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


Brahms: Viola Sonata - 1st movement

Interpretation Class
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Aria Cheregosha (viola) with Dina Vainshtein (piano)


Nervous. Are you nervous? Don’t be nervous. Let me tell you why you shouldn’t be nervous. And I think you may have heard me tell this story, but I’m going to tell it again, ’causeone of my favorite stories, and as my father always used to say, when we accused him of telling the same stories he says, “but I can only tell the stories that I know.”

So Jacqueline du Pré, five years old, went in for a competition. It was her first competition. And her mother told me this and described the scene. She’s five, she’s got her cello in her hand and she’s running through the corridor like this. One of the mothers saw her, the other mothers and said, “well, I can see that you’ve played.” She said, “no, I’m just about to.” She was five. She was five years old and she realized what a privilege and a joy it is. Look at these people. They’re just dying to hear you play. Are you feeling nervous now?


Less. Good. Okay. Brahms, you really want to do the first movement. Great. Okay. Off we go.

(Music Playing)

I’m going to stop you because we don’t have a lot of time. Bravo. Very, very good.


Very, very exciting. I’m thrilled to hear you. This is the new Viola. This is the viola, which, there’s your gift. Thisit’s a beautiful instrument, and it sounding great. And it’s going to sound even greater. When I asked you whether you were nervous and you said “somewhat,” and then I told the story of Jacqueline du Pré, and then I said, “are you a little less nervous?”, or no, I said, “are you still nervous?” And you said “a little less.” And the breakthrough for you in your life doesn’t have anything to do with your viola playing. It has to do with that sentence that you added, because you are carrying that sentence, “a little less,” around with you everywhere you go. I could see it when you were sitting over there waiting to play, you were a wonderful musician who was feeling nervous.

And so you are not actually able to give all that you have to give, and you have an enormous amount to give. Now you have both a curse and an advantage. You have a great pianist here with a huge Russian personality. And she’s not going to hold back because she loves music, as much as music can be loved. And moreover, we spent 11 years together, so she knows everything that I could possibly want about this music. You’re great, Dina. So you have to dig deep into resources that at the moment are being closed off because you are saying, “a little less nervous.” So this has to do with, and, and I point to Ros because Ros has just written a book on this subject called, Pathways to Possibility. And it’s essentially this: you can choose the story that you live your life through.

You can choose it. And what she does in this book is she teaches us how to learn how those stories were built, how they got into place, what happened that caused that story to be put in place. But the most important part of the book is to say, “how dowhat do we do about it?” And you have a story which is in every part of your being and your body, which is, “I’m not quite there yet. And I’m not sure I’ll get there.” And Brahms need something so much more from you. And so what I’m going to do is to who invite you, you have this incredible companion, to invite you to join her. You don’t need to push her because she or is already giving as much as it could be. She would love to give more, but she’s worried about grinding you all right?

So, you have to dig into that part of your story or create a new story is whatwe’ve started doing that. We’ve spent the whole year to together and we’ve been working on that idea and it’s coming. It’s great. So the key word here is what? What is the key word in this music that he gave you? The, the single word at the beginning? Appassionata. And what she’s doing at the beginning is really Appassionata, you just do that.

(Piano Playing)

Right, so you are going to come in there, Appassionata, and if, Dina, if you could make the second bar the result of the first one, so it isSo that C goes to B flat. So that’s all one gesture, needs to move a little bit more.

(Music Playing)

Yes. That’s it, that’s all it took. What happened? Well, yes, a little applause.


That’s always available to you. And you say, “well, no, maybe not today.” I say, “always, always, always.” And it’s great. And the instrument sounds great. And it’s a way of saying gratitude for the person who gave it to you. Thank you, thank you. Wasn’t that great? And her moving a little bit more helped a bit. Did you notice that it helped a little, being a little bit more in one in a bar? Try one more time.

(Music playing)

NowDolce. Do you know what he says? Thatyou know the word it says there on that note? Dolce. So it’s not as if all his music isn’t expressive and sweet, but when he writes Dolceoh, Dolce beautiful. Something should happen to your body. Something should happen to your bow, to your vibrato, everything. But you’re doing beautifully. The only thing missing for you now is what we were talking about with Annette, which is, it’s great playing. Get it out there. Love your audience, because they love you. Do you know that they love you? You didn’t know that they adore you. They adore you.


So you don’t have to take my word for it. They adore you. Love them back. Right. So just give it away, give it away, give it away. Should we just try fromit was Byes. Very good.

(Music Playing)

When you get to that, can you do something with your exquisitely beautiful face? To tell us that we mean, ah, dolce. But that was great. One more time. And when I push you towards them, it’s symbolic. I don’t mean to actuallyalthough you could, you know. It’s very funny when Rostropovich gave his recital in Boston, he was in Symphony Hall and he sat here, and his pianist was back there. He didn’t care about his pianistAll the about him, which I don’t recommend, but at least don’t hesitate to come forward and communicate and be there because people really want to be in communication with you. Same place.

(Piano Playing)

Why are you actually looking at your fingers? Can I make a suggestion? Do, do it.

(Music Playing)

He writes ben marcato here. Just try that, right from that ben marcato.

