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


Brahms: Violin Sonata no. 3 - 1st movement

Interpretation Class
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Ilana Zaks (violin) with Dina Vainshtein (piano)

“Most things we do in life are superficial. This doesn’t leave us. This absolutely stays with us. This is life-changing.”

— Benjamin Zander

Video Transcript

Ben Zander: Bravo. Applause. Amazing. As you noticed, I didn’t stop you, and I didn’t stop you because you were both playing so beautifully. It was an extraordinary performance. And on the macro level, I have nothing to say to you, macro. The whole conception is the right conception.

And you remember what I said at the beginning of class, performance can’t be as great greater than the pianist who’s playing it. And Dina, you’re just an amazing musician, and you have a wonderful way, not only of making the music flow, but of also making the person you are playing with sound great because you’re always listening and you never bang, never bang. And so the sound is always complimentary and you are lucky to have her. You know that.

So, I have only very small things to say to you. It has to do with the surprises in Brahms. There are things that are surprising that you don’t give a lot of attention to. For instance, the first note of the piece is a dominant it’s an A in a piece in D minor and yet it’s the first bar in the piece, and yet it’s a heavy bar. So instead of going, as you would expect, which is a real surprise, because you’d think you would go We always think music goes five one, but this is. That’s weird. That’s on the very last eighth note. And you do the crescendo early. You don’t have the courage. And then this one too. So few things like this.

Also Dina at the beginning, it’s a very interesting figuration because in Beethoven and Mozart and all the people who came before, they would never write a piano thing like that because the violin couldn’t do it. So in Beethoven and Mozart, the violin and the piano always do the same things. Here, he’s invented something completely new, never heard before. You just do that alone. Get very close. Now he does slurs. There’s fours. Can we just try that?

All right. That’s what’s happening there and what you do is something completely different. Just try that from the beginning three go. Leave it right, like that. Very much left hand, all right? Beautiful.

I would keep going. Always keep going. It doesn’t breathe. It doesn’t breathe. It doesn’t breathe. Keep, keep, keep, keep going. And then this is an explosion. That’s great. That was great. It’s more like a mystery, like a secret. If you had a fast, very fast frubardo, this would be a place to do it. And with the bow a little more flautando. Could you do that? As if you were telling a secret. Do it from the beginning again, once again. One No, no. Your up bow creates a crescendo. So you have to deny breathless.

Just do it from there. Good. Can you make the last one the most. And then, that’s great from here. One, two, three. And then two, three. Then this, the energy here carries you all the way through this. If you have enough here, that’s great. One more time from here. One, two, three. More, more Three, four. Yeah. Don’t disappear because the line goes on. Good. That was great. Do from here.

Keep it moving. Great. Now match these. Now the biggest. Things are often built in threes. One, two, and the third one is the biggest of all. And that’s here, so you can pull away more. You did that beautifully, those threes. Isn’t that a great feeling? Yeah. Just show me one more time from here. Second time. And now the third time. First time. Second time. Now. Don’t cut the second note short because the second note goes to her. Hold it full length from there. No, you are cutting it short. Just sing from there. So one continuous line. All right, from there. Yes. Finish. Could come to a complete standstill. That’s a complete end. And this is an upbeat to the development. Bravo. You’re doing great.

You never look up. Do you ever think of communicating with them? Would you try? Just because they miss you, they love you. They love your playing. Do you know, I could ask every one of them and I know the answer, it would be, “I love her play.” I wish she would come to me and play. So we are going to do this phrase again. The third time you’re going to come and really share it. You do it. No, no, no. That’s not it. I mean this, this, this-

Speaker 2: Oh

Ben Zander: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Dina’s playing for them and she’s sitting down over there. Now, look up, look up. Look. Come here, come here. Ilana, Ilana, Ilana. Ilana. I’m a cheat.

You know, it’s very interesting because you are such a great player and such a great musician. What you are not great at yet is being available for people. That’s not a strength of yours yet, but that’s great. That’s part of your stage in life. And you put your hand in front of your face, not because you don’t think your playing is great but because you really don’t quite get it yet what it means to give yourself away generously, unstintingly. Playing is fantastic, but there’s something about opening your heart to people and saying, “I love you as much as you love my play. I want to play for you.”

