An interview with the great super virtuoso pianist Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938),who is famous ( and notorious… ) for his incredibly complex arrangements of, for instance the Chopin etudes. Not many pianists can play them. However, I notice a kind of revival of interest in these crazy ,but gorgeous and brilliant works. The most amazing fact for me is that the man was practically self-taught !
The following is from an interview he gave in 1928 for Etude Magazine:
“Knowledge, character, culture, education and thoroughness are the great determining factors. It makes no difference whether you get these in school, college, conservatory or not— get them you must or suffer the consequences. Better not concern oneself about the moderns until the classics have been mastered. If you want to bathe in music, don’t worry about the Greeks of musical art when there are oceans of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin.”
“what is self-taught?
“The very word ‘self-taught’ may easily lead to misunderstandings which are difficult to correct. In a broad sense, all artists of high achievements are ‘self-taught’, notwithstanding the fact that they may have spent years with teachers. On the other hand, there is some difficulty in conceiving one who is wholly un-taught. We are all susceptical to impressions that come from the outside. We may not receive direct instruction through regular lessons; but we absorb ideas and information from all manner of sources.often this process goes on unconsciously. It does seem, however, that there are some people who have such marked innate gifts and understanding of basic artistic principles that it is difficult to account for their achievements unless one is to accept the oriental theory of re-incarnation.
How, for instance, is one to explain the genius of Mozart or of Schubert?In mere childhood they were developed far beyond their elders. Surely no teacher could possibly have taught them all that they knew in such a brief period. It should be remembered , however, that these are altogether exceptional cases.
With the majority of pupils, a thoroughly schooled and ably trained teacher can shorten their periods of work enormously and spare them from making fatal blundersin the path of progress. Even imagines that a great teacher with a great name will carry him to triumph unless he (the pupil) supplies 90% of the effort (the motive force) , he is doomed to disaster.
“Now here is an astonishing thing. Although I never practiced studies and exercises of any kind in the ordinary sense, I achieved a peculiar reputation as a great technician. But I make a marked distinction in the matter of technic. To me technic should include everything that has to do with the craftsmanship that leads to a beautiful, artistic and soulful performance. The finger mechanism is to my mind only a small part of technic; for the word should embrace phrasing, touch, expression, nuance, rhythm, and so forth.”