Saturday, March 13, 2010

American piano master gives master classes in Jerusalem

Following his solo recital in the Henry Crown Auditorium of the Jerusalem Theatre March 6th 2010, American pianist Richard Goode conducted five days of master classes for pianists at the Jerusalem Music Centre and at the Edward Aldwell Center for Piano Performance and Musicianship (Jerusalem.) Pianists taking part ranged from age 12 upwards, the more senior players being students of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music (Tel Aviv).

On March 8th, I spent some time auditing Goode’s master class at the Jerusalem Music Centre. His work with the students centred around the gestures and meaning of works they had chosen to play. Discussing Mozart’s Sonata in A minor K.310 with young pianist, Yishai Rubin, a student of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Goode talked about the sonata’s first subject being unusual, a little crude in fact, and the very different “other world” of the second subject where “defiance” is followed by “a sorrowful plea”. The maestro reminds us that in Mozart’s music “opera is never very far away”. Goode drew attention to changing dissonances and talked about how to get the right effect of “calando”. He suggested Rubin use the sustaining pedal sparingly….only where strictly necessary. Regarding the second movement – Andante – Goode stressed the importance of giving it a “kind of swing” and of its opening phrases that serve as a kind of “invitation”. He talked of the noble octaves in the left hand to be played in strict rhythm, with the melodic right exercising a little more freedom. Also, on the subject of expression, Goode commented that “the composer’s markings are more drastic and surprising than our feelings”.

Gili Loftus, a student of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, chose to play Schubert’s Sonata in A major, D.664. Goode placed emphasis on the gentle character of the opening and giving the major section a little more warmth, on playing into the key note of a phrase, on making repeated notes “float”, “meditating as if time stops”.
In his discussion of the second movement, Goode talked of Schubert’s lightness which the composer ennobles, of the hands playing independently and of the fact that Schubert is fonder of pianissimo than most other composers. “Piano is a dangerous dynamic”, he reminds Gili, “but it does have its more piercing moments”. Goode talks of the importance of Schubert’s harmonies and of addressing all the dissonances in the sonata.

Richard Goode is a softly-spoken person. The young pianists were focused and relaxed in his company. They enjoyed trying out the maestro’s suggestions. The audience, comprising of students, piano teachers and other people, was presented with a wealth of artistic ideas and much food for thought.

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