MASTER CLASS REPORTS
WORLD CELLO CONGRESS III
by Tim Janof (Finholt)
The following are my notes from the master classes at the World Cello Congress III (May 28-June 3, 2000).
David Geringas Master Class
Shostakovich Sonata (First Movement)
Haydn C Major Concerto (Third Movement)
- This sonata has a minimum of two characters, so bring the contrast out (first and second themes). The first theme (m. 1-8) is restless, perhaps about dreaming of good things during gray times. The second theme (m. 71-79) is dreamy and perhaps about love. The second theme was written about 30 years before the sonata was published.
- The tempo in the beginning says 138 beats per minute!
- Important notes are not the long ones, but the ones at the beginning of the bars.
- In order to do a crescendo, you must be playing less where the crescendo begins. In order to do a diminuendo, you must be playing more where the diminuendo begins.
- Don't lose tension in the bow beyond the balance point of the bow.
- The bow is respiration. The fingers just change notes.
- The cello part is always a part of the harmony, so play with this in mind.
- 2nd theme (m. 71-79) -- When speaking about love, one doesn't count one's words. Play long phrases instead of individual notes.
- Shostakovich changed the location of the ritardando (m. 100?) to a few bars later, but this is not indicated in some editions.
- Largo (m. 196) -- Shostakovich indicates 60 beats per minute originally, but he changed it to 72 when he was older.
- Largo (m. 196) -- This section should sound hopeless.
- Largo (m. 196) -- David Oistrakh once told Geringas about listening to KGB officers going up the steps of his apartment building late at night. One would wait for the footsteps to stop, since this indicated that somebody was arrested. Nobody knew who would be taken next. The Largo may be depicting this terrifying experience.
- It's very important that you hear what you are playing musically. Practice slowly so that you discover technical and musical mistakes.
- Don't make accents on the last notes of phrases.
- Classical Period music always has a resolution. You must find it.
- Fast separate notes -- Use the fingers for fast short bow strokes, more than you would for legato. The fastest moving part should be your fingers, not your arm.
- Practice slowly, but in character of the music, using the right rhythms and dynamics.
- All themes go downward in this movement.
- Bring out the difference between motorical and singing moments.
- When there are no musical indications, think musically anyway.
- Each note is like a word. Don't neglect any of them.
Dvorak Concerto (first movement) -- Score number call-outs are based upon the International Edition
[Opening Quasi Improvisando]
[Tempo I -- Vivo (4)]
- Let the second B ring.
- Use more vibrato in the bass of the chords in the fourth measure.
- Measure 9 and 10 of this section -- Do something different the second time (repeated measure).
- One can do faster, electric trills if the fingers aren't raised so high.
- Re-articulate each beginning note of the trills with the bow.
[Second Theme (13 after Number 5)]
- Measure 6 and 8 after 4-- Use a fast bow between the G and C.
- Measure 15 after 4 (High F#) -- Re-articulate each beat with the bow. This gives the left hand time to prepare for each note grouping.
- Use the elbow, not just the wrist, when using vibrato in thumb position.
- Big shifts (old performance trick) -- Slide up to the note quietly. When you reach the note, play out with the bow.
- Thin fingers -- A wider vibrato motion is needed by people who have thin fingers.
- Vibrato -- The arm produces vibrato, not the fingers.
- Vibrato - Don't restart your vibrato on each note. Play with a continuous vibrato as you go from note to note.
[Sextuplets (Number 6)]
- "I like to hear rounded phrases with beautiful arches."
- It takes work to make a beautiful sound. One shouldn't be relaxed.
- Tap your finger on the string to make sure that you are going to play a note in tune.
- Articulate the upper note's movement of the sextuplets.
[Cantabile quasi portamento (10 after Number 6)]
- This is a classic phrase in Czech music. Don't make it beat-y. It should have lilting flow.
- Second bar (triplets on A) -- Place one finger at a time on the fingerboard. This will open up the sound.
- Enunciating notes clearly -- Needed strength comes from the wrist and arm.
- Measure 8 -- Don't play pianissimo. "It sounds as if the pastry has fallen in the oven."
- Measures 9 and 10 -- This phrase repeats itself. Play differently in measure 10 than you do in measure 9.
- Measure 12 -- To find the high C, tap first finger on A until it is correct, then hit the C.
- Measure 12 -- Articulate the B after the high C by whipping the tip on the string on the upbow.
