A beautiful spring weekend in Warsaw witnessed the joyful reunion of friends and colleagues of ECMTA – once again, after 2 years it was the generosity of the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music and our colleague prof Katarzyna Jankowska-Borzykowska that brought us together in Warsaw.
The days flew by quickly attending the lessons of chamber music, presentations in the member’s forum, speeches by the representatives of the European leading higher institutions of music education and finally, listening to the highest level concerts of the students´ chamber music festival, taking place in parallel with the spring meeting of the European Chamber Music Teachers´ Association.
The ECMTA having celebrated its own anniversary last year, now had the opportunity to congratulate the host of the Spring Meeting, Fryderyk Chopin University of Music - 40 years ago, the chamber music department had been founded within the FCUM.
40 years as chamber music chair at the FCUM
At the opening event on the 27th of April, Prof. Maja Nosowska from the FCUM gave a speech celebrating 40 years as chamber music chair at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw.
The Polish chamber music situation has been very different from Germany’s situation which produced great names such as Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Schumann. Poland has „only“ Chopin who has composed one piece of chamber music. The generations of star pianists (Paderewski and Hoffmann, to name only a few) along with the famous Chopin competition (first competition was held in 1927) gave signals that geared musical education towards solo playing.
The chamber music department was established at the FCUM 40 years ago. The key person in the department’s creation was prof. Jerzy Marchwinski, a pianist and chamber musician with a brilliant international career.
Why piano chamber music? Mr Marchwinski realised that after graduation the largest graduating group of musicians were pianists who were often confronted with a dilemma; they had many employment opportunities – to collaborate with other instruments as well as singers, to be engaged in instrument teaching in all levels of music education - but they were neither psychologically nor professionally prepared.
It became therefore important to educate pianists in artistic performance of chamber music in its most varied forms - playing in duets with voice or instrument or with other pianists or playing in bigger formations like trios, quartets etc., also vocal coaching, playing in the orchestra, ballet and opera. Pianists also required preparation from the practical and psychological point of view. The psychological aspect is perhaps most significant.
As the basis of the piano chamber music chair, prof. Jerzy Marchwinski created an entire system of values related to chamber music. The central idea of his philosophy is musical partnership - with the artistic, practical and psychological aspects. With his new thinking, prof. Marchwinski questioned the one-sided, defective model of education. Many teachers were considering chamber music as a „waste of time“ that would „ruin“ the pianist. It even seemed that many young musicians tried to avoid chamber music - thanks to the prevailing soloist-oriented mentality at the time.
Prof. Marchwinski decisively turned away from the given environment and formulated future goals: to change the model of education, exchanging the exclusive dedication to solo performance for versatile education, encompassing both solo and chamber music performance, as well as professional and psychological preparation for both, providing a different, possibly many-sided model for the activity of the pianist, giving the student the basic set of means and ability to create music together, as well as introducing them to the canon of vocal and instrumental literature.
Prof Marchwinski strived towards the change of psychological postures: eliminating the bias of any art form being „higher“ or „lower“ compared to another. He fought for renouncing of labelling the pianist-chamber musician as a pianist of „second category“ and encouraging artistic satisfaction of another kind, connected with team work and the possibility of achieving success together, establishing a partnership as a base of artistic activity and sharing the responsibility for the final outcome of the artistic performance.
The new piano chamber music chair aimed at the changes of terminology in teaching programs. The ensemble subjects have been traditionally divided in two for pianists: 1) study of accompaniment and 2) study of chamber ensemble. At the FCUM, the ensemble subjects are united into a single subject under the term ´chamber music´ or ´ensemble playing´.
The change of mentality started to happen soon – but in the artistic environment, the changes needed to be permanent. At present, we can say that there has been an amazing change in students´ mentality - they are more and more passionate and about ensemble activities. We are witnessing an evident improvement of the level, many spectacular artistic achievements, competition prizes etc.
Many of our graduates have entered the musical market. They are also employed in the music education as teachers at the FCUM and in music schools achieving promising results. The mentality of the instrument teachers has changed – the role of the pianist is more appreciated.
This year, the MA of chamber music was opened at the FCUM (at present, 5 students are studying).
The FCUM has postgraduate artistic training for Polish and foreign students which offers various options, for example preparing for a competition for widening one´s repertoire or focusing on collaboration with a vocalist, including opera coaching and improving professional qualification of subject teachers.
Students have many opportunities to participate in master courses - this year, Janis Maleckis from Latvia works as a visiting professor of chamber music.
We are engaged in cooperation with primary and secondary schools through workshops, competition juries; we organise and conduct methodological consultations for teachers and are actively engaged in the development of the syllabus.
The Members Forum has traditionally been an important part of ECMTA meetings. It is an event where the richness of the association becomes evident - members introduce their projects, research papers and news about the competitions and festivals in their regions. For the first time, a platform for presenting their research was opened for the PhD students of the member institutions of the ECMTA. The member institutions (and potential member institutions) on the university level will hopefully see the platform as an additional benefit of being a member of the ECMTA and will use that opportunity in the future very actively.
The Members Forum began with the PhD students Marie-Helen Aavakivi and Anneli Tohver from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, presenting certain aspects of their thesis.
Marie-Helen´s thesis "The repertoire and performance style of Estonian violinists in the 1930s" concentrates on musical interpretation and examines the concert programs from the 1930-s. In the Members Forum, Marie-Helen focused on the choice of repertoire and performance style of Estonian violinists in the 1930-s, with a special accent on the violinist Vladimir Alumäe, who later became an important cultural figure and teacher of generations of violinists in Estonia. Since the year 1929 Alumäe studied with Paulsen. In the year 1937 Alumäe took part in the international violin competition that was held in Brussels. Having graduated the same year, he worked as Paulsen´s assistant. In the years 1938-39 Alumäe, as a scholarship holder, studied with Carl Flesch. Many years later, Vladimir Alumäe served as the rector of the Tallinn Conservatoire (now Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre).
His concert programs from the period 1930-40 show that he performed music from different styles and eras – baroque, classical era, romanticism and 20th century music. He was also an active performer of new Estonian music from that period, for example compositions by Heino Eller and Eduard Oja. In the 1930s Alumäe´s masterfulness and the span of his repertoire showed a good level of violin playing in Estonia, which could successfully compete with other violin schools in Europe and with the repertoire played elsewhere in Europe at the same time. Marie-Helen´s presentation was illustrated by an audio sample - one of the earliest recordings by Vladimir Alumäe that has been preserved since the year 1939, where he performs the romantic violin piece by Artur Lemba (1885-1963) called “Poême d’amour” (1916).
In her thesis, Anneli Tohver studies the cooperation between the pianist and dancers in ballet performances, based on her 17 years of work experience with ballet dancers at the Estonian National Ballet.
In her presentation Anneli concentrated on the specific characteristics of ensemble work. The main question in her research was - which elements of musical interpretation in a chamber ensemble work could be useful in supporting choreography. The central idea is that while working with choreographers, the pianist should not just provide a steady pulse. The pianist should instead help to create dance movements that have better artistic quality.
Anneli talked about 4 tools of musical expression which facilitate the ensemble work between the pianist and the ballet dancer while working on the Trois gnossiennes by Erik Satie: accents/articulation, phrasing, dynamics and tempo/agogics. Anneli used illustrative video excerpts to explain to the audience how the skilled ballet pianist offers an interpretational score, which supports the character and artistic intent of the dance movements. This kind of supportive musical interpretation emerges in the process of collaboration in the rehearsals, where the pianist listens attentively to the recommendations made by the choreographer and the dancer.
Monika Gardon-Preinl (Vice Dean of the Instrumental Faculty at the Music Academy in Krakow) and Grzegorz Mania (Polish Chamber Musicians’ Association) introduced a graded handbook for teaching sight reading to the piano students in different levels.
For last few years, the presenters have run special classes of sight reading. This is new in the Polish music education system – sight reading is usually integrated into the piano main course. The aims that formed a basis for combining a graded handbook are coming from the presenters´ own professional paths and from observing students.
The new graded handbook guides students to analyse text before playing it and fight the pattern to start to play the musical text immediately, without thinking or trying to understand it. The purpose was to get the students to use their theoretical knowledge to understand the text fully, to get them to imagine how the performance would sound or look like, so the proper performance would be prepared, not in fact a prima vista.
For addressing different problems students are facing in sight reading, several exercises have been invented. There are special exercises for rhythmic and melodic aspects, orientation on the keyboard and for keeping a steady pulse. Several exercises are preparing the students to read more than 2 lines, to play in parallel movements, polyphonic texture, chromatic patterns, chords etc. The core part are the exercises for analysing the text. The exercises for 4 hands are included – playing with a partner is a good way to avoid stopping and correcting one´s play. Instead of concentrating on single notes, the piano student will be guided to look for patterns in the musical texture - chords, tonal scales, etc. Examples and exercises are based on renowned piano repertoire. The authors wish to accelerate and facilitate the process of learning the notes. Future plans include an English translation of the handbook which is currently available in Polish only.
Dr. Lukasz Chrzesczyk (FCUM, Poland) spoke about the Chopin Chamber Academy Festival. In December 2017, the chamber music chair of the FCUM organised the Chopin Chamber Academy Festival. This festival was based on the idea of bringing professionals together with students for a performance of chamber music and to have a more reality-based experience of making music together.
One of the major tasks of musical education is to narrow down the gap between the teacher and the student, the ideal would be to bring the students to the same level as the teacher. The traditional ways of teaching encompassed in university programs however do not always fully reflect the actual reality of artistic life. The model of working on one piece for half an academic year is not something we would encounter in real life – usually, the real schedule of preparing the concert is much tighter. The more different musical experiences we have, the better.
