Géza Anda

The Pianist


When we talk about “the musical spirit of Géza Anda”, we are referring to a conception of music that goes far beyond the practical side of piano-playing and the boundaries of a particular repertoire. It is more of a spiritual concept which occupies one’s whole being, encouraging the unfinished personality to move within reach of the complete work of art. The “festive” quality of Anda’s musical style, and the poetic lyricism of his subtly moulded sound, are forms of expression which, in his Schumann, would reflect the dualism of Eusebius and Florestan. His later gravitation towards the clarity of Mozart’s music was the fruit of a long intellectual process, comparable to the way Schumann drew his portrait of Master Raro in the Davidsbündlertänze; it’s a similar process that makes reason the halfway-house between impulsive power and inner collapse.


Anyone who saw in Géza Anda’s podium personality a firebrand one moment, or a hardheaded intellectual the next, would have gained some insight into the two fundamental qualities of this artist. There was an intelligence at work which put itself relentlessly at the service of intuitive musicality. When Géza Anda stepped onto the podium, there was no question of him indulging in the thought-processes for which he was so celebrated. They were already integrated into the act of drawing on whatever spiritual power he had at its disposal to narrow the gap between the performance he had in his mind and its technical realisation on the keyboard. He called this technical realisation a “spiritual conception”; “finger-work” was for him synonymous with “head-work”. And in his ongoing quest to raise tension by increased relaxation, he worked in the manner of an artist who gives his public the impression that he is playing with the music, instead of suggesting the music is freely playing itself. He achieved this after a long struggle, involving endless attention to technical minutiae. Only then, once all such problems had been solved, could he think of magicking the musical structure and inner contents of a work onto the piano.

The “musical spirit of Géza Anda” is an intellectual quest, constantly oscillating between two poles: on the one hand, the scarcely attainable ideal of total mastery of artistic expression; on the other, the daily pursuit of the highest technical standard. This pendulum is sustained by virtues such as dedication, perseverence and unremitting self-criticism.

Géza Anda always felt he alone was responsible for the quality of his performance; he refused to blame the piano or the audience. And he never tied his pupils to one particular interpretation: he insisted on the correct execution of the notes, and then let them shape the piece themselves. There was only one prescription: you had to persuade him of the validity of your interpretation.

Indoctrination had no place in his “musical spirit”; it was more a question of expecting some sort of unity between an imaginary interpretation and the fulfilment of one’s duty. Which brings us back to the heart of his intellectual quest – the appeal which a complete work of art makes to the incomplete personality.

Extracted from chapter nine of “Sechzehntel sind auch Musik” – Documents of Anda’s life, selected and introduced by Hans-Christian Schmidt (Artemis & Winkler, Zürich, 1991)