Variations on a Rococo Theme

Variations on a Rococo Theme

Piotr Illich Tchaïkovski

Gary Hoffman's masterclasses

French 46 min Cello

In this session with Garry Hoffman and his student Jean-Baptiste Maizieres, the pair discuss playing with intention, applying the right pressure on the cords, and more.

Produced by the Saline royale Academy in October 2021 at Arc-et-Senans.

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The masterclass

About this cello masterclass

In this masterclass, student Jean-Baptiste Maizières and Professor Gary Hoffman learn to perfect the Tchaïkovski piece for cello Variations on a Rococo Theme.

Despite Jean-Baptiste Mazières aptitude and skill, Gary Hoffman has a few notes to share with him. Firstly, Hoffman declares that the piece must be played simply, intimately, and elegantly.

Moreover, the professor underlines that it is especially important to pay close attention to the small notes and to play them equally to the main notes in order to keep the integrity of the piece. The whole repertory is full of details like these, and it is crucial to fine-tune them to achieve a higher level of performance.

Gary Hoffman reminds Maizières that the piece is typically played with an orchestra and a conductor. Speed is key but the musician cannot speed up too much, otherwise he will lose clarity, especially in the fast-paced parts of the variation. Balance is key.

What we learn in this masterclass

  1. Play the small notes equally to the main ones for more clarity. 

  2. Do not block the vibratos by pressing too much on the chords. 

  3. Learn to establish the intention of the piece. 

  4. Avoid dropping the holds. 

  5. Carry the sound of your cello across the room without playing louder 

  • Student:Jean-Baptiste Maizieres
  • Instruments: Cello
  • Date:27 October 2020
  • Academy:Academy Oct 25 - Nov 1, 2020
Gary Hoffman

Gary Hoffman

Sometimes, it is the little things that make all the difference.

Gary Hoffman

Sheet music

Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this cello masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Gary Hoffman’s feedback and comments.

Gary Hoffman

Gary Hoffman

In 1986 when he won the Paris-based Rostropovich International Competition.

Gary Hoffman is one of the most outstanding cellists of our time, combining instrumental mastery, great beauty of sound, and a poetic sensibility in his distinctive and memorable performances. Born in Vancouver, Canada, in 1956, he studied the cello with Janos Starker. Hoffman gained international fame in 1986 upon his victory as the first North American to win the Rostropovich International Competition in Paris. A frequent soloist with the world’s most noted orchestras, he has appeared with the Chicago, London, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco,  and more. Mr. Hoffman collaborates regularly with such celebrated conductors like André Prévin, Charles Dutoit, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pinchas Zuckerman, Andrew Davis, Herbert Blomstedt, Kent Nagano, Jésus Lopez-Cobos, and James Levine.

He performs on major recital and chamber music series throughout the world, although he spends the majority of his time between Europe and America. He is a frequent guest of string quartets including Emerson, Tokyo, Borromeo, Brentano, and Ysaye. Hoffman is a regular guest of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. Additionally, he has has premiered many concertos (Laurent Petitgirard, Joel Hoffman, Renaud Gagneux, Gil Shohat, Graciane Finzi, Dominique Lemaître, French Premiere of Elliott Carter Cello Concerto, and more). Moreover, he is the guest of main halls such as the Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Kennedy Center, and numerous festivals: Ravinia, La Jolla, Schleswig Holstein, Verbier, Festival International de Colmar, Evian, Prades Festival, Honk Kong International Chamber Music Festival, Storioni, and more.

Gary Hoffman plays and gives masterclasses all over the globe.  He is a close part of the Kronberg Academy family for years, intimately involved in the Academy Masters, the festivals, and the masterclass weeks. In September 2011 he was appointed as Professor at the Musical Chapel in Brussels.

Variations on a Rococo Theme

Variation on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33 is a piece for cello composed between 1876 and 1877 by Piotr Ilitch Tchaïkovski. It is usually played with a small orchestra. 

The composer claimed it as one of his best works. He was deeply passionate about the classical period, and especially Mozart, and it can be heard throughout the whole piece. 

It is not an easy piece for a cello soloist since the structure is complex and the finale is very demanding and fast-paced. The orchestra, particularly the flutist, is also in high demand all throughout the Variation. 

Tchaïkovski dedicated this piece to the cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen who played it first in Moscow in November 1877 and was very well received by the audience. Fitzenhagen went on a tour of Europe and infamously wrote a lot of modifications to the music sheet, even though Tchaïkovski disagreed with most of them. 


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