Jason Vieaux presented a Master Class at the Darlington Fine Arts Center on
U.S. Rt. 1, in Wawa, on Sunday, November 8, the first of a series that will
include Arthur Greene, piano, on March 14, and Judith Ingolfsson, violin,
on May 22. This series is supported in part by the Philadelphia Musical
Fund Society and is presented in cooperation with Astral Artistic Services.
Seven players participated, drawn from the guitar programs at Darlington,
Wilmington, and West Chester. The performance skills ranged from beginner
to quite advanced, and Vieaux worked skillfully and patiently with them all.
As I watched him, I was puzzled at first by how much he appeared to have
aged in the year since I had seen him last. Then I recalled that as we
chatted after his concert, I had been equally surprised by the youth he
acquired by stepping off the stage. He brings a maturity to his
professional roles beyond the youth of his twenty odd years. His maturity
was in full evidence as he worked perceptively and gently with the
students, particularly the young ones.
First up was twelve-year-old Kurt, whose memory lapse in the anonymous
Italiana gave Vieaux the opportunity to advise the player to approach his
"loss-of-memory points" with three practice tools: hear the next note;
remember the note's name, and visualize the page and the finger-movements
(OK, four), and discussed minimalization of movement and efficiency in
The second player's back-bent right thumb struck a familiar chord for
Vieaux as he enthusiastically took the opportunity afforded by the
performer's choice of Villa Lobos' Prelude #1 to show the use of that
formidable tool to present a melodic line in the bass. He also emphasized
that the playing of chords uses the top knuckle joint, rather than by
pulling off the hand, allowing the fingers to relax between chords; and
advocated the formula "plant-relax-play-relax".
I was surprised to find that the third player, though he handled the rather
advanced Bulerias and Boceto Andaluz of Calatuyud quite well, was not
taking advantage of alternating right-hand fingerings, at least not what
Vieaux considered optimum; Vieaux confessed to using all four (i, m, a, c)
to avoid cross-fingerings (Elliot Fisk mentioned training the fourth finger
at his master class last year, but didn't advocate performing with it), and
predicted that the time is coming when editions limited to m-i alternations
will look outdated.
Predictably, the third player of seven was just finishing at 3:45, with the
schedule having called for 2:00 to 4:00 o'clock, but Jason didn't flinch.
As the performance level increased, I tried to extract the "Gems" of his
Start practicing slowly, and by this he means slower than I suspect most
people are comfortable with. The aim is to get all the elements of
technique; left-hand fingertips, legato, ease, efficiency and relaxation in
both hands all working from the outset, then repeating this same slow,
complete and relaxed motion over and over; rather than "learning the notes"
and then working in your good technique. It is very hard to improve
technique in a piece you have learned badly; start over with a new one.
Omit using a metronome in the beginning so as to allow time for
contemplation of technical issues without feeling pressed to play in rhythm.
Segovia's "right-angle right hand" strains tendons by bending the wrist,
results in a thin sound, and fosters injury. Segovia was gifted enough to
play as he did in spite of his technique. The preferred position approaches
the string with a straighter right wrist, with the nails filed at a
The right hand plucking movement should include enough middle joint action
to minimize the travel of the fingertip; too much top-joint slows the
Center the left hand at the fourth finger to expedite landing on the fingertip.
The final player gave a quite polished performance of Ponce's "Sonatina
Meridional", which gave Vieaux the chance to work on matters of musicality
and expression in the manner of a rehearsal conductor, which topped off an
extremely enjoyable and educational Sunday afternoon.