Each year at the International Summer School of Music at Dartington, musicians and teachers of high renown are invited to teach us students during the day and to play for us in the evenings. (I've written about the summer school in years past.)
This year, Simon Fischer taught violin during the String Players’ Week. He taught two classes: one for music students, and another for non-professionals. I had the good fortune of being in the latter class.
Though his books and teaching techniques have been discussed frequently, not much is written on v.com about Simon Fischer’s public teaching (but see Laurie's report ). Now that I’m trying to, I sense why. Unless one is an observer and not a participant, the writing is as much about the writer as it is about Simon’s teaching.
Be warned: this is only about my experience. And one is only aware of how much information is given, when one tries to write it down. Next time, I’ll take notes.
Sunday 2 August. This is the first time I meet Simon in person. From the way he moves, it is immediately clear that Simon is an adept at Alexander Technique. He holds a long introductory talk, of which I remember two main points. First, it is important for violin teachers to know as much as possible about their profession. Second, violin lessons are always about elementary things. Simon cites the example of Midori, at an age when she already was an accomplished violinist, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto in a masterclass. The technical part of that lesson was basic: about drawing a straight bow.
I play de Bériot to get the playing started; results so-so. Simon asks: “Have you climbed the ladder?” Simon goes immediately down to Basics, in this case, bow hold. I make a lot of movements with my right-hand fingers which I’m not aware of, but must have been introduced as a means to a better tone. This end was not achieved, and I ended up with a distracting habit. Not doing certain things is as important as doing other things. The former – inhibition – tends to be neglected when we practice. The place of the index finger on the bow is discussed, and the angle the row of knuckles makes with the bow. Simon shows me the eight points of contact between fingers and bow. But: “Don’t imitate or copy, experiment!” By the way: don’t repeat when practicing, experiment. I am going to do just that.
On Monday and Tuesday other students play, and a lot happens. I don’t feel comfortable writing about other students in so much detail, so I’ll only mention some of the points taught, without much context.
On Monday, a student plays who is self-taught. Any teacher is better than no teacher.
Tuesday. Walter plays. Simon explains the ladder analogy: Kreutzer, Rode, Dont, Wieniawski (opp 18, 10), Paganini. Meanwhile, the discussion is about playing from the inside out, not the other way around. It all comes down to what is audible. Waving the fingers of the left hand for vibrato, for example, is useless when nothing happens at the point of contact between finger and string.
A summary of things Simon taught me shows how much was covered:
- a subtly different bow hold
- the importance of not doing – inhibition – before doing – direction
- when playing a 4 string chord
- supination of left hand
To be sure, this is not to say that no-one else has taught me any of these things before, but it is all too easy to think that you are doing it right when in fact you’re not. Which brings us back to Alexander Technique.Tweet
Previous entries: August 2013
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