Ask the Teacher - Gábor Takács-Nagy
The violinist and chamber music coach encourages his students to take an improvisatory approach
What is your main philosophy when you coach chamber ensembles?
I try to help the students positively, not to look for mistakes. It can be dangerous when a teacher says, ‘It’s out of tune; it’s not together.’ Instead, you look behind the notes. If they are not together, I always say to them something like, ‘It’s not together because you are not breathing the phrase together.’ Playing together should not be a goal: it should be the result. When there are improvements to make, I make those points in the spirit of helping them to do even better, not criticising them.
Who were your main teachers and influences?
At the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest I studied with the composer György Kurtág, the fantastic pianist Ferenc Rádos, and the composer and conductor András Mihály, who was a great chamber music teacher. They told us that the goal of music making is not to avoid mistakes, but to play the music itself. Béla Bartók wrote in a letter that all the great artists play like folk musicians: they do not show what they have been practising, but allow the moment to inspire them.