Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stanley Drucker Teaches a Master Class

I got to meet the Druckers!!
Yesterday, I went to a master class that was coached by Stanley Drucker, the former principal of the New York Philharmonic. It was an amazing experience! There were four students who played, two undergrads from Northeastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Champaign and two graduate students from Northwestern.

Mr. Drucker was a very intense teacher. He worked the students very hard, and he wouldn’t let anything go until a student had corrected or improved the section to his satisfaction. He varied his standards from student to student according to their ability, which he was able to discern by hearing them play just a few notes. He kept coming back to a few key themes in his teaching. First, the music must sound musical, and even technical parts shouldn’t sound like a technical exercise or an etude. Soft notes need to be focused and played just as beautifully and strong as louder parts; they should never have an airy tone. He said anyone could play well loud, the challenge was to play well quietly. Another point he made on several occasions was that all the registers should sound the same, and you shouldn’t be able to hear a difference while playing over the breaks. Another important thing he said was to play your notes in groups of eight instead of groups of four so that they would flow easier. He also suggested that while you’re practicing, you should try closing your eyes, because then you would be able to hear yourself much better. I noticed that John Bruce Yeh, who was there with his wife, often his eyes closed as he listened to the students play for Mr. Drucker. Mr. Drucker said that when playing in an orchestra, you needed to understand how your part fits in with what the rest of the orchestra is playing while you are figuring out how you should make your phrases.

He ended the master class by taking questions from the audience for a half an hour. He talked about a lot of different things in his career, and it was really interesting. Mrs. Drucker also some great things to say. One of the things that really stood out was, “Life is too short for long tones, play scales and music instead.” During this time, someone asked what Mr. Drucker practiced, and he said, “I practice what I’m going to play.” There’s no point in practicing things I’m not going to play, which I thought was funny.

Miguel Hernandez Plays the Mozart Concerto

The first student, Miguel Hernandez, played the Mozart concerto. Mr. Drucker stopped Miguel soon after the exposition. Then he went through a wide variety of different things about Mozart’s music and clarinet playing in general. He told Miguel that while you are playing Mozart you have to chose some of the articulations because Mozart did not put them all in. Mr. Drucker told Miguel that he should make longer phrases, and he could do that by carefully connecting notes and tapering the end of each phrase. When Miguel played a slow lyrical part, Mr. Drucker warned him to not lose his notes in the quieter passages. He said that the you need to use as much breath when playing quieter sections as when playing louder sections, but it had to be focused in a different way so as not to lose the quality of the playing. He also told him to swell the long notes. During another difficult section, Mr. Drucker said that Miguel should play his notes in groups of eight instead of in groups of four so the music the music could keep moving. He warned Miguel not to let the Mozart sound like a technical exercise, but to play musically and to vary the dynamics. Another point Mr. Drucker made, was that Mozart put in impossible articulations that would sometimes need to be changed. To illustrate this, he had Miguel articulate a section the way Mozart wrote it instead of slurring the section. It was clear that the passage was unworkable and unmusical when articulated the way it was written without editing. While he was playing a part which included arpeggios from low notes to high notes, he told him to have the right fingerings for the high notes and worked a lot with him on that. Also during the arpeggios, he pointed out that Miguel needed to make all the registers sound the same – something that I know from experience can be quite difficult.

Amanda Eich Plays Beethoven and Brahms

The next player played excerpts from Beethoven’s fourth symphony and Brahms’ third symphony. During the Beethoven he told her that while she was playing orchestral music you always have to fit in with the orchestra. It was a very quiet section so while she was playing he told her to have longer phrases and to start phrases quietly. Mr. Drucker also told her that in Beethoven, dolce means louder. He also said never to scoop into a note and to connect the different registers. While she played the Brahms’ he reminded her to connect large intervals and not break the music up.

Rebecca Graham Plays Dances of Galanta and Pines of Romes

The next player was very confident while she played and she gave a really good impression. She played Dances of Galanta and Pines of Rome. Mr. Drucker told her to be careful not to rush. During the Dances of Galanta, he also told her that if the phrase after the phrases you are playing is soft and the one you are on is loud, end strong. During a quick section, he told her to play in eight note groups and that she needed to always make sure that she was playing in the right style for the composer. He also told her to make the long notes sing. During the Pines of Rome, he reminded her that she had to make fewer, but longer phrases and to fade out at the end of quiet ones. The last thing he told her was that when there is a sequence, make each time louder than the last.

Andrew Hudson Plays Capriccio Espanol and Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony

The last person who played in the master class played Capriccio Espanol and Rachmaninoff’s second symphony. Andrew was really funny. When Mr. Drucker asked him why he was rushing the third phrase, he said that was because he was terrified. During Capriccio Espanol, Mr. Drucker told Andrew to bring out the bring out the first note but to keep all the other ones less. He also told him not to make space in between a trill and a note. While playing this piece, Andrew should think of a Spanish dance. Mr. Drucker told him to be lyric, even when playing a quickly moving section. The last thing he told him about this section was to accent the first note of the trills and to play in time. The last piece that Andrew played for Mr. Drucker was excerpts from Rachmaninoff’s second symphony. During this piece he told him to make good connections and to make faster parts more lyrical. Soft notes need to be as full as loud notes, and he should be careful not retard to much until the end of a piece.

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