Message from the Editor
As we enter a new millennium, I have been reflecting on my own favorite aspects of the Internet Cello Society. Our mission remains the same: "The Internet Cello Society, an international cyber-community of cellists, seeks to advance the knowledge and joy of cello playing around the world." Despite our general focus, it is clear that the role of the Internet Cello Society is becoming more significant in bringing cellists together, creating a positive learning environment, and accumulating a comprehensive archive of cello-related documents, graphics and recordings.
The fraternity of the Internet Cello Society allows us to meet other cellists from around the world. Here are two examples from my own life. As a result of contact made through ICS, my studio and I will enjoy hearing ICS members Paul Tseng and Douglas Moore perform at our school, Central Washington University, this year. I am also looking forward to participating in the 2nd Kobe International Cello Festival this coming July. Initially created to spread awareness of the suffering that followed the huge earthquake that destroyed much of Kobe, the Kobe International Cello Festival's continued mission is to encourage peace and hope among all nations through the power of music. The 1st Kobe Festival featured a 1000 piece cello choir with cellists from around the world. I recently searched our membership database to contact 30 ICS members from Japan, some of whom I hope to meet. We are inevitably becoming a global village of cellists and cello enthusiasts, both in cyber-space and in the real world.
What I have come to value about our global, cyber conversation among cellists is that it is all-inclusive and that it has, from what I have been told, become a source of encouragement for so many cellists. Our membership has many active young people as well as seasoned cellists. Several individuals have become regulars of the Cello Chat boards and have developed close friendships over the years. Sometimes members just want a second opinion, or need to discuss alternative ways to reach their goals. Our members or ICS Hosts thoughtfully answer most questions. The positive interactions within the ICS community constantly remind me that as a teacher it is important to validate the successful aspects of my students' playing, to reinforce their inherent strengths, to bolster their confidence in order to tackle their weaknesses, and to ensure that they come out of the lesson a more independent learner. For many of us, the same is true of our attitude towards our own playing. Too often we do not balance our self-critique with self-encouragement.
Soon in the New Year, the ICS Coldfusion database programming by Andrew Tollervey of classicol.com will be completed. This type of programming will allow all of the ICS membership to become involved in developing the ICS website contents! Our fundraising campaign to reach this goal has gone well. With little prompting, a number of members of the Internet Cello Society donated generously to support this development of our website. We have raised $1,865 towards our goal of $3,000 (reduced by Andrew from the original $5,000 due to a work-related delay). Now we only have $1,135 left to raise!
It is a wonderful gift, the ability to make music. Yesterday my wife showed me a part of a book by Anne Lamott in which she describes listening to a congregation sing: "There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food. Something inside me that was stiff and rotting would feel soft and tender. Somehow the singing wore down all the boundaries and distinctions that kept me so isolated" May your music bring you closer to the Infinite this new millennium!
>> I identify three questions that vex today's cellists concerning the Bach cello suites. These are:
Musicological and forensic research coupled with logical analysis can lead us to reasonable guesses regarding #1, but without Bach's holograph manuscript we will never know for sure. Regarding question #2, no matter how much was written about performance style during the 18th century and has been written since then, words are not sounds. Until someone invents a time machine, we can never know how the suites were played back then. All of the real debate centers on #3. (Adding a question #3a, "How should the suites be performed today on a baroque cello?" doesn't change much. Virtually all musicologists and 'authentic' baroque performers ignore the fact that cellist Bernard Christian Linike, the performer for whom Bach likely wrote the suites, was born in 1673, making him almost fifty when the suites were composed in 1720. It is very probable that he played with an underhand bow grip, thus giving many overhand baroque-bowing ideas limited relevance.)
My view on #3 is that if the suites are to be played succesfully on a modern cello, they must be considered to be transcriptions. They should be viewed in the same light as playing harpsichord music on a modern piano -- which in my opinion fails if the pianist simply tries to imitate a harpsichord. Even if we could know for sure what Bach's bowings were, that would not change this issue. Many original bowings do not work on a modern cello (whether they were conceived for an underhand or an overhand bow grip).
I do not advocate ignoring what we can learn from studying the original sources that we have: the choice of bowings can greatly influence the character of an entire movement. But I have a difficult time believing that such a great improviser and virtuoso performer as J. S. Bach would expect any cellist to slavishly follow every slur he wrote (let alone slavishly follow hypothetical slurs). The music is the important thing. Bach's transcription of the fifth suite for the lute, an instrument without a bow, proves this point.
