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

0:00
0:00

Haydn: Cello Concerto no. 1 - 1st movement

Interpretation Class
55,875 Share

Matthew Buczkowski (cello) with Dina Vainshtein (piano)

‘a true master class in how to give a master class!’

  • Cliff Kern, Bartle Professor of Economics, Binghamton University (SUNY)

‘Music is language. It’s speaking to people. And the beautiful thing is, everybody understands it. There’s no language barrier in music.’

— Benjamin Zander

Transcript

Ben Zander: Fantastic, good. Let me explain what’s happening today. First of all, I want to introduce and welcome you to this very beautiful hall at the Longy School of Music. The Longy School of Music is one of three great music school conservatories in Boston. Boston is blessed with more great musical institutions than anywhere else in America and, therefore, more great players. The Longy School has a long history, and it’s a very distinguished history. One of the people who taught here was Nadia Boulanger, who was one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, and she held court here. Many of the musicians in America who we admire and love were trained by her and other great figures in this school. And this is one of the great training schools for teachers.

We don’t usually meet here. We usually meet at the Boston Public Library, but today we are meeting here, and it’s a privilege to be in this hall. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this. They have moved a piano down onto the floor, so now, instead of being on the stage, we can actually be on the floor, which is a much better arrangement in my view.

Welcome to Longy, and I hope we’ll have other occasions here because it’s a very special space, not only for the acoustics and the beauty but also for the tradition and the quality of the work that’s going on here.

Now let me tell you the story of what’s going on here, and it’s actually quite an amazing story. This gentleman here is a doctor, and he lives in Oakville, which is outside Toronto, a town outside Toronto. He’s a significant figure in Toronto and Canada’s medical world. He has four children. Four is right, isn’t it? 

And one day, he arrived in Boston with his family, with his whole family, and the reason for that was because he had been watching the films on video of this class. He has two girls who are starting off being serious about music, and he thought this was a good way of helping them to develop their musical understanding, so they watched all the videos. Then one day, he decided that he was going to bring the whole family here for their vacation. And they showed up. You remember the day when the whole Toronto family showed up, and we were all very excited. And then they came back and then they came back, and then they came back, I think four times if I’m not mistaken. And then, because I was so moved and touched by this passion for music and for possibility, I said, “I’m coming to Toronto. Would you like me to do something for your community?”

So he invited me to spend a morning with his hospital, and it was one of the most memorable mornings I’ve ever spent, and judging from the white sheets that they wrote, it was for them too. It was a great morning, with doctors and nurses, and the whole room was full of medical people as I reminded them at the beginning when we started that my father had given me the greatest compliment I ever had. It was not from a music critic but was from my father after a class. He said to me, and he was 94 and blind, he said, “I see you are a member of the healing profession.” Nothing more wonderful can be said to a musician than to be included amongst the healing. We had a fantastic morning, and Kate, Arthur’s young daughter there, played the violin beautifully, and it was a very, very special morning.

Then in the afternoon, he organized an extraordinary town-wide musical event, which included an orchestra, a Suzuki group, and chamber music. I can’t remember how long it was. It may have been two hours, it may have been five hours, I have no idea, but we were deeply involved, right? You remember that, and it was very, very, very exciting. The last group that played was a string quartet, and they played, and I worked with them. Then I asked each one of them whether they wanted to be professional musicians. Only one of them admitted that he wanted to be a professional musician, and that was this fellow behind me.

I said to Matthew, “Well, I’ve been watching you, and I think you’re up to it.” I said, “You have what it takes to be a professional musician.” That’s a very dangerous thing because music is a hazardous profession that makes extraordinary demands. I read to the group a passage out of Roz Zander’s book, Pathways To Possibility. This is the story of the explorer Shackleton, which many of you know. Shackleton was going to the Antarctic, and he put out an advertisement to get some people to go with him, but he wanted them to be equipped mentally and physically for the trip, so he made it a rather hazardous projection the way he described it.

All right, this is the advertisement, and you can imagine this in the newspaper. “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition only in case of success.” That’s pretty much a description of the life of a professional musician. He got 28 responses, and those 28 men spent the most extraordinary journey, which lasted over months and months and months and months, actually more than two and a half years, in which they faced the most hazardous conditions imaginable. Yet, amazingly enough, all of them survived.

