A Master Class With Corey CerovsekMonday, January 09, 2012
|Corey Cerovsek, January 9, 2011|
Fuji Instant Colour Film FP-100C
Since violinist Corey Cerovsek was 15 when I photographed him with f holes on the palm of one of his hands we have been regularly reprising those shots. He is now 40. Cerovsek was in Vancouver, from his home in Paris, for a weekend concert with the VSO. We agreed that the series would continue when possible until inevitably one of us will no longer be available due to circumstances beyond our control.
Trying to figure out when I could get him to my home studio was complicated as Cerovsek was busy with rehearsals and finally ended up with a terrible cold that him playing Korngold’s lone violin concerto tonight virtually deaf. I found this out when my daughter Hilary and I visited with Cerovsek after the concert.
It was on Sunday that Cerovsek had told me that he was teaching at UBC on Monday in the morning. He was giving a master class. I thought of asking him if I could attend as I could then drive him back to town via my studio. But I was embarrassed. Those who attended such a thing would probably be paying lots of money.
I was wrong. I looked it up on the web and found that the master class, held at the recital hall as the UBC School of Music was free! It was funded by the VSO, UBC Music, Vancouver Academy of Music,Telus and the Gemini Foundation. And so I went.
The format was that in the two hours (10 to 12) four different top notch violinists (two from UBC and two from the Vancouver Academy of Music) would play works lasting about 15 minutes. Then Cerovsek would go on stage and give pointers and (so I found out) extremely kind criticism).
Attendance was sparse. This surprised me and even more as by noon I felt I had been privy to two delightful hours of wonder and this un musician had come out a winner of all kinds of knowledge.
The program featured four young musicians (one was a male) who had close to unimpeachable technique. They played Sonata in a minor, Op. 105 I – Mit leidenschaftlichem Ausdruck by Robert Schumann, Carmen – Fantasie brillante for Violin & Piano, Op.3, No r by Jenö Hubay (the violinists who played duos or sonatas came with a pianist), Adagio & fugue in a minor by Johann Sebastian Bach and Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28 by Camille Saint-Saëns.
To help Cerovsek not cough I was passing him my personal stash of Fisherman’s Friends Lemon Flavoured drops. The performances, to this Philistine were very good. Then Cerovsek would take out his Stradivarius from its case and he would hop on stage. In most of the cases the problem at hand was less of technique and more about feelings and intentions. Later Cerovsek explained to me how the exhuberance of his youth that converted him into a boy-wonder of heart stopping technique had morphed to something that included much more.
It was then that I realized that I what I try to teach my photography students is less about photographic technique and more about how photographic ideas are generated in my head and how after years of experience I have thrown out of the window all those superfluous dazzling lighting styles and that I have come to discover the merits of communication between myself and my subjects.
Cerovsek kept telling the students how their gestures, their swagger would indicate to the audience their intentions in playing. He urged them to check out for patterns in the chords to see what the composer was up to. He was quick to point out, ever so gently, some of their flaws in technique such as not using a pinky in holding a bow or the proper way of achieving a variation in vibrato.
It soon became most evident why it is that dancers and musicians (in my experience) seem to be uncommonly intelligent and are good conversationalists. There is so much thought involved in the playing of music or dancing in front of an audience. Communication is the key. This communication pretty well involves having a good “degree” in psychology. “You have to indicate by your gestures what your intentions are and what you want the music to communicate to those who are listening,” Cerosek said repeatedly.
There were other delightful moments of wonder. For one there was listening to a good violin and then to listen to another, Cerovsek’s, play the same passages with a Stradivarius. The comparison was quite shocking. The Stradivarius was a lot louder and its lower registers somehow reminded me of a viola. It was fun to watch Cerovsek sight read (he was not familiar with the particular Bach piece) and to share his delight of never having heard what seemed to be a new-found arrangement of Carmen for piano and violin.
Then there were interesting factoids. I asked Cerovsek why it was that one of the performers had brought music to read and did not memorize her piece. His answer was illuminating. It seems that there is a tradition in the playing of sonatas (Robert Schumann’s in the morning’s program is one example) that you have two instruments of equal importance and it is not a situation of a pianist accompanying a violinist. So, both are allowed to have sheet music.
In the end the perfect violinsts warmed up to Cerovsek and smiled and probably went home having learned lots of stuff. Gathering from what I learned I would say it was more than lots. And Cerovsek in the car told me something like this, " I was worried that teaching at a master class would be something of no importance and with no challenge. I was afraid it would be just about technique. But I have found out that it involves the teaching of feelings and what is inside me. And that's fun!"