Based on these assumptions, we provided a learning opportunity of a more direct nature. Every ensemble was created of the students from the university and one invited guest. We decided not to use persons mostly associated with teaching but to invite the whole set of orchestra section leaders of the Sinfonia Varsovia, widely considered to be the best orchestra in Poland. The rehearsals started 2 weeks before and the project ended with two concerts.
In the first concert we had piano quintets by Juliusz Zarębski and Dmitri Shostakovich and a string quintet by Schubert in the program. In the 2nd concert, the Poulenc Sextet and works by Elgar and Penderecki were performed by the FCUM Chamber Orchestra, conducted from the stand by Jakub Haufa, the principal violin of the Sinfonia Varsovia. The feedback from the students proved that the whole idea worked out very well. The students reached a higher performing level during concerts than in usual conditions. Playing together with different professional musicians is a valuable addition to regular teaching. The presentation was concluded with audio samples from live concerts.
Dr Evan Rothstein (Guildhall School of Music & Drama, UK) introduced Richard Sennett’s book Together, a sociological/historical study of how people work together.
For many years, people from other disciplines have been interested in studying how chamber groups work as a way to understand collaboration. In the business world, this interest concentrates mainly on decision-making processes. Other examples include articles by Hans Keller about the psychological relationships that can be studied through string quartet. In recent ECMTA conferences there have been presentations about relationships between the way chamber musicians work, especially string quartet or other chamber groups, and other kinds of cooperation.
Another example of this trend: students from my classes at the Guildhall School have been invited to run workshops for several years at University College London with business and managing students. The music students with chamber music experience are helping students from other disciplines to learn to communicate with each other through musical devices.
Richard Sennett, a well-known sociologist and a professor at the New York University and the London School of Economics, has long been interested in the the history of collaboration. On this topic, he started to write a trilogy of books, of which the first two - Craft and Together - have been issued. Once a musician himself, R. Sennett often speaks of how different craftsmen or specialists work collaborate and how the workplace itself influences the way people work together. By coincidence, in 2012, he was a keynote speaker at the Reflective Conservatoire conference organized by the Guildhall School.
The first book, Craft, concentrates on how artisans work together, their interactions and the qualities of their decision-making issues. The subtitle of the second book, Together, is "The rituals, pleasures and politics of cooperation".
Richard Sennett´s basic idea is not so much about work, as it is about society. He says: in the world we live in now, people who are different from each other are required to work together more and more, and to live together more and more, but in the modern society people have lost most of the skills that are required to work with people who are different. The skills have been lost because of the way society has been evolving. Working and living together gets harder and harder.
But he also presents some solutions. As a starting point, Richard Sennett identified three categories of activity of interaction, which could give the indication of how to improve.
The first category has to do with language: dialectical vs dialogical exchanges.
Dialectical approach refers to the famous theory „thesis – antithesis - synthesis“ - a dialectical confrontation. Richard Sennett calls it ´the tyranny of assertion´, implying that conflicting assertions cannot arrive at any kind of synthesis except with great difficulty. Dialogical interaction, on the other hand does not search for a synthesis. Instead, it concentrates on the quality of listening in order to understand.
The second category also has to do with the quality of language - formal vs informal. Again, it has to do with the use of assertions – informal would be the use of conditional mode. Sennett provides an amusing example: in the US, his colleagues would say “I think it should be this way”. His English colleagues would say “what do you think, would it be possible if we could try to do it this way”. This subjunctive mode suggests at first that people are not taking any position, so that the use of conditional/subjunctive mode opens up a space for disagreement or experimentation.
The third category presents a contrast between sympathy and empathy. In terms of cooperation, they are implying very different attitudes. Sympathy implies that you put yourself in the position of another person and try to feel what they are feeling. Empathy on the other hand, is provoked by curiosity, just to know what is the other person thinking – but not necessarily to try to feel what they are feeling. Perhaps it is more realistic to try to simply understand what is it that they are feeling and not to pretend that you feel the same thing. In Sennett’s words, sympathy is an embrace, empathy is an encounter. Pedagogically, this book gives us more vocabulary to describe what we are doing to help the students to interact more efficiently, but also in our communication with people who are not musicians – considering that all of us in the ECMTA are constantly put in a position where we have to explain why is it useful to study chamber music and why it should remain in our study programs. Sometimes it is good to use language from other disciplines so that people understand us better.
Irina Grayfer (Ippolitov-Ivanov SMPI, Russia) gave an overview of 19th century chamber music works by Russian composers and commented some of the works from the pedagogical as well as artistic point of view using the audio samples.
The Russian composer Aleksandr Alyabyev wrote 2 trios, of which the Piano Trio A Minor, written in the 1830-s is played more often. Contrary to some researchers, the presenter has the opinion that the work is complete. In this trio Alyabyev uses a folk song (Vanka fell in love with Tanka).
