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Arthur Rubinstein’s youthful practice habits

Interviewer: So many children hate to take music lessons. Can you understand this?

Rubinstein: Oh, yes, I was one of them. You see, music lessons mean always this horrible dictatorial attitude of the professors. They slap four fingers and aarh; they shout at you: “Can’t you learn that? You must practice scales!” I mean, it is the same kind of thing children dislike from parents. They are all the time pushed around: “You must do this. Sit straight. You must go now. Brush your teeth again, and now again brush your teeth.” I hated to be pushed and ordered to my piano. I’ll tell you my story about how I studied with closed doors, with cherries and chocolates.

Interviewer: Please do.

Rubinstein: Well, it was when I was living with a private family in Berlin, They were not musical. I had my orders to do two hours practicing. I closed my doors with a key — not to be disturbed. I would put a novel of Zola, or some other writer I was not allowed to read, on the music stand in front of me. Then I had some chocolates to my right and cherries to my left, and I played with my left hand, doodle, doodle, doodle; then I did diddle, diddle, diddle, and chocolates, yum, yum. And, I was reading my book. Then they would say, “Today you really studied with one hand all the time.” Oh, yes. (With mock gravity).

“Rubinstein talks about life, love, music and miracles with Louis Biancolli and Selma Robinson.” Souvenir program (ed. Martin Feinstein). New York: Hurok Publications. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjrgeyDvOjrAhUGeisKHdpKBFoQFjAAegQIAxAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cervantesvirtual.com%2FdescargaPdf%2Fmccalls–a-talk-with-artur-arthur-rubinstein%2F&usg=AOvVaw1BTnzmD6UaJDWXelctUkYk, accessed 14 September 2020.