Seattle Violoncello Society Newsletter, July 1994 (c)Seattle Violoncello Society


I have many goals for next season. I hope to get Yo-Yo Ma and/or Janos Starker for a master class or lecture, and I hope to start a series of Seattle Violoncello Society, membership recitals, so that we mere mortals may have an opportunity to perform. We will continue the ever popular tradition of the Bach Suite Marathon. And we are in the process of organizing and sponsoring a cello recital given by Seattle Symphony and Bridge Ensemble cellist, David Tonkonogui. So it looks like we're going to have another great year.

Now that I have you in a dreamy haze, reach into your pocket and pull out $15 for your membership renewal. Yes, it's that time again, the time for those annoying red dots. Thank you for your support this past year, and we hope you will continue your membership.

Tim Finholt

In this issue:

Lynn Harrell and Warren Lash Master Classes

Bach Suite Movement Definitions

Is there such thing as a wrong interpretation?


Cello News

1. Eva Heinitz donates her cello

Eva Heinitz has donated her 1700 Gofriller cello to the School of Music at Indiana University, in care of Janos Starker. Ms. Heinitz, who is 87, says her decision came because of her respect for Starker and his teaching. The rare instrument, by the same maker as Starker's own cello, will be sold to endow a fund for students and visiting artists. It is valued at $600,000-$1,000,000.

2. Rostropovich retires from the NSO

Mstislav Rostropovich, 67, will retire from his post as conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC at the end of the 1993-94 season. He will be succeeded by Leonard Slatkin.

3. Sarajevo cellist update

Bosnian cellist Vedran Smailovic and his family have been able to leave Sarajevo. The cellist became famous two years ago for performing the Albinoni Adagio every day for 22 days at the site where 22 Sarajevans had been killed when a Serbian mortar shell struck a bread line. Smailovic's brave tribute, at the risk of his own life, inspired David Wilde's piece, The Cellist of Sarajevo. Yo-Yo Ma paid tribute to Smailovic in a solo recital in San Francisco in March, which included performances of both Wilde's piece and the Albinoni.

4. Cello Master Classes

The International Academy of Chamber Music will present cello master classes September 1-6 in Kronberg, Germany. The classes will be with British cellist William Pleeth, Finnish cellist Arto Noras, and French cellist Philippe Muller.

5. Call for articles

The editor of this newsletter has made it a goal to publish only essays written by local authors. This contrasts with other cello society newsletters which usually reprint magazine articles. In pursuit of this goal, the editor has had the pleasure of writing all of the articles thus far. As a result, however, the probably weary membership has had to endure long-winded presumptuous article after article, praying for other contributions. It is assumed that the membership, and definitely the editor, would appreciate other writers surfacing. So if you have an idea for an article, please call Tim Finholt at 634-0355. Thanks.

6. The red dot returns

If you have a red dot on your newsletter envelope, it's time for you to renew your membership. See the last page of the newsletter for the membership application.

Cello Literature

1. Adult student inspirational book

For those of you who are frustrated or fearful adult cello students, Never Too Late, by John Holt (1991, Addison-Wesley) should give you some inspiration. At the age of forty, with no particular musical background, John Holt took up the cello. His personal account demolishes the myth that one must start an instrument in early childhood.

2. "The Cello Left Hand and Instrument Position Diagnostic Skills Training Program" (A Video Tape) by Robert Gillespie, William Conable, and Brent Wilson.

This video analyzes the body and left hand position of cellists. Examples of poor posture and left arm and hand positions are demonstrated and contrasted with more relaxed, natural, and "proper" positions. The topics include the position of the body, the position of the instrument, left arm and hand in lower positions, and extensions. The viewer is asked to analyze several students and to evaluate their positions. The viewer's answers are then compared to a panel of "experts" ratings. The video tape is accompanied by a workbook to aid in the analysis. Don't look at the bow grips though; all of the students in this "authoritative" video use the violin bow hold with the pinky on top of the stick. For more information about RENTAL of this video, write to:

ASTA Media Resource Center

110 Weigel Hall/1866 College Road

Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio 43210-1170

Lynn Harrell Master Class

On April 10, 1994, Lynn Harrell conducted a Chamber Ensemble Master Class at the UW School of Music. The following pieces were performed:

Brahms Quintet in G Major, Op. 111, No. 2 with Wolfgang Linke on cello.

Popper Requiem, Op. 66 with cellists Gretchen Yanover, Zoltan Stephan, and Leslie Hirt.

Richard Karpen's Nexus (1986) a string quartet with Zoltan Stephan on cello.

Mr. Harrell was playing on his 1720 Venice Montagnana. He bought it in 1963 with the life insurance money he received when his parents died. He also owns a Strad, which was previously used by Jacqueline Du Pre.

Some of the Mr. Harrell's points were as follows:

1) In the big opening cello solo of the Brahms, put in breaks between the longer notes because it helps bring out the part over the roar of the other players, is more emphatic, and results in cleaner articulation.

2) Tighten and focus the sound by bearing down with more pressure and a slower bow.

3) Use of Rubato--if the rhythm is slightly askew, a greater sense of emotion is conveyed.

4) For stronger vibrato, use two fingers.

5) Use a wider vibrato in chamber music to aid in projection.

6) Tempered tuning--Tune in "tight" or slightly smaller fifths in chamber groups. If you don't, by the time you get to the C string, you will be flat relative to the violin. This was demonstrated by having the violinist play his open E string and the cellist open C string. They were out of tune with respect to each other because the cellist had tuned his cello in pure fifths (the "normal" tuning procedure).

7) Mr. Harrell tunes in pure fifths (normal tuning) as a soloist since he must play loudly and with much pressure, which raises the pitch already, thus matching the violins.

8) One can create a huge crescendo by increasing bow pressure while increasing the speed and width of one's vibrato.

9) Don't spend your whole life trying to figure out how you did something. Technical solutions should come through musical demands and your heart. Don't be so clinical all the time.

10) Practice different vibrato speeds.

11) Lynn Harrell changes his bow grip depending on musical demands. He bows with the bow held in his fingertips to achieve delicate colors and tones. He holds the bow in his fist, the pinky pulling up on the nut of the stick, to achieve power.

Warren Lash Master Class

On May 15, 1994, Warren Lash taught a cello master class at the UW School of Music. Five people were in attendance. Mr. Lash, better known in the East Coast chamber music scene, had among his teachers the great Leonard Rose. Clad in shorts and sneakers, Mr. Lash said that Leonard Rose, who he felt was one of the greatest cellists of his day, had a peculiar fear of big shifts. He said that before Mr. Rose would make a big shift, his whole body would visibly move back from his cello. The following pieces were performed:

Cheryl Bushnell, Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations, Theme and Variations 1-4.

Leslie Hirt, Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations, Variations 5-7.

Loren Dempster, Elgar Cello Concerto.

All of the above are students of Ray Davis.

Some of Mr. Lash's points were as follows:

1) Know the musical goal notes of each phrase ie. the peaks. Know the direction of phrases.

2) Use the thumb as a guide in big shifts.

3) Big shifts do not just involve two points, A and B. Shifts have time and space. Consider the trip, not just the destination..

4) Big shifts involve the whole body, not just the hand.

5) Free up the bow arm. Give it life.

6) Don't start bowing from above the string. Start on the string.

7) Use the thumb as a guide when playing octaves.

8) Play as connectedly and with as long a line as possible.

Cello Suite Movement Definitions

"Every Suite consists of a Prelude followed by five dances, each of which retains its basic rhythmic character. Many have a downright rustic quality; with Bach you are connected to the earth. It's a pity when performers sentimentalize this rhythmic element. Each dance also has its distinguishing tempo. A Courante will be rapid, a Sarabande slow, though, as I've said, not so slow as to lose its three-beat-per-bar motion. By respecting the inherent nature of each dance, the interpreter will find the contrast of tempos which bring variety within the suite."

-- Paul Tortelier

(Paul Tortelier and David Blum, Paul Tortelier: A Self Portrait. (London: Heinemann Ltd, 1984) p. 158-159.

