Master Class Highlights - Revisting 2017
Mr. Chan is a Meadowmount alumnus and former first violinist of the acclaimed Miami String Quartet. He has recorded for BMG/Conifer, Music Heritage and CRI labels. In 2011, he was named Senior Lecturer in String Chamber Music at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. In his return to Meadowmount last summer he gave a master class at the Concert Hall, hearing Meadowmount students performing three quartets.
Beethoven Quartet Op. 18, No. 5 – 1st movement
“The op. 18’s, along with Haydn and Mozart, are among the first quartets most of us tackle, but they are actually maybe the hardest quartets there are, because they are just so exquisitely written. … Along with elegance there is a lot of power and humor. Especially in the concert hall, we need to exaggerate the rests and articulations. Up close, in the first row, it almost has to be too much but in the back of the hall - it’s ‘wow!’ ”
Mr. Chan suggested that instead of too much preparation of every entrance, the players should react more to each other’s parts, and also pointed out that successive sfz’s usually mean an augmented sequence. “To me, a great quartet is about freeing each other, not being complacent… four great soloists really showing their personality put together, because the music asks for you to do that. Don’t sacrifice; the more you play quartets, the more aggressively personal you have to be with your passion and sound, and you’re four great musicians so you listen and play together.”
He asked the players to play a quiet passage in forte as a practice exercise, then to “channel that energy into a warm, piano sound. When you play softer, you still want intensity and you have to work doubly hard.” Mr. Chan reminded that the leader of a quartet is the cello, and to build from the bottom, letting the cello lead.
Beethoven Quartet Op. 95 (Serioso) – 1st movement
“One of the hardest things is to make the first four slurred 16th notes clear; practice them with separate bows, and the 8ths which follow all up-bows. Then go back to the original bowing, trying to make it as clear as when you were playing separate.”
When searching for tone color to deliver the lyrical line, “inside you have to feel like you are singing, and translate that to your hands.”
These students later performed this quartet at a concert on August 7, 2017:
Prokofiev Quartet No. 2, Op. 92 – 1st movement
Mr. Chan reminded that this piece is based on folk music and “folk music is not unrefined, it’s uncomplicated. Play as if you were playing outside, not in a concert hall.” Detail work with the group on bow strokes, attacks, rests and exact rhythm brought this music to life.
Here is the student performance from August 2, 2017:
Memorable key points from this class that we can take to future work in other music: