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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Salvatore Accardo: Masterclass in Cremona - Volume 4
Ravel's Tzigane with Sofia Gelsomini (violin) and Brahms's Sonata No.1 with Edoardo Zosi (violin)
Subtitles: English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean.
Audio: PCN 2.0. 16:9, Colour. All regions - 0, NTSC
DYNAMIC DVD 37680 [90:00]

The latest instalment of Salvatore Accardo's Cremona master-classes is dedicated to two 45-minute sessions with young Italian students. Sofia Gelsomini, accompanied by Maria Grazia Bellocchio plays Ravel's Tzigane in the dour setting of the Accademia Walter Stauffer. Given its relative brevity Accardo allows her to play all the way through and then they get down to detail. By the quick scowl on his face during her performance one element at least of her playing had displeased him but it's clear that his tuition is based, as before in this series, on the most precise of precepts. Accardo is not one for florid comments or to draw analogies; he's very much the practitioner. Thus he works away at her up and down bows, and her articulation, and shaping of note values. 'All you need to do is read the music - it's all written down', he tells her with an enchanting smile - if only it were that easy - before picking up his own fiddle to demonstrate how he'd like a passage to sound. Valuable is his advice as to the fingering combination to avoid sounding flat but he's not above gnawing away again and again at a particular passage, rightly locating unease in her tempo choices, and trying to restrain her impulsiveness: 'You are in too much of a hurry' he adds.

Master-classes such as this are not for everyone. Simultaneously intimate and yet - inevitably given the cameras - public, they occupy an uneasy place in music-making. Sometimes, too, because of time constraints either actual or, as here, because the film fades out, we don't see the positive instruction bearing immediate fruit. We never quite get to the end of the critiqued Ravel performance. That's inevitable with the companion work, Brahms's Op.78 sonata, played by Edoardo Zosi and pianist Saskia Giorgini. Zosi plays the opening movement unusually slowly and with a degree of overt expressivity that causes Accardo some interest. He picks up the dampened pizzicati, the student explaining that he was 'afraid of the metallic'. Accardo doesn't play in this master-class, though he does sing quite a bit to convey phrasing. His intent is to free up his student's bowing, to establish a more propulsive tempo and to insist on natural bowing. There is quite a lot of fun along the way, and it's clear that Accardo enjoys the very individual slant of his student and, indeed, of the pianist. 'Good, isn't she?' he remarks of Giorgini - and she is. They play on in the second movement, Accardo apologising for the state of the piano with a shrug; 'It's ugly isn't it - but what can I do about it?' There's further byplay between the violinist when a query of 'easy fingering?' is met with an arched eyebrow and the correction 'alternative fingering'.

I enjoyed this latest release. It has niche interest, obviously, but it is revealing to see coaching sessions such as these - or master-classes as the series prefers - and to observe how a teacher cultivates taste and technical address in talented students.

Jonathan Woolf

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