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Ruth Kuefler

Sound Encounters Master Classes

June 29, 2007 at 2:46 AM

More than any year so far, I've tried to watch as many master classes as possible at Sound Encounters. This year, master classes for every stringed instrument were given — by some of the best teachers I can remember in my four years coming here, including violinists Brian Lewis and Won-Bin Yim, violist Jeffrey Irvine, cellist Richard Aaron, and bassist Harold Robinson.

Since this is a violin site, I suppose I should start with those classes. : ) I both participated in and observed many of Brian Lewis's master classes. For mine, I played the first movement of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole, and the Bach's G minor Fugue. One of Brian's main suggestions for the Lalo was to be especially accurate with the Spanish-inspired rhythms. For example, in the habanera-style theme at measure 50, Brian had be be very clear with the rhythm and subdivide during ties. Retaining the contrast between duples and triplets not only makes it easier to play with orchestra, but actually brings out the Spanish flavor more. Another rhythmic spot he pointed out was in measures 94 and 96. Nearly all violinists changes the eighth notes to quarter triplets (as I had unconsciously done). Again, accurate rhythm helps maintain the character of the piece. Brian's second main point was using vibrato to exaggerate character changes. He pointed out that in general, because of their more slender fingers, female violinists have to more consciously work a little harder when they need a big, juicy vibrato, while men sometimes need to be more aware of when their vibrato needs to be sweeter and more "feminine" for a given musical line. Playing the opening G string theme of the Lalo with a really strong, wide vibrato then allowed me to to use a softer vibrato for the contrasting sections.

For the Fugue, Brian suggested I think of it in cut time (as Bach wrote it) rather than in 4/4 as I had been playing it. This really helped it to flow better and have more direction, instead of getting bogged down in all the chords. He also wanted me to experiment with rolling some of the chords down when the melody appeared in the bass line. Finally, he suggested I pay special attention to places where Bach writes in slurs. Brian said that a slur is basically a form of accent. In the Fugue, Bach doesn't write very many of them, so when a slur does occur it is usually for a good reason, such as highlighting a hemiola or showing where the line should move forward.

Besides my own master classes I was able to watch Brian teach on the Barber, Bruch, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Saint-Saens violin concertos, as well as the Bach E Major Preludio. I have notes on all of them (way to many to record everything here) but in my next post, I'll share some of the highlights.

From Ray Randall
Posted on June 29, 2007 at 2:12 PM
Very nice. What is "Sound Encounters" and where?
From William Wolcott
Posted on June 29, 2007 at 2:18 PM
Sound Encounters is in Ottawa, KS. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a few of Mr. Lewis' masterclasses as well. Excellent! Ruth- I think I was outside your door when you played the Fugue. I heard the advice of 'thinking in 2."

Anyway, great job!

From Sydney Menees
Posted on June 29, 2007 at 2:50 PM
Wow, you must be like an ocean of knowledge now ;-) I saw you sitting in on all those and I will try to do that more next year.

I wish I had seen some of your classes, but I'm sure you did great. Thanks for telling us all this; it's really helpful :-)

From Scott 68
Posted on June 29, 2007 at 5:23 PM
the lalo has intricate rythms that few play correctly
From Karin Lin
Posted on June 29, 2007 at 6:15 PM
Waaah! Why didn't my parents send ME to Sound Encounters? Was it around 15 years ago?

Cute pic, Ruth!

From Ray Randall
Posted on June 29, 2007 at 6:15 PM
Sorry, when I went to the "Sound Encounters" site they only mentioned The New England Conservatory in Mass. That's too far to go from Missouri.
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on June 29, 2007 at 6:37 PM
Ray - there's a link to the Ottawa Suzuki Institute (which hosts Sound Encounters) in my previous blog entry. Let my know if you still need help finding their website. :)
From Bill Busen
Posted on June 30, 2007 at 3:20 AM
You're wise to go to masterclasses for instruments other than your own - half the time, they are making a phrasing or interpretation or musicianship comment applicable to any instrument. Remember to keep doing that when you get to college!

And you can demonstrate this point by telling us about the other classes...

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on June 30, 2007 at 2:06 PM
Bill - yes, I absolutely agree. In fact, some of the best practicing ideas I learned this year were from the cello and bass master classes. Don't worry, I'll post my notes as soon as I get a chance. :)

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