Friday, September 16, 2011

ABRSM Grade 8

I just took the ABRSM grade 8 exams for guitar.
It was a useful experience.
Actually one point that I should highlight is that taking an exam is a entire process..
We should not be just looking the exam day itself or the results alone.
Instead we should be looking at what have we achieved during the preparation for the exams.
Of course a pass or a merit is a bonus but more importantly is what have we learnt.

During the preparation for the grade 8, I have learnt much.
As guitarist we weren't really exposed to the other aspects of music.
For taking the exams, I needed lessons on the aural exams
I learnt it from a very good and talented pianist teacher, Audris.
She planned the lesson very well and together with my friend (who is also taking grade 8)
we went thru' the lessons for grade 6 grade 7 and grade 8.

During the course of the aural lessons, I have learnt how to identified cadences properly.
Other aspects like sight singing, modulations, and description of a music piece: character, texture, structure, style/period etc...
All these are very helpful in music interpretation.
Thanks to the lesson now I can sight read a music and sing it out.
Also many thanks to my teacher Audris.

I also started preparing the pieces for the exams early this year.
I choose to play the following:
Domenico Scarlatti - K322 Sonata in A major
Francisco Tárrega - Gran Vals in A major
Federico Moreno Torroba - Madroños
Amongst the three I would rate the Madroños being the hardest to play but the best for interpretation.
Tárrega's Grand waltz was a guitar piece made famous by the Nokia advertisement "It's you mama"
And Scarlatti piece I have played it since 10 years ago.

I schedule to practise them each day but not spending more than an hour each day.
It was a good way to improve a piece.
By the time I went for the exams, I could play them quite well.
All was left to actual day's performance

During the exams, I started with the scales.
I made a mistake on playing an Bb minor instead of Eb minor
But other than that I was quite happy with the scales.

The 3 pieces though I made minor mistake, I was able to perform them according to what I wanted to interpret.
I was nervous but yet I could still control the interpretation.
This is perhap my largest reward from the whole exams.
I know stage fright will never go away but being able to face stage fright is a good thing.

When it come to sight reading it was a disaster however... haha
The score was 2 flats (Bb major) and I was asked to begin after I read 1/2 way
Well in the end, I simply try to play the notes in the correct pitch sometimes forgoing the bass notes and also for the rhythm I was not even counting.
I simply try to play according note value.
The way they put the score makes it hard to decipher the rhythm but I just read the note and decide the time interval is twice as near or normal spacing...

Then comes the aural another disaster.
I was asked to stand behind the piano; this is very good as I can hear the piano sound easily.
I had no problem with the plagal cadence and IDing the chords.
For the modulation in minor key, I was just guessing...
As for the sight singing, I suddenly couldn't decide whether it's major or minor key.
But I just went for major key and luckily I was correct in guessing.
But 1/2 way thru' I had to resort to singing lalala instead of the usual Solfège which I was trained in.
I just alter the pitch of the 'la' accordingly.

Then came describing the piece, I couldn't really discern the style / period of the piece.
Certainly I was sure it wasn't Baroque; neither did it seem to be classical.
As for Romantic, it certainly didn't sound romantic enough but for a modern neither did it sound like one...

After that the examiner thanked me and even help me to keep my foot stool.
All the examiner which I encountered are all very polite.
I hope to get a pass but well let's leave it to fate.
Anyway I have achieved what I wanted that is to be able to performed with the stage fright.

