The Perfect Curve

If I were to ask you which online topic was most likely to provoke the largest amounts of spittle-flecked invective and steam-eared ranting on both sides of the debate, you’d probably suggest, say, the presidency of Donald Trump or the actions of Meghan Markle. Ha. Think again. If you really want to go down that particular cyber rabbit-hole, then try searching for ‘Should I play with curved or flat fingers?’ Then stand back as your computer explodes in a shower of capital letters, exclamation marks, and sarcasm.

What is it about this subject which causes such a commotion? I asked three superb performers and highly-regarded teachers – Chenyin Li, Ian Jones and Ronan O’Hora – what their thoughts were, to see if I could shed some light on the issue. Can flat fingers ever be useful? Why is curving the fingers such a dominant method? Could different schools of pianism and repertoire demand different approaches? Surprisingly – or perhaps, given the unresolved nature of the topic, not so surprisingly – all three had different opinions on the matter. But, as if to prove the peppery nature of the question, they all politely asked to make qualifications after I’d sent them draughts of what I’d written.

One of a kind

I’ll come to my interviewees’ responses in a moment, but first I’ll take a look at where this argument really began, and still has its epicentre: in the playing of Vladimir Horowitz. If

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