Notes from a Masterclass

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I just snuck into a masterclass at Melbourne Uni’s tiny conservatorium (where on earth do these people practise?) given by the Vienna Phil flautist (and now general manager) Dieter Flury. He was quite an observant, clear and expressive teacher, with some interesting suggestions to do mostly with sound production and melodic detail. But, as is the case with these things, what was most interesting was seeing the students from Melbourne play – I assume the performers were all undergrads from Melbourne Uni – and the characteristics that appear in each of them.

The first two to play where by far the most interesting, and I’d like to relay a few observations. Girl 1 (I didn’t catch any of their names) appeared a very high-level student, with a bright and colourful tone and advanced technique. She chose the first movement of the Prokofiev sonata. Girl 2, by contrast, played a little under pitch, with a thinner, more edgy tone – she chose the first movement of Reinecke’sย Undineย and my initial judgement placed her well below G1 until she hit the fluid runs and notey passages, which she executed with absolute control.

What really separated these two players was nothing to do with their performance, it was totally in their attitude and approach. When Dieter suggested something to G1 she jumped in with a neurotic agreement before he’d even fully explained what he meant. When Dieter suggested something to G2 she listened with care and speedy comprehension – so much so that she could ensure her understanding through a returned extension or example. Consequently, Dieter was able to go into much greater depth and detail with the second student, moving from enabling her to create an absolutely liquid feel in the opening passage (by avoiding any accents over the leaping 4ths and 5ths) through to identifying and best realising the subtle melodic content in later material. With G1 he spent some time focussing on vibrato and relaxing into low notes, and had to constantly remind her of these points as she moved through the work. With G2 he could give a suggestion, and if at a later point she forgot to execute it, she immediately identified that herself, meaning they could move forwards.

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