Fingerings are like shoes. They don’t fit anyone else

Fingerings are like shoes. They don’t fit anyone else


norman lebrecht

April 12, 2021

From a 70th birthday interview with the wise French pianist Pascal Rogé:

I remember a phrase of my teacher, Lucette Descaves: “Fingerings are like shoes, they don’t fit anyone”. Something I often repeat to my own students, BUT if my teacher was not “directive” on her fingerings, she had a few “principles” that were very helpful: “always follow the shape of your hands… avoid turns… if you have a choice, certain fingers are more expressive… or more powerful… so, choose carefully…” and although she was a pupil of Marguerite Long, she disagreed with Long’s motto: “no thumbs on black keys”, a rule I personally never understood!

Happy birthday, Pascal.

He goes on to say he owes his career to his parents’ cleanign lady: ‘she introduced me to Julius Katchen, he got me my first recording’.


  • E says:

    Happy Birthday!
    Lovely interview, and music in the background.

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    Yes I well remember Pascal’s debut recital at Wigmore; He played Brahms-Handel Variations fantastically – I believe he was 17.
    I was at Wilfred Van Wyck’s office and had taken on Pascal’s management at Julius Kitchen’s recommendation. Julius thought the world of Pascal and was already very sick with cancer. He wanted to attend the recital but was unable to do so. We tragically lost him the following year at the age of 42.
    Bonne anniversaire Pascal from Annabelle!

  • “…avoid turns”

    What does that mean in this context? I don’t expect this refers to the musical ornament known as a “turn” nor to page turns.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    A very youthful 70 year old. An inspiration to us all. Thanks so much for posting

  • zeno north says:

    Still one of my favourite recordings of Ravel’s piano music. He catches a particular valedictorian glow in the final pages of Jeux d’eau that I’ve never heard anyone else duplicate. (And lest I be misunderstood – I’m not saying this is the “greatest” or “best” recording of Ravel’s piano music. Just that it’s one of MY favourites.)

  • BRUCEB says:

    One of my favorites. He has been a guest soloist 3 times with my orchestra, and has been wonderful every time. He also seemed to be a very nice guy, not at all a prima donna. So, M. Rogé, if that is a pretense, please keep it up! And happy birthday 🙂

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    At 3′ 0″: How true. If only more musicians followed this advice.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    4′ 44″: Also true. Choudens is one of the worst culprits.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    What a star. Great interview.

  • Nick says:

    Why M.Long said “No thumb on a black key”? The classic answer is simple: because the thumb is shorter than other fingers. But it is not a rule, it is just a logical preference and can be easily deviated from. But in principle it is a good rule.