The Trio Pathétique is written in 1832 for clarinet, bassoon and piano. At the publisher’s request, Glinka made a version for violin and cello. It is sometimes played with the violin and bassoon or with the clarinet and cello. The premiere of this trio took place in Milan, played by the musicians of the Teatro alla Scala. The style of the Scherzo seems close to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.
Anton Rubinstein wrote 5 trios that are not very popular. According to the presenter, the quality of his compositions is not very high. Anton Rubinstein was however an amazing personality – he was the founder of the conservatory in St Petersburg.
The 2nd movement of the 3rd piano trio is often played by students – it is very good for learning to listen to each other and to develop the cantilena.
Borodin´s Piano Trio D Major has 3 movements: Allegro, Romance and Intermezzo. Some researchers consider the trio to be incomplete. There is however no indication from the composer that he intended to add more parts, therefore it can be treated as a complete cycle of characteristic pieces.
Arenski has written 2 trios. The D Minor Trio is more popular, it is very well liked by students but very difficult to play. At the beginning of the 20th century the piece was so popular that there was even a saying when somewhere a poster with two names Arenski and Rachmaninov appeared, then it had to be the D-Minor Trio from Arenski and C Sharp Minor Prelude by Rachmaninov in the program. The Arenski Trio D Minor is still played a lot and it continues to inspire and surprise. It has been written in remembrance of the friend of the composer - the cellist Karl Davydov.
The Piano Trio in C Major has been written at the end of the 19th century. The Trio in C major is a very interesting but very large music piece. In this trio, like in the trios by Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, the cello part plays a leading role in the exposition. In the 2nd movement of this trio, folk dance motifs are being used.
The A Minor Trio by Tchaikovsky and 2nd Trio by Rachmaninov are very famous and they do not need any introduction. The Trio élégiaque by Rachmaninov however is not that popular, but it can be played by students who are in the college or in the 1st year of their academic studies. It is a trio in one movement written in January 1892 by the composer when he was 19years old in Moscow.
Ingrida Milašiūtė (Vilnius Naujoji Vilnia Music School, Lithuania) presented an invitation to participate in the 2nd international chamber music competition MUSICA BRILLANTE 2019. The first edition was very successful, the next competition will be held in Vilnius Naujoji Vilnia Music School 23-24 February, 2019.
The main instrument of this chamber music competition is the piano. The groups can be piano+string instrument(s), piano+wind instrument(s) or piano+wind and string instrument(s). The groups can be duos, trios and quartets.
Why piano? For piano students it is really crucial to start to play in ensembles and since in Lithuania there is no ensemble playing in the curricula in the first years this kind of competition is very necessary for piano students to get them to play in ensembles.
The competition will be held in 2 categories – up to 15 years and 16-19 years old. Participants in the 1st category are expected to play 2 pieces with different characteristics and in the 2nd category 2 pieces with different characteristics are also required with one of them being a sonata. The jury consists of 5 members from different countries. The evaluation system uses points, with a maximum of 25 points. There are prizes for I, II, II places and distinction diplomas, as well as a Grand Prix.
In 2017 the competition participants came from two countries - Lithuania and Belarus - 55 ensembles from 26 institutions from 14 towns.
In addition to the invitation Ingrida Milašiūtė talked about the purposes of the educational chamber music competition. The competition is a good way to start to play chamber music in music schools, even if there are no separate lessons for it. The competition gives students the chance to start playing chamber music at an early age, compete with other pupils, brings teachers together and stresses the importance of chamber music as a separate subject in musical education.
As a conclusion, the presenter drew once more attention to the curricula: chamber music should be a separate subject in music schools. The schools need support from other institutions to establish chamber music chairs and to establish a separate subject in their curricula.
Prof. Petras Kunca (Lithuanian Musicians’ Union) forwarded regards to the delegates of the ECMTA Warsaw meeting from the newly re-elected chairwoman of the Lithuanian Musicians´ Union, Audrone Nekrošiene. Petras Kunca also gave an overview of the numerous chamber music competitions in Lithuania:
International Jascha Heifetz competition for violinists, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis competition for pianists and organists, Balys Dvarionas competition for pianists and violinists, Virgilijus Noreika competition for singers, and Stasys Vainiūnas piano and chamber music competitions (March 16-26, 2018).
The competition coincided with the 100th anniversary of Lithuanian independence. The 8th International Vainiūnas competition was also organised, applications from 29 pianists and 40 ensembles were received. Duos, trios and piano quintets competed in two rounds.
Prof. Petras Kunca encouraged the auditorium of the ECMTA delegates to bring their students to participate in these competitions. Chamber music contests take place in many music schools in Lithuania. Information about all the competitions can be found at http://www.ipmc-lt.com/
Dr Yiannis Miralis (European University Cyprus) gave an overview of the repertoire written for the saxophone quartet and the orchestra.
The saxophone quartet is an interesting genre and of all the large repertoire written for this ensemble, the presenter concentrates on the concerti for saxophone quartet and orchestra.