What Roz posits in her book is the idea that there was a reason for it. And the reason she gives is this. “We have meager clues as to why that happened, but one stands out. Shackleton remained consistently positive in his outlook, and he forbade the expression of negativity or despair. He declared that optimism is the true moral courage, and he led his men accordingly. If we think of the journey of The Endurance as an engagement similar to a game, the instructions were, commit to living wholeheartedly with every fiber of your being, in your speaking and your actions.”

And I’ll read you the final sentence of this little description of the story. It’s very, very beautifully described in the book, The Pathways To Possibility. And this is what she writes in the final paragraph. “In all likelihood, Sir Ernest Shackleton did not perceive the voyage of the endurance as a game in any trivial sense, but his continued good spirits and openness to both adventure and risk certainly would’ve qualified him as being game. When the expedition came to an end, he wrote, “We had suffered, starved, and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in his splendors, heard the text that nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.”

Well, you must wonder why I brought up such heady and profound thoughts when I have a bunch of kids sitting on the stage here waiting for coaching. Well, I’ll tell you, because what happened that night after the class was the Healys had dinner at their house, and I was there with a wonderful, wonderful lady, Jean, who is, I think, 88, is that right? And still functioning as a very effective teacher in Oakville and Toronto. And it turns out we were in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain together, we missed each other by one year.

We had such fun sharing all the stories about the people we knew and so on. At the end of the evening, Matthew showed up. The reason he didn’t show up earlier, because he had actually been invited to the dinner, but he had a rehearsal with his youth orchestra, and he thought it was more important to be at the rehearsal with his youth orchestra than to go for dinner with this visiting dignitary. I admire you for that. Thank you for making that decision. That was a correct decision.

But he did show up at the end, and we had a lot of fun. I went to the piano, and he played the Élégie of Fauré and the Haydn C Major, and I played the piano, and we had a wonderful time. And I said, “Well, maybe sometime you should come to Boston and play,” because it turns out he won the concerto competition of this community, and he was going to play it. I said, “Who knows? You might show up. They certainly know about the class.” He said, “You might come.” And that thought baked slowly in the oven of his mind, and he decided he would come today, and then he started talking about it with a few friends, and the word got out. As of yesterday, 22 people from Oakville set off on a journey to come here today, to be here for this class. I think a little round of applause for them.

Some of them drove, and I don’t know if you have any idea what that means. That’s nine hours of driving. When they arrived, the hotel they had booked turned out to be a warehouse. It wasn’t a hotel at all, so they spent most of the night awake. He was deflected and had to fly to New York and only just arrived a few minutes ago. I think you are getting the feeling of the Shackleton idiom here, and you notice that nobody’s complaining, and they look as cheerful and as happy and as openhearted. Look at that face. It’s not the face of somebody who has spent the entire night awake. When they spend the entire night awake, unwillingly, most people show on their face irritation, despair, fear, upset, and so on, but they don’t have to. They don’t have to. It’s a choice.

You can either let those emotions show, replace them with other emotions like excitement and anticipation and joy and all those other emotions you see around you. Congratulations on that, because when we talked in Oakville, we talked about that choice that every human being has at every moment to be an expression of optimism. That’s what Shackleton was about. Optimism is the true moral courage, and the music we’re going to look at is about optimism. Isn’t that right? Beautiful.

This is what we’re going to do. This is a very strange situation with a tiny little orchestra, but I want to tell you that it isn’t a great deal smaller than the orchestra that played this piece for the first time. Isn’t that interesting? It was a very, very small group, and I was a cellist. I don’t know if you know that. I studied cello. I was your age in the 50s and 60s. No, the 50s, actually, I was studying.

I never played this piece. Do you know why I never played it? Can you guess? Every cellist now plays this piece, every cellist. If you’re a cellist, you played the Haydn C Major, but I never played it. Why didn’t I play it? Because it wasn’t known. It’s the most amazing thing. It was lost, and it was lost for a very interesting reason, because in those days, people were only interested in new music. They didn’t care about music that had already been performed. They only wanted new music. So Prince Esterházy had a group, and he hired Haydn. Haydn was about 30, and he spent 30 years there. He found a little orchestra when he arrived. 11 people, that was the orchestra, 11 people. Then he brought in a few people from the military barracks and a couple of people from the church, and he made an orchestra of 28. That was the biggest orchestra at the time. Huge orchestra.

My youth orchestra is coming to the youth orchestra rehearsal this afternoon and then to the Boston Philharmonic rehearsal tomorrow evening. I mean, it’s going to be very exciting. You’re all going to fall asleep by the end of it. But that’s huge. Our orchestras now are humongous, 110 people. In those days, 28 was big. This would’ve been not unusual.

