August 2013 Convention
New Orleans, LA

Masterclass: Sophie Cherrier

The masterclass taught by Sophie Cherrier, professor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur of Music and Dance in Paris, was the second in the series of masterclasses featuring winners of the 2013 NFA Masterclass Performers Competition. As would seem appropriate given the teacher’s nationality, pieces for this class were selected from the French repertoire. Lauren Asimakoupoulos performed the first movement of the Ibert Concerto; Gabriella Roderer performed Taffanel’s Fantasie on Themes from Der Freischutz, and Leo Sussman performed Sonatine by Dutilleux.

Cherrier focused a great deal on making changes in the character of the music as it transitions back and forth from melodic portions to rhythmic portions. She used the analogy of “soaring like a bird” for the melodic portions, using “the air to connect and support the phrases.” The rhythmic portions, she said, particularly in the Ibert, must be aggressive. Several cautions were given during the class about excessive motion, confusing piano with small, going too fast in runs and skipping notes, and, on the flip side, playing too carefully to get all the right notes.

Sophie Cherrier and Student

Too much excessive motion while playing interrupts the musicality and the sound and should be avoided or minimized. In runs, take time to think about each of the notes—make each note sound, much like a keyboard player has to push each key separately to make it sound. Piano must be played to the back of the room. “Vibrate when you blow—when you breathe the note is already there.”

Cherrier gave instructions for a simple exercise: Begin far away (p) and grow (f) and then go far away again (p) like “there is a box far away and the air must go into the box. Then it moves closer and closer. Forte is where you are and you must fill it.” This “requires change of air direction and you must create space for the air to move.” She also stressed thinking about the column of air, keeping the body position such that it doesn’t close off the column of air. Cherrier commented that “accidents happen” and that we should not play too carefully to get all the right notes and allow the musicality and character of the piece to suffer. Right notes are “not important. Getting the right character is more important.”

—Rebecca Hovan

photo by Brian Covington