Thursday, August 30, 2007

Immersed in a world of cello

It's getting near the end of the first week of my junior semester, and already things are off to an inspiring start.

Here's a list of my classes:

Cello Lessons
Classical Piano Lessons
Jazz Piano Lessons
Poetry Workshop
Jazz Improv.
Music of the 20th Century
Advanced Ear Training
Ensemble Playing: Jr. Recital

So in light of that, I have a million things to work on. Such as:

Haydn Divertimento, trans. by Piatigorsky (that's just cool!)
Yampolsky D Major exercises (a bit modified by my teacher)
Bach Suites 1 & 2
Popper 11
Knowing all my key signatures cold.
Learning the 7 modes and knowing what they sound like on my instrument
An original work for Cello & Clarinet by Jennifer Castellanos
An original work for Cello, Flute & Violin by Ashley Murtha

Stuff that I'll be working on a bit later:
Elgar Concerto - I'm going to enter my school's concerto competition
Seven Tunes Heard In China - Bright Sheng
Cellist of Sarajevo - maybe??
Original work by Danny Gray for Cello & 2 Violins - maybe??

On a cool note, I found Bright Sheng's contact information, so I can conttact him once I start working on that piece - can't wait!!

So far, of my classes, I'm enjoying all of them, particularly Jazz Improv & Ear Training... in Orchestration, we covered the Harmonic Series - quite cool!! I really want to learn more about the physics of music & all that... but anyway, everyone is telling me that orchestration is one of the most useful classes I could ever take, so it's quite exciting... later today I have another cello lesson (we moved the day from tuesday to thursday) & I'll have my finalized Jr. Recital list - it's going to be a combo of classical rep & original works & quite possibly some improvisation.

So everything is amazingly cool & going well ... but the coolest thing. I've made a pact with one of my friends - Ashley Murtha, an amazing flutist: Starting monday, for 6 days a week we are both going to practice a minimum of 3 hours a day (this was inspired by John Petrucci & John Myung from Dream Theater, who practiced 6 hours a day, every day in high school before going out w/ friends!!)

On top of that, I'm checking into local music events & wow is there some really cool stuff going on at SUNY Purchase!! I"m gonna be going to see Matt Haimovitz & Itzhak Perlman once I get tickets - can't wait!!

So that's all for now... I have to go do my orchestration homework & then get to practicing...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reflections on Summit

Ok, so I still have some masterclass notes to post up, but I get the feeling that those will be waiting until I actually have a working computer in my own home...

So anyway, The Summit Festival is now over. On one hand I wanted it to end, because there was lots of pressure & it was costing me a crazy amount of money (I believe I spent something like $160 in gas over the last two weeks, because my mother doesn't have a job... man did that suck!)... but anway, I met a bunch of amazing people & even got to make music with some of them... there were amazing concerts every night & even more amazing masterclasses... the things that stick with me the most are:


Julian Milkis - I've never heard clarinet *drown out* piano and violin before... plus he played an awesome version of Gershwin's really famous prelude with his son & wife ...

Emannuel Gruber - He played one of the Beethoven cello/piano sonatas & this is the only classical performance that's really come close to comparing to a rock concert for me in terms of how much it moved me... it gives me hope that one day I'll find a classical performance that does as much for me as rock/metal does...

Sergiu Schwartz -Performed a program of Jewish music, which not only was very cool, but reminded me of how much I like the Jewish style of playing (Itzahk Perlman anyone?)

Yuki - forgotten his last name, but another violinist who's playing inspired me a bit

Matt Haimovitz - If only all recitals were given like his! He played Bach & then he played two pieces that he had had commisioned by living composers... on top of this, he talked between pieces & let his baby cry at one point... it was a great performance & a great recital ...


Harpsichord - It has such an amazing sound, and it was beyond cool to hear about things from the perspective of someone who's into early music... they have a very different approach & I think it's more organic... If I had a harpsichord to use around me, I would so learn it...