The editors of new Bärenreiter Urtext edition, which, in the absense of Bach's holograph, cannot correctly be called an urtext edition (if, indeed, any edition truly can), accomplish the very useful service of providing nearly all of the information available to anyone regarding question #1. (It would have been nice if the edition had included, in addition to the four manuscript facsimiles and the 1824 Norblin edition, a facsimile of Bach's manuscript of the lute version of the fifth suite.) Their text volume is informative, but its conclusions essentially sidestep the underhand bow grip issue. Equally important, the editors make two tacit assumptions with which I disagree: that all cellists would (or should) wish to play the suites in an 'authentic' 18th century style, and that cellists should play all of the written slurs as literally as possible.
Because the Barenreiter edition leaves the interpretation of the facsimiles' slurs up to individual cellists, all other 'authentic' editions become opinions that one may or may not wish to consult. Performance editions, in which the editors suggest bowings, fingerings, and in some cases, even notes, are yet more opinions. One can collect many such 'lessons in absentia' and get lots of good ideas -- as well as many bad ideas.
Ultimately any performance will not succeed or fail because of bowings unless those bowings are chosen idealogically instead of musically. Rhythm, phrasing, timing, tempo, energy, and flow are the crucial elements of a performance and these cannot be relinquished to editors or musicologists. They are the responsibility of the player.
Professor of Cello, Temple University
>> I just wanted to say thanks for great interview with Zara Nelsova. I know there have been various references to her in past ICS newsletters, but I'm glad that someone finally got around to doing an extensive interview with this remarkable woman. She was my teacher for five years and I remain so grateful for her demanding generosity.
>> When changing between two adjacent positions (i.e. from B on the A-string to A on the D-string using the fourth finger) I've seen two approaches: a) Think of shifting with the first finger to C# and letting the fourth finger fall on A, or, b) stretching (extension). Is there a preferred approach when teaching children?
Bob Jesselson, President of ASTA with NSOA, replies: I would definitely prefer your first option, since the second one is really an "over-extension" which would stretch the hand out of its normal position. I would not teach "over-extensions" until the student has mastered the regular extension (i.e. a Major 3rd between 1st and 4th fingers). Your example uses a Perfect 4th between the 1st and 4th fingers (plus distance across strings). There is, however, another option: shifting to C with 1st finger and then doing a usual extension across the string.
However, pedagogically I would teach them in this order: 1) your option (a), which makes clear use of knowing positions (1st position to II 1/2 position), which is the clearest for a young student learning the cello geography 2) shift to C and then extend (which also uses knowledge of positions (1st position to II Extended position) and finally 3) your option (b).
I feel that it is very important for students to first understand their neck positions, up through VII position, in what I call "block positions." Only after they have mastered this (with scales and arpeggios clearly worked out) will I begin talking about other variants for the left hand. One other factor here: understanding Classical versus Romantic shifts, in which you either slide on the arrival finger (romantic) or use a "guide" finger to shift and then articulate with another finger (classical). I hope that this short explanation helps.
>> I know absolutely nothing about the cello -- even the tuning -- except that I love the sound, and I got a wild hair the other day and began daydreaming about taking lessons. Then I found your website! What a spectacular piece of work! Thanks!
>> I am not a cellist, but I was a friend of Paul Tortelier, and I can tell Lise [see Letter to the Editor in the last Tutti Celli] that her teacher is right. Paul Tortelier's wife, Maud, told me on the phone yesterday that he placed his thumb only on the A-string and that he was the first to do so.
>> Remember my search for my sister, the late Eva Czako/Janzer, and your society's help in my quest? Well I'm happy to tell you that contact has been successfully established with my nephew (Eva's son)and we are planning a meeting in 2001 when my husband and I go to Europe for a holiday (we live in Australia). Thank you so much for your help.
Yours very sincerely,
Erika Lloyd (nee Czako)
>> Can anyone please tell me what age (typically) a child can begin learning how to play the cello?
