Seattle Violoncello Society Newsletter, April 1994 (c)Seattle Violoncello
I thought it would be nice to reflect upon the past year's Seattle Violoncello Society activities. It has been full of great events for cellists: Yo-Yo Ma's open rehearsal, David Blum's lecture on Pablo Casals, Gustav Rivinius' master class, and most recently the Bach Suite Marathon. We have also created a respected newsletter. Not bad for $15 per year, eh?
We can't keep us this lightning pace without more members, however. The dues have been held at the same level for years. And yet, our expenses keep rising, which includes postage, master class and lecture fees, and hall rental fees. In order to continue with the cello society we will need to either raise the annual dues or you need to actively recruit new members. We would prefer to keep the dues down if possible. One barely tapped resource of members is cello students. Teachers, please encourage your students to join the Seattle Violoncello Society.
In this issue:
Gustav Rivinius Master Class
Letters: Responses to Listening to Recordings Dilemma
Meditations on Cello Technique
W. Howard Jones, retired cello professor from Washington State University and noted local instrument collector died in late March of a heart attack. Janos Starker, Seattle Symphony's Bruce Bailey, and Juilliard Quartet's Joel Krosnick all obtained or sold their cellos through Mr. Jones at one time or another. He was rumored to have declined an offer for a position in the Chicago Symphony in his younger years.
2. New Seattle Symphony cellist
Yun-Yin Gu has recently signed a contract with the Seattle Symphony and will join the section beginning with the opening of the 1994/95 season. Born in Shanghai, she comes to Seattle from the Sacramento Symphony where she has been a member since 1990. Her teachers include Ying-Rong Lin from the Shanghai Conservatory and Elenore Schoenfeld from the USC School of Music.
3. Stabilizer for the cello
Cellists who have difficulty balancing their instrument due to leg problems may benefit from a modified end-pin designed by Andreas Woywood (c/o Peter Biddulph, 35 St. George St, London W1R 9FA) and made by Peter Southall (Lawback Bros, Wanstead Music Centre, 1 High St, Wanstead, London E11 2AF). The device is basically a second end-pin that is attached to the regular end-pin, acting as a stabilizer and preventing the cello from rotating in the direction of the problem leg.
Lynn Harrell Chamber Ensemble Masterclass
Lynn Harrell will lead a chamber ensemble masterclass for music students at the University of Washington School of Music 6-8pm in the UW Music Building's Brechemin Auditorium. The event is free.
Bach Cello Suite Marathon
A special thanks goes to Cordelia Wikarski-Miedel for organizing with great success our Bach Cello Suite Marathon. Her task was an arduous one, which included scrambling for substitutes when people backed out at the last minute. I even had someone cancel the night before! I would also like to thank Bruce Bailey and Roberta Downey for volunteering to take some of these movements left vacant. A badge of courage goes to Brian Wharton, who offered to play the D Major Sarabande as Cordelia was announcing that it would not be played because of a last minute cancellation. Considered to be one of the most difficult movements in the Bach Suites, he played it beautifully. Lucky for us he happened to be studying it at time.
Dr. Charles Harman, a violinmaker from Oregon, showed us some of his beautiful hand-made 1/2 and 3/4 size cellos. Usually small cellos such as these are factory made, so he is providing a unique service in the instrument world. Believe it or not, his small cellos sound as nice and as resonant as his full-size instruments. So if you know of a student who is up to one of these high quality instruments, give him a call at (503) 469-6658 in Brookings, Oregon. Leasing options available.
Lost and Found: A pair of earrings was left at the church. They have a silver flower ear pin, a black bead below, and a silver tear-drop on the bottom. If these are yours, please call. I have little use for them.
Story-hungry cello society sinks to new depths
The following column comes from the March 29, 1994 issue of the Seattle Times:
"Cello-playing pal's rivalry finally hits a sour note." -- Abigail van Buren
"DEAR ABBY: Please help my friend and me settle an argument. We have agreed to abide by your decision.
"Matt" and I both play the cello for a small community orchestra. Although it is not a full-time vocation for either of us, it is a hobby at which we both excel. For two years, we have enjoyed a friendly rivalry as we compete for various solos and other honors.
The competition took an unfriendly turn several weeks ago when Matt "inadvertantly" ran over my cello with his station wagon when I was loading our instruments into the back. My cello was destroyed, and it was right before a concert in which I had a solo. Because I had no instrument, Matt got the solo that night.
