Vladimir Horowitz: I had to find out my technique for myself

My teacher [Felix Blumenfeld], who had been a pupil of Rubinstein, had of course learned most valuable ideas from him... Our talk was of music, not of technique. I had to find out my technique for myself... And, further, whatever was played, it must be played musically. Further still, it had to be played orchestrally. Moreover, I had to find out for myself how to make the effects. In other words, we first played not "the piano" but "music."

Then we played music as it is rendered by special instruments. "How would a violinist play that?" my teacher would ask. or, "Play that like a 'cellist," or, "Like a flutist." Whatever was the effect which he sought, I myself had to find out the way to make it.

I cannot tell how I learned technique any more than I can tell how I learned languages—French, German, Italian—which I was learning at the same age. I only know that in the music itself I found out what the fingers had to do.

Every composer has a different technique. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, each has his special technique. One must find this technique with the fingers themselves, must feel it out. The studies of Czerny, Clementi, Cramer and the like I have never practiced. They are bad for the ear and bad for the touch, because they are not alive; they are merely mechanical. No mechanical playing assists the technique.

In my own technique, the fifth fingers (both right and left) are the basis for playing runs,
chords and octaves. Great strength is necessary in the fingers, but it comes with
playing, if one plays rightly, that is, musically. From the moment one feels that the finger
must sing, it becomes strong.
That is a quite different matter from playing exercises or
etudes with mechanical repetition merely for the sake of strengthening, and saying, "I
will exercise my fingers and make them strong." Such playing as this latter sort does not

(From the V. Horowitz interview for the ETUDE, 1932)

2 August 2018