In the combination quartet+orchestra, the repertoire for string quartet and orchestra can be found already in the 19th century - one concerto by Louis Spohr and more from the 20th century. Probably the most well-known are the works by Arnold Schönberg (written in 1933) and by John Adams. In addition, there are works for string quartet and wind orchestra, symphonic band or wind ensemble – by Erwin Schulhoff from the 1930s and Walter Piston, from 1974.
In the last 20 years, there has been more and more interest from composers to write for saxophone quartet and orchestra. This interesting instrumentation provides a lot of opportunities. On a dynamic level the saxophone quartet can stand up equally with a full orchestra because of the energy and the intensity that 4 saxophones produce.
There are works for saxophone quartet by renowned and awarded composers who are mainly American: Steven Mackey, William Bolcom, William Albright, David Stock, David Maslanka etc. American repertoire for saxophone quartets is relatively large as there are many established saxophone quartets in America. David Stock and David Maslanka have numerous works for saxophone quartet and also works where the saxophone is included in the orchestra and/or wind ensemble with a significant part in the score. They have written 2 concerti for saxophone quartet and wind orchestra which are frequently played and the number of performances is increasing.
The most famous saxophone quartet concerto is the concerto by Philip Glass, written 20 years ago (the piece premiered in 1995). This work has been written for the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet and it exists also in a version for saxophone quartet alone which was composed first. It is an interesting work that draws material from Glass´s cinematic works (movie The Hours). A big role has been given to the baritone saxophone, especially in the 2nd movement, with a frantic and fast melodic line that keeps coming back throughout the movement. But Glass has not given the prevalent role only to the one instrument throughout the work but is spreading the prevalence on all members of the ensemble. In the 3rd movement, there is a beautiful tenor solo. The 4th movement is fast with changing meters, characteristic to the Greek and Balkan music (7/8, etc.). Yiannis Miralis illustrated his presentation with an excerpt of the live video performance of the Transcontinental Sax Quartet in the US last year.
Prof Dalia Balsyte, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre (LMTA) invited all students from the delegates´ institutions to study chamber music at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. At present, string quartet and chamber music are required studies in BA and MA programmes. The LMTA has an opportunity for the specialization in chamber music (in MA) and contemporary music (in MA).
In 2016, our MA program with a specialization in contemporary music was established. The aim of the new study programme is to train music professionals who know the trends of contemporary music art, have an integrated ability to create and perform new chamber music as well as improvise solo and in ensemble, are able to influence the development of art, culture and artistic education in the country, with the goal to train highly competent and experts of contemporary music.
Unlike the bachelor’s studies, MA studies in contemporary music are focused on training music specialists of a narrower profile, competent experts of a higher level who are able to perform professionally the music from the 2nd half of the 20th century and 21st century, are able to create and perform interdisciplinary art projects, use contemporary musical technologies, cooperate with artists from other areas of art.
In 2019 we are planning to start a new joint study program - the European Master of Chamber Music or ´ECMAster´. The European Chamber Music Academy is a strategic partnership founded within the framework of the Erasmus+ programme of the EU.
The project aims to develop new content for the ECMA training programme in terms of curriculum as well as to develop the existing chamber music expertise. Institutions - Norwegian Academy of Music , Oslo, Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Wien, Koninglijk Konservatorium den Haag, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Royal Northern College of Music Manchester, Le Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMDP) and Fondazione Scuola di Musica di Fiesole – are offering a joint European Master of Chamber Music.
The students will have the opportunity to take advantage of the expertise of the separate institutions, as well as gaining access to the European network. It is an advanced 2 years programme which aims to educate students to act as strong independent and innovative musicians and to meet the high professional standards, expected of them on tomorrow´s professional music scene.
The ECMAster program is open to established ensembles with a standard instrument combination – string quartets, piano trios, string trios, wind quintets, brass quintets etc.
The presentation ended with Dalia Balsyte inviting all the students from the delegates and their institutions to the competitions taking place in Lithuania this year, 2018:
30th of May – 4th of June - „With Music through Europe“, Vilnius,
August 14-23 „Music without limits“ Druskininkai,
This competition will be held in 5 categories. In the ensemble category there are sub-categories: A. duo, trio or quartet, B. Piano and vocal, C. piano ensembles. The participation fee is 70 Euros.
Prof Marje Lohuaru (Chairwoman of the ECMTA, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Head of the Centre for Instrumental Chamber Music), Piret Väinmaa, PhD (Estonian Chamber Music Teachers´ Association „In Corpore“, Georg Ots Tallinn Music College, Estonia)
As a final presentation, Marje Lohuaru and Piret Väinmaa presented a Polish music festival in Estonia, „Warsaw Spring“ initiated by the FCUM and prof. Katarzyna Jankowska-Borzykowska, supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. In the framework of this festival, about 20 Polish musicians and composers visited Tallinn and Tartu. Together with Estonian musicians they gave 4 amazing concerts of Polish and Estonian music from different eras, incl. new works written especially for this festival. The festival name (invented by Piret Väinmaa) refers to a famous festival of contemporary music „Warsaw Autumn“, which in the times of the so-called Khrushchev Thaw had a significant resonance also in Estonia. At this festival many Estonian composers experienced first international premieres of their works, after being isolated by the iron curtain for a long time and which did not break down entirely until only in the 90s. To show the importance and the influence of this international festival, an exhibition „Around Warsaw Autumn“ was opened in Tallinn. The festival „Warsaw Spring“ concluded with the round table discussion about „Warsaw Autumn“ influences and the present situation of contemporary music festivals in general.
