The Annual Spring Meeting of the European Chamber Music Teachers´ Association came to its conclusion on Sunday, 23 April. The hospitality of the Kuopio Conservatory made it very hard to leave, as no matter what kind of weather we experienced outside - rain, hail, wind and sun all on one day! - there was always a feeling of warm welcome present inside the beautiful Kuopio Music Centre.
Through chamber music a sense of family develops quickly. At this meeting we greeted our new members from Portugal and new guests from Italy and France. During these three days, chamber music pedagogues from all over Europe – Finland, Lithuania, Italy, Portugal, UK, France, Russia, Estonia – listened to concerts, presentations and guest speakers and spent wonderful times together talking about music and teaching music.
The meeting started on Friday with the tour led by Vice Rector of Kuopio Conservatory Pekka Nyyssönen. The Kuopio Music Centre is a magnificent masterpiece of Finnish architecture, built in 1985. Guests are greeted by the shimmering light coming from above in the Foyer - suitably named ´The Hall of Light´. The website says about the building:
„Like a caring mother bird it spreads its protective wings over the Kuopio music scene, offering a nest to the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra and lending its shelter to several grateful visitors annually. The building also provides educational facilities for future professionals of music and dance, who help ensure that the house leads a modern life, remaining youthful without becoming old in spirit.“
In the Hall of Light, the delegates were musically greeted by the local star ensemble, the „Helmi Quintet“. Helmi, the young pianist who leads the group, is the key person in the program of inclusive pedagogy developed currently in Kuopio Conservatory, which will be discussed in more detail later in this overview.
After a truly Finnish experience in Jätkänkämppä Lodge with a traditional sauna, regal buffet supper and kantele music played by Kuopio Conservatory students, the meeting continued on Saturday with presentations in Members Forum.
The Members Forum was opened by chairman prof Marje Lohuaru (Head of the Centre for Chamber Music, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre) with the warmest Birthday wishes on the 10th Anniversary of the ECMTA. European Chamber Music Teachers´ Association was established as an outcome of an European curriculum development project. Marje Lohuaru pointed out that not every European project has survived in such a delightful way. She underlined the increasing importance of the cooperation and networking that still are the basic values of ECMTA.
Sampsa Konttinen, Rector of the Tampere Conservatoire, was one of the founders of the ECMTA along with Marje Lohuaru, Merja Soisaari-Turriago and several professors from Europe. He spoke about the creation of the organization on Sunday, 6th of May, 2007. In slides, he shared the documents and findings of that original EU curriculum project, containing data, statements, learning outcomes and ideas which are still relevant. He pointed out that ECMTA still has the same goals as in the beginning and he was happy to note that activities has continued to develop and grow.
Former Chairman dr Evan Rothstein (Deputy Head of Strings, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, UK) congratulated the ECMTA members present in Kuopio and shared his memories from the meeting in Mannheim where he was first elected as chairman. He then gave an overview of the 2009-2016 activities.
Dr Rothstein continued with his presentation - Hans Keller and Functional Analysis: Wordless analysis as a pedagogical technique. Hans Keller was not a performer, but a musical thinker – his reputation was such, however, that many performers wanted to play to him for advice. Near the end of his life he was invited by Yehudi Menuhin to teach in his school, and later also at the Guildhall School. Keller was concerned about analysis applied to interpretation. Although he wrote and spoke a great deal about music, he develop a special form of analysis without words, in the form of a score to be played. The presentation was illustrated by a movie clip about Hans Keller.
Manuela Matis (Head of the chamber music department, Bolzano Music Conservatory “C. Monteverdi”, Italy), spoke about „What does chamber music mean?“ If we ask people, what is chamber music, there will be different answers - music for ensemble, music for groups. Chamber music needs a room – but not a stadium. Chamber music reminds us of the german tradition of Hausmusik, music for home use, schubertiades, Brahms, Joachim, the Schumanns - intimate music in a high artistic level. 2 players, a small hall, music to be played without a conductor – these are the features of chamber music. In a group, there are different roles, but of course the other chamber group members don't always agree with the group leader.