Bob Jesselson, President of ASTA with NSOA, replies: Children can begin playing the cello at a very early age with the Suzuki method, which is particularly well suited for young children (age 3 and up) to learn to play an instrument just like they learn a language -- very young, by listening and "playing" together with a parent. Before Suzuki introduced this "mother tongue" concept of learning an instrument, children often began playing at age 7 or 8 or younger. In the public schools in this country children usually begin playing in the 4th, 5th, or 6th grades. It is generally accepted that learning music is easiest when children are relatively young. There seems to be a "window of opportunity" when the brain seems to be most open for learning music. There is a lot of research now available that points to the relationship between learning music and certain brain development. I hope this helps to answer your question.
>> I have another question about smooth bow changes. My teacher taught me about making little "waves" with the bow and, when reaching the tip, making use of this movement in order to change the direction of the bow cleanly. At the moment of the change at the tip, the movement would be clockwise and at the frog it would be counter-clockwise. But I've read the opposite advice from others, like in Werner Thomas-Mifune's book. Which is correct?
Bob Jesselson, President of ASTA with NSOA, replies: What you are trying to avoid is having the bow go directly back along the same path that it came. If you do that it will inevitably stop the vibration of the string for an instant, which will result in a stop in sound and then a rearticulation which will make a "bump." In other words, not a smooth bow change.
So the question is: is it possible to reverse direction of the bow without going back along the same path to avoid a bump in the sound. It is similar to a car which needs to go back where it came from. One option is to go into reverse. But that means stopping the car for a second and then putting it into reverse. The other option is to keep driving forward but making an arc and come back around (i.e. a U-turn). That way you reverse direction without stopping the car.
On the cello you can make U-turns (i.e. circles, arcs) on several different planes in space. You can rotate the stick (change amount of hair) with your fingers, you can play on different sides of the string as you change bows, you can make a wave as you described -- and all of those motions can go clockwise and counterclockwise. Experiment with each and you will see that you get different sounds with the different circles. Also experiment with weight (lighter) and bow speed as you change directions. This will help keep the vibrations going.
This is the "short answer" -- the longer answer requires demonstrations and examples, which is impossible to do by e-mail! But if you take this information and try, you will find some good solutions. Good luck with your smooth bow changes!
Gerhard Mantel replies: In my book Cello Technique I discuss the bow change quite extensively. Let us start at the tip. At the tip, the hand moves (except for upward string crossings) in the wrist joint (wrist axis) to complete the last downbow inch or fraction thereof, depending on the overall bow speed. Since the hand, at the tip, is positioned at an angle (pronated), a downward movement in the wrist axis (called dorsal movement) will move the hand with the bow a little bit toward the next lower string level, without by far touching it, and at the same time toward the right, to finish the downbow and to allow the arm to return in the upbow direction, while the hand still completes the downbow. This results in a fast wrist movement, larger with fast bow speed, and smaller to tiny with slow bow speed, but always as FAST AS A WRIST MOVEMENT. Here you could speak of a little "wave," as does Jorge's teacher.
The other (upward) movement is also possible, but due to the positioning of the hand described above, the hand movement here belongs to the new upbow, initiating and accelerating it. Since the arm does not have a chance to anticipate the upbow in this version, the tone connection of the Thomas-Mifune recommendation (wrist up at the tip) is less tight than the one described above. Of course, one can also play like this.
The combination of the two is also possible: First do a swift downward wrist movement to complete the downbow, then an equally swift slight upward movement to accelerate the new upbow. This will result in a very tight tone connection. Physically, the tightest tone connection is the one with the least slowing down at the end and the fastest accelerating for the new speed. This means that this change of direction in such a sudden way requires a rather sudden hand movement. A pendulum movement, which feels the best for the body, obviously, unfortunately does not bring about such a tight tone connection.
Now at the frog. Here, if you want to keep the bow on the string, you do not have any option comparable to the one at the tip. You cannot press the bow into the string nor lift it from the string, in this context.
The physical requirements are the same as at the tip: fastest possible return of the bow direction. This means that the hand and the fingers do the last inch or fraction thereof, depending on the bow speed, while the arm, again, has the chance to move in a downbow direction slightly before the actual acoustical bow change. Again, also this movement must be rather sudden. This is brought about best by a slight lowering of the wrist, in order to let the hand and fingers do the little final distance of the upbow. I do not have any idea how Thomas can suggest a lifting of the wrist at the moment of the change at the frog (if he means this, or else, the description remains blurred).