Nathaniel Rosen - This was such an amazing class from the only American winner of the Tchaicovsky competition. He has a great command of the cello & really knows what he's talking about. On top of that, he doesn't try to super-impose his interpretations onto students, and acknowledges that they can have their own musical desires... great guy ... If he's there next year, I'm maybe going to try and approach him and/or see if I can play for him

Steven Isserlis - The best masterclasses I've ever been to! Besides that he is one of my favorite cellists (living or dead), his approach to music is so through and contains so much depth. He has everything memorized & can play the accompaniment to everything he plays/teaches just as well as he can play the actual part... he has such an amazing character & an amazing sense of humor... I'm really going to try and integrate his approach into my own - I think there's so much value in using it as a foundation...

Schwartz - I got to learn about Bach from the perspective of a violinist, who's playing I like... the most important things I got from it were the concepts of stylized dance & the reminder that the genius of Bach is in his harmony...

Matt Haimovitz - I only got to stay for the Lalo concerto, but he's an amazing teacher as well as an amazing performer...

People I met... (I'm trying not to forget anybody... hopefully that will actuall work out...)

David Krieger - A very nice old man... we don't see eye to eye regarding tradition, but otherwise, he is a very caring person who means well for everyone & I may approach him in the next few months to potentially take lessons... all depends on money..

Georgina - Much to say... a 14 yr. old girl from Chile, who seems much older than her age & is into finnish culture a lot (when I met her she was wearing a nightwish shirt - amazingly cool...). She was fun to be around and talk with & I got to become friends w/ her friends...

Erica - One of Georgina's friends ... didn't really get to know her much till the last couple of days..

Polina - a girl from Great Neck, NY (just occurred to me, I know someone else from there...), who goes to MSM prep. ... also one of Georgina's friends that I got to know.

Martik - My armenian violinist - we had chamber together & discussed classic rock & fiddling and all sorts of cool stuff... the kid lives in Syracuse, but is from Russia... very cool kid ... needs to get a little more on top of stuff like being on time & writing stuff down, but hey, don't we all??

Weipeng Liu - He was my Manager for Stage Managing ... very nice guy & great technique... He opened up a lot musically during the festival...

Jeong-Bo - One of Martik's friends; a violinist. Mostly knew classical rep ... cool kid.

Akiko Maruyama - Amazing Pianist & a very nice person - for the most part, her and Riko split all the accompaniment for the whole festival - they're both very amazing players!

Katherine Harris - Amazing pianist! I got to work with her in chamber for 2 weeks and I learned so much from her. She's very thorough and has qualities that would make her a great teacher if she decided to go down that path! I wish all pianists played as musically as her ... I might like some more of the classical rep. then... On top of that, she's very open-minded & is actually aware of popular music and not just classical... Apaprently she lived near the Trans-Siberian Railroad (she's from Russia)...

Hannah Tarley - Jewish violinist from California. Her and her mother were both very nice people & on top of that I liked her playing quite a bit.

Yuki - Like I said above, amazing violinist ... one of the older students I actually got to talk to every now and then... very nice guy... I threw him off on the last night, when I said that I liked his playing a lot even though I don't usually like the violin ... what can I say... everyone's got their prejudices...

Matt Dunnoyer - One of the few black musicians studying classical that I've actually met. I got to know him while he was outside smoking, he works at MSM & is into jazz as well, I think. Cool kid.

Sean Cotty - When I first saw him, my reaction was that he was probably a soccer kid... I was dead on. Good pianist too... played some Bach Prelude & Fugue that reminded me of Billy Joel's "Pressure"

Sam Lavery - I think I met him for a bit, but didn't get to know each other too well... seems like a cool kid though...

Katya - A french-canadian girl who plays violin... very nice, though she has extremely conservative views about music ... Plays very well though... we both like Kodaly quite a bit (or at least the performance we saw)... he's definitely one of my favorite composers ... he uses the pentatonic scale amazingly...

Bong-Shin Ko - Amazing cellist, has definitely mastered her instrument, though we feel music pretty differently. She was my chamber coach for the Haydn & I learned a lot from working with her

Richard Clark - My other chamber coach, also conductor of the senior orchestra & a freelancer... While I didn't always agree with his way of doing things, I learned quite a bit from him & am certainly going to keep a lot of what he taught me with me at all times...