(Music Playing)

Each onecrying, weeping dying, sighing, like that, can you get that into your bow? That was great. One more time from

(Music Playing)

Exhausted, now

(Music Playing)

Yeah, I did that. I did, that was my fault. Great. Now you’re doing beautifully. That’s great. It’s more fun, is it. Are you feeling nervous now? Of course not. That’s the secret. Nervousness is egotism. Shy people are arrogant. You never thought of that because you notice about shy people, they always talk about themselves. Oh no, I’m not good enough. Oh no, this is too difficult for me. Oh no, I can’t do that. It’s always about I. A mother with a child in a burning building runs into the building and doesn’t think about herself at all.

And then Lao Tzu said something so beautiful, “because of deep love, we are courageous.” The mother isn’t thinking about whether she’s courageous enough. She doesn’t care about, she says, “am I courageous enough of this? I wonder.” No, she goes in there. What gets her in there? Love, love. That’s all that matters. So if you can presence love, love for your music, for the instrument, for yourself, for the audience, for the music, for Brahms, for life, that’s all that matters. And then the courage will come. Do you want to do the end? That final section is so beautiful. Do we have time? Yeah, we do. Just the final section.

Yeah, sorry. That, that last whole. Yeah, exactly. Thank you.

(Music Playing)

Good, it’s beautiful. Your enemy is your control and your comfort. Because this, you see, Brahms was closely related to the gypsies. Not family wise, but he loved Hungary. He loved gypsy music, and this is gypsy music. And it calls on extremity of freedom and of intensity, which you are keeping at bay. And you are saying all the time, that’s not proper. It’s what Ros was talking about earlier that, that there are two worlds here and I’m enticing you into this dangerous world of freedom and of passion and of stories, frightening and wonderful and moving stories. And so I’m going to ask you to join that world, to just come again from the same place. And Dina comes from that part of the world and it feels really happy there. I never have to say to her Dina you’re too restrained, I never say that. So do that, try that again.

(Music Starts)

Can you make yours as expressive as hers? Look how beautifully, she does and then you match it.

(Music Playing)


So let me, let me tell you about this applause. They’re not saying, “brava, Aria, you’re doing great, and you’ve got a wonderful Viola and you play well and you’ll pass your exam.” They are saying, “thank you for opening up a world that we couldn’t have entered without you.” Isn’t that great. It’s a totally different thing. And that’s our job, I mean, that’s what we get up in the morning for. And you can do it. You can do it, and you forget. And the thing that makes you forget is that story about you’re not quite enough, and you are a little bit less nervous, and you’re not quite ready, and other people are better and all that stuff. That’s just a story, and it’s a powerful one. And you’ll get a lot of corroboration from other people because you’re in the cafeteria and you say that and then another violist will say, “I know exactly how you feel.” don’t go to the cafeteria with people like that. Yes, please. This isthe lady of the story’s come.

Audience Member: I heard another story, which is that there’s a piece to play. And so, you’re at this point and you’re going to go to this point. But there’s no piece to play. It’s going to come forth and we’re going to discover this, but we don’t know anything about this. And the emotional surprise of having no idea what’s going to happen, Dina gets that. All the time, I’m constantly surprised by the next note she plays.

Benjamin Zander: Absolutely. Absolutely. We never know exactly what the story is. That’s keeping us in that box. It may be, this is a beautiful way of talking of thinking and, and whatever resonates with you. I think the other story also resonates with you, that idea that somehow there’s so many people who play better and that’s the curse of the conservatory because the curse of the music school is you are surrounded by other people who are competing in your profession, but nobody wrote a Sonata for competing. They wrote a Sonata for love, for expression, for new ways of thinking, for broader life, more richness of being. And that’s what the music is about. And so you have to signSomebody said to me, you know, about that voice in the head, that’s always going, telling you, “you’re not good enough and you haven’t practiced enough. And other people play better,” that voice. Somebody said, “but what happens is the voice comes when I’m playing a concert?” And I said, “you say to the voice, thank you for sharing. I’m busy.”

And you have to have something to be busy with. And being busy with is giving these wonderful people. Who’ve come far and wide to hear the music and have it liberated and have their own souls liberated by Brahms and by these great composers, that’s something to be busy for. And if the voice comes, you don’t have time for it. And it’s partly a training, that when somebody says, “how are you?” Don’t say, “okay, not bad hanging in there, surviving,” all that one. You know, just get used to being. And Ros said something this morning, she got in the car. She said, “I’m feeling so great. I just watched ballet.” She said, “I watch a program about ballet. And I feel as I can do anything,” isn’t that great? So surround yourselves by people who inspire you and by experiences that inspire you. And if something comes along, which feels like dragging you down, say, “I don’t have time for that. I’m sorry. Off you go,” and you’ll be great. And the instrument is great and you play beautifully and everybody got it. Great.


(Outro Music)

'I have watched many Masterclass vids on youtube. Most of the people giving the classes were more about them than the class. In this one, I feel that this teacher made a difference. It was transformative. Thanks to him and her(she played beautifully). I was in tears. But, I do love Brahms.'
Morne Norteir
'Benjamin I've watched almost all his masterclasses, interviews and everything in between. Every time I am left with enlightenment, even if he tells the same story again and again. What an honour for us to be able to witness such a man halfway around the world. If there is one person I would want to meet, and I mean above anybody else, it would be him.'
Nicholas Taranto
'I actually love this man!'
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