Another very stimulating, enjoyable and inspiring 3-day course with my teacher, Penelope Roskell.
I’m beginning to feel like an “old hand” at these courses – this was my seventh. I keep returning, autumn and spring, because I always find the course extremely helpful, as well as offering the opportunity to meet other pianists and piano teachers, share repertoire and enjoy “piano chat” during the coffee and lunch breaks. I have nothing to compare these courses with, as I have yet to pluck up the courage to attend longer courses such as Chetham’s Summer School, Walsall Summer School for Pianists or the Hindhead Music Centre piano course. Personally, I have always found the friendly setting of Penelope’s courses very encouraging, supportive and conducive to study. A mark of the reputation of the courses is that one of the participants had travelled from Malaysia to attend this time.
The courses are held at Penelope’s spacious family home in north London. The very setting – her Blüthner grand piano is in the family sitting room – makes for a friendly atmosphere from the outset, and students congregate in the kitchen to make tea and coffee, and to get to know each other. Penelope’s family come and go as the course progresses over the weekend, and lunch breaks are punctuated by the squeaking of the guinea pigs whose home is in the conservatory. With only nine students on the course it is very convivial, and beginning each day with warm up exercises, done in a circle (in the garden if the weather is fair) also helps to break the ice.
The course is structured around masterclasses, but these are not the “private lesson in public” where a student might be subjected to rigorous tuition; rather feedback and comment from the other participants is actively encouraged, and all the teaching has a relevance for everyone. Playing for a “master teacher” and before a small audience of fellow pianists can be both nerve-wracking and easy: nerve-wracking because those of us who play at an advanced level know a great deal about the music, but we are sympathetic to the hours of practising and study that have gone into each performance. Penelope’s great skill as a teacher is to identify a number of key points for each individual participant, be they technical, artistic or interpretative. She is adept at offering simple solutions to seemingly complex problems as well as offering expert advice on performance practice, physical tension and anxiety issues. Everyone student has the opportunity to play and receive one-to-one tuition each day of the course.
This time a number of participants admitted to suffering from quite severe performance anxiety, and a good part of the course was taken up with discussions about the reasons for performance nerves and developing coping strategies. The supportive atmosphere which Penelope manages to create enables even the most reluctant performer to play for the group: by the third day, it was wonderful to see and hear how one particular student had progressed in overcoming her nerves, so much so that she agreed to perform in the concert which closes the course. I love hearing how people’s music develops over the course of the weekend, and how a few seemingly simple suggestions or guidance from Penelope can have a transforming effect on someone’s playing: sometimes just thinking about the music overnight can have remarkable results.
The courses are open to students, teachers, professionals and amateurs at post-Grade 8 level, and are particularly useful for those who are preparing for auditions, competitions and diplomas, or for anyone who suffers from physical tension in piano playing. Due to their popularity, Penelope will be running three courses in 2014.
A selection of the repertoire played over the weekend:
Bach – Two-Part Inventions in E Major and A minor, Prelude & Fugue in E minor WTC Book 1, Fantasy in C minor BWV 906
Bartok – Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm, Nos 2 and 6
Brahms – Rhapsody in G minor
Liszt – Petrarch Sonnets
Messiaen – Regard de la Croix
Beethoven – ‘Pathetique’ Sonata, Bagatelle Op 126 No. 1, Sonata in A flat, Op 110
Schumann – Novelette in F
Schubert – Sonata in B flat, D960
Sinding – The Rustle of Spring
Debussy – Preludes: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir, Des pas sur la neige, La fille aux cheveux de lin, Minstrels, Feux d’artifice
Chopin – Nocturne Op 72, no. 1, Nocturne Op 9 No. 1, Waltz in C# minor op 64/2
Courses run from 31 January – 2 February, 25 – 27 April 2014 and 10 – 12 October 2014
Limited to nine students per course for maximum participation.
Fee £190 (EPTA and ISM members £180); students £120. Occasionally a scholarship is awarded to an outstanding student.
Nearest tube: Finsbury Park
For further details email: email@example.com
Penelope Roskell is an international pianist and Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy at Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Other piano courses in 2014 in the UK and France