Three skilled members of The Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra participated in a masterclass at Mesa College on Saturday November 18. This particular masterclass featured the godfather of American concertmasters, William Preucil. It was a concertmaster masterclass. That sounds confusing. It was a masterclass by a concertmaster. To be sure there was more than enough mastery in the room.
"The best concert master I've ever worked with."
Since 1995, Preucil has been the concertmaster for The Cleveland Orchestra which is ranked, if such a thing is possible, as number seven on the list of world’s greatest orchestras. (In case you're wondering, San Diego Symphony is not on the list, but California is represented by Los Angeles Philharmonic at number eight and San Francisco Symphony at 13. Chicago, at number 5, is the highest ranked American orchestra. The list was created by Gramophone, the pre-eminent classical music publication in the world.) Preucil played first violin in The Cleveland Quartet with whom he won a grammy for best chamber music performance. Preucil is also a faculty member at The Cleveland Institute of Music.
Why was he in San Diego giving a masterclass to a youth orchestra? Preucil is one of the founders of San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festival and has been the concertmaster since the first season in 1988. The Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra is a part of the festival organization and members of the festival orchestra give a masterclass for the youth orchestra each year.
This year Preucil was joined by Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra member Sonja Braaten. The three students each played a piece of music and then Pruecil and Braaten gave them techniques to improve their playing.
I’ve been to several vocal masterclasses, but this was the first violin masterclass I’ve attended. It was invaluable. The traditional expressions of the instrument came into focus as Preucil and Braaten made suggestions for phrasing based on bowing technique, tone, and vibrato. The laconic Preucil proved to be verbose in his musical grammar as he instructed each student.
I was initially impressed by the abilities of the students and then repeatedly impressed as they improved from moment to moment based on the interaction with Preucil and Braaten. Two of the students, Ashley Strauss and Benjamin Luo, played pieces which could be considered to be written with students in mind. However, the “advanced” student, Nathan Sariowan, legit played the third movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto.