A masterclass with Stephen Hough

I recently discovered this interesting selection of videos (which appear on YouTube) highlighting masterclasses given by eminent British pianist Stephen Hough. They were recorded in last year (2016) at the Aspen Music Festival and School in the USA.

Featuring a wide range of standard repertoire (Including Reflect dans l’eau by Debussy (Images Book 1), the third and fourth movement of Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35 by Chopin, and first movement of Sonata in A flat major Op. 110 by Beethoven), they are performed by students at the school. As so often found when observing public classes, there is much to learn and absorb from each one. I hope you enjoy them.




My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

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Yuja Wang’s master class debut

As many will know, I enjoy highlighting master classes. Public ‘lessons’ can be beneficial and interesting for many reasons, whether for teachers, students or anyone who loves the piano. Most of those previously featured here on my blog have been given by pedagogues or more ‘mature’ artists, but the following videos offer something different; a brief but fascinating insight into the piano world of Chinese star, Yuja Wang.

Uploaded in January this year, these classes were filmed at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv, Israel. All three videos are substantial ‘lessons’ and there’s much to glean from Yuja Wang; this is apparently her ‘master class’ debut too.




My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

A master class with Garrick Ohlsson

I’ve been working in Germany over the weekend, tutoring a bilingual piano workshop near Düsseldorf, so I thought it appropriate to highlight a master class today.

Gelsenkirchen is a city in the North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany, and I’ve been visiting a couple of times a year since 2014, providing free piano classes to those who would not normally have such an opportunity. I love this concept and am very grateful to Kery Felske (director of IKM Gelsenkirchen) and our sponsors for their unwavering support, enabling the possibility to continue this important work.

The class always consists of a variety of levels and abilities (and age ranges!), from complete beginners to advanced players (probably to a standard comparable to UK diploma level), and this weekend focused on those who hadn’t played much before, although there was one intermediate to advanced level pianist. Classes are held in English, and for the younger participants this can seem somewhat daunting, but it hasn’t proved problematic as yet.

The value of an ‘open piano lesson’, which is ultimately what a master class or workshop is, cannot be underestimated; it presents a chance to observe a variety of musical and technical issues. Solving such challenges can be of benefit to everyone and therein lies its beauty. Hopefully, those who attended our two-day event found it useful, and will be encouraged to further develop their playing.

The following master class was given by leading American pianist Garrick Ohlsson and features Chopin’s Etude in A minor (‘Winter Wind’) Op. 25 No. 11 played by Netanel Grinshtein and recorded at The Jerusalem Music Centre last year.

As always, there’s much to enjoy in this class and I hope you find it of interest:


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

A master class with Andrei Gavrilov

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. As we say goodbye to 2015, I’m posting this master class given by Russian pianist Andrei Gavrilov. I interviewed Gavrilov in 2013 and his interview is one of the most fascinating of all my 40 filmed interviews with eminent classical pianists (you can view them all here).

This master class was recorded in Glasgow at the Piano Festival in 2014 and I hope you find it interesting. You can find out much more about Andrei Gavrilov here, and you can watch my interview with him which was filmed at Monkton Coombe School, linked below:


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

A Master class with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

Today’s post highlights an interesting chamber music master class given by French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. It was recorded live from the Daniel & Joanna S. Rose Studio at the Lincoln Center in New York on October 19th, 2015, and has been published by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The class features students from Yale School of Music, Manhattan School of Music and the Juilliard School.

You can find out much more about Jean-Efflam Bavouzet here.


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

A master class with Jerome Lowenthal

Today’s post features a master class which I hope will be of interest. Jerome Lowenthal is an American classical pianist and noted pedagogue. He is a member of the piano faculty at the Juilliard School in New York, where he was also chair of the piano department. Additionally, he is on the faculty at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California (where this master class took place in June 2015).

It’s fascinating to watch public classes, and so much can be absorbed from observing great teachers. You can find out much more about Jerome Lowenthal here. Enjoy!


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

A Master Class with Leon Fleisher

I’m off to Germany today for a weekend of piano workshops, so thought it appropriate for my Friday post to feature this master class given by American pianist, conductor and master teacher Leon Fleisher. It was recorded at the Music Academy of the West’s Summer Festival in July this year.

