Sherman Walt Interview
At Curtis, Tabuteau was both Walt’s coach-teacher for chamber music and conductor of the Curtis Orchestra.
Chamber music classes were electrifying.
Example of how Tabuteau would run his class.
Example of a Tabuteau compliment.
When Walt was a member of the Boston Symphony, the nucleus of the Symphony was made up as Curtis graduates influenced by Tabuteau.
No matter what happened or where one performed after Tabuteau’s class, it was pleasant compared to his classes.
Tabuteau’s dogmatic approach did not bother Walt. He wishes that his current students were more worried about their lessons.
Tabuteau might spend a whole year on one piece.
Number System. Divide phrases into parts. Tabuteau knew that it was mechanical, but he liked to have things planned out.
For Walt the number system was about phrasing, so it would sound natural.
It was about dynamics, rhythm and color.
Vibrato was singing – “chanté.” But, Tabuteau didn’t talk about how to physically produce it.
Bar line was very important. One had to breathe in a natural place like when you were talking or singing. Solfege was very important in Tabuteau’s teaching.
Breath control very important. Story about Tabuteau’s teacher making Tabuteau control the height of a candle flame with his breath.
Tabuteau most prominent to Walt as a “phraser.”
Rubato. Tabuteau was able to get away with using a lot of rubato, as did many musicians at that time. Walt says that musicians can’t get away with that now.
Walt didn’t recall Tabuteau varying anything according to style period.
Articulation was very important.
Recalls that if people were observing chamber music classes that Tabuteau could be particularly cruel. He loved an audience.
Walt used numbers to indicate color changes. Describes how he does it on the bassoon.
Balancing chords very important and intonation. Tabuteau thought blending and balancing with another instrument was as important as intonation.
Tabuteau was Curtis. Walt did not go to Curtis to study with a specific bassoon teacher, he went to study with Tabuteau.
The influence of Tabuteau was in every orchestra. Walt thinks that the influence of Tabuteau will continue through generations of students until the next Tabuteau comes up. And yet he thinks there is no room for personalities and characters any more. The whole atmosphere has changed.
Unfortunate that orchestral players tend not to be remembered as much as conductors. But, Walt thought Tabuteau and Kincaid were particularly special.