Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Different Take

I just had a fascinating talk with one of those young piano students who was in yesterday’s masters class, although he was not on the schedule to play. Edo is from Israel and is currently studying at the University of Illinois.

His take on the severity of the coaching is that Rebecca Pennys is not all that tough on the students. He said they are all well aware of their mistakes and their shortcomings before she ever gives her critique. He seemed to think she was hardest on her students from Eastman who are here for the summer.

I asked whether the students naturally had sized each other up and determined a ranking of their colleagues. He tends to put people in two groups: those who strive for perfection and become somewhat robotic in their performance and those who play to make music. He obviously aspires to be in the latter group.

We talked about my week of amateur chamber music. He invited me to hear his group play chamber music this afternoon at 2 pm, which is when my next practice time is scheduled. There are way too many things to do in any hour of the day here.

I always find it so interesting to get the insight of a young person who is in this for the long haul. I expect to be seeing these students playing as guest artists with the NSO and other big symphony orchestras in years to come.

I learned to inside story on the sudden appearance of air-conditioners (and of course working windows) in the practice cabins this year. Apparently Steinway chose 3 sites to outfit with beautiful pianos at a minimal cost, Chautauqua being one of them. The stipulation was that the spaces where the pianos were housed would be air-conditioned and the rooms with the grand pianos would be locked.

Thank you, Steinway, for making cabin #59 so pleasant this year!

(Later) I went to the student concert and gave up some practice time. It was a good lesson in performance skills. My new friend Edo is on the left in this picture. He and the other young pianist from Brazil played a very modern piece: Celestial Mechanics by George Crumb, during which they spent a lot of time plucking and plonking the piano. The music is so far back so they can reach the strings more easily. These young artists put on quite a show!


Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I am a firm believer in air conditioning!

1:27 PM  
Blogger Colette Amelia said...

Well I can hardly keep up with your exploits. You really know how to live the retirement life!

1:36 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

What an interesting summer getaway with Scrabble champs to students with orchestral aspirations. It does sound like you have more than enough to fill your days.

1:53 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

The health of a piano is well worth the cost of an airconditioner, and the comfort of the piano player makes it even more worthwhile. Sounds like you are having fun up there!

4:35 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- You'll love this: The cello player in Deborah's Dvorak quintet group has music with YOUR name on it! She's planning to erase her markings and get it back to you...

It just occurred to me that if you learn the Brahms Sonata I am playing I would have someone else to play it with!

Colette -- Welcome back! Haven't heard from you in a while.

5:53 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

That's a riot about the Dvorak! I just looked in my box of chamber music and I actually do have all 5 original parts and my name isn't on any of them - maybe her copy came from a Bennington person or something. So tell her thank you but there's no need for erasing and returning.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

At your house for the blogger get together I was talking with some folks about things we wanted to learn to do before we die (this came up in the context of learning to use ASL) and for me the reply was "play the piano".

It is amazing to read about these young musicians, their dedication and dreams. I imagine it has been quite the experience for you.

12:06 PM  
Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

what a wonderful experiences....all that talent -how fun to be in the midst of it....

3:03 PM  

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