After becoming the first American to win the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition in Brussels in 1952, Leon Fleisher has enjoyed a glittering concert career, despite suffering a debilitating condition of his right hand, later diagnosed as focal dystonia, a neurological condition that causes the fingers to curl into the palm of the hand. He teaches at Peabody Conservatory of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and regularly gives master classes around the world. I hope you enjoy it.


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


Bilingual Piano Workshops in Germany

I enjoyed another wonderful time in Germany over the weekend, and love being part of a bilingual piano project, organised by singer Kery Felske, and supported by the IKM Gelsenkirchen (in the Ruhr region). The workshop concept is becoming increasingly popular, with classes running all day on Saturday and Sunday. Young (and older) pianists are now coming from further afield, from various backgrounds, and from all age groups too. Anyone can come and play, irrespective of standard or ability, and it’s always interesting to witness the improvement made by the participants; both during the weekend and over the months between classes. Several pupils have come to every workshop thus far.

Saturday’s session (which lasted around five hours), included some technical work, namely Czerny exercises and some scales. British exam boards are not popular in Germany, and some students weren’t familiar with scales, but it wasn’t long before my group digested the various keys and fingerings (the Grillo Gymnasium, where classes are held,  is equipped with several practice rooms on site, allowing pupils to work on their own). Participants practiced between classes on Saturday and Sunday, and progress was most impressive.

After a further all day session on Sunday, we host a late afternoon concert for family and friends, although classes are also open to the public. The concert provides a platform for every student, and it motivates them to work that much harder, because they know their efforts will be on display. I’m perpetually concerned as to whether two days is really enough to substantially make a difference to a pupil’s playing, but each student has risen to the challenge beautifully.

Repertoire ranged from C.P.E Bach’s Solfeggietto H.220 and Burgmüller’s L’Orage Op.109 No. 13, to Mozart’s Sonata K. 331 in A major, and Waltz in B minor Op. 69 No. 2 by Chopin. Pupils generally present standard repertoire, but I’m looking forward to eventually hearing some Contemporary music!

All classes are conducted in English, posing few problems for young German pianists. Several more workshops are planned for 2015, as well as a Summer Piano Course in 2016. The IKM Gelsenkirchen are involved with a variety of musical events, from pop and rock concerts, through to classical recitals. They stoically represent German commitment to culture and the arts, and I’m very grateful for their interest in this project.

You can purchase my book, So You Want To Play The Piano?, which is packed with practice tips and important piano information, here.

www.ikm-ge.de 

https://www.facebook.com/IkM.Ge

Pic 2 Germany

Working on a Mozart Sonata with one of my students: Photo by Kery Felske

My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


Master Classes in Gelsenkirchen

I had the great pleasure of giving master classes and workshops recently in Germany. The town of Gelsenkirchen (around a thirty minute drive from Düsseldorf) provided the backdrop for a weekend of intensive piano playing. Seven students had signed up for coaching over a period of two days which culminated in a little concert late Sunday afternoon. The classes were held at the Grillo-Gymnasium, although the pupils came from various schools in Gelsenkirchen. I also taught a further six students towards the end of my visit who were all pupils at this particular school.

Our venue, the school hall, housed a large Yamaha grand piano. A small audience was present during each class, which grew substantially for the concert, perhaps indicating the interest and demand for piano classes within this area. You can see us in action by clicking on the video link below, which shows short excerpts of a few classes.

I was invited to be involved in this venture by Kery Felske, a singer, who works tirelessly promoting and organising artistic events in Gelsenkirchen and beyond. This concept is very much a community project; many of these students are self-taught or have occasional piano lessons. With this in mind, it’s quite an achievement to play at all, especially after such little preparation and practical help.

We worked on many different aspects of piano playing from the pupil’s chosen pieces (everything from pop tunes to a Chopin Waltz), to exercises and scales (and as will be evident from the video, some pupils had never played scales before). Each student had two individual lessons albeit in public and in English (this is a bilingual school), followed by several opportunities to practice in between lessons in the practice rooms provided. This was all quite a challenge for the pupils, and one which they met beautifully. There is no doubt that everyone had improved considerably from the first lesson to the concert performance, but sadly you will have to take my word on this, as the film doesn’t include any concert clips!

www.ikm-ge.de


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

The Importance of Master Classes

It was a delight to be invited to give a master class for EPTA (the European Piano Teacher’s Association) in Brighton last Sunday. The special event entitled  ‘Young Pianists’ Performance Day’ was the first of its kind, and was superbly organised by pianist and teacher, Helen Wilson, who holds the Regional Chair for EPTA. Our venue for the afternoon, The Friends’ Meeting House (pictured below) on Ship Street, was resplendent with a Yamaha grand piano and ample space for an audience.

