Garrick Ohlsson shares insights and delights during CMC master class

Guest artists lend new perspectives at Community Music Center
Over the years, CMC has invited world-renowned musicians to our school to offer their musical wisdom to our students. Artists such as Latin percussionist John Santos, Indian percussionist Rohan Krishnamurthy, classical pianist Emanuel Ax, and ensembles such as the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble have brought free clinics to the CMC community.

On March 25, celebrated classical pianist Garrick Ohlsson gave a free master class at CMC.  He spent 30 minutes with each of the three young students selected to participate: Rebecca Portnoy and Daniel Shin, students of Juliet McComas, and Brenton Lai, a student of Lilia Zheltova.

An extraordinary pianist
Garrick Ohlsson began his piano studies at the age of eight, at the Westchester Conservatory of Music, and entered The Juilliard School in New York City at 13. Since his 1970 triumph at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, he has established himself worldwide as a musician of great lyrical interpretation and technical prowess. He is noted for his masterly performances of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the Romantic repertoire.

Insightful instruction
Throughout the master class in CMC’s Concert Hall, Ohlsson was personable, insightful, and instructive. He affirmed how each student played, and showed respect for the students as young musicians taking this journey through their music studies.

Ohlsson was very detailed in his feedback for the students. Here are just a few observations he shared:

Sonata in D, Hob.XVI:24 by Franz Joseph Haydn, performed by Rebecca Portnoy
He gave Rebecca tips for the articulation of fast runs, then worked on the legato areas in contrast. He asked her to almost overlap the notes in her pedal work. Other suggestions were to take more time at the fermata in order to build anticipation, and to add an element of humor.

Arabesque No. 1 by Claude Debussy, performed by Daniel Shin
He recommended that Daniel make his tone project more during softer moments so that the audience can appreciate them. He suggested that the pianist think about dynamics and their relationship to one another. He also made voicing suggestions within a chord.

Fantasy in D minor, K. 397 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Brenton Lai
He showed Brenton how to make the piece sound more operatic with dramatic dynamic changes. He also offered more ways to practice runs, emphasizing the importance of practicing each hand individually. This way, you can appreciate the role of what each hand has to do.

Said Juliet McComas, “As a faculty member, it is valuable to hear another perspective and opinion on our students’ playing. If you share an opinion with the guest artist, it may be put in another way that reaches the students.”

Lilia Zheltova agreed, and shared her experience as the teacher of one of the participants: “My heart was pounding while Brenton was playing. I think I was much more nervous listening to my student than I would have been if I had been playing for Garrick myself.”

McComas added, “Bravo to the CMC students who put themselves out there in front of Mr. Ohlsson and a rapt audience. All showed extraordinary composure and maturity. There was a lot of happiness all around: the kids knew they did well, and the parents were thrilled and proud.”

Ohlsson delighted the audience at the end with two Chopin Mazurkas and the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C sharp minor, brilliantly showcasing the dynamic range and tone quality of CMC’s new concert grand. We hope for the chance to host him on our stage again soon!

View photos from the March 2017 Master Class by Linda Nakasone

Community Music Center’s new Yamaha CFX concert grand has been donated by the estate of Donald Oestreicher and by Piedmont Piano Company, with additional gifts from Denny Abrams, Robert Dell, Lawrence Dillon, and Larry Russo.