Quotations

Throughout his career, Jascha Heifetz was known for many wise, amusing, and occasionally perplexing statements that were reported in the press, or shared with family members, audiences, and students.

Here are some of the most memorable ones.

There’s not a living human being who doesn’t need luck. You need luck every time you give a concert. You worry about weather and transportation. Trains and planes are sometimes late; taxis have been known to break down. Then, at the hall, you worry that a string might snap or the lights fail, or that a page-turner might flip over two pages at once.

You must preserve your enthusiasm for playing. Loss of that enthusiasm is deadly to musicianship.

The discipline of practice every day is essential. When I skip a day, I notice a difference in my playing. After two days, the critics notice, and after three days, so does the audience.

We do not need to be educated musically. We simply need to guard against musical miseducation. Our own ears, unless they have grown so used to mediocrity that they have lost their keenness, will do the rest of the job for us.

Instinctively we recognize good music, and somehow or other, we know the real thing. When I have played in country schools where the children had never heard a flesh-and-blood musician in their lives, they listened attentively when I played first-rate pieces. When I played second-rate pieces – as an experiment only – they wriggled and stared out the window.

There is no such thing as perfection. You establish a standard and then you find out it is never good enough. When I play a piece well, I always hope that I’ll play it better tomorrow.

You can “just listen” to the Brahms violin concerto and enjoy it keenly. But if you read about Brahms’ life, you appreciate it more. And, if you’ve listened to recordings of it, you will appreciate it ten times as much.

Can you appreciate music without playing it? Of course you can, in the same way that people who are not athletes get enjoyment from attending a game to enjoy the crowd, the excitement, and the experience.

That’s for me to know and for you to find out.

We continue learning every day of our life. But for some of us, too much formal education can result in getting nowhere by degrees.