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Studio Class Notes by Carey Skinner

Our Studio Classes are on Tuesday afternoons, and over the course of the year we will share reports from some of these classes. Here are comments from our September 17 and 24 classes.

Prelude to Bach Suite No. 2 – Siggy Yap

Ivo suggested that the quality of sound at the beginning should be darker—not too bright or happy. “Release into first 3 notes, give it more space.” Accentuate natural flow by being aware of the harmonic pedal notes. Use the pedals to emphasize tension and release.

In regards to the chords at the end, Ivo said “Set yourself up more easily by lengthening the note before the first chord.” Open out chest, breathe, and release in your body instead of closing in. It will open up the phrasing at the end.

Don’t lose rhythm in smaller notes, but expand them. Practice with different bowings (as an example, 4 notes to a bow). This shows you how to be rhythmic, like a cleansing process. Adding the “real” bowings later enhances the shape and adds color.

Bailey Firszt suggested that Siggy vibrate less in general but use it to linger on special notes. Be careful not to rush through the chords at the end, and don’t allow a quick vibrato to make it seem so “hasty.” Try to give yourself as much space as possible to accentuate the harmonic tension.

Jill Valentine was concerned that the bowing of 1 separate and 3 slurred made it sound “beat-y” and actually slowed the movement down. She suggested playing around with other bowings that might help the phrase rather than holding it back.

Rebecca Gu wanted more “bottom” to the sound. She suggested adding more character changes through a deeper sound and not to sound too timid or intimate the whole time. “Don’t show something opposite in your stage presence than what you’re playing.”

First page of Hindemith, Op. 11 No. 4 – Jill Valentine

“When you’re practicing on your own you still have to imagine what is going on in the piano part. Think rhythmically about how you’re placing things.” – Ivo

Siggy suggested thinking more about it being a fantasy and to focus on the warmth of sound and color of vibrato to create a more intimate character.

Bach G Minor Sonata, 1st movement – Ryan Fox

Ivo said he thinks the chords in the beginning need more momentum.

Make sure phrases carry through from bar to bar. “Of course it’s improvisatory, but there needs to be momentum; no stopping and starting in the middle of phrases.”

Ivo demonstrated how the opening chord needs to come from above the string in a circular motion; not straight down and not too careful but in one sweeping gesture.

Rebecca suggested that the spontaneity takes away from what Ryan was trying to communicate musically. She said that planning ahead and thinking forward will actually bring out the spontaneous feeling instead of confusing the listener.

Ivo: “We tend not to listen carefully enough to ourselves as we play; it turns into a bad habit. Have a constant awareness; listen to what’s going on, especially in terms of how you’re using vibrato in this case.”

Stephanie Mientka told Ryan he should videotape himself to catch technical issues that inhibit phrasing. For instance, noticing how he leads with his elbow rather than wrist, which chokes the sound.

Hindemith, Op. 11 No. 4, mvts. I and II – Rebecca Gu

Ivo suggests to study the piano score so you know where you need to take and give time.

“Play into the string more. It may sound rough under the ear but won’t project that way within the context of a larger hall and with such a large piano part.” Focus on making one long line at the beginning.

Carey Skinner and Bailey Firszt commented that by keeping the instrument steady and then later adding expressive motions it can help make sure your movement doesn’t get in the way of the phrasing.

Ryan wanted Rebecca to linger more on special notes and not rush through them.

Marie-Elyse Badeau suggested taking the time to plan out how you want to vary the repeated phrases.

Stephanie wanted to hear more change in character by varying bow speeds and not sustaining so much intensity through the entire piece.

Walton Viola Concerto, mvt. II – Meredith Kufchak

Ivo wanted Meredith to vary color by using a lot more bow and not getting stuck at the frog or middle. He wanted her to be much more demonstrative and suggested she do this by “sitting” on the tempo and “spitting out” off beats.

Ryan wanted to hear more of a change in the theme when it comes back. Think about a gesture at the end of notes—don’t just do it and stop, because you’re still performing even in the rests. He suggested Meredith use more bow and a longer stroke on the triple stops section.

Bailey told Meredith that while she sounded prepared with all of the notes, the performance aspect was missing, and she wanted to hear it get more “wild.”

Stephanie commented that Meredith should stay on the back side of the beat and show more determination without rushing.

Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata, mvt. III – Jill Valentine

Ivo commented that a looser, wider vibrato might fit the sound and character better.

Ryan and Bailey commented that playing a direct transcription (which would result in a higher octave in many sections) would bring out the melodic line a lot better. Ivo agreed, saying this gave the sound more of a “zing” and that it sat on top of the thick texture a lot better.


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