Did Kreisler Practice?

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Kreisler in October 1930 with dog on board Europa travelling to New York (from Wikipedia)

Well of course he did.  But here’s what he says about practice. “I was only seven when I attended the Conservatory and was much more interested in playing in the park, where my boy friends would be waiting for me, than in taking lessons on the violin.  And yet some of the most lasting musical impressions of my life were gathered there.  Not so much as regards study itself, as with respect to the good music I heard there.”

“I have worked a great deal in my life, but have always found that too large an amount of purely technique work fatigued me and reacted unfavorably on my imagination.”   I bet Mr. Kreisler never got tendinitis!  “It has often done me more good to dip my fingertips in hot water for a few seconds before stepping out on the platform than to spend a couple of hours practicing.”

So Fritz Kreisler was human.   He didn’t want to practice. But of course he practiced.

Even when he got famous he denied he practiced.   When pushed, he’s say he “played” for an hour a day.  He didn’t call it practicing, but his “playing” was an example of engaged practice.

Practice calls for brain power.   Without concentration we need time and constitutions for marathons.  With concentration and a 1/2 hour, perhaps we can do what might take a spaced out player four hours to accomplish.   I know this to be true of housework too.

Serious play is what childhood is all about.  Imagine a child on a beach making a sand castle forming away, oblivious for the need of sun block or the coming tide, or a child on the ball field in the moment of greatness before the ball makes contact, or in the tree fort with pals conquering armies unidentified.  Concentrated play where the task at hand is all encompassing, where we feel we are in own world is what we aim for in concentrated practice.   The practice of play outdoors need not be abandoned for the practice of music play.  The synergy of music into life I think requires play.  Play is concentration and if we learn to play outdoors with our pals, we apply that learning to play with our violins with more ease, and our play will be more imaginative and evocative of our lives and our communities.   The development of play is the development of concentration.

Today while learning a new piece we were going measure by measure and finally my son exclaimed, “I can’t stand all these cliff hangers”.  So I asked, what is the next note, and of course he knew it and we were playing then, not just practicing.

Most children like to play with others, and the Suzuki methodology is quite ideal for having  playing with others a foundation of it’s methods.    Studying at a conservatory or music center exposes children to the practice of others learning to play.    As a child I detested lessons and practice, but going to the music school twice a week and taking in the music trickling out from beneath each doorway and seeing students of all states of being emerging from those doors was magic, and I wanted to be part of it.  Play-practice.

I love this recording of Kreisler playing Liebesleid.  I feel like he’s playing!  

1 comments on “Did Kreisler Practice?”

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