Estivo: Student Blog 2

From Monday 3 to Saturday 15 July 2017, 37 Sydney Conservatorium of Music chamber music students travelled to Verona, Italy, for the fourth annual Estivo: European Chamber Music Summer School. This two week program involves intensive small ensemble study and performance opportunities with international tutors, with a number of masterclasses presented for local students at the Conservatorio di Verona Evaristo Felice dall’Abaco. Read week one of Suzannah’s blog here.

Read on for highlights from week 2 of the Summer School by Suzannah Keene.

Suzannah Keene, cellist with the Amundsen Trio, 13 July 2017

I remember my last meal in Verona before the final Concert in the Cloister of the Conservatorio di Verona Evaristo Felice dall’Abaco. It was Italian fast-food – no, not McDonalds or Subway (indeed, there is one just a block down from the Castelvecchio), but fresh pasta boiled on the spot and smothered in a sauce of your choice, at a shop near the Piazza delle Erbe – and I remember it vividly because I was feeling so happy with the adventure I had enjoyed at this year’s Estivo Summer School.

In the final week, our daily tutorial sessions and masterclasses continued, and for these we welcomed a new set of tutors, including Mario Marzi, Silke Marchfeld, Alberto Frugoni, Christian Müller and Niklas Schmidt. There were particularly engaging masterclasses held by Alberto Frugoni, who together with the Carnevale Brass Quartet gave a demonstration of the different types of Baroque brass instruments. Christian Müller worked with the pianists to further develop the strengths of their playing. Even our own Associate Professor Goetz Richter workshopped new Australian string quartets written by Emma Greenhill and Elizabeth Younan, both composition students of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Also, we continued to give our evening performances in the Chiesa di San Fermo, the Villa Bertani Manor, and the Auditorium and Cloister of the Conservatorio di Verona.

In between our classes with the European teachers, we were fortunate to receive extra guidance from Professor Anna Reid, Associate Professor Jeanell Carrigan and Associate Professor Goetz Richter. These sessions were incredibly eye-opening and at times very demanding, as they challenged us to take giant leaps forward in our musical thinking. I remember one session with Goetz where he asked my Piano Trio to stop playing, and take a moment to think about how we imagined the music. He went on to say, ‘Imagination is the key to interpretation – one cannot conceptualise how to play a piece simply by playing a phrase, asking “what went wrong?”, then changing it based on what went wrong, because that way you define what you play by what doesn’t work, and that is not correct!’ That is definitely a pearl of wisdom there.

We also had an opportunity to explore Italy on our free day, and many of us traveled to Venice, Milan or Lake Garda. I was lucky enough to travel to Venice with a group of friends, and we were all breath-taken by the beauty of its canals, as well as the stunning architecture of its churches and piazzas. We were all amazed at how the doorsteps of some of the houses were the canals themselves (imagine bringing in your grocery shopping!). Lake Garda was equally as beautiful, and even though one group of students became stranded on their jet boat in the middle of the lake, this allowed them more time to soak up the scenery of the surrounding mountains and the perfect, sapphire-coloured water.

Looking back on Estivo this year, I’ll definitely miss many things. I’ll certainly miss the walk each morning to the Conservatorio di Verona. I loved how the heat of the morning was just enough to remind you that it was Summer but not too much to make you weary upon arriving at your destination, and how we could walk with our musical colleagues and muse on what we had learnt that had perplexed and intrigued us. I’ll definitely miss sharing the company of other students, tutors and University of Sydney staff at restaurants around Verona that served dishes including pizza with shredded horse meat, the ever-famous and healthy Caprese salad, and not to forget, rockmelon wrapped in prosciutto (which is absolutely incredible!). And something I will certainly miss is the excitement I felt when I learnt something new about the art of musical interpretation.

Thankfully, I will be able to experience this wonder and joy of learning back home in Sydney next semester, and because of the time I spent at Estivo, I, like my other musical colleagues, will be better equipped to get back into a practice room and make beautiful music.