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


Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations

Interpretation Class
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Rainer Crossett (cello) with Jayoung Kim (piano)

“Music has to make sense, as well as being exciting and moving.”

— Benjamin Zander

Video Transcript

Ben Zander:

Good. I want to stop you. We’ll do the whole piece, but I just want to stop you for a moment. You’re doing it beautifully. A little applause, please, because this is great. Just great. Absolutely great. But I want to draw your attention to something that almost everybody does, including you, although you do it less than most. Which is, you change the tempo between that variation and the rest of it.

What I’d love to do is just play this variation, and you’re doing it perfectly. Do this variation again, the one that you just played.

The reason everybody plays it at that tempo is, that’s the only tempo at which the bow bounces. My teacher used to do it down bow staccato like that. It was amazing, like that. But everybody plays that at that tempo, and that’s right. The question that they don’t ask, and I’d love to just have you think about it is, since he writes always the same tempo, it’s the variation on the theme, let’s see what happens if we move that back to the opening. Two, one, two, three. And one, it goes to that, and one, two.

Good, good. Do it again. Do it again, and with charm now. Because at the moment, you’re worried. But it’s great, great. Look at his, absolutely, it’s charming. It’s Rococo. So do from there, and do it now with elegance and charm, and smile at the same time. This is very difficult. I would suggest if you could find even freer timing. Try at the same time, one, two.

There it is, same tempo. Enjoy it. Now smile. Look at them.

I want to applaud because let me just tell you, before you applaud, I believe that may be the first time, certainly I have ever heard it, as Tchaikovsky wrote it, in one tempo. You did it beautifully, so a little applause for that. It feels so good. It makes such sense. I always feel trusting the composer is really a wonderful idea, rather than trusting the other musicians, the other cellists on the recordings. Always look and see, “What did he say? What did he mean? What could he have possibly meant?” That makes such sense. When you do, rather than, it’s a very different feeling. Now let’s go on. This is a new tempo.

Very beautiful. Very, very beautiful. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Lovely. I’m not surprised that you feel music very, very similarly to me, because we’ve been together six, seven, eight years. Eight years. He used to play in the youth orchestra at the conservatory, and then all the way through his five years. It gives me such immense pleasure.

I have one tiny little suggestion to make. To think about, not to take over necessarily. Tchaikovsky was a ballet conductor, and everything in Tchaikovsky, or not everything, but many of the things, these kinds of moments, are ballet movements. I’ve always felt it would be better if we could think of it in one, like a waltz. It would give you more freedom. So it’s a little bit more, if I can just show you. If I can just show you here.

Just try that, and it needs a little freedom in the piano to get there. So four, five. Yes. That’s it. Once again, there it’s just a little loose. Very delicate, right from there. Beautiful.

Now do that scale again, and pretend you’re having a good time. Again. Because otherwise, you’ll give a bad message to Annabelle. Annabelle wants to find out that playing music is fun. Okay, here we go. Do it again, do it again, with fun.

Incidentally, incidentally. Notice the tempo is perfect here. That’s the tempo at the beginning. Do it again. Do the trill. Keep the tempo.

Can I stop you? Only because it’s so beautiful, what you’re doing. Remember that it’s andante in two, not in four. Because I’m hearing, two, three, instead of one. Just try that.

Great. Well, I tell you, we have to stop at exactly 12:00. But there’s no reason to go on, because you’re doing a magnificent job. Beautiful piano playing, incidentally, Ji-young. Wonderful. wonderful musicianship. You’re doing great. It’s just such a beautiful personality. It’s always been a wonderful musical personality, but it’s such a gorgeous cello playing now that’s been added to it, and intelligence.

So these little things, of tempo, and that waltz. Wasn’t that beautiful? I know he was in ecstasy during that waltz. He could imagine all those ballerinas dancing and so on. It was wonderful, really. You deserve to play this with a wonderful orchestra, you really do. It will be original, and people will be surprised and delighted. It all makes sense. Music has to make sense, as well as being exciting and moving. But this was great, thank you very much. Wonderful morning. Thank you, Annabelle and everybody. Beautiful. Beautiful, well done. Beautiful. Please come back.

'If every teacher was like him, we'd live in a much, much better world. It's an absolute joy to watch his joy of music.'
Bieu Mach
'This is absolutely beautiful, not just the piece itself, but also the teacher and student. He did not implore his "wants" into the student, he suggests them to the student. It's not a forceful experience, more of a free flow of connection between teacher and student.'
'Mr. Zander is really a blessing! I really respect his musical taste!!'
Nicola Morelli
'Absolutely Astonishing! I'm moved. Listening to such a wonderful piece and seeing such a young and lovely guy playing it letting his feelings come out and fill the room. Great guy! Great magister! Great combination of art and feelings!'
'Awesome work, it was a pleasure to see this video. The teacher is so good and inspiring and the musicians play beautifully. Thank you!'
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