8 November 2022

On Friday we were privileged to welcome back to Abingdon the concert violinist and teacher, Sebastian Mueller, to work with six of Abingdon’s promising young violinists. Anyone who was present at last year’s event knew that we were in for a treat. Mr Mueller enjoys a distinguished international career as a violin recitalist and teacher. He has also occupied important teaching positions at Chetham’s School, The Royal Northern College, The Guildhall School, The Menuhin School and the NYGB – as well as at many of Europe’s most prestigious music conservatoires, such as the Vienna Hochschule and the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna.

Walter Liu opened with Schubert’s beautiful Arpeggione Sonata. Mr Mueller gave him some helpful exercises on how to create cleaner articulation and summon a variety of different colours by playing closer to or further away from the bridge. Next, Karsten Cheung played Dvorak’s Romantic Pieces Nos 1 and 2. At the start there was some helpful practical advice on how to use the fine tuners, before talking about style and how to communicate the nature of the phrases. The result was dramatic and full of enhanced character.

Ryan Ng chose the highly virtuosic Wieniawski Concerto No 2. Here the challenge was to think about how the bow hold could be changed to improve the quality of the articulation using the fingers rather that the arm. Then there was some help with the octave passages, how to articulate them to improve their quality and clarity. Brian Chu played the Allegro from Veracini’s Sonata No 2 in E minor. Here there was lots of advice about what part of the bow should be used and how at string crossings he needed to be near the heel. Oliver Smith had benefited hugely in last year’s masterclass from exercises to help tall people think about a more upright posture. In the Canzonetta from Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto he worked on creating a contrasting, extrovert sound for the middle section. Nicholas Lau played the first movement from Mozart’s Concerto No 3 with a focus that was complimented by Mr Mueller.

The initial discussion was about the benefits of memorising the music for concerto performances. This concerto was composed at the same time as several operas and so there are opportunities to find some quasi-operatic characterisation in the music.

As with the piano masterclass earlier in the term, it was wonderful to see the pupils responding with such immediacy and intelligence to Sebastian Mueller’s fine and intuitive teaching – often with clearly explained exercises and often with highly amusing and illuminating anecdotes. We were delighted that Mr Mueller was willing to perform a short recital at the end of the masterclass and we were excited to hear his amazing musicality and virtuosity in Beethoven’s Spring Sonata and Dvorak’s Romantic Pieces.

We heard hugely enjoyable playing from Sebastian Mueller and his accompanist, Lynette Stulting. This was, again, a fantastic evening of teaching and learning. We thanked both Sebastian Mueller and our accompanist and Head of Instrumental Music, Lynette Stulting – as well as the pupils – for a wonderful evening of music-making. Financed by our parental Music Society, we thanked them, too, for their on-going support of fantastic events such as these.

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