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How did great pianists practice? (Read 34464 times)

Offline bitus

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How did great pianists practice?
« on: January 07, 2004, 08:04:37 AM »
How did pianists like Rachmaninoff or Rubinstein, or Horowitz... to name just a few, practiced - both in their youth and in the later years?. How many hours? What did they use to warm up? What time?
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline eddie92099

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #1 on: January 07, 2004, 01:29:40 PM »
Shura Cherkassky would practice 4 hours a day. No more and no less. Arrau in his 20s would practise up to 18 hours a day at times!
Ed

Offline chopinetta

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #2 on: January 07, 2004, 02:06:14 PM »
chopin--3 hours, strict limits. that's the maximum (eeww, even the word maximum sounds like maksim!). liszt spends 5-6 hours practicing hand exercises like scales, arpeggios, etc and all in all up to 14 hours. They're my favorite, so I don't know any other's practice sessions.
"If I do not believe anymore in tears, it is because I see you cry." -Chopin to George Sand
"How repulsive this George Sand is! is she really a woman? I'm ready to doubt it."-Chopin on George Sand

Offline bernhard

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #3 on: January 07, 2004, 03:22:25 PM »
This is a very good question.

However I think one has to be a bit more specific on what is meant by practice. There are two extremes here. In one extreme we have any piano related activity. Anna Magdalena Bach, simply by copying by hand copy after copy of hubby’s compositions could be said to be practising. Does it include things like memorising a piece from the score without ever getting near to the piano? If so, Glenn Gould and Walter Gieseking were practising for most of their waking hours. On the other extreme, we can define practice (just for the purposes of this discussion) as time spent at the piano repeating patterns of movements. If so, Glen Gould could rightly claim that he never practised.

And here is another interesting question. Most pianists practised a lot (whatever your definition) during their younger years, and much much less in their maturity. Ed mentioned Arrau practising up to 18 hours before he was twenty. Yet in his sixties, he never practised more than 3 hours a day, and advised his students to do the same.

So do they practice less because:

i.      If you practice 18 hours a day for a number of years, after that you do not need that much practice. (Btu you still need to do 18 hours daily for a while).
ii.      They were practising wrongly in their youth and wasting a lot of time, however, as they figured it out, they realised that you don’t need all that practice anyway, and they just wished they knew in their youth what they knew in their mature years.

Interestingly enough, you have pianists who firmly believe (i) or (ii). (By that I mean that there is no consensus).

Paderewski (when under Leschetizky): all day long.

Glenn Gould – Claimed he never practised (that is, at the piano). However did a lot of mental practice.

Claudio Arrau (mature) – 2 – 3 hours daily – took one month completely off every year.

Sviatoslav Richter – Claimed to practise a few hours a day – immediately dismissed by his wife who said he was lying and set the record straight: ten hours a day.

Mischa Dichter – 12 hours a day in his younger years. Then 4 – 6 hours daily.

Ivo Pogorelich – 5 hours a day (when possible)

Bella Davidovich – 3 hours a day (sometimes 4 or 5)

Willhelm Bachauss – minimum of 1 hour a day of scales and technical exercises.

Katharine Goodson – no more than four hours a day.

Guiomar Novaes – 3 – 4 hours a day (never practised technique outside pieces in her mature years).

Alexander Brailovsky – “I don’t practise very much, only five hours a day”.

Walter Gieseking – “I really need very little practice, as I do not forget what I have learned: my fingers don’t forget either”. (But then he did a lot of mental practice). Took two months away from the piano every year.

Sergei Prokofiev – “I do not need so much to practise. My hands do not forget” (But then, a lot of what he played was his own music).

Vladimir Ashkenazy (in his prime) – 5 – 7 hours daily

Alfred Brendel  - (around 1980) – 5 hours a day (I understand that now he tries to confine his practise even more: 2 – 3 hours  - but he compensates for it with a lot of mental practice)

Youri Egorov – 4 – 5 hours daily.

Zoltan Kocsis – in his younger years a lot. Then no more than 4 hours daily.

Garrick Ohlson – 3 – 4 hours daily.

