Thoughts on teaching at the RNCM
I just returned from my second trip to RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK) this year and while I'm listening to the live streaming from the Sibelius Violin Competition I thought to put down some notes about my work there.
First I must say that the school has the best studying and working atmosphere I have seen anywhere in the world. It is a real pleasure to work with a conducting class where everyone gets so well along with the other students and is helping each other with school work as well as outside the school at their other jobs with different amateur ensembles.
Last spring I was asked to conduct the Fountains of Rome by Respighi, and teach the same piece in the class to the students, which was fine. This time I chose to do otherwise, since the piece I came to conduct with the Concert Orchestra was Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses and the students were not too familiar with the score. In this school the students have to learn many scores every week and most of them modern, so I did not want to burden them with one more if there was an alternative.
Instead on my lesson with the house pianists we concentrated on the 2nd and 3rd symphonies of Beethoven and the 5th symphony of Tchaikovsky. I myself learned them from my professor in St Petersburg in similar manner, and they are all excellent material for technical study (not to mention great music too!). I think when you take a more familiar piece it is possible to do more, especially in a master class setting. Instrumentalists would agree! For pianists it is also better to work from arrangements rather than from a score full of different clefs and transpositions. If they are too busy transposing there is less time to react to the student's conducting.
I was left with the impression that all of the students made progress and gained some new tools for their technical vocabulary. Also the student I shared the concert with did a great job with the Copland Fanfare to the Common Man. Hindemith proved to be a challenge to the orchestra, but we nevertheless made a good performance with just one sectional and one tutti rehearsal. I really like this method of introducing the professional working methods and pace to the students, and I recommend more schools to do this kind of really fast projects with the students.
Now I'll get back to the violin competition. Take a look if you are awake at the Finnish competition times - I already heard some pretty impressive playing!