The June meeting was a delightful ending to a colorful, inspiring season at MEA. After the votes to continue with the slate of officers for 2017-18 and to accept the revised Bylaws, members were treated to outstanding performances by three young artists. The YA Master Class was conducted by Victor Rosenbaum, a favorite pedagogue and performing artist. Still at New England Conservatory, he also serves on the faculty of the International Keyboard Institute and Festival (IKI) held in NYC at Hunter College.
Student of Sophia Osokov
Conor Hampton, 13-year-old student of Sophia Ososkov, very artistically played the first two movements of Haydn's Sonata in F (Hob. XVI). The first, Allegro Moderato, was extremely good technically and Conor was true to the markings within the score. It was precise and accurate. Mr. Rosenbaum commented that good editions of Haydn's works are readily available. However, when they are "bad," they are very bad. The Schirmer edition, for example, has far too many accents and edits; even the Peters is over-edited. The closer you get to the original, written in 1773, the fewer the edits. Haydn's style calls for more charm and grace. So when playing the two-note slurs, strive for a gentler approach — even funny or coquettish. The slurs should not be too brittle; avoid the "hiccups" and pull back a little, especially at the end. Many of the accents indicated should not be there. On the downbeats they're OK, but not the upbeats. Question the dynamic markings too; are they appropriate for what the composer may have intended? Overall, play more instinctively; keep it playful and round out the phrases more, so they are more lyrical and in Haydn's graceful style.
In the second movement, Adagio, Conor's body language expressed his connection with the F minor theme. He was obviously feeling the melancholy or sadness. Mr. Rosenbaum again questioned the need for accent marks at the end of the slurs. In this section, the LH needs to move quietly underneath, to play with more elasticity — not too mechanically, and perhaps a little faster, to help bring out the "sadness." Try it with the pedal. You want the RH melody to be very clear and singing; play it sweetly, not dry, then it's gorgeous. Try also subito piano; it can be very effective in the melody line. In the 4th - 5th systems, when the RH has no bass underneath, try playing the melody line as a cadenza.
Student of Sophia Agranovich
"As fast as possible!" That's how Schumann instructs his G minor Sonata (Op. 22, 1st movement) to be played; then faster and still faster! Sophia Chen, student of Sophia Agranovich, had an amazing command of the piano and played very skillfully, with great maturity. So much of Schumann's personality is inherent in this movement. It is agitated, driving, intense. From the first chord, you must "leap" into the emotion and show its intensity. Breathe, but don't slow down the tempo. It shouldn't sound "nice." Bring out the LH thirds in the 4th and 5th systems, but be careful with the pedaling — you want it to be drier for more clarity (since it moves so fast). Bring out the RH melody more after the F7 arpeggio on the second page. Think about context, not so much contrast. Any p should be for "persuasive," not "puny," and any quiet passage should not be too pale.
In the second section (after the repeat), the LH continues with lots of energy as the RH crescendos into dialogue between the hands. It is a constant buildup with syncopations — almost gasping. And here Mr. Rosenbaum gasps, gasps, gasps, to prove the point. They create a "motoric" presence. The music transitions back to a pleading melody in the RH and then more gasping at a frenetic pace. You know Schumann died in a mental institution? Play with imagination and intensity!
Student of Beatrice Long
The third young artist, Yulia Kuzniar who studies with Beatrice Long, confidently played four of Prokofiev's Visions fugitives, Op. 22. She began with Number 5 — Molto giocoso. Mr. Rosenbaum pointed out, "these pieces are so short, you don't want them to end too quickly." In contrast to Number 6, Con eleganza (with elegance), the tempo marking Molto giocoso has not so much to do with the tempo, but more the character, meaning "playful." Brahms used the word giocoso in the tempo marking of his Intermezzo in C Major, Op. 119, No. 3, which Mr. Rosenbaum demonstrated by playing the opening extra fast. With Prokofiev, he wondered if rather than being so fast, No. 5 could express a more charming character? Make a lot of the articulation and forte. Almost hold back; take extra time for a big interval.