[Sources: James Cooke – Great pianists on piano playing; Elyse Mach – Great contemporary pianists speak for themselves; Jeffery Johnson (ed.) – Piano mastery – The Harriet Brower interviews; David Dubal – The world of the concert pianist; interviews in several magazines].
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline cziffra

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #4 on: January 07, 2004, 04:04:54 PM »
i don't see the specific number of hours as being important at all- you either wake up thinking music, or you tell yourself to think music.  the greats woke up with it, and that's all there is to it.
What it all comes down to is that one does not play the piano with one’s fingers; one plays the piano with one’s mind.-  Glenn Gould

Offline thracozaag

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #5 on: January 07, 2004, 05:37:37 PM »
Quote
This is a very good question.

However I think one has to be a bit more specific on what is meant by practice. There are two extremes here. In one extreme we have any piano related activity. Anna Magdalena Bach, simply by copying by hand copy after copy of hubby’s compositions could be said to be practising. Does it include things like memorising a piece from the score without ever getting near to the piano? If so, Glenn Gould and Walter Gieseking were practising for most of their waking hours. On the other extreme, we can define practice (just for the purposes of this discussion) as time spent at the piano repeating patterns of movements. If so, Glen Gould could rightly claim that he never practised.

And here is another interesting question. Most pianists practised a lot (whatever your definition) during their younger years, and much much less in their maturity. Ed mentioned Arrau practising up to 18 hours before he was twenty. Yet in his sixties, he never practised more than 3 hours a day, and advised his students to do the same.

So do they practice less because:

i.      If you practice 18 hours a day for a number of years, after that you do not need that much practice. (Btu you still need to do 18 hours daily for a while).
ii.      They were practising wrongly in their youth and wasting a lot of time, however, as they figured it out, they realised that you don’t need all that practice anyway, and they just wished they knew in their youth what they knew in their mature years.

Interestingly enough, you have pianists who firmly believe (i) or (ii). (By that I mean that there is no consensus).

Paderewski (when under Leschetizky): all day long.

Glenn Gould – Claimed he never practised (that is, at the piano). However did a lot of mental practice.

Claudio Arrau (mature) – 2 – 3 hours daily – took one month completely off every year.

Sviatoslav Richter – Claimed to practise a few hours a day – immediately dismissed by his wife who said he was lying and set the record straight: ten hours a day.

Mischa Dichter – 12 hours a day in his younger years. Then 4 – 6 hours daily.

Ivo Pogorelich – 5 hours a day (when possible)

Bella Davidovich – 3 hours a day (sometimes 4 or 5)

Willhelm Bachauss – minimum of 1 hour a day of scales and technical exercises.

Katharine Goodson – no more than four hours a day.

Guiomar Novaes – 3 – 4 hours a day (never practised technique outside pieces in her mature years).

Alexander Brailovsky – “I don’t practise very much, only five hours a day”.

Walter Gieseking – “I really need very little practice, as I do not forget what I have learned: my fingers don’t forget either”. (But then he did a lot of mental practice). Took two months away from the piano every year.

Sergei Prokofiev – “I do not need so much to practise. My hands do not forget” (But then, a lot of what he played was his own music).

Vladimir Ashkenazy (in his prime) – 5 – 7 hours daily

Alfred Brendel  - (around 1980) – 5 hours a day (I understand that now he tries to confine his practise even more: 2 – 3 hours  - but he compensates for it with a lot of mental practice)

Youri Egorov – 4 – 5 hours daily.

Zoltan Kocsis – in his younger years a lot. Then no more than 4 hours daily.

Garrick Ohlson – 3 – 4 hours daily.

[Sources: James Cooke – Great pianists on piano playing; Elyse Mach – Great contemporary pianists speak for themselves; Jeffery Johnson (ed.) – Piano mastery – The Harriet Brower interviews; David Dubal – The world of the concert pianist; interviews in several magazines].


