LSO Master Class - Viola

Uploaded by symphony on 20.10.2010

Silverthorne: Hello, YouTube.
Welcome to the YouTube Symphony Orchestra
Master Classes.
I'm Paul Silverthorne.
I'm Principal Viola
at the London Symphony Orchestra,
and I'm here to give you a few helpful hints,
I hope, on the audition pieces
for this year's YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
The first piece you've been asked to play
is the Finale from Stamitz's D major Viola Concerto.
This makes a nice change,
as usually, you're asked to do the First Movement.
This--this finale is not so virtuosic,
and it's a matter of capturing the right style
and playing with grace and neatness
and beauty of tone.
Uh, first thing to do is to make sure
you don't start too fast.
It's very tempting to play the opening tune
a little bit too briskly.
If you do that, you'll get into trouble later
when it gets much faster.
There are more notes to fit in in the bar.
The essence of this opening tune is not speed and agility,
but grace.
And it's marked "dolce," which should give you a clue.
So I would aim for a tempo more like...
And that may seem a little tame,
but it'll stand you in good stead.
Later in the movement, you'll find
that all the different episodes will all work at that speed.
For instance, the next--
the next one, which is more-- more lyrical.
And also the minor section, which comes a little later.
Then, most importantly,
when you start dashing around with sextuplets--
six 16th notes to the beat--
you won't be in too much of a panic.
You can still play with a certain amount of elegance
and not be dashing around like a maniac.
You've also been asked to offer a movement
from Bach's First Cello Suite,
the G major suite.
Um, I won't go through all the movements,
but try and give you some general hints
on playing Bach in audition.
Uh, there are so many different opinions
about how Bach should be played.
You can't please everybody.
So the important thing is to play in a style
that you really believe in.
Play honestly, the way you feel the music.
And that will come across.
If you try and do what you think other people will want,
that won't work.
This suite is perhaps the-- the most straightforward,
It's not such complex music as the later suites
and is very open and natural in style.
So don't lose that.
The opening-- the opening movement
is just argpeggiated chords,
and don't try and make too much fuss
about the articulation, the phrasing of it.
Just let the harmonies open naturally.
If you choose one of the dance movements,
then try and make sure that you do keep the dance character.
They're all very distinct.
The Allemande, the second one,
is quite flowing and gentle in style.
But the Courante, if you look at it,
you can see that-- see the big jumps
that Bach's written in all the way through the piece.
That gives you a clue to the kind of energy it needs.
It needs a slightly more robust approach
than perhaps some of the other movements.
So enjoy-- enjoy the big jump.
Capture the character of the movement.
The Sarabande should not be too slow.
The edition I'm looking at now gives a metronome mark
in eighth notes.
Ignore that.
Even though it's slow, it should still be
in a quarter note pulse,
otherwise, you won't feel the proper Sarabande rhythm.
The Minuet, unlike some of the others,
is, again, a very gentle movement.
It's not as lively as some in the later...
later suites.
Uh, so, again, feel a nice, flowing line.
And then contrast it nicely with the jig.
Again, not too fast,
but lots of rhythmic energy.
That's only a brief look at the Suite,
but I hope there's some helpful hints in there.
One piece that always comes up in auditions
is the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's
"Midsummer Night's Dream."
There are obvious reasons for this.
It requires a very good control of spiccato
and neat finger work,
and it's a really very good test of a player.
We've been quite kind to you in these auditions
'cause we haven't asked you for the hardest bits,
just the opening 16 bars.
So you haven't got the long runs of 16th notes to cope with,
only short bursts of them.
So let's take advantage of that.
Basically, the rhythm we're after is...
It's very important this stroke is done
not with the whole arm,
but with a relaxed wrist and fingers.
If you use the whole arm, it's very uncontrollable,
and the sound will be hard and brittle, like this.
Important to keep fluidity in the hand
and hardly any involvement at the right arm at all.
If this is something you're having difficulty with,
don't--don't try and learn the stroke
with Mendelssohn's music.
Use your scales...
or something like Kreutzer Study No. 2,
and then come back to this
when you've got more comfortable with it.
Then start practicing the whole thing.
Those ambitious ones amongst you
who want to try out for Principal
in YouTube Symphony Orchestra,
best of luck to you.
You've got the chance to play a glorious melody
from Berlioz's "Harold in Italy."
Um, the passage we want is the very opening
of the viola solo.
And the piece is marked,
"Scene of melancholy happiness and joy."
So it definitely starts in melancholy.
And at the end of the solo, you're joyous and passionate.
So it's a real test of your expressive abilities
on the instrument.
And your ability to...
hold a line for really quite a long time.
It's a very long tune.
I haven't counted the bars,
but the whole of the first page is really one melodic span.
So a few ideas on this.
Berlioz wrote this at the request of Paganini,
who had just acquired a wonderful Stradivarius viola,
which he wanted to play.
And I'm sure the sound of that instrument
was in Berlioz's head as he wrote this first movement
of "Harold in Italy."
The wonderful golden signing tone
this instrument must have had.
So whatever instrument you play,
even if it's a Chinese viola
with "Stradivarius" in the label,
aim for that in your-- the singing bow stroke
and warm, rich vibrato.
Then the next phrase he asks to be played
as sweetly as possible,
and three Ps--
really, really quiet.
And this is one instance in the solo repertoire
where you really can play very quietly.
The orchestration here is incredibly delicate.
So even on your web cam
in your audition for YouTube,
see how--how quietly you really can play it...
while still keeping a nice melodic line.
Gradually-- gradually, the--
the piece works up and becomes more impassioned
and more joyous.
So, as that happens,
really open out the sound
and let us hear what you can do melodically.
The scariest audition piece, I think, for everybody,
is Strauss' "Don Juan."
It's-it's difficult in every--every way.
And it comes up in almost every audition
for all the string instruments.
So there's no way I can make it easy,
but I can perhaps give you some helpful ideas.
The opening phrase, the main fault I often hear
when people play it is they stop too many times.
And if Don Juan had stopped at every bar in his life,
he wouldn't have got the reputation he had.
It's very important the opening phrase
dashes right through from the beginning to the end.
Then, in contrast, we have the rich,
arching melody.
Again, be very careful here to pay attention
to Strauss' articulations.
Uh, for instance.
He puts the accent on the 16th note,
which is not where you're expecting it.
If you play it the way you'd expect,
you'd accent virtually everything else.
Pay attention to that and the fact that
the next phrases are really legato.
The passage that scares everyone most
is the final G major arpeggio
up to the D.
Ahem, again, there's no way of making this easy.
But keep your cool
and find the one fingering that works for you.
And, uh, just practice and practice and practice.
There are two possible ways of getting up to that top D.
Most people choose to go up gradually, in stages.
That's never worked very well for me at speed.
I prefer to wait till the last minute
and go up in one-- one final shift.
But each to their own.
In the next passage,
again, as in the Mendelssohn,
we have--we need a very nicely controlled spiccato.
It's harder here, because it comes out
of a forte passage, and it's in triplets
and alternates legato and spiccato.
Don't try and balance the bow too high,
or else it'll be very messy and not together.
So keep it very controlled.
If you like to jump too far off the string,
you won't be able to control the legatos
or control the rhythm.
Well, I hope those comments were of some help to you.
Best of luck with your practicing,
and I look forward to seeing your videos.