“I realized that my job is to awaken possibility in others.”

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Bach: Cello Suite no. 3 - Bourrée I

Interpretation Class
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Łukasz Pawlikowski (cello)

The beautiful thing about the relationship between a teacher and a student is, he’s not a student, he’s an artist and I’m not really a teacher, I am an observer of music.

— Benjamin Zander

Video Transcript

Ben Zander: Let me just say a word before you clap. The silence in this room has tremendous power, and it is the power that Lukasz created with Bach. It’s felt by everybody. Nobody really wants to break it. Sure you want to applaud and you want to say thank you and bravo and everything. But what Lukasz created at this moment was an amazing stillness and quiet and a sense of a community being engaged together in something special. I think everybody feels that. Now you can clap. Applaud.

Ben Zander: I said before he began and I knew what I was saying. I said, whatever happens, he’s going to play beautifully. It’s going to be something very, very special. I knew that. I didn’t know what to expect, but that’s what we got something very special. Here’s the thing I could say that was really gorgeous. First of all, it’s great cello playing. Second of all, the sound is exquisite. Third of all, you have such a sense of beauty. It is incredibly beautiful.

Ben Zander: I could say, okay, that’s enough. You can hold an audience spellbound. You’re an amazing artist. Why would I interfere in what you’re doing? Why would I say anything at all? Part of me wants to say leave him alone. Let him go out in the world and make music that way, but that’s not why he’s here. He’s here to learn something new. When I say something, I’m very conscious that he either will accept it or he won’t accept it, that’s fine, but I have to say what I have to say. You will listen and you’ll take it in and either you’ll be influenced by, or you won’t. That’s the beautiful thing about the relationship between a teacher and a student. He’s not a student, he’s an artist and I’m not really a teacher, I am an observer of music. I observe what the composer wrote and what he intended. So let me tell you this. You are playing in a different style from the style that Bach was living in.

Lukasz: Exactly.

Ben Zander: You’re playing a Romantic style. You could not play the way you played unless the great Romantics had come between Bach and you. So I would say you do me a favor and completely take away the Romantic era. Just eliminate it. And let’s go back to the time of Bach. What was this piece of music? What is it?

Lukasz: It’s a dance.

Ben Zander: It’s a dance, all right. So first of all, we’ve got to get people dancing. The trouble is people don’t dance. If you play (singing). They sit and listen and say, oh, that’s beautiful, but they don’t get up and dance. You have to do something to make them get out of their seats and dance. And now he’s given you a very useful tool which is this upbeat. (Singing) that upbeat (singing). Now you have to make a decision. Whether you’re going go (singing) or (singing). Of course, you’re going to want to go to the second bar because there’s a chord and it’s the highest note and if the note is high and there’s a chord, and if there’s a trill on it, in addition, you are going to make (singing) and make all the energy you can from that.

Ben Zander: But we just went through a class in which we said, the first bar is heavy and the second bar is light. Yet the second bar in this case is not quite light in the sense that’s soft. It’s actually louder than the first bar, but the impulse is on the first bar. So now I’m going to give you a little test. Play these three notes, (singing) and then take a break and then play (singing) just the (singing) with the space in between.

Ben Zander: Now, imagine you are throwing a ball and you are throwing that (singing). Throw it right up here. Throw it (singing). Yeah, and now the next one. Now throw it right to the back of the park here. Right here, back here (singing). Now throw the notes in between three (singing). And what happened? It dances. Is that beautiful? You can applaud. Not only does it dance, but it dances in the 18th-century manner (singing), the body up the feet, in this case, sneakers, in those days buckled shoes, with a wig. (Singing) one more time. Three.

Ben Zander: Do you see what she’s doing? She’s going. She got it. Perfect. Now, what happens next? You have (singing). Do it from there. Now let’s see what’s going on. Because you are (singing) as if you were doing Schumann Concerto. No, it’s (singing). Can you do, that? (Singing). Just the scale. Now. Lukasz, can you do that on One-Buttock (singing). There we go. Beautiful. Now add the other notes (singing).