A master class or workshop is essentially a public lesson; the actual definition (according to the Oxford Dictionary) is ‘a class, especially in music, given by an expert to highly talented students’. Classes such as these can be very useful; you don’t have to participate to learn, in fact, those who observe can often absorb more, purely because they haven’t got to worry about the stress of performing. Public lessons have been popular for many years and are frequently associated with ‘star’ performers or celebrity teachers. Most world-class artists, from the late great  ‘cellist Jacqueline Du Pre to current star Chinese pianist Lang Lang, have all at some point given master classes or public lessons, and those who participate invariably come away with greater knowledge and inner confidence.

There were two halves to my class; the first consisting of young players from around age 6 to 10 years old, and the second featured more experienced pianists most of whom were preparing for exams from around Grade 7 to Diploma level. I have given public classes before and have always enjoyed the experience very much; it’s important to share knowledge and it’s  immensely satisfying helping pianists of all abilities achieve their goal, whether that be passing an exam or to carry on improving.

The smaller pianists played a pot-pourri of arrangements and exam pieces, whilst the more experienced class presented a myriad of composers and works; Handel’s Allemande from Suite No. 12, Mozart’s Sonata in C minor K.457 (first movement), Chopin’s Nocturne in F minor Op. 55 No.1, Debussy’s Deux Arabesques, Shostakovich’s Lyrical Waltz, MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose, and Brubeck’s Take Five. Being a ‘Performance Day’ rather than a straight class, the pianists all played their entire piece or pieces first and I wrote a comment sheet for each one, in a similar way to a festival (although this wasn’t a competition, so marks were not awarded), then at the end of the mini concert, each participant came back to the piano and we started work.

One of the great aspects of classes such as these, is the performance practice instilled in all participants. I have written about the perils of performing and how to combat nerves many times before on this blog, but the act of ‘getting up and doing it’ cannot be underestimated. Most of the performers gave very competent, confident performances, but for those who weren’t so happy with their efforts, they can take heart from the fact they took part, because that, in itself, is an accomplishment. This is the reason ‘Performance Practice’ sessions such as this one are so crucial, they play a very important role in the development of young players and must be encouraged. EPTA are a wonderful organisation who do much to promote the advancement of young pianists by holding copious workshops and performance opportunities all around the country.

One interesting feature running through both classes was the similarity of piano playing issues; many young pianists have related concerns and this isn’t always due to having the same teacher (several different teachers had entered pupils at this master class). Larger tone production, more musical line and the balancing of sound between the hands, as well as sound projection, needed addressing during many of the sessions. Each pianist responded very well (it’s never easy having to change or adjust in public and at once) and there was definite improvement at the end of each participant’s class.

Using the body effectively for good tone production is crucial, so we worked on this issue and spent time exploring ways to employ arm weight, use wrists flexibly and keep shoulders down. Raised shoulders is a frequent problem especially when nerves come into play. Technicalities such as these can’t be solved in a single master class but it is possible to make students aware of these underlying matters so they can be addressed in lessons.

One other facet which ran through both classes was the subject of rhythm; it’s always a biggie and affects virtually everybody at some point or other. I have written before about sub-division of the beat; this can be one of the most compelling and potent methods of keeping and staying in time. It’s all very well using a metronome (which can be very useful incidentally), but if the beat is broken down into smaller denominations, then students are able to learn to account for every note thus neither rushing ahead or pulling behind the beat. Sometimes it can be helpful to count aloud, and this was what we did a couple of times – complete with audience participation!

Audience members consisted mainly of parents, siblings and teachers, and many remarked how much they had enjoyed and learnt by attending. For those who have never been present at their child’s lessons, this type of session can be a revelation. The whole event was great fun and I wish EPTA Brighton the best of luck with their future piano events.

You can find out more about my forthcoming master classes and workshops here.

www.epta-uk.org


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.