August 2014 Convention
Chicago, IL

Maxence Larrieu Masterclass

Maxence Larrieu

NFA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Maxence Larrieu taught the second of three masterclasses featuring winners of the Masterclass Performers Competition. Performers were Luke Shultz, Philip Snyder, and Ay?a ?etin with Linda Mark at the piano. Repertoire included Sonata No. 3 by Philippe Gaubert, Nielsen’s Concerto, and the Dutilleux Sonatine. Primary topics in this class were articulation (particularly tonguing style), tone and resonance, phrasing, and alternate fingerings.

In the first movement of the Gaubert, Larrieu said, “don’t play too straight. The line is like waves of the ocean.” He also made similar comments for the Nielsen and the Dutilleux—“don’t play too straight; shape the phrase/shape the line.” In the Dutilleux, in particular, he suggested that the line should outline the meter (the 7/8 meter in the opening section). Side note about the Dutilleux—Larrieu commented that he had played the piece many times with Dutilleux’s wife.

Throughout the class, Larrieu addressed various aspects of articulation. He commented that there “used to be a ‘French school’ and a ‘German school’, especially in articulation. The ‘German staccato’ was not as separated and clear, or clean, as the French style.” He said that these distinctions no longer exist. In fast-tonguing sections, use double-tonguing since it is more resonant. He shared a staccato exercise with the class—four tongued legato quarter notes; then four beats of short, staccato eighth notes; then four beats of double tongued 16th notes.

On the topic of tone and resonance, Larrieu recommended practicing bell tones—“don’t stop the sound; keep resonance going between the notes.” He also recommended another exercise for achieving more resonance: do an exercise with the breath. Practice intervals and blow though each change. He touched on the technique of breathing: “When you breathe and expand the chest, you must keep it there and not let it deflate.” He also commented that “when you want to play fortissimo, you don’t need to give more, just open more.”

Larrieu shared several alternate fingerings with the performers to improve facility, color, and/or pitch. Unfortunately, we, in the audience, were not able to hear or see most of the fingerings. He quipped to the audience that it was very secret information. Somewhat related to fingerings was his recommendation to “begin all trills with the ‘natural’ position and then switch to the trill fingering.”

Ayça Çetin and Maxence Larrieu

—Rebecca Hovan

photos by Brian Covington