What happened was there happened to be a very, very good cellist there. Weigl was his name, I believe that’s right. And Haydn was very excited, and he wrote this piece for him. Then since it had been played, it wasn’t played again, and he fell into the hands of somebody who actually just like collecting cello concertos. He had about 30 of them in his library, a Count somebody. Then during the war, these buildings of all these aristocrats was taken over by the government, and all this music was thrown into the National Library in Czechoslovakia.

In 1961, a scholar went to the library and discovered this piece. By that time I was already finished with my cello studies and I was at London University, so I never got to play it, but I remember the day it was performed. May 19th, 1962 for the first time, a masterpiece of the literature that had never been heard. We were all so excited about it, and now it’s a masterpiece and everybody plays it. Isn’t that funny?

It would’ve been played just once, because in those days they were only interested in new music, but the main thing now, since you’ve all come together, is it all depends on the cellist. Let’s just begin just with the cello. Shall we begin with your first entrance and see how you play the first entrance? I’m very excited to hear him play. Are you excited? We want that to be the case every time somebody plays, we want everybody to be like this, excited to play.

Fantastic. Good, great. That’s beautiful playing. The first thing that happens for you is a chord with four notes in it. Just play it once with just one note. Just play C. No, the high C. Right. Play C, triumphant and joyous. Yes. And now add an E, and now add a G, and now add a C. Yes, exactly. I mean, what more triumph can you utter than that? Even the key of C major, it’s the essential key. It’s the key of the instrument, the lowest key. Can you put all that energy into that first chord? Just do it as much energy as you can. Yeah. (singing).

Just the C, just the C. That’s fantastic. Now, what it does is it overturns the E, but it’s essentially about (singing). That’s all it’s about, but (singing). That little extra energy has to sink so that it draws attention to itself. So just do the chord and then (singing), just that much. Just as fast (singing). Right, (singing). Good, that’s great. Now, (singing). Can you get a little excited about it? (singing). Are you excited about that? Does that excite you? Yeah? If it does, could you inform your face about it so that your face knows the (singing).

Now the second F is very different from the first one, isn’t it? (singing). Oh, that F is full of warmth, full of generosity, some gesture like that. If you write once again four notes, all four notes, (singing). Oh, good, good. That was too high. Can it overflow, (singing). Oh, that’s good. That’s very beautiful. And now when he goes (singing), it’s kind of proud, isn’t it? Majestic (singing).

They all dressed in those very elegant clothes with wigs and buckles on their shoes. Everybody in those days always stood up like that. Very, very high. Just do that high (singing). With more intensity, more warmth, (singing). Oh, that’s good. Now that’s something different, (singing). Just do that, (singing). Oh, is that beautiful. See that lady smile? You got to her. She said, “Ah, that’s so beautiful.” (singing).

Oh, that’s gorgeous. And now, (singing). Terrific. Do the whole phrase, (singing). We’re ready for you. We are ready for you. Okay, let’s do that very phrase. Are you ready from that very first place where the cello enters? Ready? And incidentally, I’m going to tell you something about the piano because they didn’t have conductors in those days. They had composers, and the composer would sit at the piano. Haydn would’ve sat at the harpsichord and played not the piano, they didn’t have pianos on those days but they had the harpsichord. Dina is Haydn today.

All right, here we go. Are you ready? Are you excited about this opening phrase? Here we go. One, two, three, (singing). No, no, no, no. We’re not going from the beginning of the piece. We’re going from the beginning of his solo entrance. Right? Do you know where that is? You all got that place? All right, here we go. Two, three, and (singing). Good, bravo, very good. We’re ready.

Your job is to both inspire and respond to what he does. You have to be totally engaged with him and ready to inspire him with even more energy than he would have on his own, and he’s doing great on his own. Your job is Let’s just do that first phrase one more time, and then we’ll go on and see what happens. Just as far as we worked. The same, two, three, (singing).

Good. Now this phase, (singing). It sounded like, it’s almost like a challenge, isn’t it? (singing). And he responds with chords again. It’s all about chords. You’re great, you’re doing beautifully. Are you having fun? That’s the main thing. In life, the main thing is to have fun. Even if you’re miserable, still have fun, because being miserable is also part of life. You don’t want to be happy all the time. It’s like boring sunshine all the time, you know? You’ve got to be grim sometimes.

