26 November 2021

On Wednesday we were privileged to welcome to Abingdon the concert violinist and teacher, Sebastian Mueller, to work with six of Abingdon’s promising young violinists. Mr Mueller has a distinguished international career as a violin recitalist and teacher. He has also enjoyed teaching positions at Chetham’s Specialist Music School, Royal Northern College, The Guildhall School and at many of Europe’s most prestigious music conservatoires, such as the Vienna Hochschule and the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna.

We were excited to learn that Mr Mueller had agreed to play to us at the start of the masterclass and we were thrilled to hear his amazing musicality and virtuosity in Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor (Allegro) and Bazzani’s Ronde des Lutins, complete with a host of violin techniques such as breathlessly fast spiccati and left hand pizzicato. What an inspiration that was for the large number of violin pupils and their families who joined us for the event, the programme for which can be found here.

Nikhil Tennant was the first student to play, choosing an unaccompanied traditional Japanese piece, Sakura. Immediately Mr Mueller knew what he had to work on and there were some exercises on keeping vibrato working when changing note and string crossings. Liam Engall played de Berio’s Concerto IX and here we saw him working on making a bigger sound – the importance of lifting the scroll to maximise string contact to make the sound more powerful. The result was dramatic.

Jamie Robson chose a Baroque piece, the Allegro from Veracini’s Sonata Op 2 No 8. Here the challenge was to understand the nature of baroque violin technique with a lighter and shorter bow and how the music was composed to maximise the efficacy of that bow by creating effective shapes with heavier and lighter pressure. Oliver Smith chose Elgar’s Chanson de Matin. Here there was plenty of demonstration of how tall people such as Oliver need to think about a more upright posture and, to avoid feeling cramped when playing, keeping the instrument further to the left. He worked on creating a more cantabile sound by playing more from the heel of the bow.

The next performances were given by two Music Scholars. Ryan Ng in the Third Year played Paganini’s virtuosic Caprice No 24. Ryan played really well but should avoid leaning to the left, aiming to play more to the audience, and should get a little more bite at the start of each phrase. Walter Liu in the Lower Sixth played some Bach – the Allemande and Courante from Cello Suite no 1 in G. Walter was complemented on the dance-like feel that he created and encouraged to get more of a bounce near the heel in places and more weight, generally, as would be created by the larger sized cello.

As with the piano masterclass earlier in the term, it was wonderful to see the pupils responding with such immediacy to Sebastian Mueller’s fine and intuitive teaching – often with clearly explained exercises and with highly amusing and illuminating anecdotes.

This was a fantastic evening of teaching and learning. We thanked Mr Mueller, our accompanist and Head of Instrumental Music, Lynette Stulting, and of course, the students, 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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