Monday, 19 October 2009

THE JOY OF MUSIC FESTIVAL 2009: Piano Masterclass by Pascal Rogé

PASCAL ROGÉ Piano Masterclass
Tom Lee Auditorium, Megabox
Wednesday (14 October 2009)

Part of the programme in The Joy of Music Festival includes masterclasses by eminent pianists who are also jurors at the Hong Kong International Piano Competition. French pianist Pascal Rogé featured on two mornings, proving to be a most adept communicator when it came to French repertoire.

Young Hong Kong pianist Chau Lok Ping performed all three movements of Ravel’s jazzy Piano Concerto in G major, accompanied by Peggy Sung on 2nd piano, much to Rogé’s delight. “This is my favourite piano concerto,” he quipped, and went on elaborate on how to create the necessary contrasts to make the piano to stand out from the orchestral collaboration. “Light and rhythmical” was his credo. The notes should be played dry and short almost like staccato, a technique often employed by jazz pianists. Less pedalling is better in this case, as “the orchestra provides the pedalling”. Strong articulation is also needed in the rhythmic sections in order to create the desired jazzy effect. The first movement cadenza sees the melody performed by the left thumb, and this should be accentuated. The right hand’s trills are to be kept soft, providing a shimmering sort of resonance. Rogé conceded that not all the notes needed to be heard, but only the sound effects.

Rogé pointed out that the inspiration for the second movement was Mozart, rather than Chopin. The emphasis was on clarity. While dreamy and waltz-like (it was not strictly a waltz), he felt that the movement should be kept simple and pure, and as “classical as possible”. No rubato and 19th century effects were needed here. Rogé also added that he was at an age old enough to have performed it from Marguerite Long, the dedicatee of the work.

He was also happy that the finale was taken at a good tempo, that is “not too fast”. For the toccata character of the movement to work, he advised that the right hand should play non legato, for a crystal clear sound to transcend the orchestra. Pedalling should take place after the note rather than on the note, in order to clear the earlier harmonies. To simulate the effect of pedalling, he also suggested holding on the bass notes of the left hand to retain the harmony. For the passage of triads, keeping a stiff wrist was the best way to go towards achieving marcato. Overall he was very satisfied with the performance.
Peggy Sung then returned to perform the Bach-Busoni Chaconne in D minor. Roge candidly admitted to his dislike of the piece. Why? “Because I love Bach!” was the reply. He also hastened to admit that this wasn’t going to be a “good masterclass”. First he was at a loss whether to approach it as a Baroque work or a Romantic one. Should it be played like Bach, Liszt or Busoni? Should pedal be used generously or sparingly?

There were passages where the piano could play like a violin, simple lines unadorned by extraneous harmonies, and he asked her to find those possibilities when they arose. Another advice was to avoid too much pedalling, and not try to be a caricature of the original work. After that, he threw up his hands in despair and apologised, “I’m going to give up… as I’m not going to be much help!” However he felt that Peggy had done as such as she could for the music, and cautioned, “Next time, play me some Debussy!” With that, I took my leave.
The Joy of Music Festival is presented by The Chopin Society of Hong Kong.

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