My teacher used to say, my great Cassadó, my great teacher, she said, “You can’t be a great musician, a great artist. You can’t play great music until your heart has ben broken.” I thought, “Really? Does that mean I have to go out and get my heart broken?” Yes, it does. Yeah. In fact, I had a wonderful experience. I was in Venezuela, and I was about to conduct Mahler’s 9th symphony with Dudamel’s orchestra, you know there. I told them that story. I said, “You can’t play great music until your heart has been broken.” Before the concert, the first horn came up to me and said, “I’ve got some great news.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “My fiancée just left me.”

Yeah, great. Now we’re going to add this (singing). Do it one more time and then we’re going to go on with the next phrase. Everybody, two, three, (singing). Let me just say one thing. It’s very tempting if you do things many, many times to say, “Well, I’ve done that before. I’ll just do it again.” But the actor who does that is dead, because every time Hamlet comes to the moment where he says “to be or not to be, that is the question, whether it’s nobler in the mind to suffer the slings of outrageous ” and the next night he says it again. “To be or not,” but it has to be different. It has to be felt every time as if it was the first time, because for the audience, it is. For the audience, it’s the first time.

And for somebody in the audience, it’s their last time. That’s the way we can live our lives. And I must say, looking at Jane Strew sitting in the front row, that’s the way she lived her life as a musician, every time. You never heard her do anything by rote. Each time you play, even like this where you play something 20 times, each time you give everything you have, right? You would be really wise to think about how your face and body can transfer the feeling in the music, so that if somebody were looking at your face on a screen without the sound, they would know which piece you were playing. I used to play that. Do you remember Patricia, my first wife? We used to play this game. She was this great pianist. She would sit at the piano, and I would go, and she would play the first chord of the cello concerto.

We always played Haydn D Major or Schuon. We’d always know exactly which piece it was by the physical expression. At the moment, this is a stage for you, you’re going to open yourself up, because you’re an actor. You realize musicians are actors. We have to be as versatile and as intensely committed to the role we’re playing, and particularly in this case, the mood keeps changing. We have to react, everything we do with our bodies, right? Are we ready? And particularly since in those days you would’ve been conducting. You realize that? You’re the soloist, you would’ve conducted. So can you conduct them now? From that very place. Here we go, (singing).

Now, wonderful, bravo. What you’ve discovered is that this is a conversation, isn’t it? Between the orchestra and you. The way you hand it to them and the way they hand it back to you is the way the music is made. That’s why your eyes and your body and your face are so crucial as musicians. Great. So, (singing). Let’s get that, see whether we can make that a little bit more alive. Should we do it from there? One, two, three, and it’s (singing). Right, that’s right. Two, three, (singing).

Right. The more excited they get, the more excited your response has to be, so (singing). Once again, three, four, (singing). Yeah, what do you think about, now he’s doing it again. Is it the same? What’s different? (singing). It’s more playful, actually, isn’t it? (singing). Should we try the second one, do the second one alone?

Just playful. You know that Haydn was probably the nicest composer who ever lived? I don’t know, I never met him, but if I had to choose who to spend an evening with, I think it would be Haydn. I mean, Mahler, of course it would be very stressful, very moving, and Beethoven would, oh my God, oh my God. And Bach would be elevated. But Haydn would be fun. You’d just have fun because he laughed at lot. He had a great sense of humor, and it would have been terrific. I think probably the most fun of any composer. Sibelius, I don’t think so, no. No.

It’s kind of fun to think about what it would be like to spend an evening with all these composers. Dvořák, you know who I’m doing at the moment with the Boston Philharmonic, we’re doing the 7th symphony. He loved the countryside, he loved nature, and he loved folk music, and he loved people. People kept on saying, “Come to town, come to Vienna. Come.” “No, no, no. I want to stay.” He lived in a town 40 miles from the next village, 40 miles. There was nothing. If he wanted to get some milk, he couldn’t go to the town. And there he stayed. He wanted to be there. That was a lovely quality.

But Haydn was a man of the town. He was fun. He was ribald. He was full of delight. All of it is in his music. Should we try it again? Second phrase, three, four, (singing). I meant actually, (singing). Yeah, there we go. Oh, now what about that? What about that A? (singing). Even more, (singing). Right, so far that’s the highest note in the whole piece. Isn’t that A? (singing). Enjoy that. Good. First phrase, from the beginning, and then we can do the second one different. Three, four, and (singing).

What happens next? Let’s listen. What happens next? Go on. Yes, play. I repeat what I said in Oakville, which is, you’re right to want to be a musician. There’s no doubt in my mind. This is a good decision for you. You have a very natural, beautiful musical personality and good cello playing, so you’re on the right path. Still in high school, one more year? Right, great. Terrific. You’re exactly where you should be in life. This G sets (singing), that’s a falling scale. Now, (singing), and that note is one note lower than the G. So (singing). And now we’re expecting what? Exactly. Somebody’s saying it. E, right? That’s the way music is constructed.

