[FEATURE] An Inspiring Morning with Dr. Peter Amstutz

Recently, the Institute of Music had the privilege to have Dr. Peter Amstutz to give a piano masterclass for selected students who were chosen from masterclass. Dr. Amstutz is Professor of Piano and Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at West Virginia University. Dr. Amstutz brings a different atmosphere when teaching and also while giving masterclasses. This was clearly felt and seen during this masterclass. He has different approach which caught my attention throughout the whole masterclass especially when he gives suggestions for each and every person’s interpretation.

Students selected for the masterclass are Kuan Jia Huey, Sim Jin Yee and Stefanie Tio. It is seldom for questions to be asked in the beginning of masterclass, but Dr. Amstutz asked all three of the students whether they have any queries or worries about playing their piece.

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Kuan Jia Huey: Beethoven’s Sonata in D Major, Op. 10, No. 3 (4th movement)

Jia Huey mentioned that she want to know how to let herself go while performing. Dr. Amstutz mentioned that if you love and enjoy the piece very much, letting go would be easy. He mentioned that there are two types of music, one is the physical music and also the ‘inner music’ heard by the ear of the performer. Physical music is the act of pushing down a key to produce music. The other is much more valuable and important. He asked Jia Huey to close the piano lid and play her music. All the audience heard was just knocking sound of the fingers and the piano lid. But what Jia Huey heard is what she wants her music to sound like. Dr. Amstutz said that what she hear can be also transferred onto the piano key for the audience to listen. I think that the music heard by the ‘inner ear’ is very powerful, because that is what we as musicians want the audience to be able to hear, our exact interpretation of the music.

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Sim Jin Yee: Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 Nos 1 & 2

In Jin Yee’s case, musical energy is important. Schumann’s pieces portray emotions in his music which is what pianist want to portray for the audience to hear. Certain notes are important in his pieces as they ‘pull the heartstrings’ of a person’s emotions. While some notes and articulation are important to portray that, rests are also important. Like the old saying goes, ‘Silence is Golden’. Certain rests are supposed to be emphasized so that it enhances the music even more.

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Stefanie Tio: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 (3rd movement)

Stefanie’s piece is a rather challenging piece in my opinion, and she executed it well! Dr. Amstutz also mentioned about the music energy for this piece. Articulation can be a great help to portray the music energy that the pianist feel. Relaxing is also a key while performing. This is to ensure no resistant while playing so that the music can be free and enjoyed from the audience point of view. Dr. Amstutz also said that there are no wrong or right in music, everything is right! Its interpretation is up to the pianist themselves to be portrayed.

I like the way Dr. Amstutz led the masterclass, a different change, especially that he asks whether they have any worries or things that they want to change in their playing. Instead of diving in straight into the music. What I am interested in this masterclass was about the ‘inner ear’ concept which is rather interesting but also very true! I think most of us could learn a thing or two about this!

This article was written by Mabel Soong, 1st year student of the B. Music Classical program.

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