I passed my grade 8 exams! :)
Except for my sight reading section I passed all the rest of the section including the aural.
The examiner's comment is interesting as it reflects on the difference between a guitarist and a pianist.
The examiner didn't really place much importance to the tone colors like ponticello, sul tasto etc.
But rather he place more emphasis on the articulation, phrasing, dynamics.
Well it certainly reminds me that regardless of the instrument, the music fundamental is very important and that is what I just mentioned.
Guitarist should not be indulged in the beautiful tone that they produced and forgot all about the fundamentals.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

村冶佳織の コンサート

今日は 村冶佳織の コンサートを 聞くことが あります。
RELC ホテルの 講堂に 演奏しました。
この コンサートは すごく 楽しかった です。
村冶さんの 演奏は 完璧にだけ ではなく 先生の音楽発想と 音色は 感性なんで 相応しい です。

前半場の 最初番は Fernando Sor の 第九番作品で、 モーザッルトの テーマの 変奏曲 です。
いい曲引き ですね。
全部の 音符は はっきり 聴こえます。

次は Heitor Villa Lobos の 第一番の 前奏曲です。
これも よく 弾きますね。
旋律を はっきり 出せて ルズムも 安定に 弾きます。

次は 有名な 作品で Agustin Barrios の 教堂です。
その 作品は 三つの 楽章が あります。 
第一章は 前奏曲です。
第二章は アンダンテ レリジョウソウ です。
最後の 章は アレグロ (荘重) です。
この曲を弾き方は 私と 違うけど、 よく演奏して あげます。

次の 番を 続く 前に 村冶さんは 曲を ちょっと 説明します。
Eric Clapton の 天堂の 涙 です。
この曲の編曲するのは 日本の 音楽家の 佐藤弘和 です。
この編曲は 複雑 ですけど ちょっと 簡単に なるの ほうが いいと 思います。

前半場の 最後の番は Carmen 組曲です。
これも 佐藤弘和さんに 編曲するのです。
今回は 原作の 同じに いい編曲です。

後半場に Federico Mompou の 編曲を 始めます。
いい演奏ですけど 僕が 気に 入れない です。
後で Tchaikovskyの 花の 円舞曲です。
これも 佐藤弘和さんに 編曲するので すごく 楽しいです。

最後は コーユンバーバー を 弾きます。
この曲は シ嬰短調の 調律を 使いますから 別の ギターを 使うの 必要です。
桜井正毅先生の ギターを 使ってから、もっと 強い 音色を 出て いきます。

アンコールは カーバーティナー と スーカイの タンゴーです。
スーカイの タンゴーは 私 大好き です。

コンサートのあとで、 村冶さんに サインして くださいます。
村冶さんは 美人なんで とても 親切な ひとです。

Kaori Muraji Concert

I went to watch her concert at the RELC Auditorium.
It was a great concert and I enjoyed it.
Her technique was flawless, whether in terms of timing or articulation, but more importantly was her interpretation which was very good.
However the only disappointment was the auditorium's acoustic, half of the time I was hearing more of the air-conditioning's draft noise coming out from the vent above my head rather than listening to the beauty of her notes.

She started the concert with Fernando Sor's Opus 9 Variation on a theme by Mozart.
Every note sounded out clearly out and the timing was excellent.
Next she nailed the Prelude No.1 by Heitor Villa Lobos.
Following that was The ever famous La Catedral by Agustin Barrios.
Not the way I would play it but nonetheless sensitively interpreted, and musically executed.

Following that she paused a while to explain the next piece which was a contemporary number by Eric Clapton Tears in Heaven but arranged by a Japanese guitarist.
Though the arrangement was nice but I do feel that it tend to exhibit too much of virtuosity that rob the original flavour of the music.

Finally the 1st half ended with a medley of the Carmen suite.
This time round the arrangement had the original flavour and I like it a lot.

The 2nd half began a with a suite (6 movements) by Federico Mompou which I don't quite like.
(Just my taste)
And next was Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky which will be featured in her coming recording.
This arrangement was very well done retaining lots of the original flavour.
Finally she ended the concert with the Koyunbaba using Masaki Sakurai's raise fingerboard guitar.
It was needed as the tuning is C#minor.
Her original guitar wasn't a Romanillos as I have expected but by a Japanese maker Ono.
There are some mistakes in Koyunbaba but I still enjoyed it.

Finally she encored 2 pieces Cavatina by Stanley Meyers and Tango en Skai which was my favourite piece of the evening.
Following that, I got an autograph from her on her Bach's CD which I bought yesterday.
It was a very enjoyable concert.

She was not like typical Japanese musician which was unfamously known for being too technical.
Her playing was flawless but more importantly, her playing exhibit a touch of sensuality and sensitivity which I find is priceless.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Musici Concert

I Musici, a famous Chamber Ensemble from Italia, came to Singapore over the last weekend and held 2 splendid performance.
I attended the concert on Sunday night; the programme was on Italian Baroque music, which of course included the famous The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi.
That was the main reason I attended the performance and certainly something I did not regret at all.
A superb performance, that I gave my first standing ovation.

The musical performance was held at the School of the Arts (SOTA) concert hall.
The hall wasn't too big probably 300-400 seater? and this is actually good IMO as they didn't need any artificial amplification of the sound.
After a short wait, the I Musici maestros slowly emerged from the hidden door on the right.
There were 6 violinist, 2 viola player, 2 cellist and 1 double bassist and 1 harpsichordist in the 12 member group.

1st Violin
Antonio Anselmi plays a Nicolo Amati 1676 Cremona
Marco Serino plays a Nicolo Amati 1661 Cremona
Ettore Pellegrino plays a G. Cappa 1675 Saluzzo (not sure if he belongs to 1st violin or 2nd)

2nd Violin
Pasquale Pellegrino plays a G. Cappa 1691 Saluzzo
Claudio Buccarella plays a G.B. Ceruti 1796 Cremona
Gianluca Apostoli plays a G. Pressenda 1821 Torino

Massimo Paris plays a P. Guarneri 1697 Mantua
Silvio di Rocco plays a M. Blaurock (after A. Amati) 1574 Cremona

Vito Paternoster plays a L. Carcassi 1780 Firenze
Pietro Bosna plays a L. Storioni 1791 Cremona

Double Bass
Roberto Gambioli plays a X. Jacquet 1860 Mirecourt

Francesco Buccarella plays a F. Betternhausen 1993 Haarlem

What is amazing about this concert is that, they all used historic instruments for this concert include 2 Nicolo Amati (used by the 2 first violinist / soloist, Antonio Anselmi, and Marco Serino)

They began their programme with a Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) number: RV157 Concerto in G minor for Violin, Strings and Basso Continuo.
Wow, that's what I thought when I heard the power and unity of the ensemble.
Their playing is definitely 1st class.

Next to come was RV531 Concerto in G minor for 2 cello, Strings and Basso Continuo.
What a dialogue of the 2 soloist cello!
Vivaldi's dual concerto often encompass wonderful dialogue between the 2 soloist.

After that they performed a Violin Concerto in D major with Marco Serino as the soloist.
Marco's superb intonation at the high D notes region was amazing.
This piece had a soloist cadenza passage, which Marco nailed it down very well.

Finally the 1st half ended with a Theme and variation of the famous theme "La Folia"
by Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762)

The 2nd half was the famous The Four Seaons (Le Quattro Stagioni) with Antonio Anselmi as the soloist.
He had liberty at playing some of the soloist part, but the coordination was excellent.
Never once had they gone out of coordination.
Their understanding of one another was truly impressive.

I particularly like the Summer 1st movement and 3rd movement; I could hear the cuckoo and flinch answering to one another and flash of lightning across the summer storm sky.
However, the most well received piece by the floor, was Winter 1st movement Allegro non molto.
It was because immediately after that movement was played, everyone clapped.
Usually the audience waited for the end of the 3 movements before they gave applause; for the 4 seaons the entire 4 concerti but I guess this work was so wonderfully played that everyone applauded.

Finally after the entire thing, the audience gave a thunderous applause.
I too was so impressed with their performance that I gave them a standing ovation as many other audience did.
The I Musici went in and came out and line up in front of the stage.
The audience wanted more from them and they happily obliged to give us 1st encore piece by Rossini.
Each time the pieces were humorously introduced by the cellist Vito Paternoster.
Subsequently the process repeated and the audience gave thunderous encouragement to them for another encore piece.
They brought us another opera piece.
And finally after they went in they were brought out again by the thunderous applause and gave their final encore piece an Allegro by Vivaldi.