People think that every note is equally important. It’s not true. Look around this room. See how many lines go down. Look at all those lines going down. Do you see them all? Look at the lines on the balustrade. How many of them are holding the roof up? Very few, right? Very few. The person who discovered that, I don’t know if you know this, I discovered this at the age of 26. It’s amazing that I got through so far in life, discovered the great thinker about music. Heinrich Schenker. And Heinrich Schenker was the person who introduced the idea that there are certain notes that hold the roof up, and there are certain notes that are decoration. The mistake they made, many musicians made, in the Romantic era is that they made the decorative notes melodic instead of the structural notes melodic.

That now, there’s been a revolution in interpretation around the world through this discovery, which means that people tend to play faster because they’re looking for longer lines, whereas if you are thinking only of the melodic impact of each node, you’ll tend to play slow. These nodes in this phrase, the G is a structural note, the F is a structural note, and the E in the next bar is a structural note, so it (singing).

There’s the E. That’s the one we’ve been waiting for. Can you play with that kind of intentionality where you’re telling the audience, “This is the note, and then this is the note, and then this is the note.” It’ll cause you to be more of a teacher when you are playing. I believe we musicians are actually teachers. Maestro, the word maestro means teacher. That’s all it means. Isn’t that interesting? In Italy, every school teacher is a maestro, even the kindergarten teachers, maestro, and maestro. So think of yourself as a teacher and take the audience through the story, so do from the beginning again. One, two, three. No, no, I mean from the G.

That’s all decoration. (singing). I wouldn’t think it would be unwise to move the tempo a little bit, (singing). And that (singing) is telling the audience we’re about to go to another structural note. Should we try, three, four, (singing). Right, and then something can happen. If you were a singer, I would say something happens to your eyes when you get to the F. Tell me the story. Do it again and tell me the story with your eyes, (singing).

Good. There’s the E. That E is so beautiful, isn’t it? Do it again with the orchestra—three, four, and (singing). Now, (singing). Now, here’s the E. Oh, (singing). Now that C is the highest note we’ve heard in the piece so far. Do from E, (singing). Yeah, (singing). C, it’s the highest note. You need to tell them it’s the highest note. Once again, (singing). Now, here comes. Yes, exactly. You need a little time for it. And here’s a secret to all the musicians in the room. If you take a little bit faster tempo, you can take more freedom with the time. If you are slower, it tends to be note by note, but if you move it a little bit faster, what happens is instead of thinking of eighths, you think of quarter notes. Then what happens is this. Look, if you do, I can’t see here.

(singing). See, that’s freer because you’re not doing the eighth. Should we just try it with the orchestra now? (singing). Three, four, (singing). Now E, and then to G now, (singing). Yes. Bravo. Why you’re saying is like somebody trying to persuade somebody else, (singing), and then finally, (singing). We’re going to have a wonderful life together. So do from that (singing). Yes, from the (singing). No, (singing). You see that (singing)? Here, do you want to go from Yes, that’s right, (singing). Yeah, speak to me. Speak to me. I’m playing hard to get, (singing). Yes.

Okay. Music is a language. It’s speaking to people. And you know the beauty of this language? Everybody understands it. That’s the incredible thing. There’s no language barrier in music. But we have to be really clear in what we’re saying, always clear. Clear in the expression, clear in the music, and clear in the communication. All right, should we do this again? This is getting very good. I love this slightly faster tempo. When you do it in Canada in May, I would recommend, let’s see what happens if we do the beginning now at this faster tempo. Let’s do the opening, see how the opening is going with the whole orchestra. You’re going to play with the orchestra because there was only one cello in those days. This poor guy had to play the orchestra part and the cello solo part. How do I know? Because there’s only one cello part in the orchestra, and it says tutti and solo and tutti and solo, so it was clear that he was playing both, and Haydn was playing the piano.

Ready? Three, four, and (singing). 

You know what I would say, bravo to the orchestra. I would say, don’t come in too soon, because they’ve been waiting. The orchestra’s been waiting long for you to come in to play the solo. You never heard Johnny Carson, did you? That was long before your time. When Johnny Carson came out at the beginning of a show, what was the fellow who introduced him? Ed McMahon. He would do the introduction, and he would end with, “Here’s Johnny.” And then there was a space. Nothing happened, and then Johnny came out, and everybody went crazy.

