The Education of Musical Thinking Through the Hand according to Marie Jaëll (1846-1925)
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Marie Jaëll’s (1846-1925) remarkable career and unique contribution to music deserves far more attention than it currently receives. Jaëll was an acclaimed pianist and a prolific composer, who Liszt rightly described as having "the brain of a philosopher [and] the fingers of an artist." She was the first pianist to perform all Beethoven sonatas in Paris and the first woman to enter the Société Nationale de Musique, founded by Saint-Saëns and his circle in 1871 to promote French contemporary music. Most notably, she distinguished herself by her forward thinking as she became the very first piano pedagogue to become aware of the importance of providing a scientific basis for piano teaching. Aided by French physician Charles Féré, Jaëll dedicated decades to physiological research, determined to uncover relations between touch, sound and musical thinking. She believed that pianists’ hands are a vehicle for creative intelligence and have a potential and artistic destination far more superior than the one reduced by our unconscious and repetitive daily gestures. To Jaëll’s perspective, musicians are neurologists who need to combine the act of creating beautiful sound with the physiological aspects of tactile, auditive and visual senses, of which touch is the pathway.
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