Highlights from Brian Ganz Master Class, Sept 22, 2013

AMSF was again honored to have Brian Ganz lead a master class for AMSF members on Sept. 22, 2013, as he has on many past occasions. Participating along with Brian were AMSF members

  • Richard Moss - Chopin Waltz in B minor, Op 29, No 2,
  • Richard Sawyer - Mozart Sonata in b minor, K 540, Adagio,
  • Florence Rollwagen and Anne Williams - Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos, D Major, K 448, and
  • Ilya Rabinovitch - Schumann's Einfach in F sharp Major, Op 28.

Ganz and Richard Moss

Brian Ganz works with master class participant Richard Moss.

Some of Brian's comments and suggestions for participants and attendees included the following.

  • Playing from memory strengthens our awareness of harmonies.
  • Chopin waltzes are songs without words, to be played cantabile--i.e., in a flowing manner without breaks.
  • To develop a sense of the flow and swing of a waltz, it may be helpful to physically shift one's weight from side to side.
  • Use "ghost playing" in practice to develop delicacy and balance between the hands. To do so, depress notes a third of the way down without making a sound. Then push at least half way down and then two-thirds, if possible, still without making a sound. Brian acknowledged this is a difficult task, but it helps build a "trustworthy delicacy" when playing. Brian recommended daily practice with this technique.
  • Keep harsh sounds at bay by keeping wrists loose, thus providing shock absorption to soften and round the sound.
  • When playing an adagio movement, keep in mind the etymology of the term--meaning "at ease". Play the movement from a sense of "profound peace".
  • Brian noted that Mozart often "said the most with the fewest notes", so it is important to strictly observe the rests. One technique to help prevent rushing over rests is to breathe audibly to "unplay" the rests. Brian quoted Fleisher's motto: "Support the composer. When he moves, you move. When he waits, you wait."
  • In a discussion of phrasing, Brian said the pianist should ask "Where is tension being released? Where is the crest of the wave?" Brian also suggested that pianists build in phrasing at the beginning of learning a new piece of music.
  • When practicing, Brian suggested starting in random locations to help learn a composition more deeply.
  • Also in practice, play the melodic line alone to train your ear so that you (and your audience) can hear the melody more easily when other notes are added.