PEOPLE

Barbara Westphal

Friday, 17 May 2013

What makes a good teacher? The US violist recalls the best tutor she ever had

He is one of the most gentle, kind, warm-hearted and modest people I’ve ever met

When I was a student at the Yale University School of Music, I had the good fortune to have Claude Frank as my chamber music teacher. He coached my piano trio on the Dvořák Trio no.3 in F minor. To this day I remember his colourful and very personal images, which have made this piece a lasting favourite of mine.

I have always been deeply touched by his great poetry and singing tone at the piano. In particular, his Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart performances show an exceptionally profound understanding of these composers. He is one of the few pianists — indeed musicians — whose playing I believe I can recognise: it is totally committed to making the composer’s intentions come to life, audibly rooted in the Schnabel tradition of piano playing and yet completely personal.

Years later we met again at the Sarasota Music Festival where I was lucky to listen to him teach again and had the great honour of performing the Brahms Piano Quintet with him. He is one of the most gentle, kind, warm-hearted and modest people I’ve ever met. I will always be grateful for the inspiration he has been to me.

Violist Barbara Westphal is on the faculty of the Sarasota Music Festival, taking place from 3—22 June

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