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Author: admin | Category: How To Play Keyboard | 11.12.2015

Peter Feuchtwanger, who has died aged 85, was the go-to teacher for many of the world’s leading concert pianists.
Feuchtwanger had been a promising, self-taught pianist, but at the age of 20 gave up performing to carve out a niche as a teacher. Inevitably his truancy was discovered, but as the truth about his talent emerged his parents arranged a formal piano lesson, where he played the second of Liszt’s La Leggierezza, albeit in F sharp minor rather than F minor.
He was sent to Zurich to become a banker, but wound up in London, took lessons with Edwin Fischer and Walter Gieseking, and gave a handful of public recitals. During childhood visits to Druze and Bedouin villages, Feuchtwanger had absorbed many Arabic musical styles, and at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London he studied Indian and Arabic music, mastering the sitar. Although he was a regular juror, Feuchtwanger professed to disliking competitions, claiming that they “encourage fast, loud and mechanical playing”. Much of his time was split between Munich and London, where he lived in a penthouse apartment near Knightsbridge. Nevertheless, he turned down positions at leading music colleges, claiming that hour-long lessons and the requirement for students to sit examinations were not conducive to his methods.

When he asked her about the fingering for a particularly difficult passage of music she replied: “Whatever comes”, inspiring Feuchtwanger to adopt a similar approach, urging his students to adopt different fingerings each time they played. In 1555 his ancestors had left the Bavarian town of Feuchtwangen, where he would later run a piano festival. Never having seen a score he failed a sight-reading test, and when the teacher placed a volume of Beethoven sonatas on the piano he guessed that they were the slow movements of the Moonlight, Pathetique and Appassionata sonatas. His performing career ended after he turned up at a concert expecting to play one Beethoven sonata but found that another had been advertised which the promoter insisted he play, even though he barely knew the work. Malcolm Binns performed his Variations on an Eastern Folk Tune at the Wigmore Hall in 1958. Many of his students were “secret pupils”, famous pianists who did not want it known that they were still studying.
Although he was seen at many concerts, he was an unassuming presence, offering only words of kindness and encouragement. Some called him the Zen master of piano playing, with his belief in relaxation, deep breathing and total calm.

His father, Theodore, a cousin of the German-Jewish novelist Lion Feuchtwanger, was a bank director in Munich who fled Germany early in the Second World War, taking his family to Haifa. One of his more promising “unknowns” was Domingos de Vasconcellos, who drowned in the Marchioness disaster in 1989. He started playing them from memory, but the record player had been running too fast, so he had memorised the works in the wrong key.
Although he was easily able to transpose the Liszt into the correct key, Feuchtwanger was so embarrassed by the teacher’s scolding that he never returned. His Raga Tilang, for violin, sitar, tabla and tamboura, was written for Menuhin and Ravi Shankar’s collaboration at the Bath Festival in 1966.

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