The Exercises of Peter Feuchtwanger
I was fortunate enough to have worked with international piano guru, Peter Feuchtwanger, during the early 1990s. Aside from some lessons I had with him on repertoire where he talked exclusively about style and interpretation, I studied his very special exercises with him.
When I first encountered the exercises in a masterclass, my inclination was to reject them completely but, as a curious young piano teacher, I kept an open mind. I am very glad I did. After many weeks of dutiful practice of these exercises under Peter’s supervision, I began to feel a significant difference in the amount of muscular effort I needed to use at the piano (often I just needed to do much less to get the same, or a better result).
These are basically anti-finger exercises - the diametric opposite of muscular activity that traditional exercises tend to be based on. They rely on flat fingers, hanging hand positions and a completely loose arm that generates most of the motions involved. For those with tension or injury, the exercises will help put your playing into neutral so that when you return to more supported arm and hand positions you will be aware of any tension or excess effort you might have become accustomed to over the years.
It takes a leap of faith to embrace these exercises and, while I did not need to throw out the technical approach I had received from my main teachers, I found I was able to incorporate Peter’s ideas into my playing and into my teaching. They certainly made a significant difference.
To get the best out of the exercises, you would really need to study them with someone who has received them from the source, but I offer them here as a tribute to my work with Peter and to satisfy the curiosity of the many pianists who ask me about them. Thank you, dear Peter, for your unique contribution to the world of piano playing. You are much missed!