The following definitions are excerpted from The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. These are by no means intended to be a complete dissertation on each movement, but are provided to at least make the reader aware of some fundamental attributes that each movement possesses. Read these definitions and then compare them with the Bach Cello Suites. You may need a music dictionary just to understand the defintions, but it's worth the effort. You'll find that Bach was definitely aware of these definitions when he composed the Cello Suites. Isn't it wonderful to have even a little insight into Bach's methods?!

Prelude -- The essential function of the prelude is to attract the listener's attention and define the pitch, mode or tonality of a following set of dances. Most are thematically unrelated to the piece or pieces they preface.

Allemande -- In its mature Baroque form (ca. 1660-1750), its characteristics had more to do with idiomatic instrumental writing than dance rhythms. In solo harpsichord, lute, and viol music, it ordinarily has quadruple meter and binary form, beginning with one or more upbeats and proceeding to cadences on down-beats in phrases of irregular lengths. Its texture is permeated with imitation and style brise figures that obscure a sense of clear-cut melodic phrases; its mood is serious and its tempo moderately slow.

Courante -- A Baroque dance movement in triple meter. It originated in the 16th century and became a regular member of the solo suite, following the allemande, by ca. 1630. Two versions, ultimately considered French and Italian, coexisted; most composers used courant and corrente interchangeably as titles, however. The Italian type uses fast triple meter (3/4 or 3/8), often with triadic or scalar figuration in even eighth or sixteenth notes. It generally has homophonic texture, but imitative openings are not uncommon. Both styles are usually in binary form, although early examples may have three strains. Both begin with upbeats and end on the strong beat.

Sarabande -- A Baroque dance movement in triple meter. In France and Germany, it was usually slow and majestic, characterized by an accented dotted note on the second beat, beginning without upbeat, and cadencing on the third beat. It was normally in binary form, with fairly regular four- or eight-bar phrases and simple melodies that invited profuse ornamentation, sometimes written out or following as a double. It was in France that the sarabande was transformed into an essentially slow dance. German composers generally followed French rather than Italian models, adopting their slow tempo and accented second beat in music for harpsichord, lute and chamber ensembles.

Minuet -- An elegante dance movement in triple meter (usually 3/4 of enormous popularity ca. 1650-1800). It is usually in binary form, with very regular phrases constructed of four-measure units, beginning without upbeat and cadencing on the strong beat. Its straightforward melodic design did not encourage elaborate ornamentation or contrapuntal texture. The small, quick dance steps have a hemiola relationship to the meter; therefore, accented second beats and hemiola melodic figures are common in minuets. Such pieces were slower when danced, especially in France, and moderately quick as independent instrumental music.

Bourree -- A lively, fluent Baroque dance movement in duple meter and binary form. It usually has four-measure phrases in cut time, a quarter-note up-beat, dactylic figures in quarters and eighths, and syncopations in quarters and halves (especially in the second or fourth measures of phrases).

Gavotte -- A gracious Baroque dance movement in duple meter. Usually it has four-measure phrases that begin and end in the middle of the bar, and its meter is cut time. It uses simple rhythmic motives and does not often have syncopations or other complications. It is generally moderate or sprightly in tempo, but slower than a bourree.

Gigue -- A fast Baroque dance movement in binary form, the last movement of the mature suite. The details of rhythm and texture vary greatly, deriving from Italian and French models. The Italian giga features triadic, sequential running figures in even note-values in 12/8 at presto tempo. Its texture is mostly homophonic, and phrases are in four-measure units. French versions are less consistent, often having dotted rhythms in duple meter (usually compound, but also simple), syncopations, hemiolas, and cross rhythms. The most influential type opens each strain with imitation and has irregular phrase lengths. Many composers, especially Germany, mixed elements of the two schools.

Technical Tip

"Intonation is in the head, not in the cello." -- Irene Sharp ( From October 1990 Oregon Cello Society newsletter)


Responses to the "are music schools a scam" topic

It's all fine and good to say that undergraduate music students should know what they are getting into if they decide to earn a music degree. But I don't believe this is fair. Most of them don't know, and neither do the music school professors. An undergraduate performance major going into any music school other than Juilliard or Curtis or a few others has a distinct advantage. In the last five years, the competition has become so intense that these students are lost in competition with a world market--plus older diehards who lost their performance jobs due to budget cuts.

