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Gary Hoffman, Schubert, Arpeggione Sonata

Sequence published on 12/2/21
Composer : Franz Schubert
Year of composition : 1824
Artistic period : 19th century
Musical category : Sonata
Academy : Academy Oct 25 - Nov 1, 2020
Master(s) : Gary Hoffman
Student : Eline Hensels
Date of recording : 10/22/21
Instrument(s) played :

"I see you move with your hand first, and then your arm follows." Gary Hoffman

About Gary Hoffman's Cello class on the Apegione sonata

Master class de Violoncelle par Gary Hoffman | Schubert, Apegione sonata

The piece that the student performs in this class is undoubtedly very challenging. Therefore, there are a large number of difficulties and errors that come to light when working on it.

"The master says that by being able to observe the degree of detail in which the one works, it's easier to give advice concentrated on technique: “…the upper arm is guiding all actions. It doesn't mean that you play with the whole arm, but it's guiding all the actions. You start the bow, it guides until the middle. The form starts to open up. The upper-arm pulls and then from the middle on it continues to rise and pull a little bit. It comes back, closes, and continues. At any moment, it's still coming from the upper-arm and then when you cross strings always from down to up, from up to down, but not with the hand first. You are still obviously used to changing strings with your hand. What happens at that point is it disengages the hand from the rest of the mechanism. It doesn't mean that you can't have flexibility. You can have all the flexibility you want, but it's not what the origin of the motion is.""
In addition to the relationship between the arm and the hand for shifting positions, they work on some stylistic issues typical of Franz Schubert: “There's a lot of Hungarian music in Franz Schubert, there's even Hungarian music in this piece”, ""In the Austro-Hungarian tradition, it's possible to start not tempo subito. That is rather charming. Of course, that shouldn't be done every single time.""
On the other hand, the master makes an observation that the student cannot answer (in a certain passage, he asks her if she has the thumb up or down when she plays a note), and highlights that this is a problem that she is not aware of that. Something similar happens when the master observes the student shifting “on the new bow. That's an old bow. Start the shift before we finish our down bow. This is important.""
This is an extensive and detailed class on a challenging piece of cello repertoire."

What we learn in this Cello Master class

-There's a lot of Hungarian music in Schubert, there's even Hungarian music in this piece
- The importance of feeling the balance of the arms more towards the tip
-The cellist shouldn´t play with the han dina a collapsed position when vibrating with the third finger.
-The coda shouldn´t be played very slow
-Dots with a slur. That's another expression. The piano is always known as portato.
This is something that cellists often avoid doing in the legato passages.
-Importance of phrasing and of breathing
-Think of the arm moving first and the hand follows the arm, when shifting positions
-Shifting on the new bow, or in the old bow: both are possible. It's a musical/technical choice. Preferably foremost a musical choice, but sometimes can be a technical choice. Both can work and the cellist just feel more comfortable with one and see musically there, are both possible.

About Franz Schubert's work

Franz Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata was composed in 1824, but only published in 1871. This was long after the composer’s death in 1828, and almost as long after the principal instrument for which it was written fell out of favour.
"The six-stringed arpeggione was a kind of large bowed guitar that enjoyed a brief period of popularity after its invention in 1823 by the Austrian luthier Johann Georg Stauffer (1778-1853). It was fretted and tuned like a guitar, but held between the legs without a floor peg and played with a bow like the cello. Schubert may have been prompted to write a sonata for the instrument through his acquaintance with the Viennese arpeggione-player Vincenz Schuster. While the instrument still exists, its adepts are few in number and Schubert’s sonata is mostly played nowadays in transcriptions for viola or cello. The first movement, in A minor, is imbued throughout with a touching blend of sadness and joy (as was Schubert’s own life), the beauty, sensitivity and lyricism of its first theme. This is contrasted with the carefree nonchalance of the second, a shattering outburst of pain (like Gretchen’s scream) at the climax of the development section leading through the recapitulation to the last breaths of the instruments and culminating in the death sentence of the two closing chords."
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