Guest Artist Ian Scarfe Challenges Branson Chamber Musicians

Pianist Ian Scarfe presented the third in a series of chamber music master classes in Rachel Kim’s Performance: Classical seminar on Wednesday, November 20. Scarfe is the Founder and Director of Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival. He received the prestigious Artist Diploma in Chamber Music from San Francisco Conservatory, where he currently serves as a staff accompanist and coach. 

Branson students Corbin Glover ‘20, violin and Stanley Wong ‘23, piano, first joined cellist Julie Feldman to present Dvorak’s Piano Trio in E minor, nicknamed the “Dumky.” Scarfe advised the musicians to be aware of how they keep the storytelling moving forward in the piece, and to outline a clear narrative through the different musical voices. He urged them to experiment with different musical expressions, sometimes giving more and sometimes holding back.  

After underscoring how important it is for players to practice and learn their notes, Scarfe later reflected back on his own experience. “When I was a student, one of the hardest things for me was performing in front of my peers. So I really admire how this group is able to do that with such a generous spirit. It’s so easy for a musician to shut down in those situations.” 

Violinists Shun Graves ‘23, Adriana Nordlicht ‘23, and pianist James Grossman ‘21 presented three movements of the Shostakovich Five Pieces for 2 Violins and Piano. Taking the reins at the piano again, Scarfe challenged the players to define the character of the pieces in a few simple words, and to play with different sounds, attacks, and musical colors.

When the final group assembled to perform the Vivaldi Concerto in B minor for Four Violins with piano, the analogies to pop music started flowing.

“This is a very cool piece,” said Scarfe, “Vivaldi concertos are the rock n roll of the 17th century. They’re fun to play and they’re not that complicated. Dig in there… Those times when everyone comes back together and usually plays loud – the ritornello – that’s like the chorus in a pop song.”

Violinists Corbin Glover, Shun Graves, Adriana Nordlicht, and Sophie Liu '23, and pianist Stanley Wong '23 were joined by cellist Julie Feldman. The addition of this additional bass line really helped to ground the piece and give it new vitality.

Glover appreciated the opportunity to work with Scarfe: “He’s awesome; he was definitely helpful. He gave me new ideas about how to better shape the piece, and what I need to work on, especially with getting the group in better shape as a whole. He gave us new insights on different tips and tricks and techniques to have us play better together.”

Scarfe himself reflected this back as well, “Having another coach in the room is good, I’m giving them different suggestions and offering a different perspective – or I’m sharing the same things their teacher has said and helping to reinforce the direction she’s giving.”