Leon Schelhase Leads Master Class on Baroque Ornamentation

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - 5:00pm

On March 12, Leon Schelhase (Curtis Institute of Music) used J.S. Bach's Manual of Ornamentation as the starting point for a highly informative Class on "Baroque Ornamentation for Pianists: Learning from the Harpsichord".  

Leon guided attendees through some of the most commonly used ornaments in Baroque keyboard works, explained their usage & functions, & discussed how the ornaments might be employed on the piano.    

The three Student Performers who participated in the Class were:
- Noah Kravitz, student of Betty Miller, performed the Sarabande from J.S. Bach's Partita No. 1, B flat major. 
- Peter Moll, student of Oxana Skidan, performed Domenico Scarlatti's Sonata in b minor K 87. 
- Jessica Honigberg performed the Sarabande from J.S. Bach's French Suite No. 5, G major, BWV 816.

Each Student Performer played their piece and then received 30 minutes of instruction on ornamentation issues specific to that work.  Lively discussion periods followed each Performer's session & Leon responded to questions raised & illustrated his points on the harpsichord & piano.  

Leon's deep knowlege of Baroque Ornamentation and the clarity of his instruction ensured that this was a fascinating and highly practical Class.  A few of the very many & interesting issues covered were: the inclusion of ornaments by composers for structural purposes or for beautification; different types of beautification ornaments employed in the Baroque period by various composers; how features of the piano influence decisions about the inclusion and performance of ornaments on this instrument; how certain Baroque ornaments are best performed on the piano; ways of ensuring that ornaments support the flow of a piece rather than interrupting its flow; methods of practicing ornaments; and, appropriate hand positions for facilitating performance of different ornaments.

At the conclusion of the Class Leon performed the Sarabande from J.S. Bach's Partita No. 6 in E minor which, amongst Bach's keyboard works, is notable for the amount of ornamentation included in it.  This short and very beautifully executed work was a wonderful closing to the Class and prompted much continued discussion amongst attendees as they enjoyed a complimentary light lunch.