After the concert I went for the autographing session and told them personally "Grazie" my thanks to them for bring a wonder and enjoyable concert to us.

Vivaldi was my favourite composer amongst all the composers that I like and "Le Quattro stagoioni" of the opus 8 "Il Cimento del' armonia dell inventione" is the 1st classical piece that brought me into playing music. Following that I listen many other Vivaldi works including the L'Estro Armonico op3, La Stravaganza op. 4, La Cetra op.9, 6 flute concerto Opus 10, many other concerto for various instrument like 2 mandolins RV 532, lute RV93, mandolin RV 425. Trio Sonatas etc...

I would rate this as my most enjoyable concert to date.

Here are the pics:

The brochure

The autographed CD album booklet

Signing session

Signing session

Signing session

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ABRSM Grade 5 Guitar

Recently I just took the ABRSM Grade 5 Guitar Practical Exams.
It was a nerve cracking experience.

Months before, the actual date I already went thru' all the catalog of pieces that was in the exam scope.
The set piece consist of 3 groups:
A Baroque Renaissance music
B Classical / Romantic period
C Modern Contemporary

Set pieces
For section A, I was tied between selecting the Bach or the Vivaldi's pieces.
I like them both.
In the end I decide on the Vivaldi's Winter Largo.
But the version that was printed on the book was too easy so I decide to add in my changes to the transcription.
The score's bass was having a crotchet bass line but the actual orchestra bass line was having quaver.
So I adopted the orchestra version.
(NB: I transcribed the piece for guitar ensemble many years ago I was very familiar with the whole 4 seasons.)

For section B, I seldom play classical period pieces.
In the end I chose the The march by Tchaikosky.
Well the melody sounds nice to me at least

For section C, I chose the Prelude in B flat major by Manuel M Ponce.
Well Ponce is one of my favourite composers.
However this piece proved to be difficult to memorise.

Scales and Arpeggios
The scales aren't too difficult, just need some practice and memorisation that's all.

Sight reading
I was pretty scared of the sight reading.
I bought the reference book by ABRSM and had no problem reading it though.
Nonetheless I use the one of the books which I bought for the set pieces (Timepieces for Guitar Vol 1) to practise my sight reading.

This is the part which I was not very sure.
Only 2 months before then I started to practise for it
Luckily some of my piano friend lend me some books on aural exams.
The first part was echo a melody after hearing for 2 times
I don't have any problem with it.
2nd part is the one which I had no idea at all: that is to sight singing!!!
I had to sing out 6 notes ranging from I to V (above) and V to I (below)
i.e. so la ti Do re mi far so
I had to learn soffiege in order to do that.
Luckily it's all in the major key.
If it's minor I would have problem...
3rd part is about style and period and clapping the rhythm
I was pretty confident about this part since I listened quite widely to various periods.
Just weeks before the exam, I started to listen to Class 92.4 every morning and try to identify the style / period before the DJ speaks of the composer.

The Actual Day
I didn't had enough sleep as the previous night I didn't sleep well at all.
But luckily during noon time, I had a power nap and that refreshes my concentration.

When I arrived at the exam center, I was pretty nervous.
Then I told myself to calm down and mentally rehearse the scales etc.
Soon I went into the room and greeted the examiner.
The examiner was a male pianist professor from UK who has performed in Wigmore Hall etc.

Well I was given a choice whether to start with the set pieces or the scales.
I chose to do the scales 1st.
Well unfortunately I did have some mistakes in the scales but not to the extend of breaking down.
But I guess my speed for the scale more or less covers for it?
I was playing pretty fast and with good articulation.

Then I went on to do my set pieces starting in the ABC order.
I did the Winter Largo pretty well with the planned dynamics and color.
The March by Tchaikovsky is supposed to be my most practised piece but I ended up making mistakes....
The 3rd piece by Ponce I had to read off the score totally.
The previous 2 piece though I read off the score when I played, I can actually play w/o score. But for this piece I can't.
Luckily I did what I learn from the master class with Flavio Cuchhi (an Italian guitarist) to divide the score into phrases and sections and decide what to play on those sections the dynamics etc..
In the end I manage to deliver the piece to a considerable standard and just 1 small mistake.

