July 1, 2011

William Kanengiser masterclass notes, part 2

Continuing on from last week's post... Looking at the notes again, I was impressed by how much time William Kanengiser devoted to musical issues versus purely technical ones. I've decided to write this up in multiple parts, which will cover all the musical issues first and the final will cover technical and other miscellaneous ones.

The second performer played Guardame Las Vacas. Kanengiser mentioned that it was one of, if not the earliest written example of theme & variations. It's based on a popular theme of the time and I seem to remember him singing a bit of it, although that may be a confabulation on my part. You can hear a version by Alonso Mudarra for voice and (I think) baroque guitar played by Catherine King and Jacob Heringman here. It differs quite a bit from the familiar version by Narvaez, but I wanted to put in a plug for one of my favorite albums.

I have only two musical-issue related notes from this piece:

  • The notes on top are supported by the rhythm underneath. Kanengiser has the student play it as alternating bars of 3+3 and 2+2+2 accents, found so frequently in spanish music. It helped the student give the piece a stronger sense of rhythmic structure and direction.
  • Rhythmic energy is not necessarily the same thing as dynamic strength. I haven't recorded the context of this not but I assume the student at first put his previous suggestion into practice accenting the beats too forcefully but it is a great general observation. Often times a lighter beat can be more effective and appropriate as long as the beat is conveyed clearly.
The third student played Gavota-Choro by Heitor Villa-Lobos. IIRC, this student was a youngster, perhaps ten or eleven years old, who had broken his arm fairly recently and had just had the cast removed the day before. In spite of this, he only missed one day of practice. He was also playing a 3/4 size guitar and, frankly, had tone that most guitar students would be envious of. Needless to say, he was quite impressive, not to mention fearless. Of course, there was good feedback for him as well.
  • Tone - volume is sometimes less important than richness. A full tone produced by playing somewhat over the soundhole and giving due attention to the quality of each of the voices in the music and the evenness/continuity of their dynamics will give a better overall impression of loudness and projection than attempting to play loudly but without the sense of evenness.
  • Rallentando - Imagine the rhythm of the notes like a baseball card the spokes of a bicycle wheel as the wheel is slowing down gradually. 

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