Ben Zander: Beautiful. And is it (singing) or (singing)? Which one is it?

Lukasz: Second.

Ben Zander: Yeah, exactly. All right. So now do (singing) One-Buttock and there it goes to D then And that is so beautiful that we want to hear it again, which is why Bach wrote a repeat sign. So here we go, three (singing). Perfect, perfect, perfect. A little applause.

Ben Zander: Now we’ve moved from the 19th century into the 18th century and there we are. Bach is comfortable and at home and he feels, yeah, that’s my music. He’s up there on the balcony. Looking and saying, good this guy understands what my life was like. That doesn’t mean that it’s tepid or low. Do you know how many children Bach had?

Lukasz: 20?

Ben Zander: 20! All right. I rest my case. Okay. So now third next part. Do you realize that he’s already totally transformed his way of playing? Do you notice that? Completely transformed. He’s now playing 18th-century cello. Beautiful. And you also understand something very important, which is (singing). That D goes to the E. If you can say it so that everybody in the audience sees this lady, you want to talk to her and tell her about the D going to E. Here we go.

Ben Zander: Oh, you see. Do you know what she did? She went, ah! Ah! Her eyebrows went up and she went, ah! Like that. She said, oh, I get it. D, E, great. Terrific. All the other notes, decoration. They’re unimportant. Great. Now do it again. (Singing). Can I suggest that you make the D incredibly beautiful and the E incredibly beautiful, but the other notes very light? Okay.

Ben Zander: Yeah. That’s not really beautiful. It’s just loud. Just do the D. Oh, now we’re interested in what happens to that D. Now we’re interested because it’s so beautiful. We think, well, what’s going to happen next to that D. Before it wasn’t that interesting so we didn’t care so much. So now do it again. No, (singing). Oh, look. The guy with the eyes. Do you see him? The man there he’s just in ecstasy. He’s in ecstasy over your E. He isn’t a musician. He’s just here in the library. That’s what you can do. That’s your power. Do you understand that? Beautiful. Okay, so (singing). Can I suggest too much energy? It’s just a dance. (Singing).

Ben Zander: Four people went. This is what you want in life. You want to play a concert and you want the audience going. That’s what you want. You want to communicate with them and you want them to say yes, yes, yes. That’s what I want. Isn’t that beautiful?

Lukasz: Yes, it is.

Ben Zander: Such a satisfaction. Go on. Will you do the ending? When we make a mistake in our world, we do get upset. We say, how fascinating.

Lukasz: Exactly.

Ben Zander: That gives us lightness and enables us to deal with what otherwise would be a depressing situation. How fascinating! Great. It was a little mistake we got over it. This is really beautiful what you’re doing now. Completely satisfying. Going on (singing). Yeah. Try not to be too Romantic.

Ben Zander: Now let me just show you, you’ve got a scale going up. (Singing) you’ve got that E. You’ll notice that there’s no heavy and light here. The heavy and light are gone away. Why? Because there’s a sequence. Whenever there’s a sequence, not heavy and light. But you do have a rising line. And when you get to the top of the rising line, the note is E. I love you. That’s great. E. Do it again. (Singing).

Ben Zander: Lukasz, could you pretend you’re having a good time? You look awful serious. This is joyful and when you get to the E it’s like the sun coming out. Ah! Look. Ah, like that. Can you smile and play the cello? Yeah. Great. So (singing). That’s not really a smile. That’s I’m really finding this hard. I don’t think it’s You have to play that E in a way that makes them smile.

Lukasz: How can I smile when I’m playing minor?

Ben Zander: No, but the E Well, that’s a good question. But (singing) C, E, C, E, that’s major.

Lukasz: Yeah.

Ben Zander: Yes. Oh, smile. Yes, great! Yeah.

Lukasz: Yeah, that one would make sense.