 Claude Frank once told me :"there are two things of which everyone lies about"
1."Have you ever fallen asleep at the wheel"?
2. "How much do you practice"?
"We have to reach a certain level before we realize how small we are."--Georges Cziffra

Offline bitus

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #6 on: January 07, 2004, 06:32:48 PM »
Yo Bernhard, thank you for your reply... And yes, Thracozaag, most pianists tend to exagerate the amount of practice they get.
I strongly believe one should practice very much in their early years, since we develop our practicing routine and style. Indeed, we waste more time when we are young, but if we are smart, we learn very fast what is suitable for ourselves, and how we can make practicing very efficient.
Practicing is a continous battle between our body and our will. It all depends on the amount of concentration we are able to get.
I am really curious about how Gloud and others practiced without "practicing" at the piano. I completly agree with their idea, but i think it takes a whole lot more concentration and discipline of thought then the normal practice at the piano.
I might be mistaking, but i think it was Corot who didn't practice at piano for years (because he wasn't allowed or something... i can't remember), and then in 15 days he gained back everything, because he did exercises like gimnastics with his fingers and a lot of mental exercise.
I'm extending the topic... how do you practice? Honestly...
Myself, i just started a couple of weeks ago a very strict program of at least 6 hours a day, but 2 at a time, with 2 hours break in between. It's in preparing for a coming recital and competition. Some days i manage to get even 8, sometimes,only 4-5. Every cicle i start it with maybe 30 minutes of tehnique exercises.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline bitus

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #7 on: January 07, 2004, 06:35:14 PM »
Chopinetta, Chopin's body would not allow him to practice more... that's why he rarely performed in front of a larger audience than 200 people. His body wasn't strong enough to make the piano sound louder. As far as i remember, he never weighted more than 144 pounds.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline Hmoll

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #8 on: January 07, 2004, 07:18:39 PM »
Quote


 Claude Frank once told me :"there are two things of which everyone lies about"
1."Have you ever fallen asleep at the wheel"?
2. "How much do you practice"?



I totally agree. The last thing you want to take a pianist at his word on is how much he/she practices.

BTW, there are more things that everyone lies about than that.
"I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me!" -- Max Reger

Offline eddie92099

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #9 on: January 07, 2004, 07:23:08 PM »
Quote

BTW, there are more things that everyone lies about than that.


Quite,
Ed

Offline bitus

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #10 on: January 07, 2004, 07:23:32 PM »
lol Hmoll... good point :)
I love the "how fast can you do a chromatical scale?" or any "how fast...?" in general...
Bitus
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline chopinetta

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #11 on: January 09, 2004, 10:15:02 AM »
Quote
Chopinetta, Chopin's body would not allow him to practice more... that's why he rarely performed in front of a larger audience than 200 people. His body wasn't strong enough to make the piano sound louder. As far as i remember, he never weighted more than 144 pounds.


144 POUNDS? well that's thin! do you know how tall he was?
"If I do not believe anymore in tears, it is because I see you cry." -Chopin to George Sand
"How repulsive this George Sand is! is she really a woman? I'm ready to doubt it."-Chopin on George Sand

Offline cziffra

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #12 on: January 10, 2004, 05:24:25 AM »
Quote
Chopin's body would not allow him to practice more... that's why he rarely performed in front of a larger audience than 200 people. His body wasn't strong enough to make the piano sound louder. As far as i remember, he never weighted more than 144 pounds.


that's rubbish!  everyone keeps saying he couldn't play because of his physical weaknesses- have you ever heard young child prodigies?  they're 10 years old and they can make an enormous noise out of the instrument, chopin played quietly because he chose too, and he didn't perform in front of large audiences because he didn't like it.  

sorry for my heated reply but i feel very strongly about this one
What it all comes down to is that one does not play the piano with one’s fingers; one plays the piano with one’s mind.-  Glenn Gould

Offline bitus

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #13 on: January 10, 2004, 10:22:54 AM »
I'm really sory i forgot the source of my saying about Chopin, but it wasn't just the physical weakness... also ilness that he was facing. I don't think it's such a big deal anyway...
The Bitus
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline eddie92099

