by Fergus McWilliam, Berlin Philharmonic and the author of "Blow Your OWN Horn"

fergusFor an intensive period of several weeks in the summer of 1978 I had the great good fortune to study with the great Danish hornist and teacher Wilhelm Lanzky-Otto. I visited him daily at his private home in Stockholm, each time for up to 6 hours of the most intense work I think I ever did in my life. He was in his 70th year at the time and no longer played the horn, so I never heard his famous sound, but his pianistic skill and musical knowledge seemed to know no limits. The whole time he sat at the piano and accompanied me through what seemed like the entire solo repetoire for horn. 

Wilhelm never really commented on my horn playing in any technical terms, instead he concentrated on the music I was attempting. These seemed in fact to be more coaching sessions than horn lessons. He was such a good pianist and sensitive accompanist, that he could and would allow me to indulge in all kinds of ill-considered tempi. If I unconsciously started to speed up or slow down he would simply indulge me until I hit the wall. Then he would just look at me quizzically and the point was made. I cannot remember him ever telling me how to interpret something, rather he seemed to want me to find my own voice. And along the way I soon discovered that every musical change was accompanied by an appropriate technical adjustment. It was the discovery of this formula which has confirmed the basis of my own teaching: that musical playing leads to technical improvement.