Watching Artists Teach

By Erik Petersons on December 16, 2015

While it is only concerts that are typically reviewed, there have been a number of outstanding master classes our artists have given that deserve some attention.  During the past two weeks, three of these events showcased their skillful ability in communicating their craft to students.  They are also a testament to the talent of young musicians from around the city, confirming that classical chamber music has taken hold as a thriving and relevant art form in the next generation.

The day before his recital, lutenist Hopkinson Smith went to Curtis to coach a violist, cellist and a guitarist separately on movements from Bach’s Cello Suite in C Minor, BWV 1011 (which also exists as the Lute Suite in G Minor, BWV 995).  It was fascinating to watch “Hoppy” work with different instruments other than his own and describe how each present unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to communicating the affect of a work.  With all of them, he emphasized the importance of hearing the melodic line thread its way through complex harmonies—showing each student how to play in a way that helps the audience identify and follow this theme.

The following Monday, the Dover Quartet headed out to Temple University to work with two ensembles performing Dvorak’s String Quintet No. 3, Op. 97 and his String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96.  The Dovers gathered around their counterparts in each ensemble (pictured above), leading the students through the music and discussing how technical decisions (e.g. fingering, positions and vibrato) shape the interpretation of the work.  It was obvious that they had a great facility and understanding of the music.  Their choice of words and demonstration of phrases on their own instruments confirm that they are gifted in channeling their personal artistry into compelling instruction, something that is not easily done.

Then, this past weekend, the Parker Quartet coached students from the Philadelphia Sinfonia who have been working on Dvorak’s Piano Quintet.  Attention was given to how an ensemble works together—communicating, supporting and playing off one another.  With the work already under their fingers, the students responded well to the Parker’s guidance and it was clear to the listeners that they were making strides to coordinate their parts together to create a seamless whole.  For the rest of the full orchestra that sat in on the master class, many of the ideas that were discussed were just as valuable for a larger ensemble, reinforcing the ways an orchestra works together.

If you are interested in hearing the artists that appear on the PCMS Season talk about the process and joy of making music, then plan to join us for one of the many open master classes scheduled for the New Year.