Masters of invention: Casals and Menuhin and the Alexander Technique

Artist in Balance was involved in a spring project for strings at the Utrecht Conservatory in March 2012.

There are some master musicians whose discoveries about playing are so revolutionary that they are often still misunderstood. Their ideas and procedures were ahead of their time, and can now be better understood through advancements in science.

This was a chance for the conservatory musicians to understand and apply some of the greatest discoveries about string playing made by two master teachers of the 20th century, Pablo Casals and Yehudi Menuhin. The principles they each discovered are useful for all string players. 

Utrecht Conservatory violin teacher Lis Perry, a student of Menuhin, cello teacher Ran Varon and violin teacher Joyce Tan were joined by cellist Vivien Mackie, who studied with Pablo Casals, for a week of private lessons, master classes, workshops. The Alexander teachers of the Utrecht Alexander Technique Institute for Musicians gave private lessons, and a yoga instructor, former viola teacher Prunella Pacey, gave the students  first hand experience of the role of yoga in the work of Menuhin.

Guest master teacher Vivien Mackie
Vivien Mackie is the author of the book "Just Play Naturally," an account of Vivien Mackie's cello studies for three years with Pablo Casals and the parallels she discovered afterwards with the Alexander Technique, in which she later trained. One of Casals' edicts, 'do only what is necessary,' points at once to a parallel with Alexander's teaching.

Vivien Mackie is also a renowned Alexander teacher.By guiding the student with her hands while they play she can allow the student to experience the physicality of Casal’s teaching first hand, and not just through words alone.