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

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Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto - 1st movement

Interpretation Class
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Yasmin Myers (violin) with Dina Vainshtein (piano)

Find the passion of the music, engage with the passion of the music, and give away the passion of the music. Then, you’ll have something to say. Otherwise, you’re another competent violinist. Some people count sheep. I count competent violinists to get to sleep.

— Benjamin Zander

Transcript

Benjamin Zander:
Great. Well done. Very good. Hello. You’re doing well. You’re doing very, very well, and you’ve made a lot of progress since September. The reason I asked you to play Do you know why I asked you? Why was it? Why did I want you to come and play here?

Violinist:
To see the difference, like how I changed?

Benjamin Zander:
What? To see?

Violinist:
To see how I improved.

Benjamin Zander:
No. I do not know about that because they didn’t hear you anyway. But, no, I had something very specific I wanted to say to you, which is, you’re like a great number of very serious, dedicated, hardworking, well-taught young people who play the violin very well. Very little else happens except that. You’re very focused on playing and on your fingers, and you’re not focused really on what you are saying. Now, you’ve just joined our It’s not an orchestra. It’s a way of life. The BPYO is a way of life because it includes everything. It includes the week, assignments, and deep friendships, and involvement in music. When I’m rehearsing the music, you notice that I’m always telling you what it’s about.
120 kids in this orchestra. They know what’s happening in Romeo and Juliet in every single bar. They know exactly what it’s like, why Romeo is there, these two young people are lying in bed. It’s their first night together. They just got married. She’s 13, he’s 16, and there’s a bird on the flute. They know what’s going on because Romeo thinks it’s the lock, and Juliet thinks it’s the nightingale because she wants to stay there. She doesn’t want to leave. He says I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go because I’ve got to leave. Do you remember that? The whole discussion and the tension, passion, fear, anxiety, and deep feelings in this music. That’s what these musicians, these composers, were dealing with.

Benjamin Zander:
You still got music in the category of violin playing until you come to BPYO rehearsals and thirty of them. Isn’t that right? Then, suddenly, you burst into a world of color and love and passion and conflict and fear and all that. Isn’t that great? Then you go home, and you practice. Unfortunately, Saturdays for musicians are like Sundays for people going to church. You have one hour of a good time on Sunday, and then you go back to the rest of your week, the routine. What I asked you here to do was to see whether we could pull you out of that violin routine, which is great. Thank goodness you’re practicing, and you have a wonderful teacher, and all of that is being taken care of, and it’ll get you to college. But will it get you to heaven? That’s the question. I wanted to see whether.

Benjamin Zander:
I’m trying out stands here tonight. They all fall over. A practical stand. Okay. Now, you probably don’t know this, but Tchaikovsky left metronome marks. I know people make fun of me because I’m so interested in what composers write, but it is very interesting. Even Tchaikovsky, who’s very romantic, you’d think he wouldn’t bother with a silly metronome. That’s a machine. But in the slow movement of the fifth symphony, there are 18 different metronome marks in one movement.

Every single section has a different one because he’s tracing its emotion. You don’t consult your metronome. You may not even have one. What you do is you’ve taken over the tradition of the violin players. Goodness knows that are a lot of great violin players to play. You can play Pullman, and you can play all those people. For some reason, they all do the main theme too slow. They do it 80. It’s a nice moving tempo. In the opening, incidentally, you drew too slow too. That’s 126.

I used to have a metronome, but I’ve lost it. Let me just show you, just so you know what we’re dealing with. I lost my metronome, but I have another one on this funny machine. Look here. Hang on. 126. I don’t know how it works. Damn it. Set 126. Should work. Set. Here it is. I don’t know why it makes that funny noise, but that’s the opening—Dee dee da dee. I don’t know how to turn it off. Oh, yes. Here. That’s the tempo. Isn’t that nice? Deeee, dada dee dada dee dada dee da, dom deem dome dee, dee dada dee dada deeda dee da, veem vom vam vee, woom vum vum vum vim va vee de dee.

When you come in, it’s free. It’s a cadenza, but still, it’s in that tempo. Could you try from veompa dee do dee do dee?

Pianist:
Well, that I cannot practice.

Benjamin Zander:
What?

Pianist:
I can’t practice.

Benjamin Zander:
That’s fluid. Deempa deempa deempa deem pa deempa deempa deempa dee va ee.

Now, this is at 80. Should we see what he wrote, just out of interest? Bum dim vyum baa, vyadadada dee dadee. The secret of Tchaikovsky, either he’s crying, or he’s dancing. The dance for him was an escape from the misery of his life. I think we’ve talked about it even, maybe. He had a very difficult life because he was a homosexual in a society that did not accept that. Even he had to get married to pretend, and the day after his wedding, he threw himself in the river trying to kill himself. That’s the heartbreak of Tchaikovsky. But then he escaped into the dance, and he wrote those beautiful ballets. This is ballet. Try from measure three.

