Our Masterclass with the Aiana String Quartet

This morning our quartet had a masterclass with the Aiana String Quartet. Since we are continuing to study Mozart’s String Quartet No. 4 in C Major, K. 157, we decided to receive coaching on the second movement since it has been quite a challenge. Fortunately we were a lot less nervous because of our previous experiences–the prior masterclasses definitely helped. Here is a relatively brief summary of the tips that we learned, many of which are applicable to any chamber music rehearsal:

  1. Learn to feel the movement in one by practicing the piece much faster than normal, then bringing it back to the normal tempo. Think of a bouncing ball.
  2. Discuss everyone’s roles in each section and how they change and develop throughout the piece. Know how each part relates to one another. This can be done by rehearsing in pairs/smaller groups before reassembling the piece.
  3. Discuss each mood within the piece, as well as how the piece evolves and unfolds. Determine its ultimate goal.
  4. Look at each other more in order to collectively influence the ebb and flow of the piece.
  5. Don’t be afraid to change bowings, etc. even after you’ve “settled” on them. In fact, try various methods frequently.
  6. Discuss variations within dynamics. Not all fortes and pianos are equal.
  7. Determine the purpose of changes in texture. (Example: the dramatic change to monophony at the double barline)
  8. Be creative and use syllables to decide upon articulation within the piece. (Example: da, dum, bum, etc.)
  9. Sit as close to each other as possible to enhance communication.

Now that I think about #4, I understand while they play while standing up, which is normally seen as unconventional. When I watched them performed the day prior at the Redlands Chamber Music Society, not only did their facial expressions and eye contact help to communicate emotion to the audience and each other, but their ability to move their whole bodies to the piece quite freely did also. For this reason, I thought their stage presence was quite impressive and inspiring–possibly something to experiment with in the future.

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