I certainly believe that music schools should exist. For one, they are definitely job security for many musicians. It has always been in the best interest of music faculty to NOT discourage music majors. They would jeopardize their own existence by maintaining a separate existence from the college campus, and the world.

I believe that music departments have a responsibility to offer as many options as possible to music majors, as well as to outside majors. Music departments should also be much more accessible in offering courses to the community. There are lots of serious adults who would gladly work hard to earn performance credits at night, but have a day job. Music departments have many good reasons to exist for many segments of the population. However, I don't believe that music schools can continue to look the other way. Even conservatories like Juilliard and Curtis are questioning their cloistered status.

It is not the responsibility of teachers and music schools to counsel music students to bleak job prospects. But it is their responsibility to offer many choices within and outside the department--even to only justify their existence. I think that it should almost be a requirement that an undergraduate music major also minor in something else. Music departments cannot control a bleak job market, and cannot be surrogate parents to students. But they must try to adjust to the realities of the world outside.


Part of me feels like music schools are not doing anything wrong. After all, do we hold history or political science, or philosophy professors to the same standard? How many students of these professors become professional historians, political scientists, or philosophers? Almost none.

Just because somebody enters music school is no guarantee that they will be able to get a music job. Not all will have the talent, the emotional stamina, or the work ethic to reach a level that will make them competitive in the job market.

On the other hand, I feel that it is the responsibility of the music school to counsel the students in the realities of job prospects. Most entering students are starry-eyed idealists full of fantasies of becoming the next Isaac Stern or a member of the Chicago Symphony. Usually around their junior or senior year, they start to get the picture and start to wonder if they've locked themselves into a field with little prospects.

It's important that music schools accept students so that they continue to be in business. But if a music school accepts them when it's pretty clear that they have little chance of making it, then this is wrong. When music schools do this, and it happens all the time, then they have lowered themselves to mercenary status.

Boris Berkov

Suggested Topic for Future Letters

The following article delves into an abstract, "philosophical" discussion about music and ethics. Is this article basically a complete waste of time, having little to do with the musical and artistic experience?

Is There Such Thing as a Wrong Interpretation?

by Tim Finholt

Usually after a concert I feel spiritually rejuvinated, happy that I went, and I eagerly await the next one. But sometimes I leave in an annoyed or frustrated state because I strongly disagreed with the musician's approach or interpretation of a piece. I then wonder why I am reacting so strongly. Is it because I am too critical? Perhaps I need to just lighten up.

Another possibility is that the musician was wrong. Perhaps the musician missed the point of the piece (in my eyes of course), or had misplaced priorities in his or her performance. But then again, maybe there is no such thing as a wrong interpretation and it is I who am wrong to be critical of the performance. It is all so confusing and I find myself torn between the popular notion of "open-mindedness" and the very unpopular and often offensive notion of "conviction."

Hoping to untangle my thoughts, I asked the readers of our newsletter for their views on this subject. Unfortunately, I asked a question that speaks too much to the foundation of our culture and of the Arts: freedom of expression. Because of this factor, I am not confident that I am receiving opinions free from popular cultural bias. Anybody who tries to infringe upon freedom of expression is immediately drowned out. "The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate [in today's world] the great insight of our times...The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all."[1] So, predictably, all of the responses to my query emphatically stated that of course there isn't such a thing as a wrong interpretation; "in the art world, there is no right or wrong, and we all have to deal with that."[2] Part of me wants desperately to fall in line with the openness troops, to succumb to this musical political correctness, but another part of me resists because the answer is too seductive, too popular. I refuse to buy into this idea without careful analysis. So here I go.

One could question why this issue matters in the first place. For me, it is a question of personal ethics and integrity. Just as from a religious perspective, drinking a cup of coffee while filled with the Spirit is morally superior to drinking without it, a performance filled with the "spirit of music", a term to be defined later, is superior to a performance without it. One should strive to do the "right thing" and music, like all activities, should have a moral center.