It’s that tiny little space before you come in. Let’s just do the very end, and before you hear (singing), that would be very striking. Should we do that? The end, before he comes in, do you have the measure numbers? 40, (singing). Three, oh, 21. Oh, yes, it’s 20. It’s my glasses, they’re not very good. I need to get new glasses. Yeah, that’s right. Three, four, and (singing). 

Yes! Look, all these ladies in the front. That’s great. You need to play in such a way that all the people in the front row go like that a lot, because you’re talking to them. You’re at the stage, and it’s understandable because you’re playing hours a day in the practice room. When you’re not in school, you’re practicing and practicing and practicing. You’re not out in the world connecting up with people. That’s the next stage for you. That’s the exciting thing that’s about to happen for you. You’re about to become a human citizen, a world citizen, and then that’ll come out in your playing. At the moment, you’re playing for yourself. Not entirely, but too much, so the thing to do now is to start feeling, this is your public. Look, isn’t that great?

I can’t get over the fact that you got into your cars and drove here nine hours from Toronto. It’s unbelievable. You really are. You’re worthy of the Shackleton journey, really, all of you, it’s fantastic. And you’re playing with such spirit. So should we set it up again? Your arrival is going to be as exciting as it was for us in 1962 when we heard this piece for the first time, and we didn’t think it existed. We thought there was only one cello concerto. All right, so should we do that? Let’s go back to measure 19, (singing). Three, four. I’m sorry, I did the wrong thing. Three, four, and (singing).

Same thing, same thing, because this has gone from the masculine to the feminine. I know we don’t talk that way anymore, but they still exist, those categories. And so (singing). Completely personalities. Like putting on a different mask, a different costume, and a different spirit. You don’t want to run things together. Separate everything so that people understand it. But that was great. It was really exciting.

I had a very interesting idea when I was listening to you just now. You should conduct this in the concert in May. They lost their conductor, because when I was there, there was a wonderful, conductor. Meredith, was her name? Is that right? Wonderful, wonderful. She was so excited she went off and studied conducting. She’s not around anymore. I was so happy when I heard that. That’s great.

I would suggest you don’t look for another conductor for this piece. I think you can do it. Do you think that’s possible? Great. Shackleton speaking. Optimism is the true moral courage. Is that a beautiful statement? Optimism is the true moral courage. That’s the way to greet every event that happens. You’ve been up all night, slept in the airport last night. Great, terrific, perfect way of preparing. All right. Love your spirit.

Okay, we’re going to prepare that G again. We’re going to do it one more time. I love the way you did the first corridor, though you could be even more You know Rostropovich’s playing? You know his playing? You know when I say Rostropovich, that means something to you? You know who that is? Oh, wow. That’s amazing. It’s a new generation. Yeah.

Well, Rostropovich, once you’ve seen it, you can’t forget it. It’s larger than life. It’s huge. Get to know Rostropovich. But there are many others. Yo-Yo lives down the road. He lives a couple of You know Yo-Yo, right? A couple of blocks, so play so he can hear it. Okay, let’s do it one more time, the introduction from 19. Three, four, and (singing).

The C is coming, (singing). Bravo. Virtuosity is there to please, not to terrify. Virtuosity is there to please, not to terrify. Instrumentalists often say, “Oh my God, this is so difficult.” No. Like magicians, they look as though it’s easy. (singing), toss it off. No, (singing), incredibly, that could be Elgar, (singing), all those falling sevenths in Nimrod. You’ve got to change the character. Can you do (singing)? You’re doing very, very well.

Isn’t this a good tempo? Generally speaking, I found people play a little too slow. If you can play fast, play fast. If you can’t, practice. I just invented that. That was a very good combination. Anyway, how would it be if we do (singing)? What bar is that? That’s 14? Yeah. Right, 40, that’s perfect. Right on 40, and then you go (singing). Take a little time. You can’t take a lot, but a little, (singing). Vibrato, intensity, and fun. Three, four, (singing). I would even more (singing).

Can you have more fun with the virtuosity? (singing). Isn’t it fun to play fast? Isn’t it fun to be able to amaze people? Isn’t it great? If you’re having fun, inform your face about it. Let’s try it the same, three, four, (singing). Bravo! Now, was it worth coming all the way from Toronto?

Matthew Buczkowski: Yeah.