My cello is certainly replaceable, and Matt has offered to purchase a new one for me. Our concern is this: Because Matt had demolished my cello, I felt that he should have offered me the use of his cello for that evening's concert. Matt, however, feels that he had no obligation to surrender his cello. What do you think, Abby?
DEAR KATHI: Since Matt deliberately ran over your cello -- which you implied by placing "inadvertantly" in quotes -- why would you have expected him to offer you his cello for the evening concert? His objective was to play the cello solo that night -- and he succeeded."
A message from the Seattle Symphony
1. WORLD RENOWNED CELLIST LYNN HARRELL TO PERFORM HAYDN'S CONCERTO IN C MAJOR FOR CELLO AND ORCHESTRA
Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony present Masterpiece XIV on Monday, April 11 and Tuesday, April 12 at 8:00 pm in the Seattle Opera House....
Born in New York of musician parents (his father was the great baritone Mack Harrell), he began his musical studies in Dallas and proceeded to the Juilliard School and Curtis Institute. He had already established a solo career when, at the age of 18, he was invited by George Szell to join the Cleveland Orchestra. Two years later, Mr. Szell appointed him principal cellist, a position he held until 1971. Among a list of prestigious awards that Mr. Harrell has received is the Piatigorsky Award, the Ford Foundation Concert Artists' Award, and the first Avery Fisher Award (jointly with Murray Perahia).
2. ANTONIO MENESES MAKES SEATTLE SYMPHONY DEBUT
Cellist Antonio Meneses marks his Seattle Symphony debut on Monday, May 2 and Tuesday, May 3, 1994 at 8:00 pm in the Seattle Opera House for MASTERPIECE XVI. Gerard Schwarz will conduct.
The remarkable talent of Brazilian cellist Antonio Meneses captured worldwide attention when he won the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Since that time he has appeared with such prestigious orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, to name a few. The lengthy list of distinguished conductors with whom he has collaborated includes Claudio Abbado, Semyon Bychkov, Riccardo Muti, Andre Previn, and Kurt Sanderling. Call 443-4747 for tickets.
1. Solo Violoncello Music Book
A new book is available called The Solo Cello: A Bibliography of the Unaccompanied Violoncello, by Dimitry Markevitch (Fallen Leaf Press ISBN 0-914913-11-5). The book catalogs 1500 works for solo cello. Who knew there were so many compositions?! Send $14.95 (book) + $1.80 (shipping) to:
Fallen Leaf Press
PO BOX 10034
Berkeley, CA 94709
2. Cellist's Guide from the American String Teachers Association (ASTA)
The second addition of Cellist's Guide to the Core Technique (Presser Library No. 497-00007) by Dr. Jean Smith has been published. The guide is a manual designed for the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of cello performance. Send $13.50 (book) + $2 (shipping) to:
Theodore Presser Company
One Presser Place
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
3. New cello novel
A novel by Mark Salzman, called "The Soloist" has been recently released. It involves a former child prodigy cellist, who, now 36, lost his gift for performing at 18. He is haunted by a sense of incompletion in his career and in himself. The book involves romance, murder, schizophrenia, and the cello. The book is published by Random House and costs $19.
Gustav Rivinius Master Class
On February 12, thanks to a generous donation by Eva Heinitz, we were able to sponsor a master class by the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medalist, Gustav Rivinius. The following are the students who participated in the class, their teacher, and the pieces performed:
Davin Rubicz, student of David Tonkonogui, Saint-Saens Concerto
Matt Kelzenberg, student of Cordelia Wikarski-Miedel, Schumann Concerto
Leslie Hirt, student of Ray Davis, Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations
Some of the Mr. Rivinius' points were as follows:
1) Breathe and move the body in tempo when entering at the beginning of the Saint-Saens concerto.
2) Practice different kinds of vibrato. When using a slow vibrato, release unused fingers to free the hand.
3) When playing fast, one must minimize all extraneous motions.
4) Free the thumb in 5th and 6th positions.
5) Practice scales.
6) Maintain an even sound when playing difficult passages. Practice difficult parts slowly with a big sound. Always play slowly at first. When you have perfected the passage slowly, only then should you increase the tempo. "You can learn a passage in one day with this method, otherwise you will never learn it."
7) "The bowings are not important. What's important is that they make sense when you play them."
8) Practice slow slides when shifting.
9) Search for the long line in the music.
