Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dolcissimo and Boxing

North American teachers can be so supportive, so kind. Not so for many of the great European teachers, who pride themselves on their bluntness. Check out this account of a Vladimir Krainev masterclass in Hong Kong by Chang Tou Liang on Flying Inkpot:
Krainev listens to long takes (an entire movement and more) before making his comments. And he does not mince words or pull punches, which are not lost in translation either. “You play too many wrong notes!” Ouch. “It is marked Vivace, but you play Allegretto, so it sounds very boring. Do you know what boring means?” Double ouch.

He is firm but not cruel. His remarks are pointed but are not meant to destroy. And there is something avuncular about his overall style of tutoring. He does demonstrate on the piano, but very briefly. Instead he prefers a pianist to reach his own conclusion on how a passage should go, rather than to slavishly imitate. Every pointer he gives is to be taken in the larger context of a piece and not merely at that point of instruction. In the Liszt, he accompanies on a second piano, and quite perceptively so despite some trouble turning the pages of a new and untouched score. He later remarked that it was his first time playing the second part! Despite the morass of notes, he listens intently to the pianist’s notes and nuances. Capitalising on a passage marked dolcissimo, he asks the young man what it means. His translator says “beautifully” or “refined” (you mei in Putonghua), but nyet, Krainev gives this analogy instead. “Do you drink coffee or tea? Add seven spoonsful of sugar and you get dolcissimo. Very sweetly!” As they play that passage again, he emphasises, “Dolcissimo! Dolcissimo! Make me sound like Cassius Clay!”
(Via WTB)

Update 12/18: Check out a great take on the above quote from cmcriverdawn on Twitter.

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