Sunday, March 06, 2016

Masterclass on Piano Trio playing - Mendelssohn

In Search of the Miraculous....

Master Class with Menahem Pressler (video) - Mendelssohn/Mozart.

I spotted this on Norman Lebrecht's classical music page.
Totally brilliant and inspiring. Do watch.
When I played a few years ago in a good piano trio (flute, cello, piano, with flute often playing violin parts) this is exactly the kind of fine work we loved.
So beautiful was this Pressler masterclass playing, after the students were given advice, that I had to keep pausing the video, and walking away and then returning. I couldn't take it all in at once, it was so miraculous! So lovely! So tender, and yet so architecturally intricate.

Of course there are many typically 'human performance' features going on in these film clips.
Firstly, the opening performance of each trio group is full of adrenalin, normal nervousness, and unsureness of how much to project for that new audience in that new acoustic space. I found the playing forced and wooden, and often lept ahead to hear the improved versions instead.

When the Pressler coaches, you can see the players relax into listening very closely in new ways, more like a "coaching lesson", something they are more used to, that gives them time to make adjustments and experiment.
All at once they are being asked to make their dynamic levels more delicate; to draw the audience in to them. And any unconscious rhythmic problems are pointed out (Why are you speeding up here?), letting them settle into more professional transitions that make better dramatic and songful sense.

 As the students play the teacher's corrections, of course, the adrenalin begins to settle, as they are humourously chided and made to call and respond, they become less tense, less afraid.

 Most importantly, the emotive singing, playing and talking of Master gives them feedback that allows them to imagine their best audience. When Pressler speaks and corrects them he conveys directly what he is listening for; he becomes the very fine ears for which they are playing, so all of a sudden they KNOW who their audience is and what acoustic or colour to create.

When the great ears of a master performer sings for you, to show you what to do, then suddenly the miraculous begins to take place. This is learning that is immediate.

Amazing. Enjoy.

Best, Jen on a Sunday