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #14 on: January 10, 2004, 04:50:47 PM »
Quote

that's rubbish!  everyone keeps saying he couldn't play because of his physical weaknesses-  chopin played quietly because he chose too,


No, that's rubbish,
Ed

Offline bernhard

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #15 on: January 14, 2004, 12:18:25 AM »
Martha Argerich practises as little as 30 minutes and as much as 2 hours. But she does it everyday. (There are also reports that she does not practise at all. No one can trust pianists to tell the truth about their practice, as pointed out elsewhere in this thread :(. )
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline eddie92099

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #16 on: January 14, 2004, 01:21:10 AM »
Quote
Martha Argerich practises as little as 30 minutes and as much as 2 hours. But she does it everyday.


I seem to get away with that amount too,
Ed

Offline bernhard

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #17 on: January 14, 2004, 01:48:24 AM »
'Artists who say they practise eight hours a day are liars or asses' - Andres Segovia

(But then, he played the guitar...) ;)
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bitus

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #18 on: January 14, 2004, 03:09:23 AM »
It's not hard to practice a lot of hours if you split your practicing time into small sections (2 hrs).
However, I'm still trying to figure out how Claudio Arrau practiced 18 hours a day... That would mean 6am to 12am. Did he do it as a regular thing?

The Bitus.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline chopiabin

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #19 on: January 14, 2004, 06:12:53 AM »
If I had time, I would try to practice 4hrs a day, but right now it's anywhere from one to three hours a day with some days being more productive than others.

Offline chopinetta

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #20 on: January 14, 2004, 02:21:43 PM »
oh all right. with this school work going on I can barely practice an hour a week!!! it's going to drive me crazy. I'll just have to volunteer myself to a mental institution to escape the work load.
"If I do not believe anymore in tears, it is because I see you cry." -Chopin to George Sand
"How repulsive this George Sand is! is she really a woman? I'm ready to doubt it."-Chopin on George Sand

Offline bitus

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #21 on: January 14, 2004, 05:19:35 PM »
lol chopinetta, That's some motivation you have!  ;D
Let me give you some tips: wake up at 5, practice 2 hours before school, and then go to bed at 11 after one more hour of practice, instead of 10.   :P
The Bitus
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline eddie92099

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #22 on: January 14, 2004, 09:43:36 PM »
Quote

However, I'm still trying to figure out how Claudio Arrau practiced 18 hours a day... That would mean 6am to 12am. Did he do it as a regular thing?


Sorry it was fourteen (my memory is getting dodgy).

Quote
I used to go up to fourteen hours. That was, for instance, practicing Mazeppa. Even my aunt, who loved music, came in after the thirteenth hour and said, "Darling, please stop. I'm going mad!" And I couldn't have cared less.
Claudio Arrau

Ed


Offline cziffra

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #23 on: January 17, 2004, 01:09:54 PM »
perhaps we should now talk about HOW they practiced, rather than how MUCH

there are a few mostly self taught pianists, such as godowsky, richter, and cziffra (although he did go to the liszt academy)

i must admit i don't know much about the practicing METHODS of the greats- that seems to be their closely guarded secret.
What it all comes down to is that one does not play the piano with one’s fingers; one plays the piano with one’s mind.-  Glenn Gould

Offline bernhard

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #24 on: January 17, 2004, 02:22:27 PM »
Quote
perhaps we should now talk about HOW they practiced, rather than how MUCH

there are a few mostly self taught pianists, such as godowsky, richter, and cziffra (although he did go to the liszt academy)

i must admit i don't know much about the practicing METHODS of the greats- that seems to be their closely guarded secret.


Excellent idea!

I didn't know that Godowsky was self-taught.

Glenn Gould: Did only mental practice.

Walter Gieseking: Mostly mental practice.

Rudolf Serkin and Wilhelm Bachaus: Crazy about scales.

Argerich: practises little. plays a lot.

Claudio Arrau: Was a great believer in practising on a silent keyboard.

David Barr-Illam - Used an interesting practising method: He played silently on a real piano, which means that he had to depress the keys in such a way that no sound came of it (very slowly and controlled). Try it!