10) "I always search for the easiest way to play something."
11) Play with musical bow divisions. For example, to crescendo use more and more bow.
12) You always have time to shift.
13) "Watch with your ear what you actually play."
"Practice to gain trust -- forget danger." -- Raya Garbousova
( From October 1990 Oregon Cello Society newsletter)
Responses to "Should one listen to recordings" topic
"The availability of numerous 'canned' performances of the repertoire sends students rushing to the library upon receiving a new assignment, and rather than struggling to unlock a new score in a personal way, they produce a Frankenstein-like monster--a slide from this recording and a bowing from that--a mindless imitation that makes any creativity and psychological insight impossible....
The next step for the performer is to synthesize his or her voice with that of the composer, the piece, and the period. Listening to any recordings during this formative stage will be paralyzing and destructive...."
(from "Sounding Off on Sound," by Yehuda Hanani, Strings, September/October 1992.)
It seems to me that the creative process has many elements--much of if is hard work, and definitely mimicry. Listening to a recording and using a metronome may not seem to be very creative in and of itself, but it contributes to the whole. It's only a small piece of the process. Many people think that Lynn Harrell is a creative artist, and we evaluate this by his whole artistic development, not by one small isolated piece of the process he uses to get there.
I know that there are teachers out there who tell you not to listen to specific recordings before you've learned a certain piece of music. This is different from building a "reserve" of listening as a constant process from which you draw as general informational background. If you are a musician, you must listen to other musicians. You need to have a "bank" of art exposure to develop into a better artist yourself. Part of artistic development is most certainly mimicry. You must know what is great, and why--and choose. You don't just become a great musician in isolation. It just doesn't work that way.
On the other hand, when you're working on a specific piece of music, should you listen to a recording first? I don't know. I'd rather give myself time to be familiar with the technical aspects of it before really listening to a recording. This type of listening is different from the general listening that you do to build up the bank of art exposure. Then, when you listen, it is very careful and studied and could involve a metronome. How and when you do it is personal taste. But, there is no "if" here.; you must listen at some point.
Your own interpretation is already built on a myriad of many, many things, and this is always changing the more you grow and the more you are exposed to the form itself. You cannot exist in a vacuum as an artist. Part of the whole thing is working hard and isolation. But part of it is learning from other artists too.
Suggested Topic for Future Letters
The music business has become so competitive and saturated to the point that it has become highly unlikely that one can get a job in music. In spite of this, the music academies continue to turn out musician after musician like a factory, thanking them for their tens of thousands of tuition dollars as they step out into the real world. Some of these students are great, but most are not so great. Is it the responsibility of the teacher and the schools to council the students in the realities of job prospects, and to try to discourage them from continuing in their studies? Are the music schools taking advantage of the youthful idealism of their students for their own financial gain? Or are they just nurturing the noble impulse of youth to dedicate their lives to the arts?
Meditations on Cello Technique: A Quest for Simplicity
by Tim Finholt
I am sitting with my cello, clearing my head of the mundane stresses of everyday life. Nothing else matters, only my cello, my bow, and my own sense of quiet contemplation. Concentrate on breathing. Concentrate on relaxing. Concentrate on the feelings of tenderness and love for music and love for this wonderful instrument I have before me, my oldest friend, my cello.
I glance at myself in the practice mirror and reflect upon Pablo Casals, who once said, "Beautiful playing is beautiful to look at." I think about Yo-Yo Ma, and how beautiful he was as he played the Dvorak concerto. Everything looked so easy for him, so perfectly balanced, so simple. There were no unnatural arm positions, no impressions of stressed shoulders or hands, no grimaces of fatigue or pain. And yet he was playing one of the most strenuous pieces for cellists.
Why don't I look like that when I play?
"As calmly and well balanced as a cellist may sit with his cello, the moment he starts to play, a change takes place in his body; suddenly his head sits lopsided on his shoulders, one shoulder is pulled up, the elbow is stretched out in a pointed angle, and the wrist of his right hand becomes stiff like a board, or his hand dangles about as if it were drunk and the left hand assumes a position that causes one to ask how it is possible even to strike a note, to vibrate, to move from one position to the next." What a convicting observation by Emanuel Feuermann!