Allan - Cool violinist who's into alternative styles ... particularly techno... has a seeing device to help him see music, was fun to hang out with...

Umm, I think that should cover most of the people I met (particularly the ones I later got in touch with through facebook)...

So now for a general reflection... the past two weeks were beyond amazing... Like I mentioned, I met people from all sorts of places & the cool thing is that most of them played so much better than me. I feel so priveleged to have had the opportunity to do a music festival in the first place & am quite grateful to Prof. Kuan for pushing me to do it. It was amazing to be around music all the time, though it was tiring at times too... I wish classical people would incorporate ethnic and folk music as well as electric instruments some more. But either way, it was an amazing experience & I learned so much, plus for the first time got to see what the level of playing actually was for people my age. It was amazing to see their enthusiasm (in most cases) for what they're doing too. I learned so much from it & will definitely do it again next year... I can't wait for it again ... For once I'm going to have plans for something exciting to do over the summer! Plus it might be at Manhattanville next year, which would be phenomenal (speaking of which, I can't wait for our new building to go up... it sounds quite exciting...)

Now I have to go get to work on the things I need to prepare for my fall recital...

Db Major

So I've been working on fill in the gaps of my scale knowledge & consequently I went after Db major, with it's 5 flats... it's such a cool scale... there's something deeper about it then a lot of other scales...

My technique is finally starting to get back to where it once was (though still not there yet...)

I still have to post reflections of Summit... but my time at the library is up...

I need to start teaching myself...

So, I'm on the ICS Forums and I saw the following post:

I really need to start finding some students of my own by the fall... I think it's safe to say my technique is sufficient to be teaching younger kids (elementary & middle school) & maybe even some high school kids ... plus I've got the business cards... I go for my road test tomorrow, so if all goes right, I've got my license ... I really need to get that moving then by fall, cuz man do I need money! Plus I would *love* to teach...

I think I need to come up with a set of goals to complete before going back to school, so that I can actively work towards those...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Notes From Steven Isserlis Masterclass

Just got out of the Steven Isserlis Masterclass, which was of course, beyond amazing!!!

His knowledge of the music is unbelievable (to the point where he knows and can play every orchestra part to all the concertos he taught on the cello from memory & he even knows every dynamic & articulation marking in the music)

I'm still amazed by his bow grip - I've never seen anyone else with the same technique & he's got such a relaxed/free character, always insistent on listening to the music... anyway, here are my notes from it:


Haydn D

-Smile w/ opening
-play long notes like a keyboard (with dimmuendo)
-Question & antecedant
-What are the important notes? Always know the answer to this
-Sentences & clauses - always head to the main word
-Dance & Laugh
-"Not work, just a conversation"
-You must enjoy what you're playing for the audience to enjoy it:
-This means you can't worry about technique
-You must listen (both to your own playing & to the orchestra) to achieve this
-Quest for the dominant
-[observation: he always has a narrative for what's going on]
-"We don't want to know you've practiced scales"

-Main way of phrasing on string instruments is bow speed
-Listen to the "heartbeat" of the orchestra
-Isserlis thinks it's a love song
-What does an accent mean? (Isserlise thinks it means vibrato in Schumann)
-If any note is not beautiful, you diminish the whole phrase
-As musicians we have to be detectives
-[Look for the form within the music]
-Question & Answer
-Listen to the Bass
-Different Characters: Introvert & Extrovert

Saint-Saens Concerto

-Romantic Temperamnet, but classically written out
-First phrase is one line headed straight for the next thunder crash
-Come down in dymanics in spots, but don't lose the articulation
-[observation: on 3rd finger vibratos in the upper register, he lifts is 1st & 2nd fingers off of the fingerboard & puts his 2nd over his third for a wider, reinforced vibrato]
-Create variety with bow speed
-Match vibrato & bow speed - Especially in lighter/lyrical passages
-"We don't want to know you've practiced"
-[In points w/ chords, examine the harmony & melody]

-We have to listen to what we play
-We achieve this by always focusing on a point out in the audience (for example, an exit sign or a cute girl) [observation: this causes the spine to be straight & basically achieves the same thing as the Alexander Technique... It dramatically improves the sound too...]
-Note the use of the Neapolitan in the harmony
-The Beatles often used it
-"As far as I'm concerned, If you've looked down, you've missed the note anyway, because you're not listening"

It was an amazing class ... I'm going to take some time to integrate his approach (in-depth knowledge of the score & harmony, coupled with always listening & being aware of the other voices & themes) into my playing...

