Some valuable hints for piano students were dropped by Herr Emil Sauer the other day in the course of an interview with a Manchester Evening Mail reporter. After recounting the principal incidents in his early career, the distinguished pianist spoke as follows:—Nicolas Rubinstein was truly a great teacher. His creed was that it is not how long one practices, but how. And he taught us how. He taught us how to utilize our brains as well as our fingers. It is the brains which are chiefly taxed. Playing must become merely mechanical if such is not the case, and in these inventive days mechanism can accomplish this kind of playing much better than the human fingers. I never practice now longer than four hours a day, and I never play formal exercises or studies. Beethoven’s concertos and Hummel’s works, not to mention the compositions of other masters, contain ‘exercises’ infinitely more valuable than any which have ever been written with the express purpose of attaining digital agility. After once acquiring technical perfection in the playing of a composition, I throw my whole mind and soul into the reading in order to infuse feeling and expression into every note. Consequently I have to be enthusiastic when I practice, or give it up.
“No; I do not study every effect and every expression. That would be the merely mechanical again. Oftener than not when I am playing before an audience the music rouses something within me, and I find myself giving entirely new interpretations to passages.”