After the member’s forum, the word was given to key speakers.
This year the key speakers were chosen with regard to giving a platform to ECMTA members to speak about the curricula of chamber music – a subject that initiated the creation of the association more than 10 years ago. Two higher education institutions were invited to introduce their chamber music departments – Sibelius Academy (Finland) and Conservatorio Statale di Musica "Giuseppe Verdi" di Torino (Italy).
The ECMTA member Sibelius Academy (University of Arts Helsinki) was introduced at the ECMTA meeting by prof. Ilmo Ranta.
The Sibelius Academy / University of the Arts Helsinki
In the year 1882 the Sibelius Academy was founded by Martin Wegelius as a private conservatory/ music institute in Helsinki. Martin Wegelius was a Finnish composer and music theorist. In 1939 the Helsinki Music Institute was renamed Sibelius-Akatemia to honour its former student and Finland's most celebrated composer. In 1978 the academy became a state university. In the year 2013, the academy merged with two formerly independent universities, Theatre Academy Helsinki and Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki, to form the University of the Arts Helsinki. At present, the Sibelius Academy has 9 degree programmes, of which the classical music performance programme is the largest.
The arrangement of chamber music studies at the Sibelius Academy
In the 1970s, when I. Ranta began his studies, there was no specific chamber music teacher, students would just go to the teacher of a solo instrument and he/she would listen to their playing. In the 1980s, the special professorship was founded and the first professor for chamber music only was the famous Finnish pianist Ralf Gothoni. He was responsible for chamber music studies for a long time. At present, his successor is Marko Ylönen who runs the artistic side.
Additionally there is one secretary who takes care of the whole chamber music activities and administrative matters.
There is no separate department for chamber music. In addition to prof. Ylönen, 5 professors have responsibility for teaching chamber music, among them are 2 pianists - Martti Rautio and Ilmo Ranta, one string player - Teemu Kupiainen and two wind players - Tero Toivonen and Asko Heiskanen. Approximately 15 other teachers give lessons to a few groups each year.
All students of classical music performance can apply for studies of chamber music. There are sometimes over a 100 applications from the students who all want to play chamber music. Usually, the previously formed groups are preferred. In fact, students have endless possibilities to play in ensembles. Experience shows that at the beginning of the season, in September, everybody wants to play. Later, people start to „fade away“. A few years ago to overcome the situation the SA adopted the rule that every chamber group must determine in September the time for their first lesson which must be held in October. The groups are supposed to be trios or larger groups (duo sonatas are accepted only in case of string instrument+piano).
Students have to present their prepared programme in recitals. Teaching contains 14+14 lessons (each lesson is 45 minutes). For duos, the amount of lessons is 8+8. Very often the groups play for different teachers.
The basic exam after one year´s study is „Chamber music 1“. For this exam, students have to study 2 works and perform one of them in front of a jury, preferably in a public concert. „Chamber music 1“ may be done several times.
Fewer students take „Chamber music 2“, a concert program consisting of about three large works with five more studied. This often takes as long as 2 years, (marks 0-5).
Since the year 2013 for pianists, there has been the MA of piano chamber music and Lied. Their final exam consists of 2 parts – one recital focuses on Lied and the other on chamber music. The Master’s programme in chamber music lasts 2.5 years.
This year, the SA has about 70 chamber music groups. The amount of groups can be up to 130 a year, but in that case some students are playing in more than one group.
The SA does not have an opportunity to specialise in chamber music, the degree students have to do their soloist diploma and they will, as a rule, have a paper that qualifies them as teachers. The string instruments have had a certain system for a long time – the violinists, for instance, have to do a recital with the works of J. S. Bach (solo works), virtuoso repertoire, Paganini caprices and freely chosen additional repertoire, which can be a sonata with piano. In addition to that, they will play a violin concerto in a separate concert. Recently there has been a new development in the study programmes: from now on, it will be possible to replace either one of these concerts with a chamber music recital so the chamber music becomes a part of their diploma concert.
About the evaluation:
At the Sibelius Academy, the chamber music department was the first to drop numbers in evaluation. Instead, we give feedback after the exams straight to the students – verbally, jury members will discuss with the group of students about their performance. On the exam paper only the letter A appears („approbatur/improbatur“). In the Master’s programme the SA gives marks 0-5.
At the end of Ilmo Ranta´s talk, there was time for a discussion and questions.
Q.:Is chamber music compulsory at the Sibelius Academy?
