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Roy Howat - Master Class & book launch

The Art of French Piano Music: Debussy, Ravel, Faure, Chabrier

Royal Academy of Music, London 16 May 2009, 2.30 & 7.00 p.m.

Leading authority on French music of 19th/20th C, pianist/author Roy Howat took three RAM students through Fauré's Theme & Variations, 5th Barcarolle and the Ballade.

Drawing on his intensive historical studies of all the sources, Howat had one main lesson for them all. Speaking as the composer's representative today, he insisted that Fauré's music should always be played "in time"; point-making with "expressive" rubato tends to "prettify" music which is strongly structured and fully notated with the composer's wishes. He supported his case with several anecdotes about the composer's personality and practice, especially when accompanying his songs, when he had no patience with expressive dawdling.

The event was both illuminating and frustrating. He had so much to impart that time was the constant enemy, with only about a quarter hour remaining to each student after the preliminary run-throughs (which all sounded rather good to untutored ears). He was continually rushing, leaving points for the pianists to take away with them, rather than working at the time on the drastic changes demanded. There is always that dilemma in master classes, the choice between having as many participants as possible as against a more leisurely approoach with fewer "victims".

Howat's deep knowledge of the French repertoire, and his facility at the keyboard, would make him and his favoured composers a strong recommendation for the growing library of Master Class DVDs being assembled by the Master Class Media Foundation.

Later, in a book launch of his latest publication, Howat talked about the close relationship between the pianism and music of Fauré, Ravel, Chabrier (his greatness never quite realised) and Debussy, the last illustrated by two of the students who had participated in the afternoon master class and by Roy Howat himself. Many of those who attended were easily persuaded that the book is a 'must buy' for enthusiasts [Yale University Press].

Peter Grahame Woolf

Book review: http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/articles/generaltopics/HowatTheArtofFrenchPianoMusic.html