I begin to wonder if Yo-Yo Ma makes it look so simple because it actually is simple. Careful, don't confuse the notion of simplicity with the notion of ease. Playing the cello is not easy; it is an immensely intricate set of motions. To play the cello requires fine motor control that can only be acquired by years of careful practice. But perhaps it is I who make it more complicated than it really has to be. As violist Karen Tuttle said, "Attitude can be crippling." Maybe I should strive for this same simplicity.
Armed with this hopeful realization, I begin to examine my own attitude about cello playing. Perhaps all these years I have been piling up layers and layers of prejudices, anxieties, and neuroses about cello technique. What if I just need to "get out of my own way," as Baghwan Sri Rajneesh used to say? I can still hear the "inner chatter" that has enslaved me over the years -- "I'll never hit that big shift," or "The notes are too fast," or "Thumb position is too difficult." And yet, in my cello lessons, the diagnosis of a technical problem always results in some common sense and simple solution -- a higher arm, better planned bowing, better preparation for the next note, etc.. I want to make sense of the cello, to unlock the mystery of cello technique. God, please give me the serenity to experience the simplicity of cello technique!.
"As obvious and superfluous as it may seem to mention it, it is my opinion that the basic ill of poor playing lies in the absolute disregard of natural laws." Feuermann sure seemed to have me in mind when he uttered these words. Sometimes I feel as if I must defy the laws of physics in order to play well. But of course this is ridiculous. If I play out of tune, it is because my finger is in the wrong place. If I miss a string with my bow, it is because my bow did not touch the right string at the right moment. It all sounds so simple. Maybe it is.
I remember a concept from my math and science courses--the principle of "linearity." Linearity is a simplifying assumption that a whole can be divided into independent parts that can be analyzed separately. After one analyzes these parts, they are re-combined so as to comprehend the whole again. Many times it is easier to break down a problem into pieces, tackling these smaller hurdles, than to try to solve the whole problem at once. My cello technique could definitely benefit from this approach.
What would be a natural division in cello playing? A sensible approach is to separate cello technique into issues of the right and left hands. I could study the bow arm independently of the left hand. Then I could analyze the left hand without the bow. After I have done both, perhaps I could link them together in a whole and I would improve my technique. This sounds encouraging.
So I start with the bow. I look down at my cello and count the strings. There are only four strings. (What a relief! Sometimes it feels as if I am playing the sitar, which has 18 strings.) This means that, whenever I play, I am always playing on one of these four strings, ignoring chords for simplicity. No matter how fast or how slow I play, I am always playing on one of these strings. It is more challenging to play fast, however, because it is more difficult to keep track of which string I am on, which leads me to believe that many perceived left hand problems are actually right hand problems. Therefore, if I want to really learn a passage, I should play slowly at first and figure out which string each note is on.
To illustrate this process, I begin to play a passage from a concerto with the left hand "shadow" fingering in the air above the fingerboard while playing the corresponding open strings with the bow. In this manner, I discover the sequence of strings that occurs. Then I play the open strings faster and faster. Pretty soon a pattern in the passage reveals itself; A-A-D-D-A-A becomes a repeating sequence. This is the famous part in the Saint-Saens concerto. After repeating this until it becomes internalized, I add back the left hand. Wow, what a difference, it's so much cleaner! Of course many passages are not this regular. But a concept emerges from this discovery: always know what string you're on.
I then note that, as I am bowing, my bow is going back and forth. No matter what I play, if I am using my bow, it is either travelling up or down bow. I can imagine rumblings from the reader about how trivial or simplistic this observation is. Would you consider a house's foundation trivial? A cell? An electron? These are fundamental building blocks without which we do not have sturdy houses, living tissue, or the Universe as we know it. Or in our case, string playing. This seemingly trivial observation can come quite in handy when playing fast notes, where it is sometimes difficult to keep track of which direction the bow is supposed to be going. Always know what direction you are bowing.
I look at my bridge and notice that the strings are at different elevations above the cello body; the D and G strings are higher than the A and C strings. I then alternate playing my A and D strings. Because of the difference in heights, I find that I tend to have a broken sound as I switch from one string to the other. Since a smooth legato is my goal, I know that I must be doing something wrong. How can I reduce the discontinuity of sound?
Michael Tree, violist with the Guarneri Quartet, solves my problem. "When one hears an unwanted break in the line at the moment of string crossing, it's usually because the arm doesn't prepare for it in advance. The arm has a wide potential latitude of vertical movement. You can raise it to play on the left side of the string or lower it to play on the right, or you can play dead center. If the arm anticipates the string crossing by leaning in the direction of the note that's coming, a more fluid, circular motion is achieved. The difference of a quarter of an inch may be enough to put the arm in position; the wrist can do the rest. But many players will do the exact opposite and lean the arm in the wrong direction; the result is an abrupt, angular movement." Remarkably, this implies that one can actually sound better with less effort! Perhaps the more economical my motions are, the easier it is and the better I sound. "In order to become a good cellist one must learn to acquire the means of playing with ease and economy of effort." Perhaps I have been working too hard all this time. This definitely is a step towards my goal of simplicity.
I then alternate playing the open A string with the open C string, a huge skip over the two middle strings. Why do I have such an easy time reaching the C string and yet I cannot easily reach the A string? Once again, I sound choppy because of the large commotion of my bow arm, my bow arm flapping like a wing as I alternate between strings. I look in the mirror and note how unsettled and ridiculous I look as I play. Somehow I must be able to apply the string crossing lesson above. In an effort to fool my eyes, to counter my "panic" caused by visual cues, I imagine that the strings are actually on the same level. Instinctively, I raise my bow arm such that it is at a level where I can play the D string comfortably, in a compromise position between the A and C strings. Now I can reach the A and C strings with relatively little movement, mostly a wrist and lower arm action, and can connect them much better. A high bow arm gives me the maximum flexibility to play any string with a minimum of effort. It now makes sense that, with a low bow arm, I cannot reach the A string unless I go to the trouble of lifting my arm. Why not just skip this step and keep the arm up in a natural elevated state at all times? I begin to play the Prelude of the E-flat Bach Suite, which is full of huge string crossings. The notes sounds more connected than they have ever sounded in my life! Economy of motion pays off once again.
I then play my open A string back and forth using half of my bow for each note. I gradually but steadily increase the tempo while maintaining the use of half-bows. Pretty soon I am frantically playing at great speed. As I play I listen to my tone, finding that I am quite irritated by it, sounding uneven, scratchy, and forced. My arm is also extremely tired, which means I must be doing something very wrong. So while still maintaining the fast tempo, I try using less bow. As if by magic, my sound becomes even and full and my arm is able to relax. So I conclude that the faster one plays, the less bow one needs.
With this new lesson in mind, I play an eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes and keep repeating this pattern. I note that I am using the same amount of bow for the eighth notes that I am using for the sixteenth notes. It occurs to me that sixteenth notes could be considered as the "fast notes," so I use less bow according to the lesson learned above. Sixteenth notes are half the duration of eighth notes, so, if I assume a constant bow speed, then the sixteenth notes should require half the bow of the eighth note. This makes sense and in fact works beautifully when I try it. The notion that cello technique might obey simple mathematical relationships definitely gives me hope of finding simplicity. So I conclude that I should divide the bow in a logical manner.
The Left Hand
Putting aside the bow arm for now, I direct my attention to the left hand and begin to search for its simplicity. I turn my cello around so that it faces me and look at the fingerboard. What a mind-boggling universe lies within these four strings. Some of humanity's greatest creations are in my fingerboard waiting to be played: the Bach Suites, the Beethoven Sonatas, Schelomo. And I know they are in there because a great musician like Yo-Yo Ma could take my cello and play them for me. "All I have to do" is learn to put my fingers in the right place. But how?
I run my fingers up and down my fingerboard, from top to bottom, feeling the how straight and smooth my strings are. What a wonderful feeling--no curves, no bumps, just perfectly elegant and simple. And yet when I begin to play, I have a different perception; as soon as I reach the cello body, 5th position and higher, I enter some sort of forbidden zone, as if I must reach into a deep chasm to find notes. But this is ridiculous! There is nothing different between the upper and lower parts of the fingerboard except that the notes become closer as I play progressively higher. I come to the realization that I have been a victim all my life of the notion that "higher is harder." I begin to understand that this is only true in my head, not on the cello.
"If music be the food of love, scales be the food of music." This fundamental and simple truth cannot be avoided. How are my fingers going to "remember" where to go unless I remind them repeatedly, daily. Even the great musicians such as Paul Tortelier are or were bound by this rule: "I begin my own practicing with scales...." And if I do not practice scales, I am handicapping myself; "Get out of your own way" echoes within again. I want desperately to play the cello well and therefore reluctantly acknowledge this basic necessity. Those who are successful "work at doing things that the majority of the population is not willing to do."
I play a few notes on the A string in first position and look at my left arm, noticing that my elbow is low. It occurs to me that I will not be able to reach the C string if my elbow stays in this position. Also, if I ever need to go into higher positions, such as 5th or thumb position, my arm will hit the body of the cello--"The arm should never touch the body even in its lowest position." The only way to alleviate these two potential hazards is to lift my elbow in a comfortably elevated position at the time needed. Better yet, applying the previous bow string crossing lessons, I should save myself some work and keep the elbow up at all times. Again, the more efficient my motions, the better I will play.
I play a few notes in thumb position and marvel at the simplicity of thumb position. Allowing for the usual exceptions, there are only three commonly used combinations for fingering with the first three fingers. The following are the possible intervals between the fingers in thumb position (index finger is called "1," middle finger "2," third finger "3"):
Whole step between 1 and 2 and whole step between 2 and 3.
Half step between 1 and 2 and whole step between 2 and 3.
Whole step between 1 and 2 and half step between 2 and 3.
Add the thumb, and the number of basic combinations only doubles. With this knowledge I can figure out how to play any combination of notes. All I need to know is the intervals between the notes to be played, and I can apply one or a fragment of one of the fingerings listed above. Of course, the art of finding the best fingering is another issue. But, consciousness of these simple truths will make playing in thumb position much easier. Also, if I know the required configuration of my fingers for the notes to come, I can shift directly into the required finger configuration, which is definitely more efficient than what I do now.
I then ponder that, except for chords, cellists play notes in a series, one after another. For almost every note, there is a note before and a note after. Therefore, each note has some connection to the notes surrounding it. If I am not conscious of these relationships at all times, I will not mentally and physically prepare for notes to come, which actually applies to both hands. By keeping my arms high, I am actually preparing for notes that will occur on other strings. And by keeping my left arm high, I am also preparing my arm for notes in higher positions. Preparation may involve adjusting my arm position, how I sit, or how I rotate the cello, etc.. Discovery of the best preparation method can only come with experimentation on a case by case basis.
And finally, I notice that I tend to stop breathing when I play, especially in challenging passages; "Many people hold their breath while playing, often to a length that would shame a Japanese pearl diver." What could be more unnatural and contradict all common sense? It is as if a self-destructive impulse sets in; I am restraining that which keeps me alive! Am I that paralyzed with fear? Can something so innocuous as a few sounds from a wooden box be that stressful? Am I that afraid of failure? "Life is a self-fulfilling prophecy; you won't necessarily get what you want in life, but in the long run you will usually get what you expect." Without breathing, it is as if a giant boulder has fallen in the path to simplicity.
Interestingly, many of the bow and left hand discoveries I have outlined can already be found in the first book of any instrumental method book, ie. awareness of the four strings, up and down bows, intervals between fingers, etc.. My approach is something akin to Robert Fulghum's theory that "All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten." I have found in my own playing, that when I commit a technical sin, I have overlooked one of these very fundamental notions. We all like to think that after awhile these things become automatic. But it is my experience that the harder the music, the more distracted one becomes with the notes and forgets the basics.
Adults are very complicated, perhaps too much so. We have had a lifetime of experiences that have produced layers and layers of prejudices, anxieties, and neuroses. We need to strip away this "sophistication" and become child-like in our thirst for technical insight, shedding some of our alleged wisdom. Only then can we find the simplicity of cello playing. "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise."
As I sit in my chair with my beloved cello before me, fighting the necessity to join the outside world again, I reflect upon the true goal of my cello playing: to experience the art of music. All of the above observations are merely means to an end, to arrive at a freedom from the artistic bondage of my poor technique. My goal is to become One with my instrument and to be able to, not sing with my cello, but sing through it, which can only happen if I overcome these mundane technical issues. "I have noticed that when some of my students succeed in correcting poor technical habits, there is a change in their interpretation. They become aware that their interpretation has been mediocre as well as their technique."
Music is a very human creation, not just a sequence of motions. Except for the most intellectual compositions, music comes from the heart and soul of human beings. Why not approach it as a human being instead of as a technique analysis machine? According to Paul Tortelier, this will actually be more productive. "If in my teaching I often refer to imagery, it's not only because it helps vivify our performance; it also helps us to think beyond our technique, to forget our problems. We practice so long and so hard that we tend to become obsessed by passages that are technically difficult. Such fixations easily lead to disaster. You will play more eloquently if you are, not a cellist worried about your technique, but a knight worried about your lady's chastity."
