Piano Masterclass with Ben Schoeman

1 March 2017

Tonight, seven of our more advanced pianists benefited from the expert tuition, reflections and suggestions from the concert pianist, Ben Schoeman. This was the third visit from this South African prize-winning pianist who has an international reputation as a soloist and recording artist. He came to us with a wealth of top level professional experience.

That experience was much in evidence as he coached 15 year-old Didier Delgorge in Mendelssohn Piano Concerto in G minor (finale). From the start, Dr Schoeman was able to get into the technical nitty-gritty of fingerings as well as matters of interpretation. In his demonstrations, he was also able to exceed Didier’s blistering pace!

Jason Ng (15) played the opening of Mozart’s D major Sonata K576 and was complimented on the elegant simplicity of his playing, but soon encouraged to think about finding more humour and homogeneity in his touch, as well as some more colours in the music. Jason was encouraged to listen to some Mozart operas, especially the coloratura passages in soprano arias.

16 year-old Harris Ma played us some beautifully atmospheric Debussy - his Sarabande from Le Tombeau de Couperin. Harris played with suitably understated elegance, though Ben Schoeman was able to demonstrate how he could summon even more atmospheric colour, referencing other works such as La Cathedrale engloutie and Sirenes from his orchestral Nocturnes.

Andreas Lo (14) chose Chopin’s famous Waltz in B minor. Dr Schoeman quickly enabled Andreas to think of a more melancholy and nostalgic sound reminiscent of the Parisian salon and the effect was quite magical – lighter and more legato in the bass and generally softer.

Alvin Tam (15) brought us into the world of the Nocturne with Chopin’s Opus 27 No 2. The playing was characterised by all the necessary control but soon achieved a beautiful gentle evenness in the sostenuto left hand and a magically different singing right hand. Alvin responded with sharp intelligence.

After the break, 14 year-old David Bicarregui delivered some imaginatively musical playing in Mozart’s Fantasie in C minor, a most expressive piece, with a variety of sections and moods to be explored. Some work was done on discovering the right kind of forte at the start and the sense of Adagio tempo and control in the touch.

Young Nicholas Raptakis (13) chose some Haydn, his G major Sonata. After giving a quick resume of Haydn’s life, highlighting his skill and wit as a composer, Nick was soon urged to find some new subtlety of touch and grace in the music, exploring new technical ways of achieving lyrical phrasing and less melodic accent.

Oliver Breach (15) changed the mood somewhat with Gershwin’s The Man I Love. Oliver made an excellent job of this, but was encouraged to find a bit more sentimentality and to get to the sad loneliness of the music, as well as ensuring that the right hand melody sang at all times.

Finally we heard Ashwin Tennant (14) play Chopin’s demanding Etude in Ab Op 25. He played it with a sense of consummate ease, which impressed our teacher as much as it did the audience. However, there was plenty to work on, too - keeping a sense of melodic line and avoiding the temptation to stop and start, the very opening being a case in point.

We offered our thanks to all the pianists, their teachers and to Dr Schoeman for a wonderfully riveting and fascinating piano masterclass. We were then lucky enough to hear the maestro play for us at the end – Chopin’s Ab Major Polonaise and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 12 – with brilliant virtuosity. 

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