Masterclass Notes: Claude Frank, Beethoven Sonata, Op. 22; Hindemith, Sonata No. 3; Chopin, B Minor Sonata.

"That's not beautiful enough!"--the pianist must continually be aiming for beauty of sound and line, above all else.

World Piano Pedagogy Convention Notes

Notes by Brent Hugh
Assistant Professor of Piano
Missouri Western State College Department of Music

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I am not fast enough at note-taking to produce anything like a verbatim transcript of the session--in fact, only a very small percentage of the notes could be considered exact quotations of the masterclass. Rather than a verbatim transcript, consider these notes to be my own personal thoughts, reflections, reactions, interpretation, and commentary to the ideas and examples given by the masterclass presenter.

Tuesday, September 8th, 1998

Claude Frank


Beethoven Sonata Op. 22


Make more contrast between softs and louds. Especially--softer ps and pps.

When reaching a climax, *rhythm* can help to create the effect of ff as
much as absolute volume.  For instance, if you rush the sixteenth of
dotted-eighth--sixteenth pairs, it can ruin the effect and make it sound
less than ff.

On dotted rhythms, you may over-dot but *never under-dot*!

1st movement, 2nd theme must begin very, very soft.

He would prefer a pp so soft that it has a few non-sounding notes, as
opposed to a pp that is too loud.

If you want to create a long, flowing melodic line then you shouldn't
over-emphasize the metrical accents.  In fact, you should de-emphasize
them.  If, for instance, you have a four-measure phrase in 3/4 time and you

   *1* 2  3 *1* 2  3 *1* 2  3 *1* 2  3

then you have just broken up that phrase into four distinct parts.  (This
is hard to explain in words but he illustrated it quite
beautifully--emphasizing the downbeats sounded like a student performance
while de-emphasizing them sounded like an artistic performance.)

Hindemith, Sonata No.3, 1st and 3rd movements.


In this Hindemith sonata, the 1st mvmt=pastoral while the 3rd mvmt=regal,
noble, majestic

1st mvmt syncopations must have exact counting, yet not *sound* as though
they're counted.

Don't underplay (this performer, probably aware of some of Hindemith's
ideas on performance, was giving a musical but quite restrained
performance. Frank seemed to prefer something a little more passionate).

When the composer indicates to "bring out" a certain line, this doesn't
mean just to play it louder. It means that line must be
phrased--shaped--played musically and, of course, brought out above the

Chopin, B minor Sonata, 1st Mvmt.


The performer can (and in this piece, must) change the mood often--but not
the tempo.

He thought this performance was very passionate and presented a great
variety of moods, but was not connected or bound together into one organic
whole.  Playing in this disconnected manner is a particular temptation in
this piece.

The performer can stretch and bend the tempo--but only to a certain point.

The indication "sostenuto" in this movement means the melody should be
played "legato, connected, singing," but also indicates "free, beautiful,
expansive, taking time as opposed to rushing."

This piece often has V-I cadences which are the culmination of long phrases
or sections. In this case, don't delay or pause before the conclusion (the
I chord).  The performer should keep the line and flow going right to the
end.  If you wish to take time, do so after the end (and before the next
phrase/section)--but not before the end.

To get a rounded, singing sound when playing loud (especially loud chordal
passages), keep fingertips close to keys. Wrist/arm can and should move
quite a lot up and down (this provides the force to play loud). But they
can do this while still leaving the fingertips basically in contact with
the keys.  If fingertips come out of the keys say 3-4-5-6 inches, a harder,
harsher, brighter, more rhythmic kind of sound is likely to be produced.
This isn't the kind of sound you usually want in playing Chopin.

When playing the big chords at end of the movement (the sort often seen at
the end of a piece--V-I type chords, often with rests in between them),
don't rush!  This is a common temptation.

He often said, "Not beautiful enough!".  He must have said this at least 10
times.  He kept emphasizing, especially in the Chopin, that the performer
must be aiming for beauty of sound and line.


The masterclass was very interesting--Frank was very energetic and he often
beautifully illustrated his points at the piano.  I was rather surprised to
discover when reading the program notes at the concert just a few hours
later, that he is over 70 years old.  I might have guessed 15-20 years
younger on the basis of his masterclass.

Claude Frank has recorded the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas. On the
basis of his Beethoven performances Tuesday, I would bet that they're well
worth checking out. (It looks like they were originally recorded for RCA in
the 1970s but now they're available on CD as Music and Arts CD-640. See

--Brent Hugh
Department of Music
Missouri Western State College