Music, in a hopefully not too nauseating way, can be viewed as a microcosm of life. Music like life, is a transient or impermanent phenomenon; we live, we die, and we are gone. Likewise in music, we play, we stop playing (ie. the end of a piece), and the sounds disappear into the universe. And because of this relationship, if we admit that we should lead our lives with integrity, then it follows that we should play music with the same integrity. Why should this world view suddenly stop just because one is playing music? Because of this impermanence, a horrifyingly limited amount of time, it is that much more critical that we "get it right" while we have the chance.

Another reason that many may be hesitant to go out on a limb and declare an interpretation as wrong, besides "openness," is that it is very difficult to discern the difference between right and wrong. First of all, unless one knows the score intimately, it is more difficult to know for sure if the musician is at least playing what's written. In any given audience, there is probably a maximum of five people who have intimate knowledge of the score. Therefore, the primary element a typical audience member can use as a yard stick is whether he or she was entertained, in addition to blatant technical blunders of course. This would explain why the audience was on its feet for Lynn Harrell's recent performance of the Haydn C Major concerto; they loved him because he was an excellent entertainer.

Before I continue further, I want to warn the reader to the fact that I am about to make a few analogies to acting. Music and acting have many common elements and therefore the analogy can be safely taken quite far. Acting like music deals with written material that is presented to a crowd by a performer. Moods and ideas are communicated by varying the speed of delivery (tempo and rubato), inflections (attacks, articulations), phrasing, dynamics, etc..

In light of this warning, it is more difficult to tell if a musical interpretation is wrong because instrumental music is a non-verbal activity. While the majority of people are skilled at verbal discernment, most of us fall short in non-verbal activities. We all know when an actor is over-acting, or not quite capturing the mood or the meaning of a passage. And yet when a musician does the same thing in music, we are hesitant to make a judgment because we are not as confident of our ability to judge.

An example from the theatre would be a bad delivery of Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech. Imagine if an actor were to deliver the speech while laughing uncontrollably:

"TO hah hah hah BE ho ho ho OR NOT TO hee hee hee BE...."

Would we not all search desperately for a bucket of rotten tomatoes with which to pummel the actor? This is analogous to a musician who doesn't evoke the appropriate mood of a piece.

Or imagine if this speech were delivered in David Carradine fashion, with pregnant pauses between each word (from the old TV show "Kung Fu"):

"To ... be ... or ... not ... to ... be."

This is analogous to a musician not phrasing properly, and dwelling too much on each note instead of the longer line, the bigger picture.

Or imagine it embellished in a ridiculous fashion:

"To be or not to be, dude."

This is analogous to a performer inserting tasteless or perhaps excessive ornaments. Would we not all immediately demand our money back from the theatre, assuming this was supposed to be a serious production? We all know bad acting when we see it, but we have a harder time judging a musical performance. It just takes a little more work and knowledge.

So what criteria could we use for judging whether an interpretation is right or wrong? Possible criteria are whether the musician is playing what's written, if he or she is playing with good rhythm, or playing in a tempo that allows the listener to experience the music in the written time signature, etc.. However, though important concepts, these are only symptoms or evidence of a performer's approach. What is going on inside the musician's head is the key.

I contend that as long as a person is "filled with the spirit" of conscientious musicianship, he or she cannot possibly have a wrong interpretation, no matter what he or she does. If one goes through the "correct" process in determining one's interpretation, then one cannot be wrong. You must ask yourself very introspective questions in order to discern this state of mind and why you are playing a certain way. The questions include but I'm sure are not limited to the following:

1. Am I playing what's written or clearly implied?

We all have an obligation to at least start with what's written. This includes the notes, the rhythms, written dynamics, the score, etc.. After all, who are we to change what Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart wrote. What incredible arrogance if we do! These composers have the qualities of the eternal, while we will most likely be quickly forgotten. "Generations come and generations go,"[3] but the great composers will live on through their music.

It's important to at least start with what's written so that one has a point of reference. We all understand that the written notes are just the beginning, but we must at least start there.

