by Jeannette Fang
The avuncular John Perry began his masterclass with the task of humorously trying to locate his performers, setting up an easy interaction that was friendly and entertaining.
Sophia Pileggi was the first to play, delivering with poise Bach’s Toccata in e minor. Perry talked about the appropriate Baroque touch to use, advising against using a Romantic sound or using “winsome endings” that would be anachronistic. What he said was helpful for all of us, such as his advice on finding a good edition of Bach. He informed us of how “only one edition presents all of Bach’s variants, and that’s the one by Dr. Hans Bischoff (the Kalmus edition).” He went through quite a few pithy sayings, such as “Don’t just believe that if you buy an expensive edition that it’s trustworthy, as it gives no other information,” and “You have to remember when you practice a section, be aware of and remember what you are doing at the time. Effective practicing is always remembering. If you start every time at the beginning of a piece, it’s like driving 10 mph on a road that’s been already torn up.” When talking about the perpetual motion of the Toccata’s fugue, he pointed out how one should try to bring out the beauty of the counterpoint. “Just because it’s all mostly articulate, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its moments.”
Ranxuan Wang played next, with Chopin’s Impromptu op.36. Perry made many good points on appropriate pedaling, phrasing, and technique. He livened up the morning with colorful similes, but also gave solid information for any student, such as how to efficiently manage awkward chordal jumps in dotted rhythms. “You have to aim for the short note and land on the long note; it’s a single motion, not two”, and “there’s no value to fast notes if they don’t make music.”
Tim Krippner was third, performing the E major and F# minor preludes and fugues of Bach with an intelligent sensitivity to structure. Perry praised Krippner’s conceptions, saying “I can’t give advice when it’s so convincing.” He picked out several details to work on, with various comments on tempi, phrasing, and ornamentation, but was respectful to the musical choices of the performer. “You played the fugue of the f# minor slower than I have ever heard it, but it works. One always has to listen with an open mind.”
Umi Garrett, Perry’s wunderkind student of 2 years, ended the masterclass, impressively performing both Beethoven’s Sonata no.14, op.27, no.2 (Moonlight), and Chopin’s Scherzo no. 1. The familiarity of their relationship allowed Perry to be quick with his comments, going over various details of pacing and phrasing. When talking about repetitive rubatos, he commented with “unusual is good as long as it doesn’t sound like a pattern that you’re locked into,” and brought the room to laughter with “Why did you decide to play the third statement of the lullaby so loud? Is it time for breakfast?” He urged for the lullaby of the Chopin to be expressive on the 1st and 3rd beats, and for the student to think of every note as having a word on it.
All in all, the morning was an entertaining and informative one, from which many students could gain much useful advice.