Chamber music is not compulsory during any given study year. In general at the Sibelius Academy the students have a relatively free choice in the selection of classes and also in the choice of the timing in the course of their studies. A certain number of ensemble playing classes is required during the study years, but not necessarily all of it, chamber music as we traditionally understand it. Personally, I think it was a pity that when the study plans were last renewed some ten years ago, the idea of chamber music being compulsory during at least three study years was dropped. Most of the instrumentalists however seem to be perfectly willing to study a lot of chamber music even on a voluntary basis.
Q.: Do the students play Finnish contemporary music?
A.: It is not formally required. Sometimes, composition students ask chamber music students to play their works in their composition exams and concerts. There are different workshops for new music and special projects in contemporary music which they can participate in. I should add that already in the earlier study stages (music schools etc.) the Finnish students are already very much used to playing contemporary music, the orchestras perform a lot of contemporary music, and for example, all the programs of the piano exams need to include at least one work less than 50 years old. In general, Finland is a very friendly country to contemporary music, both Finnish and foreign!
Apart from the everyday work, there are master classes – this season we have Jacques Zoon, Johannes Meissl, John Thorne, Kyoko Hashimoto, Elisabeth Kropfitsch, Jean-Jacques Kantorow, etc.
A nice change from the routine in the classrooms are weekends in the Sibelius-Academy residence Kallio-Kuninkala in Järvenpää, a place outside of Helsinki, near Sibelius´ home Ainola, where students gather in different ensembles and work on the pieces in a more informal environment. The professional orchestras – The Helsinki Philharmonic and the Tapiola Sinfonietta - are inviting students to play chamber music with their members. In concerts, teachers/professors occasionally play with their students. This has a long tradition – in 1889 when Ferruccio Busoni was working in Finland he played the Schumann Quintet with the students and teachers from Finland, including Jean Sibelius on the 2nd violin!
A question was asked about groups having more than one tutors.
A.: In the piano department, the soloist training often involves 2 professors. It also works in chamber music. Groups studying regularly with a string player can occasionally visit a pianist teaching chamber music or vice versa for example. One recently added method of teaching chamber music involves one chamber music teacher and one music theorist attending the lesson. The resulting critical debate and discussion of musical matters gives students additional benefits. Some new methods of teaching involve improvisation.
The Sibelius Academy is a very large organisation and organises approximately 600 concerts a year, including many chamber music concerts. About 20 concerts are entirely devoted to chamber music and often work also as exams. Many concerts are initiated by the students themselves. Every year in April a traditional chamber music week is held at the Music Centre of Helsinki.
About the conditions and venues within the Sibelius Academy: Out of 3 buildings, 2 are open 24 hours. Students have the right to go and practice any time. They have the right to book rooms 2 days ahead but chamber music groups have the right to book 2 weeks ahead, which of course makes arranging the rehearsals a lot easier.
A new member of the ECMTA, Conservatorio Statale di Musica "Giuseppe Verdi" di Torino was represented by prof. Carlo Bertola.
Prof. Carlo Bertola gave a short overview of the history and arrangement of chamber music studies at the Turin Conservatoire where he has been teaching for 35 years.
The Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in Turin is situated in the city centre in a beautiful neoclassical building. The former music school became a conservatory in 1936. In February 2016 the 80th anniversary of the school was celebrated with a daylong chamber music festival that has now become a regular annual event. Today, there are around 900 students and 120 professors at the Conservatory of Turin, divided among the following departments: keyboards, strings, winds, brass, chamber and orchestral music, composition, electronic music, jazz, music culture, music history, music analysis etc. In the last years the conservatory has additionally organised a series of master classes with such famous musicians as Schlomo Mintz, Ilya Grubert, Bruno Giuranna, Natalia Gutman, Andras Schiff and Lang Lang, among many others.
The conservatory also organises concerts, divided in two main series: Le Serate Musicali del Conservatorio – from the end of November until the end of June and the concerts/lessons called I Mercoledì del Conservatorio – from March to June. The latter are the result of the collaboration between teachers and students with the programmes built on specific themes. Recently family concerts have been added that are particularly intended to introduce young listeners to classical music. All these concerts are held in the conservatory’s beautiful concert hall. Finally, the conservatory organises a short festival in the Church of Santa Pelagia, situated near the school and cooperates with many different non-profit institutions to help them with fundraising.
In the year 2016, the school organised its first international cello competition in memory of Benedetto Mazzacurati, a well known Italian cellist who lived in Turin for many years. He was the principal cello of the Italian Radio Orchestra and professor at the conservatory. The competition attracted approximately 60 cellists from all over the world. The next edition will be held in the year 2019.
