On Peter Feuchtwanger´s Piano Exercises
by Achim Clemens
Peter Feuchtwanger´s lessons are all encompassing. They embrace the broadening of musical knowledge, aural training, the development of the inner musical image, and work on piano technique.
One can therefore only really understand his exercises in this greater context. The aim of the exercises is to free the “playing apparatus” of all unnecessary tension, so that the muscle groups which really are essential for the movement can work unimpeded. A comparison with East Asian martial arts is admissible: Here impressive results are achieved solely because movements are carried out without impeding muscle blockages and with perfect timing.
In some ways Peter Feuchtwanger´s approach to piano technique is close to that of the great pianist Josef Lhévinne, who was born in Russia in 1874. Just as Lhévinne did, Feuchtwanger, in his own piano playing, draws from an incredibly impressive pool of technical resources. There is an account of Lhévinne playing the Octave Glissandos in Brahms´ Paganini Variations: prestissimo, staccato, and pianissimo! I have experienced the same with Feuchtwanger: he demonstrated other technical elements as well such as scales, thirds, and trills, etc. effortlessly and naturally.
Peter Feuchtwanger found out in what way he could achieve this extraordinary dexterity through self-observation. These findings are to be found in his piano exercises, well thought out and systematically ordered. Many technical elements crop up in different forms in several exercises, weaving a continuous thread through them. Permanently having to deal with – correctly executed – elements of movement in ever new contexts builds up a fundamental understanding of technical procedures on the piano for the student. When he has reached a more advanced stage he can then also use these on his own for the requirements of the work he is currently studying.
In the first stage the exercises serve to make the correct sequences of movements understandable and physically perceptible. Then in the second stage they should be “inwardly digested” so that when the pupil learns new works he finds the correct movements automatically and naturally. Basically the exercises, and the principles on which they are founded are easy and very logical. However, as in almost all things, that which is easy and correct is often the most difficult to recognise, and one must distil it out of a chaos of unnecessary, superfluous, interfering and wrong elements in a process of hard work which can last many years, and which even then does not guarantee success. Peter Feuchtwanger is able to shorten this long, uncertain and difficult process and leads his students on the right way to its goal, - for this we owe him a debt of gratitude.