From Mozart to Lang Lang, child prodigies continue to amaze audiences the world over. Ahmad Azrai attends a masterclass in the Lion City.
rédéric Chopin, the Polish composer who gave us the most delicate piano compositions, was one. As was China’s Yuja Wang, who started at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music at seven and was a star pianist by 21, renowned for her emotive style. Musical child prodigies, are that select group of individuals who, from a young age – by strict definition 12 or under – exhibit such skill and talent so as to astound their older counterparts.
In Singapore, three talented former child prodigies recently conducted masterclasses for youngsters culminating in a one-night-only concert by the Young Musicians’ Foundation Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Darrell Ang. Called Synergy in Music 2013, it was presented by global energy company Gazprom, and the trio of Russian soloists were violinist Alena Baeva, cellist Alexander Buzlov, and clarinetist Valentin Uryupin.
Hailing from a family of musicians, Baeva began playing the violin at the tender age of five and hasn’t stopped since. Invited by late cellist Mstislav Rostropovich to intern in France in 2003, she has worked with the legendary Ida Haendel, among others. She graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 2007, and was given permission to use a Stradivarius violin on loan from the Russian State Collection of Unique Musical Instruments, which she still plays to this day.
In direct contrast, Buzlov became the first musician in his family. His studies at the Moscow Conservatory under the tutelage of Natalia Gutman has come full circle; he now teaches at his alma mater and is an assistant to his own teacher. A keen collaborator and still an active winner of numerous competitions, Buzlov has been hailed by The New York Times as a cellist of the true Russian tradition.
Last but certainly not least, Uryupin was sent from his native Ukranian town of Lozovaja by his mother to the Moscow Conservatory, where he studied under Professor Evgeny Petrov and the People’s Artist of the USSR, conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky. In the run-up to the concert, the trio conducted masterclasses for students from all over the world, including Sabahan cellist Stephen Tseu Tze Jie. During his session with Tseu, Buzlov
Yamaha Music School 8 Jalan Perbandaran, Petaling Jaya. Tel: 03-7803 0900.
Bentley Music Academy Wisma Bentley Music, 3 Jalan PJU 7/2, Petaling Jaya. Tel: 03-7727 3333. SEEK THE BEST A good teacher will be able to recognise prodigy talent, and will know how to deal with it based on their observations of the child. LET THE CHILD BE A CHILD Musical prodigies are children too, and need the same developmental strategies. Ensure a balanced schedule with exercise and fun. GOOD BOOKS Good Music, Brighter Children: Simple and Practical Ideas to Help Transform Your Child’s Life Through the Power of Music by Sharlene Habermeyer; How to Grow a Young Music Lover by Cheri Fuller. imparted practical advice on technique, interpretation, and style, often directly demonstrating what he meant.
The night of the concert, all were entranced as the orchestra played the riveting overture to Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus. Baeva’s take on Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in E Minor” turned out to be an amazing balance of power and delicacy. Her exquisitely light touches were ably backed by a robust sound when necessary, and she gave a spirited performance that was not overly sentimental.
Uryupin literally took everyone’s breath away with a stunning performance of Weber’s “Clarinet Concerto No. 1” that was both lively and flawless. But it was the tones and sounds – beautifully whole and crystal clear – that proved his mettle as a world-class clarinetist.
Finally, Buzlov performed his rendition of Saint-Saëns’s “Cello Concerto No. 1”, full of passion, emotion, and excitement. He displayed superb control, with economy of finger and arm movement that produced gorgeous continuous sounds. Suffice it to say, Buzlov had the entire audience in the palm of his hands.
MUSIC & YOUR CHILD
HOW TO ENCOURAGE AN EARLY INTEREST IN MUSIC Let them listen to as many different styles as possible, though you should always monitor this carefully. Try not to impose your own music preferences, and let them explore and discover what they like best. MUSIC SCHOOLS
Young Choral Academy 114A, Jalan Burhanuddin Helmi, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-7726 469.1
Alena Baeva (in red) plays with the Young Musician’s Foundation Orchestra helmed by Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang
Stephen Tseu (left), the only Malaysian selected for the master class, receiving critique from Alexander Buzlov