Next came the sight reading.
The examiner gave me quite a lot of time to go thru'
In fact I felt that I was give too much time haha.
I noted the key signature which was in A minor, and the time signature 3/4 waltz timing.
Then I recognise the various chords in each measure.
Followed that I even had to time to note the dynamics marking.
I played according to the dynamics marking and only make one small mistake on an accidental part which I had missed out deciphering the chords.
All in all I think I did pretty well for my sight reading.

Then came the aural
I had no problem with the echoing the theme part and to sight sing the 6 notes.
But then came the most shocking part of the exam.
The examiner played a piece and ask me to identify the tonality major/minor and the style/period.
I actually can't answer....
I stood there trying to recall the tonality but in the end had to make a guess to be minor based on my gut feeling as it doesn't sound like major at all.
He asked me towards the end did it change to major?
I had to make a wild guess this time and said yes.
Then the next problem is style: I was deciding between classical and baroque.
It doesn't have a simple accompaniment so I guess it was a baroque piece.
Finally when he ask me to clap the rhythm, I had another shock.
After I clapped, he told me to clap the rhythm not the pulse...
What's the difference?
After several attempt and getting panick... I finally guessed that I could be clapping the + beats too.
So I decide to clap less beats and he accepted that answer...
When he ask me the time signature, I had paused to count again.
Luckily this is the last part of the exams, if not I would be very demoralised.

Then the exam ended; me quite disappointed with myself.

The results was released online in 1-2 weeks after the exams and received the certificate with the comment sheet 3 weeks+.
Like what I expected, I just scraped thru' the aural.
The examiner's comment was exactly what I described clapping the pulse instead of the rhythm.

My Vivaldi's winter scored pretty well: 28/30 with good comments on the dynamics and articulation.
Well after all I arranged the piece to be closer to the original score and I added in lots of ornaments like what the piece should be like.
The other 2 pieces was mediocre.
Scales and Sight Reading was quite good.
Overall I got a merit for this grade.
Lucky me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Private Lesson with Flavio Cucchi

I had the opportunity to arrange a private lesson with Flavio Cucchi, an Italian guitarist professor, when he came here for a concert.
I learn quite a lot from this lesson.

I waited for him as it was the lunch time.
When he arrived finally, he was very polite and nice.
He asked what guitar I was using, and was very surprised that I made the guitar myself.
He asked to try and the guitar and test the various tone colours of the guitar.
He just said it's very nice.
I guess it did live to his expectations.

Then we started the lesson.
I played to him the Suite in A minor by Manuel Maria Ponce.
When I did the prelude then the first thing he commented was the tempo.
What I thought was acceptable was really not acceptable.
The prelude is divided into 3 sections, a freely intro, a 2nd more a tempo section which consists of broken chords progression and a conclusion.
I did the first section very freely and he said it's wasn't really supposed to be that free.
Even freedom has a structure to it that timing / tempo still need to be kept.
That's really penny for thought.
But I did what he asked me too and it did really sounded much better.

Anyway I had a weakness that is being unable to read off the score.
I did memorise the entire suite and never look at the score since.
So I discover that I need to be able to do both, memorised and yet being able to read the score at the same time.
We worked out the entire prelude in terms of dynamics and colors.

For the 2nd movement, he advise me to divide the score into phrases.
I never realise the phrase was such before until he pointed out.
It was very enlightening.

For the 3rd movement, again was the rhythm problem.
He said I was playing too freely and I never realised it until I did counting.
Again the piece sounded much better.

We only began the 4th movement when time was up...
Sigh well but I did learn a lot from the 1 hour session.
Well it's not something I didn't know before but more of reminder of something I had overlooked.

Well with that analysis of score breaking up into phrases, I apply it to my learning of new scores and discover that it really helps.

Friday, July 18, 2008