Yuliya Gorenman Master Class, March 10, 2013

by Louise Crane

Yuliya Gorenman is a larger than life concert pianist who brings a commanding presence to the classroom. On March 10, Maestra Gorenman conducted a master class for AMSF pianists at the upper NW home of David Pothier. David kindly offered his home with its two concert grands, fulfilling Maestra Gorenman's request for two pianos.

Yuliya led off by telling the audience she was privileged to be invited to work with AMSF pianists who play for the love of making music, not because their parents make them practice! As she listened to each performer, she made comments specific to the individual as well as offering advice on playing and practicing to the audience as a whole.

Yuliya Gorenman 2013

Seated at the piano, Maestra Gorenman demonstrates a point to master class participants.

Anne Levit was the first participant, playing Chopin's Nocturne in e minor (Opus 71, No. 1). Yuliya asked Anne what difficulties she had experienced with the piece. Anne described a problem with the left hand, saying that she sometimes plays it too lightly, sometimes too heavily. Yuliya offered some tips to help. She suggested playing the left hand portion with both hands and advised a fingering change, putting the thumb under to avoid too heavy and too broad a jump. Yuliya played the left hand alone with Anne to demonstrate.

Yuliya spoke to the audience about how to begin working on a new piece of music. She said that transposing a piece to a different key tricks your mind into the thinking the piece is easier in its original key. To reduce fear, she advised playing a piece staccato if it is to be played legato, and also playing it an octave higher. She spoke about pedaling, describing it as her "weakness." When Anne asked how often she should change the pedal, Yuliya demonstrated holding the pedal down through chord changes in the Moonlight Sonata. She recommended changing the pedaling at the repeats, which she said makes the music a different piece.

Hala Tomey followed Anne with a performance of Tuileries from Modest Moussourgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Yuliya identified a low note for the right hand that she suggested Hala play with her left hand. She recommended practicing the discipline of not using the pedal while learning a piece. And she said that for this particular selection, it is important that the staccato notes be played as evenly as possible, though she acknowledged that is difficult to do that while making the piece sound effortless.

Next Victor Dyni played Reinhold Gliere's Prelude in E Major (Opus 50, No. 9). Victor stated that he was concerned that the left hand would overpower the right. Yuliya responded by saying this piece is all about the left hand; indeed, all Russian music is about the left hand. "There is no fear of the left hand here," she stated. She advised Victor to use all the muscles of his shoulders and to use a full arm movement for the left hand chords.

Finally, Harriet Kaplan played the Preludio in E Major from Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas. In response to Yuliya's inquiry about what she found difficult with this piece, Harriet stated that it was "having a unified idea" of it. Yuliya suggested that as Harriet reached the second page of the score, she "wilted" and became "too soft, too quiet too soon."

There was some time for a few questions, and in response to someone asking about tips for memorizing, Yuliya replied that students should look for patterns. Ask "How long is the piece?" "What key is it in?" "Are there any particular rhythmic patterns?" She said that she tries to "get a blue print in my brain" of a piece of music.

In response to another question, Yuliya stated that she has personal animosity toward Hanon and prefers Czerny because it is possible to find music there. She also advised using the metronome to practice slowly. "The metronome," intoned Yuliya, "is your friend. Once your piece is perfect, you have the pedaling, the dynamics and the fingering down flat, then and only then should you move the tempo up a notch."

The day after the master class Yuliya sent AMSF an email saying, "It takes so much courage to play, and I was so impressed by the very high level of playing today. And the questions were so very insightful and interesting! Looking forward to hearing more of you guys!"

Yuliya suggested that if there is a future master class, it might be dedicated to one composer--e.g., Mozart, Beethoven, or Chopin. Several attendees endorsed this idea.