Artur Schnabel

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Artur Schnabel (circa 1906)

Artur Schnabel (April 17, 1882August 15, 1951) was a pianist and composer, born in Lipnik in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Lipniki in Poland). He moved to Britain and then America, becoming a US citizen in 1944.


  • Applause is a receipt, not a note of demand.
    • Saturday Review of Literature September 29, 1951.
    • Explaining why he never played encores.
  • The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides.
    • Quoted in the Chicago Daily News, June 11, 1958.

My Life and Music (1961)

  • I am attracted only to music which I consider to be better than it can be performed. Therefore I feel (rightly or wrongly) that unless a piece of music presents a problem to me, a never-ending problem, it doesn't interest me too much.
    • p. 121
    • Often misquoted as "Great music is better than it can be performed".
  • Children are given Mozart because of the small quantity of the notes; grown-ups avoid Mozart because of the great quality of the notes.
    • p. 122
  • I know two kinds of audience only – one coughing, and one not coughing.
    • p. 202

Quotes about Schnabel

  • There are two things about Schnabel. I think he was certainly one of the most important influences of the twentieth century, pretty much on all music. But what was most striking was the level of inspiration every time his fingers touched the keyboard. It was a highly moving, almost kind of life-transformative experience. And one of the reasons was there was little caprice in his approach to music. ‘Because I feel it that way’ was never a sufficient reason to do something; that is arbitrary and it had no place in his lessons either. Everything that he did, he could point to the text, and the text - an urtext, an original text - was terribly important to him. His edition of the Beethoven sonatas is so instructive because his ideas and suggestions are in a different print than what Beethoven wrote; you can always distinguish between Beethoven and Schnabel. But that kind of dedication, that kind of musical integrity to the desires and instructions from the composer, gave it an authenticity that was irresistible, and that was combined with his level of inspiration. Very quickly, it became impossible to distinguish between Mozart and Schnabel, Beethoven and Schnabel, or Schubert and Schnabel; he became the musical personification of the composer, which is why it was so irresistible what he did.
  • Schnabel himself was an extraordinary composer, and actually thought of himself more as a composer than as a pianist. He wrote absolutely rhapsodic music, and endless pieces. All of his pieces, I think, are 45 minutes long! (laughs) Nothing of the little tidbit variety for him…
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