Jorge Bolet - Hated practising (but did it anyway).

Alfred Brendel - Considers slow practice misguided. One should always practise at the actual thempo (or faster).

John Browning: "Many people work with tunnel vision. They work on one little section for days and days – or they whiz through the whole work quickly. I learn carefully, conscientiously observing every marking, so I don’t have to undo bad habits. I then practise in middle tempo, not too slow, which is the hardest tempo to practise in. When I feel more or less ready, I play the whole piece straight through, three times in the day, no matter what goes wrong. I try to achieve a large arc, which is what you have to do in a performance. You cannot stop and correct yourself when you are onstage."

Garrick Olson - Practises from the pieces. Stopped playing scales and arpeggios when he was twelve.

For starters...



The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bitus

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #25 on: January 18, 2004, 08:08:26 AM »
Quote


I then practise in middle tempo, not too slow, which is the hardest tempo to practise in.


Very true!! I just realised this couple of days ago... and i'm so found of it! :)

Bernhard, you said, that Argerich played a lot and practiced little. Even if this doesn't really apply to what Argerich was doing, i believe there's a point in there: many of us practice and practice forever, but forget to "play" even when we practice. This has enormous implications to our performance on stage.

The Bitus

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline bernhard

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #26 on: January 18, 2004, 01:52:52 PM »
Quote




Bernhard, you said, that Argerich played a lot and practiced little.



Actually I just reported what she herself said. And  you know how tese great pianists lie all the time about thier practice... ;D
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline piglet

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #27 on: January 23, 2004, 04:47:57 PM »
Didn't Richter move on to next page until he had completely mastered the previous one?

Offline bernhard

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #28 on: January 23, 2004, 11:12:26 PM »
Quote
Didn't Richter move on to next page until he had completely mastered the previous one?


Yes, but it probably took him only a couple of minutes... ;)
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline thracozaag

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #29 on: January 23, 2004, 11:47:31 PM »
Quote


Yes, but it probably took him only a couple of minutes... ;)



 Well, considering he practiced twelve hours a day....
"We have to reach a certain level before we realize how small we are."--Georges Cziffra

Offline bitus

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #30 on: January 24, 2004, 02:38:58 AM »
When Richter came to Cluj-Napoca in the early 80s (a town in Romania) he stood up until around 2 a.m. practicing around 3-4 hours on two measures. The students who were allowed to watch him practice fell asleep :)
The Bitus.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline e60m5

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #31 on: January 25, 2004, 11:49:28 PM »
Hmmm.

I practise around 2 to 3 hours a day if I'm lucky, but that is not every day of the week.

Richter was not self taught. He was a Neuhaus student.

And 144 pounds for Chopin? That is not weak. I myself weigh 110lbs.

Offline bernhard

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #32 on: January 26, 2004, 08:50:18 AM »
Quote


Richter was not self taught. He was a Neuhaus student.



“Sviatoslav Richter, widely regarded as one of the finest Russian pianists of the twentieth century, was born in Zhitomir, in the Ukraine, on March 20, 1915. His father, Theophile, was an organist and gave the young Sviatoslav his early musical training. Richter’s mother, Anna, was a talented artist who loved music and was related to the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind. The young Richter was essentially self-taught and developed his exceptional technique by playing whatever music he liked. By the age of eight he was playing opera scores, including the music of Richard Wagner. He had the ability to memorize any music at sight.
[…]
In 1937 Richter left Odessa for Moscow to study with the great pianist and pedagogue Heinrich Neuhaus. Richter did not take the entrance exam at the Conservatory. He simply asked Neuhaus to teach him. Neuhaus listened to his playing and said, "Here is the pupil for whom I have waited all my life. In my opinion, he is a genius." Neuhaus declared that he had nothing to teach Richter but accepted him as a pupil anyway.”

You can read the full biographical article in:

http://www.trovar.com/str/bio.html
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline willg

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Re: How did great pianists practice?
«Reply #33 on: December 26, 2016, 11:29:16 PM »
I once spoke with Yundi Li after a concert, and he told me he practices six hours a day.



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