AMSF Special Event
Rodriguez Piano Master Class--An Inspirational Afternoon

Review by Carol Barth

On the afternoon of February 29, 2004, six AMSF pianists and observers gathered at the home of David and Carol Fram for a master class conducted by Carlos Rodriguez. The following AMSF members participated.

  • Ellen Tenenbaum--Scarlatti Sonata in c minor, K 11 and Sonata in f minor, K 519
  • Carol Barth--Brahms Ballade in g minor, Op 118, No 3
  • Tom Haug--Ginastera Danzas Argentinas, No 1, Danza Del Viejo Boyero and No 2, Danza de la Moza Donosa
  • Jan Zischke--Mozart Sonata in F major, K 332
  • Sue Suffae--Ravel Pavanne pour une Infante defunte
  • Joyce Morton--Beethoven Sonata No 23 in f minor, Op 57, Allegro assai (portion)

It was immediately apparent how much Carlos understood the essence of the pieces that were played. He clearly loves the music and was able to make each performer feel comfortable while at the keyboard. Carlos' first question to several participants was "What do you love about this music?" He advised Ellen that she could be freer with her gestures and incorporate more of a dance quality as she played the Scarlatti sonatas. He worked with Carol to achieve a more horizontal bass line and to bring out the top melody note from thick chords by practicing everything staccato except the top note. Tom was instructed to think about the complex rhythms of each hand horizontally as a whole, rather than to line up beats between the two hands.

After a brief intermission, Jan was told to think operatic characters having a dialog within her piece. Carlos reminded her that a good technique when playing Mozart was to use the tips of her fingers to bring out the melody and the flatter pads to play the accompaniment to allow for a clearer texture. Carlos thought Sue had great command of her piece. She was instructed to practice without looking at the keyboard to allow her hands to "see" their way through the piece. Joyce was advised to break her piece into sections and practice one section at a time, working on the technical difficulties using techniques he asked her to try.

Dale Dean, who was an observer, said "Even though I didn't play, I found Carlos' advice valuable--not only his practicing tips to overcome technical difficulties, but also his stress on allowing yourself freedom in performing to convey to listeners what you love about the music. The performances were of high quality, but it was remarkable how they sounded even better after working with Carlos. Thanks to Carlos and to the performers for an enjoyable and productive afternoon, and to David and Carol Fram for hosting."

Jan Zischke thought the master class was a great success. She found Carlos' suggestions very helpful in practicing her Mozart sonata, particularly viewing the work as an opera with different characters appearing on stage. "It has helped me to add both color and enjoyment to my playing. Another new and useful suggestion was the technique of playing soft accompaniment parts with the fingers flat on the keys and the melody with the tips of the fingers. It works!"

Joyce Morton commented, "I think one of his most valuable suggestions to me was the idea of tackling with intense focus one section at a time. My tendency always is to want to play an entire movement right away, and I don't work with the intensity or persistence or creativity I need to on some difficult passages."

The master class ended with Carlos Rodriguez' very commanding performance of de Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance." A loverly reception followed. Thank you to David and Carol Fram for graciously hosting this master class. The Frams provided a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere for this lovely afternoon.