2. Why am I using vibrato in this manner or using this much? Is it out of habit or because it conveys the mood or idea that I want to present?

It's too easy to slip into "automatic pilot" and use your old standby vibrato; "Some listeners like this, but I become very bored. It is like having pie and ice-cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner."[4] The great musicians are very conscious of their vibrato and are constantly varying its amplitude and frequency, trying to find the exact sound that paints their conceived picture. This also applies to many other mannerisms like slamming the bow, habitual vibrato swells, etc..

3. Do I understand the style and performance practice of the period in which the piece was played?

We should not play a certain way out of ignorance. Of course, this is a learning process for all of us. But it's important to at least try to be aware of the performance practice of the period in which the music was composed. For example, I would not expect a juicy vibrato used in baroque music? There are many times when I have chosen to play a certain way, only to find out that I did not know what I was doing, which I always find to be embarassing. In my mind, my interpretation was flat out wrong. Ignorance is no excuse for doing something wrong. In fact, I would contend that no matter how one plays, if one is ignorant of history, music theory, performance practice, then the interpretation is automatically inferior. One cannot make choices unless one knows the options. Choosing is superior to settling for your best guess.

4. What is the basis of my tempo? Has it been determined out of sentimentality or personal expedience, or because it best serves the music?

It is tempting to play pieces slowly because of sentimentality or technical difficulties. We must fight this impulse. Just because a piece or a moment is beautiful does not mean you slow down and savor each note. I see this happen in all kinds of music, from Bach to Dvorak. The problem with this is that the overall flow of the piece is destroyed. It's as if the piece comes to a halt and you can no longer see where the music is going or sense the overall structure of the piece. This sentimentality is dangerous and can ruin a performance.

Musicians will also play slower because of technical difficulties. We all must contend with this problem, but it must be overcome. All a sudden the musician has placed his or her mundane problems above the art of music. I find this to be a terrible upheaval of the true priorities in a performance. Don't let bad technique be your master; be a servant to the music.

5. Am I playing a certain way just to show off, because the crowd will love it, or is my focus the music?

There are some musicians who seem more interested in entertaining the crowd than the music. Everybody loves a juicy vibrato, everybody loves lightning fast tempi. But just because the audience loves it, doesn't make it appropriate. The public also would be thrilled by fireworks and dancing girls during a performance. Do we give them these too? Hopefully, your answer is no.

If the answer to any of the above obviously rhetorical questions is contrary to the implied answer, then you must ask yourself why you are defying these "rules?" If your answer is:

"Yes, I know that most musicians think that it should be played like this, but I feel it is better this way."

then, you are not wrong, though other interpretations may be better to some listeners. However, if you choose an interpretation out of laziness, ignorance, technical deficiency, or to please the crowd, then your interpretation is definitely wrong, even to the musician who, filled with the "spirit," comes up with, to put it kindly, an eccentric interpretation.

Note that all of the questions above involve a total awareness of what you do. What's important is the process by which you come to an interpretation, not the end result. It is my contention that if you are truly filled with the "spirit of music", a humility towards the composer and his creation, that you will automatically play a certain way. Just as it assumed that a religious person filled with the Spirit will not murder somebody in cold blood, a musician filled with the "spirit of music" will not play Bach with a huge vibrato or arhythmically, play the Debussy Sonata without following the explicit instructions of the composer, or play an Adagio so slow that the indicated time signature is distorted.

Anybody can play out of control. Anybody can play with no rules or guidelines. But a great artist plays with self-control and integrity. The great musicians think about "how much:" how much vibrato, how much ritardando, how fast, how loud, how much rubato, etc.. Anybody can play with a juicy vibrato. Anybody can play loudly. Anybody can play with lots of rubato. But the great artists find that wonderful and yet still personal line between too much and too little. Anybody can succumb to temptation to over-do something (the usual artistic sin committed), but true character is demonstrated by those who are tempted and turn to a higher calling, to the "spirit of music." "Fantasy all you want, but fantasy with order."[5]

The reader may ask, "Who is the judge?" The average audience member can't be the judge, since he or she probably doesn't know the score, and is often more interested in entertainment, not Art. Another musician has a better chance of formulating an intelligent opinion, since he or she probably knows the score intimately and is familiar with the standard bag of performance tricks. However, he or she cannot look into the performer's soul. Therefore, the only person that has a chance of honestly judging the performer is the performer him or herself.

