Violin Concerto No. 2, Op .63
In this violin masterclass, Professor György Pauk is accompanying student Eliza Nagle. They work together on the first movement of the Second concerto by Prokofiev. Bach discusses the clarity of the phrasing while interpreting the piece and reminds his students to add colors and presence right at the start. He suggests lifting the bow and proceeds to show different positions to achieve the desired effect. He follows up by underlining the importance of physical presence while playing, especially during the very first entry into the concerto.
The importance of knowing your position in the piece you are playing
How to lift the bow to change colors and presence
Keep all four fingers on the bow
Paying attention to your up-bow movement with your arm and wrist
The two concertos that Prokofiev wrote for violin are fundamental pieces of the academic repertoire: both showcase the expansive virtuosity and sustained lyricism inherent in the instrument, and are also testimony to certain qualities of the composer (passages of certain harmonic ambiguity, great dramatism, a sometimes somber and dramatic color, and an extraordinary and colorful orchestration).
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this violin masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to György Pauk’s feedback and comments.
First Prize in 1956 at the Niccolò Paganini International Violin Competition in Genoa, Italy.
Recognized as one of the leading violinists of his generation, György Pauk was born in Budapest, Hungary, and received his musical education at the renown Franz Liszt Music Academy. Before settling in London in 1961, he already won First Prize at the Paganini Competition in Genova, The Premier Grand Prix at the Jacques Thibaud Competition in Paris, First Prize at the Munich Sonata Competition, and had performed numerous concerts all over Eastern Europe.
He made his London debut in the Wigmore Hall in 1962, receiving outstanding reviews in the press, followed by his orchestral debut in the Royal Festival Hall, with the London Symphony Orchestra under Lorin Maazel. He made his US debut with the Chicago Symphony at the invitation of Sir George Solti. Likewise, he has performed in all five continents, giving an average of 90 concerts a year alongside many major orchestras, collaborating with conductors like Haitink, Dorati, Barbirolli, Solti, Kondrashin, Boulez, Rattle, Dutoit, Rozdestvensky, Dohnanyi, Colin Davis, and more. What's more, he has appeared, among others, at the Edinburgh, Luzern, Cheltenham, Bath, Hollywood Bowl, Ravinia, Santa Fe, Aspen, Dubrovnik, and Prague Spring Festivals.
He was a regular soloist at the Henry Wood Promenade Seasons at the Albert Hall and made innumerable broadcasts for the BBC. His exceptional rich repertoire, also for chamber music, includes several masterpieces of the 20th Century. He retired from the podium after five decades, playing his last farewell concert with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their conductor Ivan Fischer in Budapest in 2008.
György Pauk is now professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he conducts a “Performers Class” with selected young talents from all over the world. He has led masterclasses in the US at the following institutions: Curtis, Peabody, Yale, Cleveland, Oberlin, Manhattan School, San Francisco, and Juilliard School, as well as in schools all over China, Japan, Israel and across Europe. He is often invited to juries of many major international violin competitions.
Sergei Prokofiev was a pianist and composer, born in Sontsovka (present-day Ukraine) in 1891. Naturally gifted, he began composing at an early age, and by 11 years old, he had already written two operas and a series of small piano pieces that he endearingly called his “little puppies.” His composition style became more complex over time, using unconventional time signatures and key changes.
His formal musical education began under the tutelage of Reinhold Glière. At 13, he began his studies at the Conservatory in St Petersburg. Upon completing his studies at the Conservatory, he won first prize (the Rubinstein Prize) with his first piano concerto, although the decision was not unanimous. While celebrated by some critics for being modern and avant-garde, Prokofiev’s compositions were not enjoyed by all. After completing his studies, Sergei Prokofiev traveled to London, where he met Diaghilev of the Ballet Russes, and Igor Stravinsky, who was writing ballet music for Diaghilev at the time. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring made a particular impact on Prokofiev, notably in his compositions. The young composer wrote the opera The Gambler, based on a novel by Alekseï Alekseïevitch Broussilov, but the orchestra and singers struggled to understand the music, and refused to perform it. Prokofiev wrote his First Symphony, also known as the Classical Symphony, which resembles music from the Classical period, such as the works by Joseph Haydn. This work became internationally acclaimed and is still a very popular symphony today.
After living in New York for a few years to escape the chaos ensuing back home in Russia, Prokofiev eventually returned to Western Europe, proposing a ballet to Diaghilev in Paris. His ballet, now known as the Scythian Suite was not well received by Diaghilev. He wrote another ballet, The Tale of the Buffoon as well as his Third Piano Concerto, which were very popular, especially the latter.
Despite Prokofiev’s successful reputation in Western Europe, he returned to the Soviet Union after being beckoned by some of his contemporaries. Life was not easy for artists at the time. In spite of this, Prokofiev managed to write many of his major works during the Second World War, including but not limited to War and Peace (based on the novel by Tolstoy), Betrothal in a Monastery, and more.
Sergei Prokofiev died on March 5, 1953, of a brain hemorrhage. Due to the fact that Josef Stalin died on the same day, Prokofiev’s death was barely mentioned and went largely unnoticed in the media.