Untitled Document

Peter Feuchtwanger and the Feuchtwanger Techniques


Peter Feuchtwanger is an interesting case because he is a largely self-taught pianist who arrived at his conclusions about technique through experimentation that was free from the dogma of any of the traditional schools. He learned many of the great masterworks for piano by ear off an old 78-rpm record player. This gramophone ran a little too fast, with the result that he learned Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata in C sharp minor, the G sharp minor Ballade of Chopin, etc. He finally brought these works to a teacher who was appropriately astounded at an ability that could learn that well even in the wrong key!

Feuchtwanger has developed a series of exercises to relax the hand without making it totally powerless. These are bizarre to watch, because the hand is made totally, incredibly limp, then flopped onto the keys like a dead fish, but somehow the exact angle at which it is flopped – the overall choreography of the movement – results in the fingers playing all the notes of a passage accurately and with wonderful tone.

He never speaks about the hand’s arches, generators of pianistic potency, and yet if you study practitioners of his methods closely you will see that that hand’s arches manifest themselves naturally, automatically, when they are needed while remaining absent (the dead fish limp hand) the rest of the time.

When Feuchtwanger’s techniques work, they do so because of the unstated components of a pianistic action that do take place although he does not overtly direct you to do so. The desired result is achieved through indirect means. You flop your hand on the keyboard like a dead fish, but from somewhere inside you a subtle impulse arises; the reflexes of your fingers activate and the keys are depressed in rapid succession; the notes sound with an incredible grace, lightness, fluidity and ease. The relaxation is so profound that your grosser, larger muscular efforts are inhibited and only the subtler, finger and more exact finger enervations take place.

It must be said that Feuchtwanger’s techniques are not for everybody. If you already possess certain requisite abilities or talents, these exercises can help your technique blossom into new lightness and subtlety. However, if you lack certain pianistic ‘building blocks,’ these exercises will likely confuse and destabilize more than anything else. They need to be done with understanding, and it cannot be said that his approach to piano technique is global or comprehensive. It is wonderful that, like Mathias Alexander, Feuchtwanger arrived at such an informative and empowering experience of the pianistic hand entirely through his own experimentation, ear and intuition, but his ability to help other pianists advance is limited to those whose previous learning prepares them for work in such an esoteric stream of piano technique.

Buy the DVD and book at http://www.peter-feuchtwanger.de/

Price/Value Quotient

The Peter Fecuchtwanger Piano Exercises: Book/DVD: €65.00 (not available separately)               

Slightly overpriced: passable value for money

Piano Technique Reviews is a division of Piano Technique.net, a site owned and operated by Maple Grove Music Productions, the company devoted to developing the pedagogical materials - books, DVD's, online video lessons and live piano institutes - associated with Canadian pianist Alan Fraser's Craft of Piano Method.