As part of PYSO’s Beyond the Notes Series, PYSO was delighted to host a masterclass with Maestro Antony Walker who in addition to being Pittsburgh Opera’s Music Director for over a decade has also conducted major orchestras including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Maestro Walker is a trained cellist, pianist, and composer who when asked how he became a conductor noted that he’s always been good at hearing the big picture and seeing how everything fits together. Storytelling through his conducting has always been of interest Maestro Walker, which lends itself particularly well to opera.
Nathan Choe, PYSO cellist and first prize winner of the 2021 Concerto Competition, began the masterclass, playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Mo. Walker asked what drew Nathan to this piece and Nathan explained that he was drawn to the sadness of the piece and tried to convey how Elgar may have been feeling at the time of writing it. Maestro Walker then worked with Nathan on techniques to tell a story, phrase by phrase.
Emma Kim, a PYSO pianist and second place winner of the 2021 Concerto Competition, played a selection of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Emma was drawn to the piece because of its Jazz influence which distinguishes it from most other classical solo piano pieces. Maestro Walker highlighted a unique aspect of the piece, that there are recordings of the composer playing the piece, so we are able to really hear Gershwin’s intention. Maestro Walker worked with Emma on ways to experiment with pacing to keep the listener more engaged.
The last piece featured was Bellini’s Oboe Concerto played by Becky Mack, an oboist with PYSO and third place winner of this year’s concerto competition. Becky was drawn to the piece because it is Bellini’s only surviving concerto. Maestro Walker noted that Bellini is most known for his operas and ability to construct beautiful vocal lines, which comes through in this piece. Maestro Walker worked with Becky on how to break down the text of the piece in order to convey its wide range of moods and tones.
The masterclass ended with a Q&A session with the entire orchestra. The students showed their interest and attention with enthusiastic and thought provoking questions that Maestro Walker was more than happy to answer and share his insights and personal techniques.
Many thanks to Maestro Antony Walker for such a wonderful and informative masterclass!