Ben Zander: Look at this. There’s something very extraordinary you did just then. You livened the spirits. I want everybody in the room to just notice how you’re feeling right now, your body, your heart, your mind. That’s what music can do to make you feel the way you are feeling now. You’ve forgotten about all those worries and tribulations and awful political things. It’s just, it’s gone. Haydn can do that. That’s why we go to church, I mean, to the concert hall.

That’s why we go, because it gives us a certain kind of salvation, temporal salvation. It’s amazing. When I said that, when I asked the question in the room, I didn’t say most of you may feel that. Everybody feels it. Everybody, 100%. What is 100%? You don’t have any situation which is 100%. People get excited about 24%, right? This is 100%. There wasn’t anybody in this room just now who wasn’t excited by your playing. Isn’t that amazing? 

I’ll tell you a very funny story. A lot of people get confused. They think it’s me. It’s not me, nothing to do with me. I’m a vicar. You want a good vicar. When you go to church, you hope there’s a good vicar. I’m a good vicar. But the don’t confuse yourself. Don’t think it’s about They don’t come into the church to see the vicar. Do you get that? They come in to get an experience, a feeling, a liberation from this music.

That’s what we do in life. That’s what my father meant when he said, “You’re a member of the healing profession.” And this healer over here, this doctor who spends his life with people in the last stages of their lives, he’s a last stage, he does transplants. He realized that there was something here that he could bring back to his patients, and he recorded the youth orchestra on his telephone and played it to the family where the mother was dying. He played the youth orchestra’s performance, and it helped them get through that experience. Music can do that.

Music is so powerful, and we forget. We just forget. We think it’s about some famous pianist or some famous conductor. No, it’s only Papa Haydn. Isn’t that beautiful? I’ll tell you a funny story, because once I was giving a talk about possibility, that’s what I talk about. I was talking to 500 school administrators in England, a roomful. 500 people. I do a whole lot of things, I do music, I play, we sing, all sorts of things. Everybody was having a wonderful time except for one person. No reaction, nothing, face, nothing.

When they got up to sing, he sat down. He didn’t laugh at any of the jokes. He was the only one. And where did my face go all the time? I kept on going to this one, but there were 499 people having the time of their life, and there was one person who didn’t respond. At the end, I called up Ros, as I always did, and she said, “How’d it go?” And I said, “It was great. Except there was one person who didn’t respond. Just didn’t respond to anything.” And she said, “I don’t believe you.” I said, “Ros, you went there. How can you possibly tell? He didn’t respond to me. He didn’t get up. He didn’t sing. He didn’t laugh. Nothing.” She said, “I don’t believe you.” Well, all right.

So that night there was a party, and he was there, so I went up to him. I said, “I’m having an argument with my wife about you. I say you didn’t respond to the talk this afternoon, and she said she didn’t believe me.” He said, “I’m so sorry. I was having a diabetic attack and I thought, if I moved, I would faint. I loved the talk.” 

100%, let’s go for 100%. But it takes all we’ve got, do you understand? You can’t be complacent, you cannot afford to be nervous. You have no time to be nervous. Like a mother with a child in a burning building does not have time to be nervous. She goes in and gets the child. And it isn’t courage that gets her there. It’s love that gets her there. Isn’t that beautiful? So fill your heart with love. Love for music. Love for your colleagues. Love for the audience. Love for your cello. Love for what you can do. Just fill your life with love and love will sweep all that fear away. Promise, guarantee, money back.

Okay, now let’s do one more time from the beginning and you’re going to give everything you have, and you are going to think this is the last time that I’m going to do this. Because on the way back to Toronto, you’re going to be run over by a truck or something like that. But at least we will all remember this performance. Are you ready?

We’re going to do from the The orchestra’s going to play all the way from the measure, you know where that is, (singing). What is that? The place where all the pianists begin when cellos play it in an audition. Measure 19. Are you ready? Here we go. Are you ready? Is the audience ready for this? This is going to be an exciting journey. Okay, ready. Three, four, and (singing).

Very good, very good. Now, what do you think? Do you think you can do that without a conductor? I think the conductors get in the way. Now, if you are going to be the conductor, you have to change your role from being a good citizen and an expressive artist to being a true leader, and a leader has another role. A leader is Ros has an incredible definition of leadership, which I love. I don’t know if I’ve said this in public, but this is her definition of leadership. The leader is the relentless architect of the possibility that others can be. That about sums it up. The relentless architect of the possibility that others can be. What you’re focusing is making the people around you more powerful, more energetic, more engaged, more inclusive, more expressive, right? And you won’t give up. You won’t settle for anything less. That’s relentless.

