Artur Schnabel Quotations

Useful Advice on the Subject of Piano Playing

Most of the Artur Schnabel quotations on this page were taken from Schnabel’s series of twelve lectures at the University of Chicago in 1945, later compiled into a book entitled MY LIFE AND MUSIC , published by Simon and Schuster, and recently released for the first time in its unabridged form as MUSIC, WIT, AND WISDOM: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ARTUR SCHNABEL by Wolke Verlag (2009); and from Cesar Saerchinger’s biography, ARTUR SCHNABEL . Incredibly, these eloquent statements were all made, extemporaneously, in English, a language that Schnabel did not begin learning until his thirty-eighth year!

For more information on Artur Schnabel, Karl-Ulrich Schnabel, and on the Schnabel legacy and family, please click on this link for the Schnabel Music Foundation.

On Making Music

“Spiritual independence is the core of human art production, and art is unthinkable without it.


One should never make any music, not even sound one musical tone, without a musical intention preceding it.

When you play solos, play more chamber music.

First hear, then play.

Immer weiter! [German for “Always forward”, Schnabel’s favorite expression for rallying his students to maintain forward momentum from the beginning of a phrase—and of an entire composition—to the end]


Don’t start with a stop. [Music must flow from the very first note of a phrase].


Interpretation is a free walk on firm ground.

On Technique

The fingers should not be used as hammers. Differentiation becomes very difficult and unreliable. The fall of weights out of a static frame is an anti-musical picture. Flexibility, relaxation, spontaneous command, combined service of all actions to the requirements of expressive musical performance, promise better results, with smaller expenditure, than fixation can arrive at. Expression means going out and up. In and down movements, falling weights, are self-imposed impediments if expressiveness is the aim of the pianist.

There is only one good technique, and that is to attain a maximum of achievement with a minimum of effort. That applies to all physical activity.

On Pedaling

Pedalization is part of the instrument. It belongs to piano playing. The piano is played with hands and feet. One changes the amount of pedal ad libitum, according to the room, to one’s mood, to the occasion—but one always, automatically, employs the pedal.

On Articulation

The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes—ah, that is where the art resides.


[On his legendary detachment from his audience] The chef is expected to cook as well as he can, but he need not necessarily love the eaters!

[On his performing only the greatest masterworks] The difference between my programs and those of other pianists is that mine are boring not only in the first half but also in the second!”