Class Notes: Technique, Virtuosity, and Soul

Class Notes: Technique, Virtuosity, and SoulClassical MPR

July 01, 2019

To learn a new work of music takes dedication and practice. Dedication and practice in turn help develop what's known as a musician's technique — not just fluency with the work itself and its composer's ideas, but mastery of various musical effects the composer and performer use to express those ideas. Performers who master the technique of a particularly challenging work while also being able play with sensitivity and poetry — with soul — are said to play with virtuosity.

Zoltán Kodály's Sonata for Solo Cello is a mountaintop for cellists, full of wide-ranging feelings, ideas, and technical demands. In this video, the extraordinary young cellist Nygel Witherspoon performs its third movement, demonstrating the various techniques Kodály embeds throughout.

Nygel expresses something even more important to music, however: technique isn't an end in itself, and it can't replace the soul a performer or composer brings to a work. It's at the service of artistry — the essence of what makes this movement so exciting and powerful in Nygel's hands.