Phoebe Gardner: "teachers who are continuing the legacy of the French style"
Updated: Jan 9, 2020
This summer I had the privilege and honour of travelling to Fontainebleau, France to attend the American School of Music and Fine Arts. I had high expectations, as I have peers who had attended the school in previous summers, however my experience far exceeded any expectations I had.
The absolute highlight of my time at the course was studying with four French violin teachers who are continuing the legacy of the French style of violin playing and violin pedagogy. As I grew up and studied violin in Sydney, Australia before continuing studies in the United States, it was fascinating and incredibly fulfilling to open my ears, mind and heart to an entirely new perspective and approach to music making.
I brought this sonata to Professor Galpérine, who informed me that his grandfather had known Poulenc [...].
During the course I was given the most wonderful opportunity to study Poulenc’s Violin Sonata with pianist Nathan Brandwein. As well as being an exceptional pianist and chamber partner, Nathan had an incredible knowledge of Poulenc’s life and his music, much of which he shared with me during our rehearsals and lessons on this piece.
We were to perform the sonata in the last few days of the course, during which I was scheduled for lessons with French violinist and professor, Alexis Galpérine. I brought this sonata to Professor Galpérine, who informed me that his grandfather had known Poulenc, and that Poulenc himself was little inspired by string instruments and was not enthusiastic about writing his violin sonata!
I found this to be very interesting, as the violin sonata is completely stunning, and one of the most deeply personal and complex works in the violin repertoire, and possibly in all of music.
Prof. Galpérine [...], his ability to show me how I oculd use the technique that I had, how I could physically manipulate the left and right hands [...].
My lessons on this piece with Prof. Galpérine were very inspiring. He worked in great detail; it was very intense and a little exhausting both mentally and physically, however I truly loved every minute. He encouraged me to listen harder and more intently, and to explore new colours and nuances in the music that I wasn’t quite hearing before.
Something that Prof. Galpérine was very good at, and was very important in this process of music making, was his ability to show me how I could use the technique that I had, how I could physically manipulate the left and right hands so that I could convey in great detail how I felt the music should go.
Something else that I very much enjoyed about my lessons with Prof. Galpérine was his spontaneity. While he had some ideas about how the music should go, we never really played anything exactly the same way twice.
[...] seemingly out of nowhere, Prof. Galpérine is wondering about a few not-so-simple changes of fingerings [...].
One particular memory comes to mind: Nathan and I are playing for him the 2nd movement of Poulenc Sonata one last time before performing in two hours, and seemingly out of nowhere, Prof. Galpérine is wondering about a few not-so-simple changes of fingerings, because he felt that they could be much more expressive and would allude much more to the character of the music. I was a little stressed by the sudden change with not a lot of time to gain confidence before the performance, however I was so moved by the impact that it had, that I had to agree, and when I got to the performance, I was so glad that I did. This performance was one of the most freeing performances of my life because nothing mattered in that moment except my commitment to the music.
I am very grateful for my time in Fontainebleau. In addition to all my other lessons with the French teachers at this course, studying this very singular sonata with Nathan and Prof. Galpérine was part of an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life.