With Number 6 — Con eleganza, Victor mused, "I am getting the animato (marked in the music between staves); what qualities do you associate with elegance? What may be described as elegant? A dress, elegance in manner, a woman who moves gracefully." Make larger gestures; use flexible timings; create fluidity. Consider longer ends of the two-note slurs; the piece will sound more eleganza than giocoso. Regarding tempo markings, the few words composers use are designed to spark our imagination. It is never enough to do just what a composer puts into words. There is a whole range of possibilities. We have to feel it. Like an actor, we become the part. Being faithful to the score is a liberation, the limitation is ourselves. As we deepen our understanding, we are liberated.
Number 8 is one of the most lyrical of the Visions fugitives. Marked Commodo, it means comfortable, not too pushed. Prokofiev adds motion by writing 16th notes at the same time he writes slower (meno mosso). Number 9, Allegretto tranquillo, should sound more graceful and calm. The tempo was more allegro vivace, with a little too much activity. Prokofiev's dynamics are like Mozart's, with a piano here, a forte there. Be strong early so you can make a diminuendo later. [Note: To hear the composer play various Visions fugitives, starting with No. 9, search for "Prokofiev plays Prokofiev Visions Fugitives" on YouTube].
At the conclusion, Mr. Rosenbaum thanked the very talented students and the teachers who do so much work. "All I have to do," he chuckled, "is dance around the room and sing!" It was a magnificent musical morning.
Victor Rosenbaum. Former chair of the New England Conservatory piano department for more than 10 years, Victor Rosenbaum still serves on its faculty and on the International Keyboard Institute at Hunter College in NYC. He also taught at the Eastman School of Music and Brandeis University, served as piano chair at the Eastern Music Festival, and as Director/President of the Longy School of Music. He gives master classes and lectures worldwide.
As a soloist and chamber musician, he has performed in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Israel and Russia. He has appeared in solo performances with the Indianapolis and Atlanta symphonies and the Boston Pops and has collaborated with such artists as Leonard Rose, Arnold Steinhardt, Robert Mann, and the Cleveland and Brentano String Quartets. Festival appearances have included Tanglewood, Rockport, Yellow Barn, Kneisel Hall, Kfar Blum (Israel) and Musicorda, where he is on the faculty. Also an accomplished composer, conductor and recording artist, Rosenbaum has received high praise for his CD's: Schubert: Music From His Last Year (2015); Rosenbaum Plays Mozart (2012); and Beethoven Trilogy (the last three sonatas, 2006).
Written by Charlene Step and Beverly Shea
Layout, Joan Bujacich
Photographs, Lisa Gonzalez
Joan Bujacich, Master Class Organizer and Hostess Reports:
Eleven students performed for the Master Class Audition on June 4 at The Country College of Morris. The judges were David Witten and Kazuko Hayami. Congratulations to all the teachers who entered students in this year's YA Master Class Auditions, we appreciate your commitment and hard work in preparing these talented young pianists:
Sophia Agranovich, Beverly Anderson, Anna Gnatenko, Ruth Kotik, Sherry Lai, Beatrice Long, Sophia Osokov, Thomas Parente and Marina Stefanovsky
These were the programs that the winners performed at their YA Master Class Auditions:
Yulia Kuniar age 15
Bach: Prelude and Fugue No.16 in G minor, WTC Book 1
Beethoven: Sonata Pathetique, Op.13, 1st and 3rd movements
MacDowell: Preludium Op. 10, No.1
Prokofiev: Visions Fugitives' Op.22, No.5, 6, 8, 9
Conor Hampton age 13
Bach: Prelude and Fugue No. 21 in B flat major, WTC Book 1
Haydn: Sonata Hob.XVI in F major, 1st and 2nd movements
Liszt: Etude in A Flat Major, Opus 1
Sophia Chen age 12
Bach: Prelude and Fugue No. 16 in G minor, WTC Book 1
Beethoven: Sonata Op. 78
Schumann: Sonata Op. 22 in G minor, 1st movement
Chopin: 2 Etudes Op. 10 - No. 3 and No. 12