Monday, May 09, 2005

Chopper Lost & Found

COMING UP ON SUNDAY, MY TAKE ON THE FIRST WEEK OF CERVANTINO 33

For various reasons this piece on Michael Zaretsky's master class for OSUG string players went unpublished. For me, attending the class was a privilege and I offer up my observations as an exclusive to Iguana readers. -- Rochelle

MAESTRO IN SHIRTSLEEVES

In the late Janury afternoon shadows darkening the sala of the Olga Costa Museum, a half dozen people wearing the usual winter garb were sitting in a circle while cellist Michael Severens, in a hooded sweatshirt played Bach. Russell Brown, principal bass player of the University Symphony (OSUG) had kept on his overcoat, and Elisa Marina Grijalva, a student of Symphony violist, Froylan Garduno, was putting her arms into a thick white sweater.

The exception was maestro Michael Zaretsky clad in a long-sleeved dark shirt and pants and apparently relying on his own inner fire to keep warm. Zaretsky, a viola soloist and Boston Symphony player had performed with pianist Ana Cervantes and cla
rinet player Dan Bukowski the night before at the Iconografico Museum. Now on January 25, was teaching a master class for OSUG string players. The class met on the same day as a meeting of the musicians union, but the string players who showed up (and the three other people in the room, including the Chopper reporter) took advantage of a rare opportunity.

Each master class participant arrives prepared to play a short piece, Then the teacher works with the player to strengthen technique and expand interpretive ideas. As Zaretsky had played three Bach sonatas on his viola two years ago at the Museo del Pueblo, the players came ready to play music by that Baroque composer. Michael Severens also played a passage by the twentieth-century composer Elliot Carter.

Russell Brown mentioned later that “What Zaretsky said about going back to the original copy of a piece may change my artistic life,” this even though Brown had refrained from hauling his big instrument up Pastita. He explained there are fifty editions of the Bach cello sonatas to choose from, all based to varying degrees on the copy Bach’s wife wrote out for her husband. By going back to the markings on that near-original as Zaretsky suggested, a player comes closest to the musical logic Bach intended.

The magnetic Zaretsky keeps shifting his teaching technique to fit the moment. He may put on his glasses to scrutinize the score over the player’s shoulder one minute, then almost dance to the music the next.

When the violist wanted Elisa Marina to play with more variation, he said, “It’s like the hills of Guanajuato, up and down, that’s why it’s so beautiful.” After he has established rapport with a player, he will be direct: “The problem is this note” or “This is not good.” Late in the class he followed up an explanation to Severens by picking up his viola and demonstrating in a way that made his meaning crystal clear.

Through such teaching, a gifted player climbs the stairway to eternity, transmitting technique and his musical imagination to the next generation of performers.

The master class was underwritten by the Instituto Estatal de Cultura of Guanajuato.

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