'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Classical Star - Revisited

Once again we found ourselves watching 'Classical Star', on BBC2, as it enters the penultimate week.

With only five students remaining, it was always going to be a challenge to reduce the number to three, for the final.
Collaboration was the focus of attention this week.
It's an essential requirement for a musician to be able to perform with other musicians.
Not only because it is nearly always necessary at some point in a musical career, but also, because it is a highly desirable stage in a musician's development to experience the synergy and joy of being a team member.

The Academy set up a blues masterclass with jazz star Julian Joseph, and it was within this setting that the students were required to learn the art of collaboration and improvisation.
All the participants entered into the spirit of the challenge with enthusiasm, some realising their limitations more than others, but it must be said that most were uncomfortable in this environment.

All the candidates have undoubtedly worked very hard to achieve their levels of skill on their chosen instruments, but, the ability to cross genres convincingly is achieved by very few.(Chick Corea, Benny Goodman and Wynton Marsalis come to mind).
Most classical musicians are ill at ease with other genres but some will learn over time to be more comfortable.

It's one thing to have the ability to play notes in the right places but another thing completely to feel the music and, of course, to improvise.

However, I'm sure they all gained a lot from the experience, which, after all, is what a masterclass is all about.

The challenge for the week was a tough one.
To perform at London's Southbank Centre, with professional string players, in front of an illustrious audience comprising agents, critics and managers from within the classical music industry.
All credit to the candidates for maintaining their 'cool', given the importance of the situation.
Many a battle worn professional would have found the scenario a difficult one.

We were disappointed with the amount of airtime the classical guitarist Ian had for viewers at home to listen and make their judgement. It seemed less than the other soloists, but, that may have just been our need to hear more.

As I said last week, Ian displays excellent technical ability, and I feel that over time this will stand him in very good stead.
Last night he played Boccherini's 'Quintet No.4 in D Major', but the amount of footage seen was so limited it was difficult to assess his performance.
The majority of the part shown consisted of rasgueados, which showed his ensemble and listening skills, rather than the areas of the piece designed to show off his guitaristic skills.

I'm not sure if the finals have already taken place, but if they haven't, the advice I would give to Ian is to work on his sound and projection.
The concert guitar used, will obviously play a significant part in this, as will nail quality.
That's why nails are so often mentioned in this blog!

It will be interesting to see and hear his choice of concerto for the final.
What Ian has to do, whatever he is performing, is to play with every last ounce of energy he has, and inject that into his performance.
It's no coincidence that musicians come off stage exhilarated but drained.

Whilst in the Academy this week all the students were in the enviable position of observing one of the world's greatest pianists, Lang Lang.
Now that is the sort of stage presence and gravitas which Ian needs to achieve.

Ian does seem very receptive to all the advice in the Academy so far, so, lets hope he can hold Lang Lang's performance in his mind and use it to his advantage.
That's star quality.

So Ian, use that adrenaline to give a feisty and powerful performance, and the very best of luck...

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