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.

Guide a youngster’s fingers over a piano keyboard, and let him pick out Yankee Doodle. From that moment onward, he will have a heightened appreciation of music.

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.

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

I have discovered three things that know no geographical borders – classical music, American jazz, and applause as the sign of the public’s favor.

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.

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.

Criticism does not disturb me, for I am my own severest critic. Always in my playing I strive to surpass myself, and it is this constant struggle that makes music fascinating to me.

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.

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

Stopped on the streets of Manhattan and asked how to get to Carnegie Hall, Heifetz is reported to have replied: “Practice, practice, practice.”