For now though, I have to go practice before rehearsal... It's the very last day of summit... I still have a few more masterclass notes to post up & then at some point, I'll also post reflections, as it's been an amazing journey through 2 weeks...

Anyway, off to the practice room...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Summit Day 9

Hmm, not really much I feel like writing today... 3 things:

1. I've discovered that my strength in chamber music is as an interpreter... sort of a peace-keeper or something like that... I'm good with understanding peoples' ideas and relaying them to other members ... I guess because I place so much value on listening and trying to understand...
2. I had almost forgotten that music always has to be from the heart & should always be done with the purpose of having fun... not to play it more right... I guess the word would be spirit... the inspirations would be Ma or Rostropovich or DuPre
3. I get to watch a performance of the Weber trio I played last semester tonight... plus Emmanuel Gruber is playing cello... that should be fucking awesome...

That's all for now... really frustrating day otherwise...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Summit Day 9

Today was really eventful... my self-confidence is still a bit shaky, but it's improving & my technique is getting closer to where it should be, which is absolutely great... I miss Ostrofsky quite a bit & I can't wait to get back to school and have regular lessons...

So anyway, I had my usual chamber rehearsals, but a million masterclasses/events in between... it basically went:

Haimovitz Masterclass (I only got to stay for one piece - next year, I'll have to make sure that rehearsal doesn't interfere)
Harspichord Masterclass at Westchester Conservatory
Aaron Rosand Video
Concert (was a bunch of chamber music, all the ensembles had cello ... Nathaniel Rosen is not just an amazing cellist, but also an amazing communicator)

The Haimovitz Masterclass was really cool & he wish I could have stayed for all of it/that he didn't have to leave right after it... I'll post notes for it, probably at the end of the week

The Harpsichord Class was also really cool - it has such a beautiful sound & we talked about early/baroque music & basso continuo & improvisation ... the presenter, Jean Newton, mentioned a lot of Early Music texts that I've seen cited before... I think I'm going to check them out sometime in the future...

The Rosand Video, I didn't find too interesting & talking to him afterwards, I noticed the same thing that I've noticed of other teachers his age... his mind is unorganized (except for his method of teaching, in which case, it's rigidly structured) & he can not synthesize information from others very well ... also, he was so negative, it was really uninspiring ...

The concert was amazing, though I wish I hadn't got to stage manage... but hey, apparently Tchaicovsky can write something cool... his trio op. 50 in A minor... tomorrow's concert should be super-amazing... I need to go practice now & then I really need to get to sleep...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Summit Days 6-8

I don't have time for a proper post, so all I'm gonna say for now is that depression is a great motivator & I get to see Matt Haimovitz play in a few minutes... can't wait!!


Ok, so now for a full post:

At this point, I've forgotten Friday... I think the gyst of it was something like this: 2 chamber rehearsals, then work...

Saturday, similar idea, except I got to watch the concert instead & there was a cello masterclass...

Concert:The first half was the junior orchestra, which played the best student orchestra performance I've ever seen... almost makes me excited to see what the senior orchestra will do... It made me miss being in orchestra in high school... it's so communal. The second half I got to hear a Brahms Quintet & Barber's Adagio for strings... I think the adagio maybe could have been done better, but it was pretty cool...

The Masterclass was with Bongshin Ko ... I really didn't get too much from it... she talks about stuff I already know and doesn't seem to speak about the mechanics of playing, which I don't think is a very good quality in a teacher... (In other words, she might say "this sections needs to be lighter" without actually explaining how to (physically) make it lighter

Sunday I wasn't there at all...