Michel Benhaïem (professor of chamber music and piano at the Académie supérieure de Musique (HEAR) of Strasbourg, France, artistic director of the festival in Southern France, Musicales au Fival), spoke with esprit about the classical music education in France. The French system has many interesting features. There are public music schools almost in every small town which provide musical education to both future professionals and amateurs. 40 years ago, professionals would continue their studies in Paris National Conservatoire. In 1980, another conservatoire was built in Lyon, and for almost 30 years, higher education diplomas in music were available only in Paris and Lyon. The situation changed about 10 years ago with the creation of Pôles Supérieurs de Musique. The Pôles are not new buildings, they are composed of alliances between existing institutions, usually conservatoires and universities, but also including some teacher training institutes. At present, for higher education in music students can go to Paris, Lyon or one of the Pôles Supérieurs. In Strasbourg, for example, there is a part of the Conservatoire that is devoted to the Pôle Supérieur - called the Académie Supérieure - but it is in the same building as the Conservatoire, and shares many of the same teachers. Those who are part of the Académie, however, will also take musicology classes at the University of Strasbourg.
Professor Benhaïem also discussed the place of chamber music instruction in France. 40 years ago, there was hardly any teaching of chamber music in France at all. The model of a soloist was predominant, although very few musicians became soloists and even less became exclusively soloists. The idea that most of the time music is made by people playing together had very little effect on the way music was taught. And another idea - that it is also possible to learn music by playing together - was just unknown. Now there is more consciousness about chamber music - more lessons, better quality, a lot of chamber music concerts.
However, there is still no possibility to specialize in chamber music or to get a diploma and there is no special diploma to teach chamber music.
Strasbourg has always been big centre for cultural life and the city strongly supports music studies. Strasbourg's conservatoire has a building which is new, very functional and architecturally interesting. Chamber music plays an important role in the life of the Conservatoire – students and professors initiate many projects, often involving several music departments and very different musical styles.
Irina Grayfer (Artistic Director of Ippolitov-Ivanov Piano Quartet, chamber music teacher in the Ippolitov-Ivanov SMPI, St Petersbourg, Russia) gave a comprehensive presentation about chamber music written by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Russian composer, conductor and teacher.
Ingrida Milasiute (Vilnius Naujoji Vilnia Music School, Lithuania) introduced the chamber music competition Musica Brillante in Vilnius, and talked about the lights and shadows related to the organizing work.
Prof. Petras Kunca (Council member of Lithuanian Musicians’ Union, Board member of ECMTA) presented information about important international music competitions in Lithuania – dedicated to Čiurlionis, Vainiunas and Heifetz.
Members Forum was concluded by Nijole Dorotea Beniušyte (artistic director of the Lithuanian cultural Association „MUSICA VITALE“) who spoke about the festival „Le strade d´Europa“.
After the Members Forum, the keynote speech was given by prof Seppo Kimanen, cellist and celebrated founder and longtime Artistic Director of the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival. His chamber music career was distinguished by his membership of the Jean Sibelius String Quartet (1980–2014). Besides his activities as a musician, Kimanen writes, gives lectures, takes photographs and plays tennis - when he is not planning a new music festival, learning Japanese or playing with his grandchildren...
In his speech he offered his experience and feelings related to his career as a musician and organiser. But he also spoke about the challenges facing young professionals, about changes in the music profession and the need for musicians to develop skills to respond to these changes.
Some quotes from his talk:
„We must not teach people for the next exam but for life“;
„There are many solutions besides being a soloist or an orchestra musician“;
„Everyone is linked to each other on this planet“.
The speech was greeted with warm applause and questions and discussion continued after the talk in smaller groups.
