On Sunday November 8, The Carmel Music Society presented a piano master class in the backstage rehearsal room at Sunset Center in Carmel. The presiding master teacher was the distinguished pianist, Hans Boepple, Professor of Music at Santa Clara University.
Opening the afternoon session was a performance by Annabel Chen. 7, a pupil of Pebble Beach teacher, Janet Hayslett. Annabel played the Allegro and Vivace movements of Friedrich Kuhlau’s Sonatina in C Major, Op. 55, No. 1. Commenting that this was very beautiful playing and full of lots of details that had been carefully observed, Mr. Boepple quizzed Annabel about the character of these two movements and how best to realize the composer’s intentions. They agreed that an important characteristic of the first movement was the surprises caused by the rude interjections of loud chords at critical points in the texture. They worked together to set up these surprises for maximum effect. There was one critical point in the first movement when the tonality shifted unexpectedly from C Major to C Minor, and Boepple suggested that an angrier mood needed to be established. In closing the session, Mr. Boepple said to Annabel, “You have a very good teacher.”
Next to perform was Andrew Yuan, 13, a pupil of Carmel pianist RenÃ©e Bronson, who played the first movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, Op. 13. At its conclusion, Mr. Boepple said, “You play this really well with a great sense of drama.”When Boepple asked Andrew what was the greatest challenge in learning this work, Andrew answered without a moment’s hesitation, “Memorizing it!” Boepple demonstrated an ingenious technique of practicing by repeating a small fragment of a measure or two like an endless loop tape, a technique that Andrew tried out for the audience. Boepple also tested Andrew’s counting of the introductory slow page with its difficult rhythms. Boepple pointed out that some of Andrews 32nd notes were shorter than others, so they worked together to count them more accurately.
We then heard a performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata played by Hyun Jee Kim, 13, a pupil of Ha Yung Rhee. Boepple complimented her performance, saying, “What wonderful playing and facility!” He commented that her textures were very thick, so together they worked on bringing out the melodic top notes, both in slower lyrical passages and in faster moving passages. They also worked together in clarifying her pedal technique to avoid pedaling through harmonic changes and in scale-like passages. Hyun Jee was very cooperative and adopted his suggestions.
After intermission Madeline Anderson, 13, a pupil of Carmel pianist Lyn Bronson, played Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5. Boepple complimented her on her performance saying, “This is so beautifully played and so note perfect that it is difficult to find things to talk about.” He did, however question her approach to the middle section, suggesting it might be too tranquil and perhaps needed more shaping of the melody with more passion. Together they worked on shaping the top notes of the beautiful melody and effected some nice improvements.
Next to perform was Angela Ng, 15, a pupil of Carmel pianist Barbara Ruzicka. playing the last movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in F Minor, Op.2, No. 1. Finding much that was bold and dramatic in her playing, Boepple worked with Angela to achieve softer left hand accompaniments and to bring out the top notes in dramatic chord passages. They worked together to refine the dynamics in order to achieve more contrast between p and f, and especially the ff ending.
The last performer of the day was Joy Zhao, 17, a pupil of Carmel pianist Katie Clare Mazzeo. Joy played the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in C Minor, K.457, and earned compliments from Boepple for her dramatic, powerful performance and the very good feeling she had for the stormy nature of the piece. Boepple asked Joy about Mozarts style and wondered whether she had any favorite pianists whose Mozart style she admired. The aspect they worked on most together was playing left hand accompaniment passages much softer, saying, “You not only have to be a soloist, but also a good accompanist.” They also worked together on pedaling to increase clarity and refinement.
A somewhat curious aspect of this master class was that Mr. Boepple, after making a suggestion to a young performer, would often simultaneously play the same passage along with the student on a second piano. With two pianos (each irritatingly out of tune with the other) playing at the same time, there was no way to tell whether the passage was improving or whether the performer was adopting the suggestions, which for the audience and students is one of the most important and inspiring aspects of a master class. For the students and parents in the audience, there was one other problem. Mr. Boepple, facing the audience, would often ask students a question. The students would answer, but since their backs were to the audience as they faced Mr. Boepple, we rarely heard the answers.
President of the Carmel Music Society, Anne Thorp, thanked Mr. Boepple, the young performers and the very attentive audience.