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Basic Principles in Pianoforte Playing (Dover Books on Music) Paperback – June 1, 1972

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

This little book, written at the height of his career by Josef Lhevinne, the "inward poet of the piano," is a clear statement of principles based on his lifelong experience in performance and teaching. Lhevinne was, with Rachmaninoff, Schnabel, and Hoffman, one of the great modern masters, and was the first artist invited to teach at the newly formed Julliard Graduate School of Music.
Technique, through essential, must be subordinate to musical understanding. Complete knowledge of scales, apprehended not mechanically but musically; understanding of the uses of rests and silence, which Mozart considered the greatest effect in music; a feeling for rhythm and training of the ear; these are the basic elements of a thorough grounding in musicianship and are accordingly emphasized in the opening chapters.
The heart of the book is devoted to the attainment of a beautiful tone. Anyone who has heard Lhevinne play or has listened to one of his recordings will know how great were his achievements in that area. The secret lay, at least in part, in the technique he called "the arm floating in air," and in the use of the wrists as natural shock absorbers. The achievement of varieties of tone, of the singing, ringing tone, of brilliancy, of delicacy, and of power are all explained in terms of a careful analysis of the ways in which the fingers, hand, wrist, arm, and indeed the whole body function in striking the keys. There are further remarks about how to get a clear staccato and an unblurred legato, about the dangers of undue emphasis on memorization and the need for variety in practicing, and special comments on the use of the pedal, which should be employed with as much precision as the keys.
Throughout, specific musical examples are presented as illustrations. The author draws not only upon his own experiences and methods, but upon the examples of Anton Rubenstein and of his teacher, Safonoff, for this remarkably lucid and concise formulation of basic principles.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Music
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; New edition edition (June 1, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486228207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486228204
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Mohamad Al-Dah on August 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Anyone listening to Josef Lhevinne's thirds etude by Chopin (op 25/6) will testify that he's got a wealth of technique, brilliance, and amazing tone. In his encompassing yet concise book he attempts to portray is very artisic beliefs to the reader. This book will help even the most advanced pianist, and the ideas presented are very clear and easy to understand. Lhevinne spares no effort to decorate his book with extensive excerpts by famous composers, mainly Chopin, Rubinstein, Liszt and Schumann. A recommended read for all pianists and anyone who enjoys listening to this great instrument. The book is relevant to all pianists regardless of level.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Josef Lhevinne has done an oustanding job in BASIC PRINCIPLES IN PIANOFORTE PLAYING. He covers many useful topics such as sight-reading, rhythm, practice, using the pedal, legato, but the majority of this book is devoted to the secret of a beautiful tone.
Although this book is very short (the material is supposed to be basic, after all), Lhevinne manages to effectively illustrate everything he presents by applying each principle to excerpts from well-known classical pieces.
As a pianist who is trying to improve his technique, I would highly recommend this to anyone who is seeking to do the same.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By BLee on January 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
A well written book using only simple language, very easy to read. It's always better to get something right from the horse mouth--i.e. from someone who is really great, however brief it may be, instead of someone who merely aims great and is in fact no more than a mediocrity, however great their great pupils might be!
In a nutshell:
(1) Remember that the musician is the horse and the pianist only the cart; and, rhythm being the "spirit of music".
(2) Always seek for a rich singing tone, touch being the key.
(3) How to do it? Use the cushion flesh of the fingers supported by loose wrists as shock absorbers; " hold" instead of delivering blows to the keys ; and also give your left hand parts indivduality and independence "and your playing improves 100%", and a lot of other practical tips...
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By kyara on July 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Perhaps the previous reviewer did not take note of the title - "Basic Principles in Piano Forte Playing", which is just what it is - nothing more, nothing less. Josef Lehvinne is of the old school of thinking, namely, he believes that only meisters should be teaching how to play music, although he grudgingly acknowledges that demand outstrips supply and American "method" teaching has reached acceptable standards. I dread what he would think of me trying to teach myself. I could make fun of his attitude, but in reality he is a perfectionist, and that is what it really takes to make an outstanding musician of any instrument. Furthermore, he shares in a very readable style what is important when mastering the piano. Even a beginner like me can appreciate the value of his very generous advice. Every page has at least one or more important gems, and his style of writing is such that you are sure to remember them!
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Joel Marcus Johnson on March 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
In a way, I can understand the attitude of the reviewer below who prefers to play the piano with a waffle iron --- that is, who claims all notes sound the same no matter how the keys are struck. What a tragic attitude. But it is true, also, that in the latter half of the 20th Century, much of piano playing was reduced to the mere technicalities of hitting the right notes in the right places at the right time, the poetry of the music pretty much forgotten, displaced by waffle iron tachnique.

Lhevinne truly is one of the pianistic giants of the first half of the last century, among the giants of the late Russian romantic school. Schonberg (I think it was) wrote of him as among the pantheon of performers, along with his colleagues Levitzky, Rosenthal, Rubenstein and such youngsters as Horowitz and the forever young Earl Wild. Rachmaninov said Lhevinne had the greatest left hand technique of any pianist. His few recordings, even though not re-mastered, leave you breathless.

I am willing to enjoy the idiocyncratic few pages of such a giant. If you were into baseball, wouldn't you enjoy a few pages of Joe diMaggio? Of course, probably not, if you use a waffle iron instead of a bat.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Nadine Reece on August 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book has a wealth of information. It is a both scholarly and concise read, with musical terminology and examples to please serious pianists, but written in a style that is helpful to amateurs as well. Its shorter length and lower price make it an ideal study tool for high school and college piano students.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A. Gundrum on November 2, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book I have read several times over, highlighted important text and applied to my everyday practicing. It is a excellent read on how to play beyond notes - touch and feel.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Verona on September 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is still the most influential source on the Russian School of Piano Playing. It starts here - all other publications follow it. Still THE best book on piano playing.
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