Ben Zander: Now it makes sense? Now they’re all smiling. If they’re smiling at the major, then Bach is smiling, too. Do you get that? He’s happy. He’s happy. And that’s our job is to make him happy and make them feel the music. Okay. So (singing) and when you get to the E, do whatever it takes with your body, with your face, with your heart, with your mind to give them that radiance of the E. Well, 12 people, 14 people went, yes. Yes, thank you. Thank you, Lukasz. Okay, go on. Now there are two possible impulses, (singing) or (singing). You could do either (singing) or (singing). Which one will you do?

Lukasz: Two bar phrase, so the second option.

Ben Zander: Exactly. You see, that’s the opposite of what we learned before.

Lukasz: Exactly.

Ben Zander: This C, I can’t play your cello, but if you, the C Sorry, I don’t have I shouldn’t play anyway. There we go. The C. In other words, this is an accompaniment. It’s not the, it’s a (singing). We have a decision here, the first bar and the C (singing). Oh! Do you see? The C (singing). That’s so moving, isn’t it? It’s so touching.

Lukasz: Yeah. The time stopped for a while.

Ben Zander: Time stops and then it releases onto that B and the G is just an accompaniment, as a guitar accompaniment. Try once again and make the C so beautiful (singing). Heavy, light. Oh, is that beautiful? Is that beautiful? Look at his face. Look at that here, camera. Look at that face. He was very touched by that. I mean, personally touched. I could see it on his face and that’s our job. Our job is to make sure that the music speaks directly to the heart of the person who’s listening. Okay. Once again (singing). Good.

Ben Zander: Now this is sequences (singing). No heavy and light because of the sequence, everything is equal. And then when you get to the last phrase, you’ve got One-Buttock playing (singing). Yes! We got it! Great! Fantastic. Fantastic. Let’s play it one more time through once through. And if you can give did you see the person at the back row there? The man with the beard. That’s who you are playing for. Okay. Right here. Yeah, too many impulses. Did you see him do his head like that? He forgot because before he went (singing). Once again. (Singing). One-Buttock.

Ben Zander: Go on. Go on, go on. Okay. I’m going to say something to you. You’re looking at me. Come here, come here. What is your name?

Guy: Guy.

Ben Zander: Guy. This is Guy. Bring a chair. You don’t need the stand. Bring a chair. This is Guy. He’s had a tough time this week. This week has been very difficult for Guy. Actually it’s been a difficult month and pretty much a difficult year. Along comes Lukasz with his cello to remind Guy how wonderful life really is. Okay. Here we go. Lost a lot of money on the stock market. A bad love affair.

Ben Zander: Bravo! We got it! Bravo!

Lukasz: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Ben Zander: Bravo, bravo, bravo. Transformation, we call that.

Lukasz: Yes.

Ben Zander: I want you to look at the faces. Look at her face, look at his face-

Lukasz: Beautiful.

Ben Zander: Look at their faces.

Lukasz: Wow.

Ben Zander: When we’re practicing, we sometimes forget the people we’re playing for. And when you realize it And you know what Bach wrote when he finished a piece of work, do you know?

Lukasz: Soli Deo Gloria.

Ben Zander: To the glory of God. To the glory of God. That’s what we’re doing. Or possibility. I call it a possibility, same thing. He wasn’t thinking about himself. He wasn’t saying thank you for all that applause. He was realizing something very big, but in order to get it, we have to enter the world and we have to realize the shape of the phrases the way the composer wrote them. Our own indulgence, if you like, I’m feeling it my way, actually should go out the window. I never think about what I think. I think what he thinks. Beethoven is up there or Brahms or Schubert or Braun. What are they thinking? Are they approving or do they say, no, no, don’t do it. Bravo. Well done. Beautiful. I think this is very clear and you’ll come back.

Luc Chanson
'Amazing how Maestro Zander transforms people in 20 minutes!!!'
Oscar Perry
'This one of the happiest and most wholesome videos, I think I've ever seen. Thank you'
Irena Gołuchowska
'This beautiful maestro, Benjamin Zander, can change everybody into angels and give us the greatest delight. Thank you, maestro!'
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