Do you remember Patricia Coponchenski when she came? That was her genius. Yes, her playing is great. Yes, her musicianship is great, but what’s unbelievable is her connecting with people. And I want that for you. I really want that in the orchestra, I want it in music and in solo. It’s what’s missing. It’s almost nothing. You’re 16, right?

Ilana: 14.

Ben Zander: 14?

Speaker 4: 14.

Ben Zander: 14.

Speaker 6: Oh, wow.

Ben Zander: How did you get to be three years in the orchestra and you’re still 14?

Speaker 2: 11.

Ilana: Oh, wait-

Ben Zander: No.

Speaker 6: She was 12

Ben Zander: 12. She was 12. That’s right. 14. It’s unbelievable. It’s fantastic. You play like a fully-fledged artist. Just add that, open your eyes and say, “I’m for people.” Would you do that? We can do it one more time and you’re going to keep your eyes open this time. You actually have to take in people. I know it’s hard. Do it once again, here we go. And feel the this is Brahm city here here they are. She looks up there, I know it. Ilana, Ilana. Finish now.

Yeah, I would suggest I know he doesn’t write, he writes sort of this is amazing, this development. The only development like it in all of music, timpani playing. Yeah. At first, make it very surreptitious so that we don’t know it, and gradually it comes out. And make it sort of what you do for the molto piano, spaghetti bolognese, everything’s in there. All right, here we go. Two.

See, I would say, this needs a certain discipline, the discipline of restraint. And you’re making lots of crescendos and diminuendos. I wouldn’t do that. I would keep it absolutely only tiny one here and then pianissimo. And this is all pianissimo, pianissimo, pianissimo until this crescendo. Try once again.

Now play for them. Now D major. Bravo. No, this is why we do what we do. It’s for that. That’s what the reason. I do understand that. That’s the only reason we do it. It’s not to win competitions. It’s not to get big fees. It’s just for this. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 7: Check my pulse here.

Ben Zander: It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful. Bravo, it’s bravo. Bravo. That was very, very special, very special. And Brahm that’s what he lived for, to do what you just did, to give your heart and touch the hearts of people deeply, not superficially.

Most things we do in life are superficial. We go to a movie, great. Feels very exciting, five minutes later, it’s gone. We do most things it feels good, and then it’s gone. This doesn’t leave us. This absolutely stays with us. This is life-changing. That’s what we mean when we say life-changing. It’s what we mean. It means that something in us, in our molecules shifts around. So we say, “Oh, that’s what being alive is like, thank you Brahms, thank you Brahms. And you too also, but that

But it’s incidental. And thank goodness a pianist like that, Dina, you’re amazing. How you do these colors and shapes and you wonder the language of music is your language. That’s what you know. And this kid, 14 years old playing like that, this is unbelievable. Because all the great violin, the famous clever violin is. They don’t know this. They don’t know this. They know this, rushing about and impressing. But this deep heart thing, that’s given to very few people.

And there are very few activities actually that human beings can do at these different ages. I won’t tell you what Dina’s age is. We’ve been around a long time. And a 14 year old playing together as equals making music as equals. There’s no questions, no child here, no child present in this room. All grownups with deep human experiences. It’s kind of miracle that a 14 year old person can get inside these emotions. It’s like Menuin at 15, did the Elgar concert, and nobody could understand how could a 15 year old play that music that way? Well, music has a way of infiltrating our being in a way that nothing else does. She’s not this way in other parts of life. Yeah, this just the music, that’s why people become musicians. Isn’t that exciting.

Well, well done. Beautiful. And thank you. And thank you, thank you for being here. All of you so that you can be part of this because to do this alone is a very lonely thing. It’s people and their reactions that make all the difference. All the difference to us musicians. When we go out and try and get people to come and join us, it’s not because we want them to buy our tickets, it’s because we want to share our experience. And that people don’t understand. They think they’re we’re pushing the concert. Well, no it’s we have something very special like these two amazing musicians and it’s great music and we want to include you, include you, and not you but also your life. Isn’t it? It’s big stuff. Big stuff. Wonderful. Thank you for being here. Great. I’ll see you next week.

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