“It’s like pushing big American cars!”

This much-belated post is about the masterclass and composition readings with the Hugo Wolf Quartet on October 19th. For related posts see “Just two more days” and “One more day…PSYCHE!

The day of the masterclass was much like the coaching session the day before. We continued to work on the first movement of Mozart’s String Quartet No. 4 in C Major, K. 157. This time, it was in front of over 200 peers from the music department as well as faculty. Of course, many of the tips that they gave us were elaborations on the day before.  Here are some of them below:

  1. Substitute pizzicato while practicing to get an idea of the”ring” needed on more accented notes. (i.e. the quarter note C’s in the viola part, mm. 13-15).
  2. Play in pairs to discover how each voice relates to one another.
  3. Use more space in between the notes.
  4. Focus on phrases as a larger idea rather than thinking of them as segmented.
  5. End phrases more deliberately; make it obvious to the listener.
  6. Understand what dissonances are created by non-chord tones such as suspensions, etc. Use these as expressive devices. (For example, in mm. 39-41, the viola’s D is most dissonant with the first violin. “Milk” this note.)
  7. Be aware of each other’s bow speeds and agree on them. (For example, we agreed to bow the quarter notes at m. 42 a lot faster to maintain energy.)
  8. “Push” or “lean” into the first note under a slur; don’t accent them otherwise. According to Sebastian, “It’s like pushing big American cars!”–you need a big push to get them going, but after that you need less effort to keep it rolling. (In other words, you need a good “push” to draw the sound out of the instrument.)
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