London’s most sought-after piano teacher has died

London’s most sought-after piano teacher has died


norman lebrecht

June 19, 2016

We are receiving reports from various pupils that Peter Feuchtwanger died on Saturday, a week before his 77th birthday.

A Hitler refugee whose parents took him as a newborn baby to Palestine, he was profoundly influenced by Clara Haskil and taught the principles that she espoused. He also studied with Edwin Fischer and Walter Gieseking, always opting to teach rather than to be a performer.

He worked closely with Martha Argerich before she won the 1965 Chopin Competition (he said she really didn’t need him at all). He taught in Karlsruhe and Basle, and held guest professorships in Salzburg and at the school founded by his friend, Yehudi Menuhin. He composed a work for violin, sitar, tabla and tamboura which Menuhin and Ravi Shankar played and recorded. He was fascinated as a composer by Asian tonalities.

Above all, he was in high demand for his exceptional masterclasses. He made his home mostly in London.

Peter Feuchtwanger was unique unto himself. His first piece of technical advice, quoting his first teacher, was: ‘You have to imagine that you’re holding an apple in your hand and that your fingers are like little hammers.’

peter feuchtwanger

Students mourn a legendary piano teacher.


  • Jorrit says:

    Being a Feuchtwanger student myself, I must correct the last alinea: Feuchtwanger taught us NOT to hold an apple and move the fingers like hammers. It is though a very common idea pianoteachers use. Therefor F always made clear that we should get rid of this idea and devellop a free unconditioned Technique. Thanks, Jorrit van den Ham

    • David Lau Magnussen says:

      I also, being a Feuchtwanger student, much object to the last quote. He used that story in order to emphasise why he left the traditional way of thinking – and never returned to that teacher ever again!

    • Daniel Roberts says:

      I also agree with the statement above that Peter’s advice was not what is quoted in the article above.

  • Phillip Sear says:

    Very sorry to hear this. I never saw him teach, but some 20 years ago I regularly went to the lunchtime concerts at St. Olaves’, Hart Street, London. Peter Feuchtwanger would often bring his students to perform there, and I was always struck at his interesting choices of repertoire for them. I recall Clara Schumann as being a favourite, at a time when hardly anyone played her music.

  • Frederik Malmqvist says:

    Dear Norman. Thank you for the article. I must however also ask you to please correct the last sentence which I am sure is just a typing error. As you know he used the example of “apple in your hand” and “fingers like little hammers” to demonstrate what NOT to do and he always advocated playing with a rather “flat” hand. I hope you are well. All the best, Frederik Malmqvist

  • Nicholas Routley says:

    Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. I was privileged to be his pupil for 9 years, in the 60s and early 70s – he later said that I must have the record for enduring him. My piano-playing is entirely Peter-built. I second Jorrit’s comments above – please take that out of any obituary, it’s terribly wrong. His technique was all about fluidity, and persuading the audience that the piano was not a percussion instrument by “singing” with the hands – and the hand-shape he strove for was based on the famous cast of Chopin’s hand, with fingers only very slightly curved.

    Since I happen to share my birthday with him, I shall pause a moment on the 26th to mourn him.

    Nicholas Routley

    • vivien e Robinson says:

      Vivien Robinson
      I am extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Peter. I too was very privelaged to have lessons with him for 14years.
      I was introduced to him by Carola Grindea in 1999. I had focal distonia and couldn’t even play a simple scale. He taught me his special exercises over 2 years and gradually I regained my skill and eventually a piano playing technique better than ever before.
      I owe so much to him and he certainly changed my life.
      As a special tribute to him I am playing ” Joropo” by Moses Molero – a work he taught me 10 years ago with all his alternative fingerings.
      I would also like to strongly contradict the technique mentioned—–hand shaped like holding a ball and fingers like hammers!!!!!! Peter was SO AGAINST this dreadful way of playing.

  • Elisa Neugart says:

    Lieber Peter,
    wir vermissen dich so sehr und sind tief traurig, dass du schon von uns gegangen bist.
    Wir danken dir für deine unendliche Sanftmut, dein Einfühlungsvermögen und deine Geduld mit der du die Quelle in uns freigelegt hast, aus der echte musikalische Empfindung, Freude und Inspiration sprudeln. Danke auch für deinen wunderbaren Humor mit dem du in deinen Kursen und deinem Unterricht eine Athmosphäre von Stressfreiheit, Offenheit und Leichtigkeit geschaffen hast.
    Dabei ging es dir immer um die musikalische Essenz, um die Auflösung von Eitelkeiten, Selbstinszenierungen und Ängsten.
    Dein eigenes Spiel, dein unverwechselbarer Klang haben uns bewegt und beflügelt.
    Mit deinem unvergleichlichem Wissen hast du uns nicht nur Klavierliteratur und -technik vermittelt, sondern viele Türen in das musikalische Universum aufgestoßen, Neugierde und Leidenschaft auch für Unbekanntes geweckt.
    Du warst mit den großen und größten Musikern, Dirigenten und Sängern deiner Zeit verbunden und hast uns wie selbstverständlich daran teilhaben lassen.
    Danke für die wunderbaren Momente, in denen ich gemeinsam mit dir ganz besondere Aufnahmen z.B. von Superviva Clara Haskil u.a. aus deinem kostbarem Schatz lauschen durfte.
    Du hast so oft die Ungerechtigkeit in der Welt beklagt. In deinem eigenen Leben und Alltag aber hast du dich durch deine Bescheidenheit und Großzügigkeit, wo immer es möglich war, bewusst um einen Ausgleich gekümmert.
    Lieber Peter, wir werden deine Ideen weitertragen und die Funken mit dem du das Feuer entfacht hast.
    Elisa Neugart

  • Paul Weeren says:

    Being also a student of Peter Feuchtwanger, I am still sad about his passing away. We as his students learned so much! Not just about music or piano playing but also about life. When I went to his lessons or masterclasses, my ears where really opened to the wonderful sounds and the real messages of the compositions. He will be greatly missed and remembered.
    I see it as a task to give others what he has given us and to keep teaching his unique and natural way with the piano (and NOT with apples or hammers in mind, quite the opposite)…
    Bye Peter, do rest in peace being assured that your ideas will live on.
    Paul Weeren

  • Martin Smith says:

    He has returned to my consciousness from a stray remark on an otherwise crevasse-filled Facebook Piano Technique group. I recalled how he is mentioned in ‘The Piano Shop on the Left Bank’ – a strange work blending fact and fiction. This was from about 2000. I remember John Russell of the RCM saying to me: oh, x decided to come to me, he had been with John Lill but it was all too narrow and technical for him… And thus I knew – years back – that there was a downside to the orthodoxy always outside the reach of my own upbringing and intellectual sphere. And when we saw people like Ogdon we knew that greater minds find other pathways. What it really boils down to – and this is heresy – is that the very greatest pianists, he, Gould, Richter and I guess Argerich (to say nothing of Lucas Debargue) actually p l a y b y e a r – and fit their arm and hand movement to what their ear and mind in steller, astral mode, is telling them at a very high baud rate indeed! The implications of this is that a great deal of things could be done differently: and that my tendency to work from the music in my mind and ear – fastidiously prohibited to me in my formative years – may not be so idiotic after all..