So, that brings us to today - 2 chamber reherasals:

Haydn - boring, but we got work done... I really don't find that trio inspiring at all... I also don't think we work as well as a group as we could... there's a bit more that I want to say, but won't since this is a public journal...

Emil Paul - Awesome piece, by awesome composer. The other two members of my ensemble are way better than me. One on hand, this is really inspiring... on the other, it's kind of depressing. Before, when I encountered people who were good technically, their playing usually lacked soul ... In this group (and at the festival in general), the opposite is true. It's good for me, because I've grown so much from working with them, especially the pianist, Katherine Harris, she has a very good training/understanding of things... I think she'll make a good teacher some day...

But anyway, after that rehersal, I was more than a bit depressed b/c I feel like I hold the group back & I feel like I can't progress at the rate I need to in order to work with them ... very frustrating... so that led me to practice & I had a couple of breakthroughs...

1. Every note has a shape
2. For fast passages, I need to keep my middle two fingers flexible...

I didn't care so much for the student recital, which was all violin/piano (I find it's very rare that the violin can actually inspire me - at least in classical)

I got to see Matt Haimovitz play though, which was absolutely amazing ... the printed program was completely screwed up, which I found really funny.... Anyway, he played the 3rd bach suite & he played the way I feel it should be played (by that I don't mean that I had the same interpretation, but he played it freely and in an improvisatory fashion, similar to the way Casals or Greenhouse or Mr. O [My first teacher] might approach it) ... After that it was two original works that he had commissioned some composers for... "Mark Twain Sez", which had quotes from Mark Twain in btwn. movements & "After Reading Shakespeare". I'm going to try and get a copy of the music ... anyway, it was really cool... he talked between pieces & even let his baby cry in the middle of the concert & I got to talk to him after for a bit... very neat...

His masterclass is tomorrow, so i've got a bunch of questions for him, and I'm sure I'll learn a whole lot.... can't wait... anyway, I have to get those irritating fast passages in shape...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Summit Music Festival Days 4 & 5

Didn't get a chance to post yesterday because there was so much going on here...

Day 4
The day started with breakfast. I ate w/ the girl I met the other day & then with my armenian friend... cool company in both cases... it's interesting how I seem to have connected more with the younger crowd (high school age) than the older crowd (college age). But that doesn't surprise me much... all the college kids are super-busy working on stuff and probably keep the themselves a lot (I guess I kind of do the same thing...)

So anyway, at 1:00 I got to watch the masterclass with Nathaniel Rosen... that was amazing!! Here's my notes from it:


-Lift the bow to avoid hearing extra notes
-Control width of vibrato to match the feeling you're trying to create
-to narrow vibrato, touch the thumb lightly to the neck
-you have to control it w/ your ear

Shostakovitch Concerto 1 Mov. 2:

-Floating the bow on top of the string = waste of resources. Remove the word floating from your vocabulary [side note: for me, this was the most powerful thing he said in the whole class]

The Bow has 3 axes:
1 - Vertical Pressure (z)
2 - Proximity to the bridge (y)
3 - Speed (x)

[I added the variables in, but that's basically what he was saying]

-Think of the number of beats for each bow (Budget the bow)
-"Imagination is one of the ways you increase your technique"
-The closer you are to the bridge, the more slowly your bow drags [more friction, resulting from increased tension]
-Bow speed can replace increased force in heavier sections.

-Change bow before "A" harmonic to avoid slop ..
[I didn't write anything else down for that one...]

Tchaikovsky Rococco Variations:

Beginning - While listening to piano introduction, do nothing. Then as it finishes, take your time ... you want to send the message 'this is easy' to the audience. [Interestingly enough, Stephen Isserlis made this exact same point when I saw him give a masterclass... he's going to give a masterclass next week, as well as Matt Haimovitz...]