Good. That’s great. Now, let’s find out the second theme, where it comes from. We have tee da dyadadadada. Should we do that? You did that. You were around 45 or 50, something like that, so slow. If you play faster, you can be freer because when you’re slower, you have to do it pretty much every beat because there’s no time. You can’t take any more time. If you do it faster, you have a lot of freedom. So, should we try it and see whether we can find the emotion of this music? You have a bad habit: you close your eyes all the time. Has anybody mentioned that to you? Open them up. Look how nice the world is. There’re all these people, at least some of the time. Okay. Here. Can you go from somewhere before it? Right there. That’s great. That’s the place. Where actually are you going? Where is that going?

Violinist:
To the

Benjamin Zander:
Right. So, dee da da da dee da, da da dee da da da la la. Eventually, we’ll get there. I don’t know quite where we’re going. Everything’s too slow. You’re too slow. Move here.

Can I suggest a few things? There’s an A, and then there’s a B, and then there’s a C sharp, and then there’s a D. It goes up. So, yee. Just do it from here.

Yes. We got it. That’s what I meant. At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is 13, a young girl. In the end, she’s a woman. We’ve tracked that. We’ve seen how it happens in music. You just became a woman. All this nonsense of closing your eyes and saying, I hope nobody sees me. No, be out there and go with the passion of the music. Find the passion of the music, engage with the passion of the music, and give away the passion of the music. Then, you’ll have something to say. Otherwise, you’re another competent violinist. Some people count sheep. I count competent violinists to get to sleep. But that wasn’t a confident violinist.

That’s why I invited you. That’s all. If you can just make that decision from now on, just for the rest of your life, this life, to say, I’m always going to play like an artist, like a grownup, like somebody with something to say, and never just play the violin. Life is not about progress. Life is about contribution. Do you get that? We think we got to go and then we do an exam, and then we get another exam, and then we do another exam, and then we get a job, and then we get a better job, and then we get a better job, and then we die. That’s the way we think. But it isn’t like that. It’s like the woman who took 25 cents out of her pocket and gave it to Jeremy in Harvard Square. If you could think of it always as a contribution, everything you do. Take care of everything you say and everything you do. That’s the assignment.

Did you notice I gave you the assignment for the week? I gave it to you exactly. That’s a different one. Here it is. Bring purpose to the notes you play and the steps you take. Did you read that thing that I sent out?

Violinist:
Yeah.

Benjamin Zander:
Isn’t that beautiful?

Violinist:
Yeah.

Benjamin Zander:
Here’s Ross, who comes up with the assignments every week. We have assignments in the Boston film at youth. Every week, Ross comes up with an assignment. She says, where are they? I said, well, we’re just coming up to a concert, and I described the situation. Then, she comes up with beautiful thank you notes for the incredible contribution.
Yeah, they do these assignments. They take the whole week, and they do that. They do the assignments. When we go on tour, we have assignments for every day. Walk with spirit and love, the whole orchestra. You’ve got 120 teenagers walking around. No wonder everybody’s in love with them. That’s it. Bring purpose to the notes you play and the steps you take, and that’s just happened. There wasn’t a single person in this room who didn’t get the message. Everybody got it. That’s why I invited you because when you did your audition, you were a little girl, and I don’t want little girls in my orchestra. I want grown women with something to say and men. That’s what they are. We have 12-year-olds in the orchestra, and they learn that too. It’s a journey we’re on, and I wanted to engage with you about that journey right at the beginning before because you will have two years together. Isn’t that exciting?

Violinist:
I’m a sophomore.

Benjamin Zander:
Oh. Three years. Wow. I’ve got you. We’ll have her back in her senior year. Anyway, well done. Thank you.

Violinist:
Thank you.

Benjamin Zander:
So beautiful, you are.

Watkinder
'Professor Zander' s passion is infectious and his observations about Tchaikovsky' s tempi a revelation. Most importantly, and a lesson to conductors and performers alike, the composer' s wishes should always be paramount. Unfortunately, and he is very tactful, performance TRADITIONS tend to grow up around famous works. Sometimes those traditions are WRONG and need to be re- evaluated. This girl' s playing really started to come alive under his tutelage.'
Almagiri Mai
'Amazing how he communicates to his students and to the audience the difference between being competent violin player and an artiste. i love that, and how his students embrace his mentoring and flower in the very process of his tuition. What a gift this man is. Thank you Benjamin Zander!'
SlickLikeAtrout
'That woman sure loves to come all the way from Connecticut'
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