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Teaching Concerti

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  • #88081

    In what order would you assign concerti to a promising student? I know it is often traditional to begin with the Debussy Danses, if not the Handel. To me, the Debussy Danses are one of the hardest pieces in our repertoire, partly the notes, mostly the difficulty of emoting its depths and heights. It may develop technique, as does the Ravel, but are they done a disservice by teaching to students too young to appreciate their greatness? I find pieces learned in adolescence acquire both a taint that is undesirable later, and a false notion that “that’s not so hard” which prevents further development in that piece.

    I have chosen Rodrigo’s Sones en la Giralda for one student as a first concerto, and Virgil Thomson’s Autumn for another. What would you do?

    #88082
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    Concertos are not the place to learn technque. I have a HUGE beef with all of the teachers in the USA who throw the Debussy Danses at a student who can barely play. Aside from simply being able to hit all of the notes, does the student have absolute evenness of tone production in all 8 fingers? Can the student play multiple dynamic levels simultaneously in either hand? Can the student place in sequence, meaning placing only one note at a time ahead of the note being played? Can the student make a quick but even accelerando or ritard, crescendo or dim.? Can the student muffle individual notes with individual fingers in the left hand? Can the student play sixteenth note scales over 4 octaves at 108 to the quarter? That’s a minimum speed. If the student can’t do these things well, then he/she is not ready to learn the Danses, or any other concerto for that matter. I think a good place to start, for the student who is ready(i.e., has the necessary skill level) is the Dittersdorf.

    #88083
    unknown-user
    Participant

    I’m not a teacher… talking from my student years…

    I fully agree with Carl regarding the Dittersdorf being a good beginning.

    #88084
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    Esmeralda- What a wonderful point you make. It’s so important to see what we play in the context of the larger whole.

    One of the best harp recitals I ever heard was by Robert Maxwell years ago when he gave the opening recital at an American Harp Society Conference in Fairfax Virginia. He is a composer, and he played each piece on the program with an understanding of the composition that was extraordinary. I felt like he really got under the composer’s skin.

    I try to remind myself with each piece that I play that what I am playing is what the composer heard in his head before writing it down. And in the case of works with other instruments(chamber music, concerti, etc.) he heard ALL of the instruments together, and that’s the way they have to be understood.

    #88085
    tony-morosco
    Member

    Wow, are there really teachers that would give Debussy’s Danses to a relative beginner? That’s just insane. Aside from the technical difficulty of playing it correctly it is just filled with such subtleties and nuances that I can’t see a beginner appreciating all that goes into it much less play it.

    The Handel seems like a much better place to start. It really isn’t a very difficult piece and it is so familiar that even most beginners have heard enough different performers play it to start to notice the various differences in interpretations and performances to begin to appreciate what can be done with it.

    Thomson’s Autumn? I never would have thought of that one but I think it is a good choice. Odd that it never came to mind. I love Virgil Thomson’s work.

    #88086

    To clarify, I certainly didn’t mean an absolute beginner. I was thinking of students who can play scales and solos like the Impromptu-Caprice, who have the opportunity to play with an orchestra. They can learn the Debussy and work on exactly the details you describe Carl, which is the point in giving it to them, so they become aware of all those fine necessities. I just feel they won’t have the maturity in most cases, and having learned it young might inhibit their later interpretation somewhat. Perhaps it wouldn’t because the music is so great.

    My first concerto was indeed the Dittersdorf. I think it is not so difficult on the surface, but when I went to play it several years ago, as an adult, at full speed, the scales in the first movement were quite difficult to play smoothly, evenly and melodically up to tempo, at least with less than two weeks to prepare it.

    I didn’t quite get all of your post, Esme, who or what is profs?

    #88087

    Additionally: I totally agree with learning the complete context of a piece. I have always strived to do so on my own. You are fortunate to have such instruction. Far too few musicians I have known ever tried to do that.

    #88088
    unknown-user
    Participant

    ehm… profs – short for professor right?

    #88089
    tony-morosco
    Member

    Saul,

    Oh, I get you didn’t mean beginner player. When I said relative beginner I meant in regards to attempting a concerto. Even someone who has the technical ability to play the notes would still be a bit daft in my opinion to attack that one first off.

    #88090

    Are you referring to yourself, or another Camilleri?

    #88091
    unknown-user
    Participant

    regarding the Camilleri, I think its clear to you now lately : )

    #88092
    unknown-user
    Participant

    I have to bring this thred up again cause of something which happened with one of my students lately… When teaching a concerto, do you just teach the concerto, or do you go round it first, as to style and era… I’ll give a clear example… One of my piano students, came up with a major work by Messian which she whised to present as part of her final diploma… I said it was no problem cause she had the technical ability and musical maturity to do it… but she was shocked when I took the score away from the music stand and put it in the cupboard, and instead put on the desk works by Debussy, Satie and a couple of other contemporaries… She tought it was a bit of a joke.. but when I explained that first we have to go around the people who came before Messian, to then understand better his influences and derevations, as well as noticing his differences from his prior, she was a bit shocked, cause all she was ready to do was to work on the Messian and just over.

    #88093

    That is a wonderful, exhaustive approach. I do so in a less-formal fashion. I kind of expect students to have the interest of curiousity to do this on their own, and to assimilate or synthesize what they have experienced, but I know that not everyone has the same thought processes that

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