-Fast vibrato + lifted bow gives the note a "ring"
-Don't go structurally out of tune from E to G# (this is in 4th position on the A string)
-More bow on repeated "ups" removes "icks" from the sound
-Practice String crossings as double stops

Haydn C 1st mov.:

Do the sextuplets/triplets in the middle of the bow... just let it bounce (flat hair, find balance point) [this was referring to the fast section in the third page, but probably also applies to the fast section in the development...]
-loosen bow grip
-it's as if you're playing timpany

-For the C to D/E trill on the A string consider this fingering: C1 D/E24 D/E13
-This avoids the slide from C to D [Personally I really like to play it with the slide]
-In the opening phrase, lift the bow to get the ringing sound.
-For double stops, you don't have to roll them if you play closer to the fingerboard, just use more speed [Essentially the idea was to play on the middle string and allow the sympathetic vibrations to do the rest of the trick... I personally don't really like this approach, but the player was also using two downbows, while I prefer up down]
-Have fun! [his point was that there are of course a lot of lighter and ornamental parts in Haydn]
-You can't bounce the bow at the frog
-For the cadenza-like passage in the development, playing the triplets closer to the fingerboard gives it a nice, darker sound [just something I observed... not sure if I'd play it like that...]


The Student Gala Concert at 5:30 was a real treat... over half the program was cellists and for the first time, I was pretty impressed by a violinist at the very end...

The cello pieces were:
Krumb Mov. II & III
M. de Falla Popular Spanish Songs
Shostakovitch 1 Mov. I
Haydn D Mov. 1

The violin piece was Maurice Ravel's Tzigane played by Yuuki Wong ... was absolutely amazing...

The 8:00 concert was a little less interesting for me, but I think that's just because I was really tired out between all the practicing and watching... anyway, it was basically a Milkis family concert:

Nina Koga - piano (wife)
Daniel Milkis - violin (son)
Julian Milkis - clarinet (father)
Igor Raykelson - piano/compose

The 2 really impressive things about the concert were the playing of 14 yr.; old Daniel Milkis & his father's playing (I've never heard a clarinetist who can project and match with piano and violin, let along drown them out)...

the first mostly featured daniel playing Dvorak, Prokofiev & Kriesler. His father played Hasse & the three played together Gershwin's Ballade for violin, clarinet & piano, in which the clarinet player drowned them out at the end... it was nuts...

the second half, the played pieces by the pianist (Raykhelson) ... guy's got a very cool background... did classical and jazz... I might try to find his cello sonata at some point...

Day 5...

Had breakfast again w/ Georgina (this is the nightwish girl) ... found out that she's actually 14 yrs. old (I thought she was 17) & that she wants to be an orchestral musician (which is the exact thing I don't want to do...)

Other than that, I've got rehearsal in 15 minutes for Haydn & the coach got switched (it's a cellist instead) & then rehearsal for Emil Paul at 2... plus I have to write an email to the president of my college, and I have work later... a little nervous about the rehearsals... wish I could stay for the concert tonight, but even if I could, it costs $30 b/c it's a benefit....

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Music Festival Day 3

Last night's concert was amazing... the violinists were kind of boring, the I discovered yet again that Ernest Bloch is an amazingly cool composer... but anyway, Emmanuel Gruber & Riko Higuma played Beethoven's Sonata for Cello & Piano in g minor... it was a pretty quirky piece - I guess since it's one of his earlier ones but man, I've never seen such raw emotion and energy in a classical performance before... it was great... probably the best classical performance I've ever seen... I told the pianist that I'm not usually moved by classical performances, but that I was really amazed...

In other news, I've met a bunch of really cool people here & gotten a pretty strong insight into what the life of a commuter is like... really wish I had had the money to board b/c I'm missing out on meeting so many people & then I could get free (well pre-paid) meals... either way, it's a really exciting place to be.

I asked Mr. Krieger (the head Director guy) if I could maybe sign up for one of the master classes next week. He said that if there was room he'd let me (It's supposed to only be for students who are there for the whole program - I'm just there for chamber) ...

Anyway, tonight I get to stage manage for a bit... should be interesting... tomorrow, Nathaniel Rosen gives a masterclass ... can't wait to watch...

I should probably get the email addresses of the people I meet here before I go...