One could ask "What if the performer is not introspective enough or does not have the qualifications to intelligently judge him or herself?" I contend that this is analogous to the classic question: "If a tree falls in a forest and there is nobody there to hear it, is there a sound?" Of course there is a sound. Whether or not the performer's soul is perceived, there is still an artistic standard, like the laws of physics and sound transmission in the forest. Whether the performer knows it or not, he or she is participating in an activity that has standards, and has context in the larger scheme of music history, practice, and artistry.

Some may feel that this approach too limiting. On the contrary, I see great freedom in this approach and much room for spontaneity. The assumption of this objection is that the presence of rules and guidelines is suffocating. Do we consider that just because there is a law against murder that our spirit is somehow choked? Of course not. Similarly, there are infinitely many interpretations of a work, even within certain guidelines. As a wonderful example of boundless depth within a system of rules, look at Bach and his music; Bach followed rather strict rules of composition, and yet I hope nobody would claim his music sounds creatively and spiritually squelched.

What's wonderful about this approach, from the listener's standpoint, is that now the words "right" and "wrong" can be thrown out! Since the listener can't read the performer's mind, the listener must keep an open mind, and must allow for the existence of other valid interpretations. The listener can still argue why a performance was not good, but he or she cannot say that the interpretation was "wrong," no matter how much he or she hated it. I find this to be quite liberating.

So is there such thing as a wrong interpretation? If you, as the performing musician, are filled with the "spirit of music," then no. If you go through the process outlined above, then I, as a listener, can only say that I do not like your interpretation or that I think another interpretation is better, not that it is wrong. However, if you, the performer, do not go through the process, then, yes, I'm afraid your interpretation is definitely wrong. Sorry.

Perhaps, though, I just need to lighten up.


1. "Extension and Contraction" by David Starkweather, from American String Teacher, Spring 1994.

"Note that the hand relaxes to a relatively closed position as soon as possible.

"Many cellists choose to increase the use of extensions in slow, melodious passages."

In thumb position, "except for extreme cases, the angle of the thumb across the string should not change, but should remain at a right angle.

"Unnecessary tension in the hand can easily result from extensions, but the placement of an extended finger should be accompanied by a contraction of the hand so that the extension has essentially 'walked' the hand into a new position ... 'inchworm fingering.' "

2. "Revitalizing Music Out West" by David Blum, from The Strad, April 1994.

David Blum interviews Bonnie Hampton, former student of Pablo Casals and current cello professor at the San Francisco Conservatory.

"She would compare a cellist's balance and movement to the natural rhythmic life of the body."

When playing quartets, the cellist, most of the time, "needs a fuller, rounder sound--a sound that has both resilience and depth, that is warm and vibrant with much overtone ring."

Casals "surpassed analysis. He kept himself open to his intuition, to the alive moment. He had a sure instinct about getting into the expressive world of each composer, and allowed himself to tap into depths and energies that most of us don't often experience. The most important thing I learned from Casals is that it's one's lifetime task to find one's own direction, one's own voice, one's own connection with the music."

"...the page is only a blueprint, and...the life of the music depends on getting it off the page."

"I also find that many string players give insufficient attention to the bow...Real technique comes from the bow. It's our voice, and it always has to be flexible in shaping the music."


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.

October 16 Page Smith performs in the Ravel Sonata for Violin and Cello at the Seattle Art Museum auditorium. 343- 0445.

January 22 Page Smith and Duane Hulbert perform Bridge Sonata for Cello and Piano. 343-0445.

January 8 David Tonkonogui cello recital at the Seattle Art Museum.

February 24 Yo-Yo Ma and Pamela Frank appear in recital at Meany Theatre. 543-4880.

April 3,4 Daniel Gaisford performs the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Seattle Symphony. 443-4747

May 1,2 Janos Starker performs the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Seattle Symphony. 443- 4747.

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