One of the additional values of ECMTA meetings has always been the opportunity to learn about the host location's cultural environment: a kind of cultural cluster is always included in the programme. In addition to kantele music and beautiful atmosphere of the first evening, Kuopio Conservatoire professors Annukka Knuuttila and Elina Vetoniemi gave a public lecture on Saturday afternoon entitled Inclusive music pedagogy at the Kuopio Conservatoire. The lecture started with a question: „Who has the right to study in music school?“ The presenters pointed out that while the Finnish law on equality in education was not previously implemented in arts studies, at present inclusive music pedagogy has changed the whole educational culture in the Conservatory, bringing along with it attitudes that favour social participation and equality. There are currently 30 special learners in Kuopio. Many of their brothers and sisters are also studying in the Conservatory. The presenters showed videos of the lessons with special learners showing good practices, how instrumental skills - including ensemble skills - of the learners with special needs are developed. The young piano performer from the first day – Helmi, the pianist from the „Helmi Quintet“ - was filmed during her lessons, where special supportive rhythmical, singing and physical movement exercises were demonstrated, in addition to actual instrument learning. The teachers also presented audience sheet music for special learners which look quite different from the ordinary piano scores (actually more beautiful - almost no notes and in colour!).
Inclusive pedagogy is the reflection of inclusiveness both in society and in education. Inclusiveness applies to all who have special needs and it is the opposite of discrimination. Chamber music is one way to implement inclusion, equality and social participation. The presentation ended with a most valuable recognition - In chamber music – a joy shared is a joy doubled.
The Finnish cultural 'cluster' was concluded with a concert of the Kamus Quartet (Finland) in Kuopio City Hall (Sat 22.04). They played Finnish music – Esa-Pekka Salonen´s Homunculus, Einojuhani Rautavaara´s String Quartet no 1 and Sibelius´s String Quartet in D Minor op 56 „Voces Intimae“. Their lively and emotional performance was introduced by the violist of the ensemble, Jussi Tuhkanen.
On the last day, before the General meeting, the Hall of Light was again filled with students of music and dance of the Kuopio Conservatory, performing The Beatles´ Eleanor Rigby with a string quartet and two singers, illustrated by the group of dancers. There was a feeling of drama and tension in this performance but I could not escape the feeling that the phrase lonely people belongs only to this particular song – at this moment, these kids and young people were really experiencing unity and joy of performing together. And we were privileged to watch and listen to them at this moment.
Students always make a vital part of the ECMTA meetings – the members and delegates provide numerous masterclasses to both local students and guest ensembles from different corners of Europe. In Kuopio, the three days of masterclasses were concluded with a student concert. Students from Finland (Johannes Ruotsalainen, Henna Korhonen, Vertti Aittola, Päivyt Toivanen, Emma Tiihonen, Minja Bovellan, Sara-Elina Varko, Maria Nikulina, Iida Pekonen, Sinna Hujanen, Saara Hopia, Juho Niskanen, Tanja Niiranen) and Estonia (Anna Smirnova, Kerstin Kullerkupp, Kristjan Veermäe) played Mozart String quartet C major, KV 157, Debussy Sonata for cello and piano in D Minor, Beethoven op Trio 11, Britten Suite for violin and piano and pieces by Merikanto, Melartin, Sibelius and Tüür. The tradition of ensembles formed of students from different countries was carried forward in Beethoven trio where pianist from Estonia joined clarinet and cello student from Kuopio.
This is the ideal of chamber music – the musical language unites people from different corners of the world to play a single unison phrase like at the opening theme of the Beethoven trio – symbolic and reassuring in our present troubled times.
On behalf of the ECMTA we most warmly thank our hosts in Kuopio Conservatory: rector Esko Kauppinen, vice rector Pekka Nyyssönen and Katariina Liimatainen, vice chairman of the ECMTA, principal lecturer of piano and chamber music in Kuopio Conservatory, who all made us feel welcome and well looked after.
See you in future meetings!