Masterclass Review: James Giles
by Stijn De Cock
By measuring the quality of a masterclass by the ability of the teacher to connect with the student on stage, broaden his or her approach to performing a selected piece of music, all while actively engaging and informing the audience, it became clear this Saturday that James Giles is a world-class teacher, artist, and communicator. Using wit and humor, Giles captivated student and spectator alike, while his insightful and intelligent comments never ceased to illuminate and inspire. Jewon Hwang opened the masterclass with a musical and well-rounded performance of the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 333. “Jewon is a student of a former student of mine,” Giles remarked, “which makes her my grand-student,” setting off chuckles in the audience. Giles took great care explaining classical four bar phrase structure, pointed to how one must understand the composer’s intention to thwart the listener’s expectations, and worked on appropriate shifts in dynamic level, character, and tone color. “Remember Yogi Berra’s advice,” Giles joked, “if you get to a fork in the road, take it!” The next student to perform was William Hueholt who gave a beautiful and sophisticated performance of Faure’s D-flat Major Nocturne, Op. 63. “Very well organized, intelligent playing,” Giles remarked. Even though William’s performance was accomplished, Giles uncovered even more colors and subtle shadings, grouped notes and chords together into seamless gestures, and helped the student create languorous lines and shimmering soundscapes. The final performance was given by Trevor Magness, performing Prokofiev’s Sonata in A minor No. 3, Op. 28. Trevor gave a spirited and energetic performance of the demanding work. Giles’ overarching motive consisted of finding ways to create a more visceral sense of exhilaration, which included musical guidance, as well as some insightful technical suggestions to create more buoyance and lift in the student’s physical approach to playing the piece.