Until 10 years ago, students of Italian conservatories were not obliged to attend chamber music classes, since this was not compulsory, but only optional, to obtain the diploma. Before 1999, only those who chose to do so attended chamber music classes, out of personal interest. The programmes depended on the teachers’ initiative. No schools had a chamber music department to organise the work of the teachers or the curricula of the students, nor was there any formal teaching in the history of chamber music. In those years to attract students Carlo Bertola relied on the importance and renown of repertoire, as well as encouraged students to discover impressive although lesser known pieces. Additionally to the technical and musical side, he has always wanted to teach students the moral aspects of playing together, sharing his experience with them as a member of many orchestras and chamber music groups.
Since the year 1999 the cycle of musical studies has finally started to be reorganised in Italy. The process is still in progress, but now chamber music has become compulsory in all conservatoires in Italy as a natural and important part of the future career of any musician. With this reform, Italian conservatories have also aligned to European academic standards, being equalized to universities and providing students with comparable titles. Now the violin course of studies, for example, consists in a first cycle of three years, after which the student can, according to desire specialise (for another two years) in solo playing, orchestral playing, pedagogical activities or chamber music studies. Each student must attend a definite number of courses and pass a certain number of exams for both the three and the two years courses to obtain the respective violin diploma.
The recent reforms have had a particularly positive impact on chamber music in Italy. Now there is a chamber music department in all conservatories, divided into four sub-ranges, focusing on string quartets and small strings groups, wind ensemble (woodwinds), vocal chamber music (mainly lied-repertoire), and mixed ensembles. Specific chamber music oriented courses have therefore been introduced and students must pass a final exam for which they present a programme including a specific repertoire of chamber music pieces. In Turin, Carlo Bertola and his colleagues of the chamber music department are currently working on this programme. One of their guidelines is the idea that chamber music can facilitate and spread the 20th century repertoire and also contemporary music. Otherwise, students have often few chances to encounter contemporary repertoire in their school career, due to the high demands of their standard instrumental study program.
As a conclusion, Prof. Carlo Bertola pointed out that Turin offers good opportunities, including scholarships, for young degree candidates who would like to continue their studies in chamber music.
Prof. Carlo Bertola ended his speech with a special address to the ECMTA: “The Turin Conservatoire is very happy to have become a member of the ECMTA international musical community and of having now the possibility of collaborating with you all in the research and production of chamber music, which we hold particularly dear and consider an essential step in the training of any musician. This is why we are interested in any information and experience exchange within the European context. We are convinced that the best way of promoting our students’ advancement is to offer them different exchange experiences with colleagues from all over the world. Such experiences can motivate them, confirm their awareness that music, as well as any other cultural activity, is a shared world, where everyone can contribute to the personal and professional growth of everyone. We believe this is a useful way of educating young students to be a part of a multicultural and multiethnic society, free of any discrimination or prejudice and where people can be proud of their cultural heritage but also open to different interesting experiences. I hope this cooperation can continue and include even more countries than it already does. We have great expectations and we are ready to give our contribution for making chamber music acknowledged and its performance one of the most cohesive and indispensable among musicians“.
The concerts have always been an important part of the ECMTA meetings. On the opening night of the conference, in the Chopin Museum Concert Hall, the delegates and guests had the opportunity to listen to Jakub Haufa (violin) and Łukasz Chrzęszczyk (piano) who played Partita by W. Lutosławski. The duo consists of musicians who are active performers on the Polish concert scene - Jakub Haufa is the first violin of the Sinfonia Varsovia and a professor at the Academy of Music in Poznan, Lukas Chrzęszczyk performs often both as soloist with the orchestras and as a chamber musician and teaches at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music.
Student groups performed in the framework of the Student Chamber Music Festival – a tradition with long history.
Heron Trio from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama - Patrick Davies, clarinet, Marta Opas, violin and Esther Li, piano played a program of two Russian masters, Dmitri Shostakovich´s Five Pieces and Igor Stravinsky´s L´histoire du soldat. The piano trio from the Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa, Portugal, Veronika Taraban, violin, Leonor Mateus, cello, and Ecaterina Popa, piano performed the Piano Trio in G major by Claude Debussy. The duo „Gloria and Ilana“ consists of two students from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Gloria Ilves, violin and Ilana Makarina, piano. They played two works, Conversio by Erkki-Sven Tüür and the Sonata E Minor op 82 by Edward Elgar. The last concert offered beautiful performances of the Duo CoLore from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre – Konrad Lewicki, violin, and Lauryna Lankutyte, piano, with the programme of two sonatas – Sonata op 38 by Stasys Vainiunas and Sonata for Violin and Piano by John Corigliano as well as the duo Alisa Klimanska, flute and Elina Gaile, piano, from the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music, who performed Wind song by Aivars Kalejs (Latvia), Moments op 47 by Robert Muczynski and Sonatina by Pierre Boulez.
As a conclusion, the host – Fryderyk Chopin University of Music Warsaw - offered an interdisciplinary project „PRAETER“ for string quartet and actors performed by the students of the Theatre Academy of Warsaw and Fryderyk Chopin University of Music. The music was created by Anna Ignatowicz-Glinska, choreography by Magdalena Wajzner-Barska and lighting design by Paula Jaszczyk.