1. "Cellists pay homage to Casals" by Lisa Simpson, from The Strad, January 1994.
'Zara Nelsova spoke about projection even when practicing scales and etudes. "When you have a 100 piece orchestra blowing out their brains behind you, your sound must travel." Continuity of sound is important, as is keeping the thumb on the string in all higher positions. With this [wandering thumb], one joins the club of hitch-hiking cellists: "When I see this I am ready to die...it is like a worm in an apple."'
2. "New Baroque bow grip for cellists" by Richard Holmes, from The Strad, January 1994.
With the 'New Baroque Grip,' the bow is held away from the heel, the third and fourth fingers curved around the stick, and the first and second fingers in contact with the hair. The tension of the bow hairs can be continually adjusted by tightening or loosening the grip on the bow hairs with the fingers. This contrasts with the modern bow grip, in which the tension is fixed before playing by tightening the screw, remaining set for the entire performance.
3. "Teaching Points from the Masters" by Richard Maag, from American String Teacher, Winter 1994.
This article concentrates on the pedagogy from master classes at the Leonard Rose Competition. Master cellists were Bernard Greenhouse, Lluis Claret, Karine Georgian, Ronald Leonard, Arto Noras, Siegfried Palm, and Eleonore Schoenfeld.
"Without exception, every teacher sang during the lesson, and more often that not, had the student sing also. It certainly left the impression that the best way to train the ear is to sing."
"Technique is used so that we can play a story."
"Learning to play the cello is a puzzle that takes a lifetime. There is no need for discouragement--just always look for better playing." -- Bernard Greenhouse
"Any three notes played exactly the same shows a lack of concentration." -- Bernard Greenhouse
"Music is not just one note, but two notes and the direction between them." -- Lluis Claret
Arto Noras stated "Never play as if in a panic and do not play each note with the same length of bow." Note the importance of the octave in Brahms e minor Sonata. This is one of the structural posts of the sonata. "If you think of the octave interval while studying this piece it does make you aware of the sonata in a different light."
4. "Some Observations on Cello Performance and Teaching" by Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, from American String Teacher, Winter 1994.
"Sound is for the musician what paint if for the artist or stone is for the sculptor. It is the medium in and through which the art form takes shape."
"If a player performs a work without a sure sense of timing, the work may lose its natural pace or flow and begin to sound distorted--breathless or hurried in some places, meandering or stagnant in others. This can be caused when students fail to realize that they are making music of their own and that they are in a sense creating their own time-world. This is not the time-world of clocks and metronomes, but a special one in which qualities such as the weight, grouping, acceleration, and direction of movements and sounds are just as important as mere chronological duration."
April 5 Toby Saks performs in recital in the Meany Theater, 543- 4880.
April 10 Lynn Harrell Chamber Ensemble Master Class in Brechemin Auditorium in the UW Music Building, 6-8pm. 543-1200.
April 11,12 Lynn Harrell performs Haydn C Major Concerto with the Seattle Symphony. 443-4747.
May 2,3 Antonio Meneses performs Bloch Schelomo with the Seattle Symphony. 443-4747.
June 10 Leo Winland and Cecile Licad perform Janacek Pohadka for Cello and Piano at the Seattle International Music Festival. 233-0993.
June 15 Truls Moerk and Alexander Markovich perform Grieg Cello and Piano Sonata in a minor, op. 36 at the Seattle International Music Festival. 233-0993.
June 18 Gary Hoffman and Michel Dalberto perform Webern Three Pieces for Cello and Piano, op. 11, and Truls Moerk, with the New European Strings Chamber Orchestra, performs Haydn Cello Concerto in C Major at the Seattle International Music Festival. 233-0993.
June 21 Gary Hoffman and Michel Dalberto perform Mendelssohn's Lied Ohne Worte for Cello and Piano in D Major, op. 109, Sonata for Cello and Piano #1 in B Flat Major, op. 45, and Sonata for Cello and Piano #2 in D Major, op. 58 at the Seattle International Music Festival. 233-0993.
July 11 Gary Hoffman and Rena Sharon perform Prokofiev Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major, op. 119, at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival,
July 27 Steven Doane and Barry Snyder perform Faure Romance for Cello and Piano, op. 69, Sonata for Cello and Piano in g minor, op. 117, and Papillon for Cello and Piano, op. 77 at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival. 328-1425.
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