Postgraduate pianist Ellen Day tells us about a masterclass at the Winchester Chamber Music Festival with the Bridge Piano Quartet:
This year three other students and I formed a new ensemble, The Bridge Piano Quartet, and on Sunday 4th May we attended a masterclass with the London Bridge Ensemble as part of the Winchester Chamber Music Festival. The festival was held at the Winchester Discovery Centre, and students were able to get free tickets to concerts held throughout the weekend, most of which completely sold out. The masterclass was open to the public and was taken by pianist and artistic director Daniel Tong and violinist Michael Gurevich. Because our group was formed outside of university, we had yet to receive any coaching, and so it was a little nerve wracking to have our first feedback in front of an audience. However, through including the audience in the session the musicians were able to break the ice, and in the end we were able to learn a lot in a short amount of time.
We performed a piece we hadn’t been working on for very long, Mahler’s Piano Quartet Movement in A minor. Written when Mahler was still a teenager, it is a fairly tricky piece both structurally and pianistically, but the session focused more generally on how to achieve a sense of unity as a chamber ensemble. Chamber music was likened to a musical negotiation, and we were encouraged to experiment, discuss and even provoke each other during rehearsals in order to reach a unified musical intention. It was emphasized that ultimately the shape of the music itself is not as important as the need for interpretive decisions to be realized with conviction. The conclusion drawn was that playing ‘together’ as an ensemble is the natural result of a predetermined and united musical vision, and under no circumstances should this become the object in itself. This may be a subtle point, but by the end of the session we were performing less passively, and were much more engaged with one another. Members of the audience who had little musical experience also complemented us on the progress we had made in such a short time. Overall it was a valuable experience and we were very impressed with The London Bridge Ensemble.