- Vibrato -- Vibrato comes from the elbow and arm, not the fingers. If you do this, you will be able to play with a continuous vibrato.
- Play with one finger at a time, or else you will choke your sound.
- "If you don't have a beautiful sound on the cello, you might as well play the piccolo."
- "You have to have a conscience. If it sounds bad, you must fix it."
- Put weight of the arm in the finger.
- "Sometimes a beautiful glissando is seen but not heard." Sometimes letting the listener fill in the glissando with their inner ear is more beautiful and actually producing one.
- Make sure that your fingers do not leave the center of their notes.
Zara Nelsova - Stage Deportment
- Donít tap your feet.
- Don't show that you are unhappy with your playing. Most people won't notice that there's a problem if you keep a "poker face."
- Tuning -- Tune quietly by tapping the tip of your bow on the strings.
- Keep your endpin sharp!
- Clothes (men) -- Shine your shoes and press your suit.
- Clothes (women) -- Wear nice shoes (not street sandals), necklaces are dangerous, dresses should be made of non-tearing material.
- Hair (women) -- Keep long hair in control so that it doesn't drape over the fingerboard.
- "Love what you do. After all, that's what we're here for."
Yo-Yo Ma Master Class
Beethoven C Major Sonata
- The most important thing about the opening is that the tension is created because a root position C Major triad never arrives.
- Match the articulation of the piano's left hand.
- Trills -- These are an indication of an energy that puts one in a higher level of consciousness. They represent expectation, suspense, and questioning.
Starker/Greenhouse Master Class
- First variation -- The first few notes in the upbow staccatos should be more on the string and then they become more bouncy with the last few notes.
- Use the pianist shamelessly to help you with articulation and tempo.
Victor Herbert Concerto
- "Don't cheapen melodies with over-emotional playing."
- "Every note has to have something poetic to say."
- "You must make changes in the emotional content when a phrase repeats."
- "Long notes must have direction. There should never be a straight line in music."
- "Portamenti are often more beautiful when done with the left hand instead of the right hand."
- It is our responsibility to do the maximum we can with all music, even when it isn't great.
- Use counter-pressure with the knees pushing the cello in order to maintain the sound as you approach the tip.
- Donít lift the elbow too soon on a long downbow.
- "And" is the most important word in music. Say "and" at the end of each phrase or musical idea in order to clarify clearly the musical structure.
- "It is good to be emotionally involved, but one must show it musically, not just feel it."
- "The Herbert has more traumatic content than dramatic content." (too repetitive)
Frans Helmerson Master Class
Bach d minor Prelude
- Don't rely upon vibrato for expression. Look to other means for providing expression, such as the bow and using dynamic contrast.
- Speak with the fingers more, rather than playing in a melodic, Romantic, manner.
- Different notes have different importance (i.e. in measure 9, first beat, the G is less important than the B-flat in the next measure.) Bring this difference out.
- Sequences usually come in 3's, with the last one being the resolution.
- Chord at measure 48 -- Don't become too relaxed in the next measure. One doesn't want too sudden a change in emotional tension.
- Measure 49 -- Bring out the lower voice. The G's will be heard just fine.
- Measure 59 to end -- How you break the chords is a means of expression. Vary them!
- Head movement -- Don't bob your head if it takes away expression. (The student was dipping her head at several points in the music. Nothing was happening musically, but Helmerson could tell that she felt that something SHOULD be happening by her head-bobbing.) Express through the music, not through body movements.
Brahms e minor Sonata
- "You are studying to become a good student, instead of to become an artist."
- One must find a balance between a signing voice and talking, especially in Brahms. You must get a feeling for the spoken word when playing Brahms.
- Measure 8 -- Let the bow provide the expression.
- Always anticipate the next bow. You will play it much better.
- The bow likes the bridge better for creating a full sound.
- "It's not necessary to be rhythmic when the music isn't rhythmic."
- "Shapes and emotions are more important in music like this."
- Try speeding up the bow before applying pressure.
- When practicing, try extremes. A little eccentricity is good.
- We must balance respect for the composer vs. respect for ourselves. Too much of one or the other is bad.
Paul Katz Master Class
Bach E-flat Prelude
- The problem with this prelude is that it risks boredom, especially the first page.
- Dynamic contrast, bringing out points of tension and relaxation, and finding points that are heroic, dramatic, or tender, will serve this piece well.
- Ask yourself, "What do I feel."
- The opening has a character that is large and dramatic.
- Establish the beginning as grand, then vary it from there.
- Find the phrases, where they begin and end.
- Use more bow speed when playing Bach. It shouldn't be so "in the string."
- Strength at the frog comes from arm weight, not muscle power.
- Strength at the tip comes from raising the elbow.
- Sit such that one has mobility, with a wide stance and feet forward. Contrary motion helps with the bow too.
- Use feet for power too. Push with the right foot/leg when you are approaching the tip.
- Clean up the bow changes with finger flexibility.
- "Talent isn't enough. You must formulate musical ideas too."
- A great starting point is to be literal with the score.
- Donít be so emotive at the beginning. Play more in an Impressionistic manner -- electric vibrato, ever-changing sound colors, airy, cloudy, dreamy.
- Vary the color by varying vibrato and bow speed.
- Use bow speed instead of applying pressure to create crescendos and diminuendos.
Zara Nelsova Master Class
- Opening chords -- Give full value to the chords.
- Measure 4 -- The earliest edition didn't have a break between the C and B.
- One of the hardest things in string playing is maintaining the continuity of sound.
- One of the most difficult parts of the theme is maintaining an unbroken line and hiding bow changes.
- When crossing strings, apply extra pressure with the bow in order to maintain the musical line.
- Every finger should be independent in order to free up the sound.
- Casals -- "Whatever you do must be logical. Never do anything that is illogical."
- The weight of the body should be sitting on the strings.
- Play with a continuous vibrato between fingers. Don't restart the vibrato with each note.
- You must feel the entire work as a whole before playing.
- Keep the second finger on the frog.
- She used to have students put adhesive tape on the frog so that students could feel when their second finger detached.
- Use more hair with chords.
- Tilt bow more in the hand to gain more bow contact (not bent wrist though).
- With a bent thumb, one must squeeze muscles to gain the necessary force. With a straight thumb, one can use the body weight to create the necessary force. Use a straight thumb.
- Use arm weight to pull the strings down.
- Support each finger on long notes with adjacent fingers.
- Use relaxed arm weight to create sound with the bow.
Timothy Eddy Master Class
Haydn C Major Concerto (first movement)
- One should come up with guiding idea about a piece before playing it. Then you will have something to judge the performance by.
- This movement is an interplay between rhythmic and melodic moments. The opening melody is more melodic. In rhythmic places, accentuate this; in melodic places pull the string with the bow and sing!
- The bow arm's elbow should move more horizontally than vertically. No flapping of the elbow.
- The fingers should be more active in the bow hand, not just reactive.
- Opening C Major chord -- Build up the chord from the bottom and burst out with the top C.
- "Fiddle players have a little to teach us about the use of the upper half of the bow."
- "Character is not dependent on dynamics. Character is the most important thing in music."
- "Music can feel like a caricature." Exaggerate, go overboard musically.
- Don't let rhythmic ornamentation interfere with melodic aspects.
- Rhythmic bow stroke -- Start with impulse and let it go. Let the impulse play itself out.
- Sound comes from the shoulder from a rhythmic swing.
Elgar Concerto (last movement)
- Practice with a slow bow close to the bridge in order to gain control over your tone.
- Release weight into the string. Relax the bow arm into the instrument.
- The maximum sound is created by pulling the string to the side, not pressing it down. Pull more to the side to prevent pinching of the sound.
- If you run out of bow each time, play closer to the bridge where there is more friction.
- The shoulder should be totally passive.
- Opening (#42) -- Start with a relatively fast bow, moving the entire bow/arm unit in a long arc.
- Opening (#42) -- Explode with vibrato at the beginning, then let it coast by itself. This requires a loose hand.
- One must dare to play heavily and relaxed. We all have worked so hard to play well and with such effort, but what we really need to do is go back to simple, innately powerful concepts. We must find the simple, direct thing that does exactly what we need, not something else. We must find the courage to do something different, to let go; it's like being let out of jail.
- Keep the shoulder down.
- Excitement should be in one's heart and mind, not in our actions. We are all driven by excitement and passion, but these shouldn't be channeled into physically working harder.
- Pay attention to how your arms prefer to move. Don't force them to do something different.
- The elbow must be at a level such that it opens freely.
- Lean forward where it musically makes sense. The head and shoulder movement should be connected to the music output.