Cello Masterclass: Vanessa, Year 10

During the past week, Carey Music was honoured to have a selection of incredible musicians join us for strings masterclasses. Students of cello, violin and viola were given the opportunity to work with three professional instrumentalists: Lisa Grosman (viola), George Vi (violin) and Howard Penny (cello). These experiences are vital to our musical development as they not only expose students to experts in their field, but they offer insight into the possible pathways to pursuing music as a career. Additionally, each student gains a huge amount of inspiration by witnessing the potential in themselves and their instruments.

I was lucky enough to work with Howard Penny, a brilliant cellist. Mr Penny has an extensive history of performance and working with youths. He grew up in Canberra, where he found his love for his instrument whilst playing in a youth orchestra. It was then that he decided to pursue his passion and move to Vienna. Consequently, he was exposed to the extensive musical history Europe has to offer. During his many years in Vienna, he won numerous cello and ensemble competitions, and performed at Wigmore Hall, Salzburg Festival, Beethoven Festival, and other world-class events. It was an honour to gain expertise from such a truly incredible musician.

I chose to present the first movement of Shostakovich’s cello sonata in D minor as a developing work. This piece is part of my AMusA syllabus, so I was very appreciative of any advice to advance my playing. I was very nervous going into the masterclass, partly because the piece is extremely important among cellists and has an influential history. Shostakovich was a highly controversial musician and composer and his music was denounced by the Soviets. He is known for his numerous soloist, chamber, concerto and symphony works which were written under the scrutiny and pressure of the government-imposed standards of Soviet art. Therefore, performing this piece in front of someone of such high calibre was daunting. My shaking hands resulted in a treacherous first page before recovering in the slower section. 

Mr Penny displayed an amazing amount of patience as we worked through some problem sections of the piece. His initial advice focussed on the melodic line at the start of the piece, something I had trouble interpreting. His extensive experience was evident as he assisted me in creating a completely new sound, something I did not know I was capable of. With the use of easily comprehensible analogies, I was able to give my vibrato a new, warmer tone. We also worked through a contrasting fast aggressive section, another part which could be interpreted in many different ways. His advice was incredibly helpful and concise and transformed my playing. I will keep this with me for the remainder of my cello career. His amazing skills paired with his genuine and compassionate demeanour allowed the students to fully embrace what he had to offer. It was a truly humbling experience that inspired all of those involved.

Year 10 Student

Image (L–R): Mrs Seung Paik, Thomas (Year 12), Vanessa (Year 10), Jonathan (Year 12), visiting clinician Mr Howard Penny, Anton (Year 9), Caroline (Year 12) and cello teacher Mrs Shinduk Kwoun.