The master-class yesterday with Dr. Soares was thought-provoking. There were four very decent pianists.
A very nervous Chinese-American guy (friend of mine) – Schubert’s Impromptu, Op. 90, No. 4 : not expressive enough.. she was trying to get him to put his body weight into the notes, put more life into them. He come off stage with frozen hands.
Next: a very technically minded musicologist from Prague (an ex-roommate of mine) playing Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in g minor, Op. 23. Form. Texture. Form. Texture. form. Texture. The beginning melody as a monophonic texture – the first note needing to set the tone for the whole piece. First note played again and again until perfection and understanding occur – everyone knows “that’s” the one. The idea is to create an intense sound from the bottom of the keyboard, to use your whole body, to use your shoulders to add weight to it.. to lean into the piece, to treat it like a heartbeat. My favorite concept from this particular segment was not necessarily particular to this piece (which I have loved for some time now and heard many, many times). Once the pianist thinks of the piece as a conversation with types of sentences: statements, questions, answers, etc… it becomes crystal clear – it becomes musical again.
Then: the delicate ballet dancer (someone I’ve had classes with for years now): Souvenirs D’Andalouisie by Gottschalk. Spanish influence is immediate. The piece was played with such delicate hands – and then she made her play it… Bring the Spanish bass line in the left hand forward..use it to move the piece forward.. play it with fire, like a prima donna.
The question came up in my head: When does “I love this song” sound inappropriate? When does music become a “piece”, or a “work”, and not a “song?”..
The last pianist: a good friend of mine from Bosnia – Sonata No. 13 in Bb Major, K. 333 by Mozart. This one was interesting – the piece bores me to tears… but the idea of Mozart as one of the hardest composers to play – the texture is thin most of the time, and so transparent. There are only a couple of notes going on at a time. It brought up the recurring theme to my world these days: just because a piece looks easy on paper doesn’t mean it’s easy to pull off in a performance with the integrity the composer intended. Soares notes, “the rests in this piece are equally important to play as the notes”. She played it well. She learned to “taste the harmonies”…