Christian Hales and Eric Hansen, School of Music
Russia has always been known for its indelible contributions to the arts. The likes of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Rostropovich and Koussevitzky cultivated their great talents there. Eric Hansen, professor of double bass at Brigham Young University, encouraged me to use some of his connections in Russia as an opportunity to experience this rich arts culture. His friend, Artem Chirkov, is principal Bassist of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and winner of the Bradetitch International Bass Competition. Eric suggested that I make the trip to St. Petersburg to participate in Artem’s World Bass Festival because it would help to prepare me for my required recital the coming semester, It would expose me to different schools of pedagogy and I would have the reference of some world class musicians to better gauge my skills as a bass player.
I came to Russia prepared with two pieces of contrasting style that showed off my abilities yet were challenging enough to merit further instruction. The contrasting style, a baroque cello suite by Bach and a more romantic show piece by Gajdos, was important because it allowed for a wide breadth interpretive ideas from the instructors and would increase my musical fluency as much as possible. While in St. Petersburg I played in two masterclasses, one with Jeff Bradetitch and one with Klaus Trumpf. I also had a private lesson with Artem on the stage of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic hall. I knew that Jeff is well known for his interpretation of the Bach cello suites so I made sure to play the baroque piece for him.
The results of my research can best be described by explaining specific musical advice that I received from each of the teachers.
Klaus Trumpf: taught specifically about what it takes to make a “showpiece” sing (I knew that his experience with Bassiona Amorosa would give him many valuable things to say). I learned about how to use the bow more stylistically, how to alter tempo to build intensity and lastly how to build longer phrases.
Jeff Bradetitch: he taught me about the importance of building a phrase in Bach. All of the cello suites are like multiple instruments being played on one instrument therefore you need to try and create a dialogue between the different voices.
Artem Chirkov: introduced me to playing with a German bow and showed me many of the benefits in playing lyrically as well as for orchestral music.
When I played my required sophomore recital the next semester my program, among other things, consisted of a baroque Bach sonata and a romantic, Eastern- European sonata. The instruction I received in Russia as well as continued lessons and practice enabled me to speak fluently in differing musical styles as well as to communicate more clearly through phrasing.
One of the more interesting parts of the trip was to expose myself to different schools of bass playing. America has a more orthodox way of teaching playing and I have often found myself becoming too concerned with the actual notes I am playing. The Russian school of music making gives much thought to how a musician is to feel the music. This has been an important mindset change in my musical growth.
It is extremely important to travel the world as a musician because that is how you gauge your abilities more accurately and how you inspire yourself. America has many great musicians, but if you spend too long in the same place you will get used to it and it will become more difficult to not let yourself overlook small areas you can improve in. It was also important because I became more familiar with a different dialect of music making. This enables me as a player to have a much more inclusive and fulfilling musical experience.