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Editor’s blog: Fritz Kreisler’s telling me not to practise

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I’m knee deep in The Strad archive at the moment, looking for articles to include in a forthcoming supplement about violin heroes, and I just came across a wonderful interview with Fritz Kreisler from a 1933 issue.

Asked about his practice routine he replies: ‘I am of opinion that a master musician is he that does not practise at all. The reason being, that much practice tends to cramp one’s technique, and generally to make one play in a mechanical fashion.

‘The secret of my method, if I may say so, consists of my having to concentrate and exert myself, when on the platform, much more than if I had previously practised the music for many hours. The extra alertness required to master any uncertainties that may exist, enables me to play all the better.

‘Naturally, one has to train and develop one’s fingers properly first before attempting to adopt the method of non-practice. For me, the most important thing is, that I have a clear idea in my mind as to how I wish to make a given piece of music sound. My hands are only of secondary importance, for they are merely the executive organs of the mind. I never trouble much about my hands, and I am of opinion that in order to make the fingers supple and to allow the blood to circulate freely, three minutes’ immersion in hot water is as good as three hours’ practice.’

Sadly, the ‘non-practice’ method never worked for me, although to be fair I’ve never tried the ‘three-minute’ trick. Has either technique turned any of you into virtuosos?