Annual Piano Auditions and Master Class Coordinator Joan Bujacich and Program Chair Sophia Agranovich were cohosts for this event. Joan announced that 155 teachers enrolled 1,314 students for auditions this year. Next year a new electronic registration system will facilitate the appointment scheduling. Joan praised the six YAMC contestants and their teachers. The two winners performing at the meeting had each mastered and memorized a full musical program.
Sophia Agranovich introduced Dr. Dmitry Rachmanov, Steinway artist and master teacher. Recipient of many honors, member of the American Liszt Society, a founding member of the Scriabin Society of America, and professor of piano and chair of keyboard studies at California State University at Northridge, he is an expert on Russian music and Liszt. Visit his website at dmitryrachmanov.com.
Student of Julia Lam
Jeffrey Koc performed Dumka in C minor, Opus 59, (Scenes from a Russian Village) by Tchaikovsky. The subtitle suggests a piece of various moods: contemplation, declamation, playfulness, dance-like joy, introspection, and more. Dr. Rachmanov thanked Julia Lam for teaching Jeffrey to give a beautiful, polished performance. The master teacher would focus on injecting each section with even more distinct character. The opening Andantino cantabile melody, he suggested, should be played in a dignified, almost grave manner, like a dirge.
“Think of a processional. Be thoughtful, deep in concentration.” When melodic fragments or short phrases are repeated, add interest by varying the dynamics, he advised. “Think of a symphonic scope; orchestrate this piano work.” When the melody moves into the bass, make it darker; imagine cellos and violas. Even when the melody is simple, think of depth, and add weight to convey “inner drama.” Project it with more intense tone. To build a more effective climax, start softer. Shape the decrescendos as well. Use arm weight to maintain volume. In the Con anima section, another theme is introduced. Think trumpets and horns as you play the chords. The L’istesso tempo (giocoso) should be dancelike, more playful and exciting. Staccato notes can be even shorter. Pay attention to the articulation. “Yank the rhythm and have fun.” Instead of proceeding in metronomic fashion, you might take a bit more time going from one “Russian scene” to another. Breathe! As Jeffrey moved through the piece, Dmitry Rachmanov would praise his improved treatment of these transitions.
Coming after the agitato, the Poco meno mosso is very lyrical and more introverted. Start it before getting completely settled, instead of being calm immediately. Delay the true calmato until the melody repeats. When Jeffrey reached the cadenza, Dmitry Rachmanov demonstrated a striking interpretation: he paired a more prominent melody with a quieter accompaniment. The contrast was breathtaking.
At the Moderato con fuoco, poco a poco crescendo, he said, “Here, think Keyboard and be generous with the pedal; sustain an entire measure or more where the chords match.” Instead of rushing toward a climax, you can hold back and broaden the beats. Playing slightly slower implies resistance and builds tension. Broaden to make it bigger. Begin a streak of descending octaves in the treble by holding back and then speed downward. There are a number of triple fortes in this piece, so these strategies to create dramatic climaxes are essential. Eventually, the pace of “Dumka” slackens. The opening theme, at Tempo I, sounds darker. The left hand chords, now played rather dryly, separated by rests, sound almost pizzicato. The right hand plays a singing melody. The end arrives with thunderous claps of chords.
Dr. Rachmanov’s insightful and expert teaching was inspiring. Jeffrey’s ability to incorporate the suggestions was impressive. Bravo, Jeffrey. Brava, Julia Lam.
Student of Beverly Anderson
Joshua Velez performed Un Sospiro by Liszt. Dmitry Rachmanov praised him for his beautiful, thoughtful performance and thanked Beverly Anderson for guiding him. He reflected that Joshua had produced the lyrical quality and smoothly flowing arpeggios essential in playing Un Sospiro. Now he would focus on infusing more passion into the melody and its many reiterations.
Dr. Rachmanov said that throughout the piece, the arms should be free to negotiate sweeping hand crossings; free to use dynamics to nuance melodies and arpeggios and project the tones of the melody; free to make thick textures more pronounced and dramatic. Think of the melody to be shaped; let it rise and then subside.
The arpeggios in the opening bars can swell and ebb in volume. “Think harp; think of plucking. When the melody repeats, play it differently, perhaps with less emphasis. When you reach the agitato con passionate don’t push so much. Be more rhetorical and eloquent.” At the fortissimo impetuoso, (arpeggios with chords) punctuate the passage with the chords. Use more arm for the octaves. It’s a climactic point. Project the melody in the bass, above the chords. Think trumpets. In the softer sotto voce section following, the melody is in the top voice of treble thirds. Wipe the keys of those thirds, carefully projecting the melody, especially in the higher register. When Dmitry Rachmanov played, his abandon and bravura were awesome.
After Joshua played the entire piece again, Dr. Rachmanov commented that the dynamics and flow were much improved. But he continued to offer suggestions. Following the cadenza ending in a scale in sixths, pause long at the fermata. In the next section, use more arm weight to bring out the melody in the middle voice. But avoid locking the left wrist. “Free the sound; let it go!” In the very loud sections, do not rush, and “start with less to build climaxes.” Use the pedal to sustain, but in the cadenzas you may use a flutter pedal. Pianos and acoustics vary, so listen and decide. As you approach the ending, maintain the melodic line and pulse even though you may be crossing arms and searching for the keys. At the più lente, you may take more time to give the melody prominence as you play the rolled chords. Slow the chord progression in the final phrase; give emphasis to the F Major chord.
The closing bars of the Liszt provided a quiet musical ending to the excellent Young Artist performances and the marvelously poetic and dramatic playing of our very special master teacher, Dr. Dmitry Rachmanov. The meeting closed with the presentation of the Young Artist Master Class Adell Williams Award to the two young pianists. The audience enthusiastically applauded the three guest presenters.
Conversation and refreshments followed, provided by Hospitality Chair Karen Dann Sundquist, assisted by Ruth Kallen.
Bertha Mandel, writer
Joan Bujacich, layout
Lisa Gonzalez, photographer