The architect is the one who actually is designing the whole thing. That’s quite a role to take on. Not all that many musicians have developed that skill, and some of the great conductors have that to a tremendous degree, except they think often of leadership as one of dominating and pushing and bending people to their will. That’s not the definition that Ros is saying. Being the relentless architect of the possibility that others can be means your attention is on them, not on yourself. And that’s another dimension. It takes quite a lot to do that. A great partner, Dina’s a great partner for sonata playing. And that is her gift. She has the ability to make the syllables even more wonderful than they already are. And that’s your job if you’re going to conduct. Are you willing to accept his leadership for this, do you think? 

And you see how conductor could actually get in the way, because you really want to get it from the source, don’t you? So now, how would it be if you just played Actually, let’s go on and do the next phrase, because we haven’t worked on that, and you conduct. Should we try that? You get to the trill. Do you know what the trill is? What is a trill for? Joy! Because the joy becomes so great. So play the trill. Isn’t that right, Jane? Trill is joy. That’s all it is. Let’s go on, (singing). Let’s go from where you come in again in G major now. Everybody, G major, this is We’ve got to stop because we have this wonderful clarinet who’s about to play, but let’s just do 20 It’s 29. Are you ready?

Now, you’ve got to do more than just play wonderfully and communicate with the audience and realize the music. You’ve got to inspire these people with energy and joy. It’s quite a job, isn’t it? Dina will help. So 29, three, four. It measures 59. When I say 29, I always mean 59. Three, (singing).

Was anybody in the room alive when Rostropovich came to Cambridge and played with the Cambridge Civic Symphony? Did anybody hear? Did you hear them? Well, it was funny. He came to play Saint-Saëns’s concerto, do you remember? There was a conductor. He’s completely obliterated from my mind. Rostropovich exuded so much energy that the conductor became an irrelevance, because what could a conductor possibly add? You have to get so much energy into your body and look around and be with the players so you can really galvanize them. You’re the conductor now. Yeah. You spend the whole night up in the airport. It was good preparation for this. Don’t forget that faster tempo, (singing), three, four, (singing).

Bravo, bravo, bravo, bravo. That is very exciting, very exciting. You’re doing so well. When this goes out online on the video, people in Abu Dhabi and Ireland, and Africa are going to watch you playing that. Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that exciting? Do you realize some of these videos from here have been seen by over 500,000 people? That’s very exciting. Not because it makes us look good, because it makes them feel better. Here’s the thing to remember. Never doubt the capacity of the people you’re leading to realize whatever you’re dreaming. Never doubt that. And that’s what your friend here, Dr. Healy, lives his life by. He spends his life with people fighting for life and dying. He never doubts the capacity of the people around him to realize what he’s dreaming. This was a dream for you, Andrew, to bring these people, 22 people from Oakville, Ontario to this little room. It’s very moving.

That’s just as moving to me as the Shackleton story, really. Really just as moving. So thank you for doing that. Thank you for your belief in the people around you. Your children are lucky to have a father who will give everything, enabling them to have the best life that they know-how, and that’s the model for all of us. That’s all we can do, and then we die. That’s all we can do, but it’s something worth doing. It’s really something worth doing. It’s just so beautiful to be in this space, in this beautiful room in Longy, with the great traditions here, and be dealing with these powerful, beautiful issues. Something came out of you today that was sleeping, ready to burst into the world. I remember exactly how I felt at your age. I was studying with Cassadó and I was a cellist and living in Florence. 17, 16, 17? 16 still, yeah.

Yeah. I went to Florence when I was 15, and I remember it just began to dawn on me what it meant to be a musician and what effect it could have on people, and what a powerful thing we carry through our instruments, through this music that we play. And it doesn’t mean everybody has to be a professional musician. That’s not the point. Only some will go on that journey, and it’s a tough one, but I think you have what it takes. That’s my feeling. And the audience will tell you with their applause, whether they think so too.

Roberto Larios
'This is not a music masterclass, this Is a Life masterclass, with the added musical learning.'
Gary Bridgham
'This video has brought me to tears; not because of the music but because of the passion of Benjamin Zander for teaching! He is so very passionate, sometimes to the point of distraction. A very gifted teacher.'
Harmonic Panda
'It was such a surreal experience, getting to be a part of this. I’ll definitely remember this trip for the rest of my life. Thank you so much for having us!'
Join the Conversation on YouTube
Add Filter(s)
Content Type
Composer
Instrument
Orchestra
Genre
Showing 320 results

No results found