For many pianists, teachers and students, masterclasses, lectures and workshops can play a fascinating and beneficial part of ongoing musical development (when do we ever stop learning?).
Last Friday night I attended the first event of the new London Piano Festival (of which pianists Katya Apekisheva and Charles Owen are artistic directors) held at King’s Place. Legendary Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel (who has retired from the concert platform), gave a lecture entitled From Exuberance to Asceticism focusing on Liszt’s monumental Sonata in B minor S. 178, a work which he has performed countless times during the course of his career.
Following on from the hour’s presentation, pianist Dénes Várjon treated the packed auditorium to a performance of the piece, after which Alan Rusbridger interviewed Brendel about his career and his relationship with Liszt’s music. Brendel’s many illuminating observations, during the lecture, threw light on the challenges when preparing and performing such a work, and he punctuated various musical episodes and thematic developments, with demonstrations. These ruminations were compelling both from a professional pianist or piano teacher’s perspective, as well as from a piano lover’s viewpoint.
Earlier last week, I was introduced to a series of video master classes (on Youtube) given in 1987 by the great Hungarian pianist and pedagogue György Sebők. Sebok died in 1999, however his legacy continues through those students who were fortunate enough to enjoy his teaching. A consummate teacher, he was amongst the glitterati of professors (at that time) teaching at the illustrious Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, US.
The following video clips offer a wealth of interesting advice and suggestions, which centre around Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35, played by Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam. This is a piece I performed as a young student, and I found Sebok’s ideas engaging, witty, and extremely useful, especially his thoughts regarding sound and movement. I hope you enjoy them!