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.
Stopped on the streets of Manhattan and asked how to get to Carnegie Hall, Heifetz is reported to have replied: “Practice, practice, practice.”
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.
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.
We continue learning every day of our life. But for some of us, too much formal education can result in getting nowhere by degrees.
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 always hear of the “delicate, sensitive artist.” I assure you that it takes the nerves of a bullfighter, the digestion of a peasant, the vitality of a nightclub hostess, the tact of a diplomat, and the concentration of a Tibetan monk to lead the strenuous life of a virtuoso. The great compensation, of course, is the human one. In the course of giving concerts, I have been around the world many times. I know literally thousands of people in all parts of the globe. I don’t suppose there’s a place in the world where I haven’t friends. If that’s not a reward for service, what is?
I feel strongly that every child – not just the musically gifted – should receive some musical instruction. With rare exceptions, children have an instinct for music, are to a certain extent musical, and should be musically developed. For the child’s own future enjoyment and his own satisfaction, he should learn to play an instrument. These days, when we are trying to make things easier for our children, we may be too timid about the process of their learning an instrument. Children should be forced to learn an instrument, gently but firmly.
You must preserve your enthusiasm for playing. Loss of that enthusiasm is deadly to musicianship.
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.