4 October 2019

Following her outstanding masterclass in January, we were delighted to welcome back to the school the distinguished Russian pianist and teacher, Katya Lebedeva. Miss Lebedeva has a highly successful career as a performer and teacher, largely based in Germany, but with regular teaching commitments in London, both at Trinity Laban Conservatoire and the Royal College of Music. Katya Lebedeva also directs a well-known summer festival in Greece, Musical Odyssey, which welcomes young musicians, both teenagers and young professional musicians to work intensively with distinguished international artists.

Daniel Zhang, was our first pianist, playing Mozart’s Sonata in Bb K333 and he was soon finding a new character in order to tell a story with his playing. Similarly, pianist no 2, Laurence Peverall, with Debussy’s Dr Gradus ad Parnassum, Katya was soon sharing really helpful and encouraging ideas, transporting us to Mount Olympus to imagine another story to tell through the music. Here the student was understanding passages by thinking about a “magical cave”, “two climbers climbing” and someone “pleading for something”. By this means the music was really brought alive with energy and intelligence.

Nicholas Raptakis was next to play, this time Rachmaninov’s Elegy Op 3 No 1, which he played with great musical sensitivity, an impressive conviction and an understanding of romantic gesture with really effective rubato. We learned what Elegy and grief means to a Russian – not so much showiness or sentimentality as real heartbreak.

Other pianists included Joe Bradley (Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2, 2nd movement), Ashwin Tennant (Chopin’s Scherzo No 2) and David Bicarregui (Chopin’s Concerto No 2, 1st movement).

It was wonderful to see the pupils responding with such immediacy and intelligence to Miss Lebedeva’s fine teaching which she was able to share with all present, not just the pupils – and often with humour and anecdotes.

We offered our thanks to all the pianists, their teachers and to Miss Lebedeva for her wonderfully fascinating and effective teaching. The boys were encouraged to recall all the wonderfully apposite comments and to incorporate them in their playing of these great works. This was a fantastic evening of teaching and learning and we look forward to Miss Lebedeva’s next visit to Abingdon.

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