Yoshikazu Nagai, professor of San Francisco Conservatory, began the masterclass, instantly infusing the Reginna Auditorium with his friendly down-to-earth character to set up the highly communicative atmosphere.
The first piece was Haydn Sonata in B minor, Hob.XVI:32, performed by Rebecca Wuu, who displayed a mature interpretation and musical ideas. Nagai worked on details with Wuu to make the sound more refined, also delivering the idea of psychological changes between different moods in the piece. He stressed on the concept of multi-dimensional listening and how one needs to “focus ears like lasers”.
Second on the program was Hyae-jin Hwang playing Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1. Hwang played with high spirit and strong conviction, clearly portraying the devilish, enticing and hypnotizing characters of this programmatic piece. Nagai mentioned that when playing this piece, one should think more of the symphonic poem rather than a pianistic conception in order to create a different atmosphere and musical space. He expanded this idea of orchestration to elaborate that how one needs to stretch his or her imagination to instruments that don’t even exist!
Next was Haeun Jung playing the second and third movements of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata. Jung’s performance was clean, lyrical and beautifully poised. Nagai dramatized the music by highlighting the tension of harmonies and intervals as well as bigger organic ideas of the movements. “Pretend you don’t know what is coming”, Nagai said, advising how one should play with “fresh ears”.
The final performance of the masterclass was by Seo Young Jeon, who played the Finale of Chopin’s B minor sonata with facility and musical integrity. Various concepts were unveiled during the short period of time remaining. The technical tricks and his demonstration on how to practice were especially useful for many students in the audience. The overall trajectory of the movement became more clear and logical as he walked us through the movement.
Nagai never ceased to arouse one’s curiosity; his musical ideas and analogies were more than a platitude. This was the last masterclass of the festival, and it certainly was an inspiring and fruitful time for everyone.