London masterclasses this week

29th February 2012 | Musings | 2 comments

On Friday and Saturday, I’m giving two days of my own masterclasses in ‘The Art of Piano Chamber Music’. (Click on my Concerts and Events tab for more details.)

I have some great participants this year – the Trio Paul Klee from Paris, the Trio Atanassov from Paris, the Lawson Trio from London, and the piano/cello duo of Mishka Momen and Bart Lafollette. All are serious, enquiring musicians. We’ll be working on Mendelssohn, Schubert, Debussy and Beethoven.

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to it is to have everyone gathered in one place for a couple of days, listening to one another’s lessons and giving each other intelligent, empathetic support. It can make such a difference. Recently, when I’ve visited conservatoires to give a class, I’ve found it very frustrating that students turn up just for their own lesson, and disappear immediately afterwards. I always ask that participants should be present for the whole class, but I almost never get my way. Yes, there can be scheduling problems, but it sometimes seems to me that people just can’t be bothered to listen to anyone else’s session. It’s a real pity, because everyone can learn so much from listening to others and to what’s said to them, or by them. And sometimes, when great things happen in a class, I feel sad and cross that nobody else witnessed them. In other countries there’s a long tradition of class learning in music conservatoires; it’s taken for granted that pupils will listen to one another.

I was chatting recently to a cellist who was in Rostropovich’s cello class in Moscow. She told me that whenever he came to teach, the whole class would spend the day together, listening to each other’s lessons and being pulled along in their development by seeing what others could do. Sometimes Rostropovich didn’t turn up. Still the cellists remained in the room, for hours if necessary, in case he put in an appearance.




  1. Nathan Shirley

    unfortunately I think most students care far more about grades and gaining badges for their resumes (look whose masterclass I was in), rather than actually learning and gaining skills. Perhaps this is in part because of how schools operate today?

  2. James B

    Susan, thanks to your blog I’ve started practicing the piano again! It is interesting to hear of your engagements around Europe. You seem to do a lot of teaching and encouraging the next generation of musicians.

    It would be wonderful if you could occasionally include practice tips in your blog, ideas for people who aren’t necessarily young professional musicians! For instance, I’ve been trying and trying to work out good fingering for Debussy’s Arabesque number 2, and it’s not easy! (Why is so much French music published without any ideas for fingering?!) It seems to me that figuring out which finger to use for which notes is just about the most important thing that a player can do with a new piece and I wonder how much time a professional musician will spend in doing this?!


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