another candidate, based on copious practice, would be Adolf Henselt, about whom Schonberg writes: "He may have been the most compulsive practicer in history—... more than Godowsky" (p. 201).
    – Aaron
    Apr 29 at 21:02
  • Thanks @Aaron. The book was more a beginner/intermediate level book. And not written by some super-eminent "great". And he swore by Tobias Mathay!
    – Rusi
    May 1 at 7:42

2 Answers 2

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Ok I found something – The technique is called "weight release".

Here's want I found:

Puzzled with why he plays well after 12 to 14 hours of practicing and 2 hour rest. He realized he let his exhausted arms hang down with their own weight, no effort to hold them up. Playing with relaxed arm weight: this was not tiring. Anton Rubinstein: played with relaxed weight but unable to explain it. LG: Weight, relaxation and economy of motion are the foundation stones of technique, of interpretation and mechanism in piano playing. 90 percent of LG's playing is based on the weight principle, he taught it scientifically as early as 1892, age 22.

From Godowsky


If someone has more details I'd appreciate!

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Several of the late romantic pianists were also very well known for writing books about how to play piano, or for being teachers. Godowski is a very likely possibility. And if not that then another very likely one would be Joseph Hoffman, wrote many articles for the Ladies Home Journal, as well as books on the art of pianism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Hofmann

His written works are now in the public domain, so if you look carefully you can find some for free download, and they are extremely interesting to read.

https://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Playing_with_Piano_Questions_Answered_by_Josef_Hofmann_%28Hofmann%2C_J%C3%B3zef%29

It seems unlikely to me that you will search for information about one of these men without also learning about the other. There are a great number of interesting anecdotes and stories about these two, and their place in the music world along with Vladimir Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, and many of the other greats of the 19th and earliest early 20th centuries.

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