Pianists at Oakham were privileged to enjoy a three hour masterclass by internationally-acclaimed pianist and Steinway artist, Charles Owen, on the afternoon of Thursday 2 February.
Imogen Fell (who had previously been coached by Charles in a masterclass at Steinway Hall in London) opened the afternoon in Chapel, giving a beautiful performance of Debussy Voiles from his Préludes. Charles offered invaluable guidance on orchestrating and colouring the piece at the piano, as well as sharing his experience on technicalities such as fingering. One of our talented younger pianists, Jessica Carr, followed, whose instinct and rhythmic approach to a Bach Prelude and Fugue was highly praised by Charles. Shaping music written for the harpsichord on the piano is always a challenge, and Charles offered many helpful insights to approaching this, including internal voicing and understanding fugal subjects.
In working with a number of other pupils (Lucy Collison, Rupert Fell, Natasha Erdmann & Jessica Tomey), Charles sympathetically coached the musicians in ways to use weight and touch to project character and make the piano sing, as well as placing all the elements of a piece in perspective for the audience. A duet partnership of Emma and Morgan gave a mature performance of one of Debussy’s Epigraphes Antiques, with Charles helping them conjure up the poetry of the music, as well as balancing the melodic and harmonic colours of the music. He encouraged a more improvisatory approach, as well as exploiting the exotic and oriental qualities of the music.
The afternoon finished with Morgan impressively performing solo extracts from Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue in preparation for his performance in the Gala Concert later in the month. He encouraged Morgan (and all pianists) to let the music breathe, and explore using different finger touches to communicate the passion and sensuousness of romantic passages without forcing the sound.
A hugely inspiring afternoon for all our musicians, who were uniformly praised for their musicality and the standard of their playing. We are indebted to Charles for travelling to Oakham for the afternoon.