February 2009

Odds and sods.

February 25, 2009 18:27

Odds and sods time again although what everything has in common is being a learning experience. May life continue to be so!
One of the biggest things I have learnt this year is how much useful music of a specific type there is that can be a huge teaching aid:   violin duets.   I have been using the Wolfarht duets with beginners for years and of course the Bartok are part of standard repertoire as far as I am concerned. But, after browsing through IMSLP I have come up with so many off the beaten track duets I still have a boggled mind.   While Spohr are great to play with my advanced students the Dancla ones do well for students around the Accolay level. In the meantime my beginners are working on those by Kreutzer which are absolutely terrific music/pedagogic material.  It really is a powerful addition to the teachers arsenal to play duets. Indeed, as I write this I recall that in her `The Way They Play ` interview the Israeli teacher Fehler said she played many with her students.
Which brings me nicely onto the subject of the person I consider to be in may ways the best of her students and that even includes comparisons with the immortal deities Zuckerman and Perlman. I refer to Schlomo Mintz.   He is an example of a supreme artist who never quite became first choice of player or public alike through no particular reason I am aware of. It really does all boil down to luck I guess. I have recently been listening to his recording of the Franck and have to say I find more in it than I would have thought possible after all these years. He is incredibly key conscious and really bends the pitch to highlight the harmony with incredible acuity and sensitivity.  He also takes the trouble to delineate musical shapes even within the most non obvious places such as the last page of Franck. Light years from the usual impressive but unsubtle crash bang wallop one often hears. The ravel sonata is the personification of sexiness. I cannot recommend this particular CD too highly.
Finally I was kind of struck by a recent experience/conversation I had with a cellist who plays a couple of concertos a year and always comes over for a coaching of some kind before the performance. Hadn’t seen her for about six months.   As she was leaving she said `You know Buri, you are a much better teacher than when I saw you last.`   It seemed like she was surprised and that made me wonder about if there is something implicit in the word teacher that implies one is now a fixed entity in time and space?  Why would I not be a better teacher (not necessarily a good one).  Is it not the responsibility of anyone claiming to offer a teaching  service to constantly strive to improve themselves as much as a wannabe Heifetz preparing to do their first round of college interviews?
A teacher who has ceased to struggle with their own playing and work is not worthy of the name.

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It's comfort food time!

February 1, 2009 18:36


Interesting piano trio rehearsal the other day.  We are currently preparing the Beethoven c minor piano trio for a concert and decided to work only on the slow movement for the first couple of hours of rehearsal. We always plan carefully how we wish to rehearse and stop to evaluate and the decision was taken to not talk unless absolutely necessary but just play through each variation over and over until we all felt it was enough.  Just playing, listening adapting and searching for common ground.   I had to stop the proceedings halfway through the fourth variation.  There is a most beautiful cello solo in innumerable flats. The cellist, who is a very talented amateur, was playing it enharmonically as though sharps were okay. This is one thing a cannot bear because I am certain composers have specific ideas about the  color of keys.   It proved extremely difficult to shift the cellist perception until I played a g flat drone under her solo for the duration. The new sound of the different key was –completely – different.  It was quite astonishing.
After two hours we decided to work on the Debussy trio. This starts with a very calm, flowing piano solo. The pianist, who is normally brilliant, seemed unable to find a line and was wallowing all over the place. The cellist and I exchanged puzzled glances and then the violin came in with the same theme and lo, I was all over the place too, even played a few wrong notes in a piece I know blindfolded as a rule. Then the cellist came in with the same solo and it was though she was fumbling to remember a single note on the fingerboard. We all stopped and burst out laughing as we realized that the intensity of the Beethoven had not only drained us mentally and emotionally but put us on completely the wrong planet for attempting Debussy. We did the only thing possible- lay down on the floor and pigged out on chocolate which the pianist had been smart enough to pack in her extra large handbag Told you she was smart…

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