I, like most pianists, have a long and at times sordid history with Monsieur Hanon. As I begin to rehab my left hand I thought that maybe a return to the simplicity and repetitive nature of Hanon may be just the therapy I needed to restore coordination and strength following the surgery.
Going through my filing cabinets I found my original copy of Book One of Hanon’s virtuous exercises. I was a little taken back by the dates my first teacher, Velma Snodden, (yes, the little old lady down the street) had written into the book. I had started this endeavor in my second year of lessons. Upon completion of this book with her I moved on to the unending joys of Czerny.
My next contact with dear Charles was my freshman year at college. My teacher said he preferred the “pure” technical work of Hanon to the quasi-musical works of Czerny, so back to Charley I went. Somewhere along the way I had heard it is best to play these gems in all 12 keys, and certainly you can do better than the posted speed limit of 108 to the quarter. So always being one to over-do everything, I spent my youthful energy working every one of the first 20, in all 12 keys, to the magical speed of 144 to the quarter note. Ah, the follies of youth.
I did succeed in my endeavor and in the end asked myself if it had really been worth the effort. There is no way to truly answer this question, though I think I did reach an answer because I never used them in my teaching and had never once played them again after reaching this milestone.
And now here I am in my maturity returning to Monsieur Hanon’s exercises in the hope I will be able to play again at the level I had become accustomed. The paths we take through life sometimes takes us back to where we began for the most unexpected of reasons.