Monday, March 28, 2005

Stephen Tramontozzi

All this week we have Stephen Tramontozzi (he prefers Steve) in town for a masterclass, lessons, and we'll also read a piece he wrote for chamber orchestra. Steve is the assistant principal bassist of the San Francisco Symphony and was featured in their DVD Keeping Score. He talked about the pizzicato movement of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony in that documentary, which showed his 6-year-old (now 9 y.o.) triplets playing and bouncing things around to illustrate the playful tossing of themes in the movement.

Steve had some great ideas about practicing and organizing one's playing. In the masterclass, he talked about playing solo Bach and the importance of individualizing the different voices, making explicit the polyphonic nature of the music. To do this, he suggested, it's helpful to take a voice out of context, decide what musical direction you want to create in it, and make the technical choices necessary to make it happen, before reintegrating it into the piece. I've been trying to be more deliberate and thoughtful in my practicing, and it was great to hear someone talking about a systematic approach to doing this. I played Bottesini in the masterclass, and Steve had a lot of ideas for me to think about in the piece, ways to organize and exaggerate in a bel canto style.

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