I hope this clarifies it a little bit.
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by Tim Janof
Cohen made his concert debut at London's Royal Festival Hall playing a Boccherini concerto at the age of 12. His prodigy was nurtured by the great pedagogue William Pleeth. He also took part in classes with Jacqueline du Pré, André Navarra, and Mstislav Rostropovich. At the age of 19, after winning several major international competitions, he made his recording debut -- Elgar's cello concerto with Del Mar and the London Philharmonic -- which received several awards and has now sold more than ¼ million discs in the UK alone. Cohen has made many recordings for EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Collins; from the Bach Solo Suites through the major cello concertos to the Morton Feldman concerto. Rave reviews have accompanied the recent release on BIS of Sally Beamish's concerto 'River' -- written especially for Cohen and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Due out soon is Britten Cello Symphony with the London Philharmonic and Roger Norrington on Decca. This is coupled with the Britten cello and piano sonata with pianist Peter Donohoe.
Cohen has been seen on TV in many countries and is heard on radio frequently. In the UK and Europe, he has brought inspiration to chamber orchestras both in concertos directed from the cello and as a conductor. He has also performed with many leading players around the world, enjoying especially close relations with artists such as the Amadeus Quartet, composer HK Gruber, and the Nobel Prize winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. In 1989, Cohen established festival in the south of England; Charleston Manor Festival is a unique chamber music festival that reflects Cohen's personal approach to presenting music.
Established as a committed and inspired teacher, Cohen has given highly successful masterclasses throughout the USA, Europe, Scandinavia and Australia. He is a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London and in September 2000 he launched a new 'Superior' cello class for the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, in Lugano.
Cohen is frequently invited to mastermind special events; for the year 2000, Cohen created three series of concerts for three festivals: "Turning Points" was a creation for the Bath International Music Festival illustrating music at the turn of the centuries and the extraordinary music of the war years. "Hungarian and Czech Mates" was the theme for the Charleston Manor Festival, and "Paris in the 1920's" was the setting for Cohen's creation for the City of London Festival, in which he used chamber music, songs, poetry, art, film and literature to reveal the enigmatic characters of the composers who became known as 'Les Six.'
TJ: How did you meet William Pleeth, who is perhaps now best known as the primary teacher of Jacqueline du Pré?
RC: I was 5 years old when I started lessons with a local cello teacher. Not long after, I discovered that she had been a pupil of William Pleeth, which didn't mean too much to me at the time, naturally. When I was 10 years old, the moment came when my parents and I needed to make a decision about my future cello teacher and my future schooling. I needed enough time each day to concentrate on the cello and to fulfill my musical potential, and normal schools wouldn't allow me that time -- at least not without a reduction in academic studies -- so we considered the option of a specialist music school. I visited the Purcell School, which is one of the two main specialist music schools in England, and it seemed to be an ideal solution; I would get a good general education and lots of time to work on the cello and general musical studies.
Around that time I went to see a public master class given by William Pleeth, which turned out to be an earth-shattering experience for me. I was completely taken with his extraordinary personality and the way he approached music, the cello, and his students, and I knew immediately that I would absolutely adore having lessons with him. A time was arranged and I went very nervously to play for him at his house. I played Saint-Saëns concerto, Bach, and various other repertoire. Because William Pleeth had no other student of my age, I was particularly surprised and thrilled that he then accepted me as a student. It was certainly an unusual situation, but one that proved to be a major turning point in my young life. I adored the whole way he worked and the way he so warmly supported me.
TJ: You once described his teaching methods as "pioneering." Why?
RC: Most teachers I have observed or have heard about make a pretty clear separation between technique and music in their discussions with their students. William Pleeth's system was completely integrated and much more flexible.
TJ: Would you say that he struck a good balance between musical and technical discussions?
RC: No, his method was not about maintaining a "balance." That was what was so extraordinary. He believed that separating technique from music inherently limits them both. He would describe even the slightest inflection of the cello's voice as a deeply musical entity, and then he would help me to achieve it in subtle technical ways, discovering techniques that one would not come across if one only thought about a passage from a technical standpoint.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
(Click here for the complete transcript without musical excerpts for faster downloading.)
by Sarah Freiberg
My new-to-me baroque cello was made in London in 1784 by a most unusual man named John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803). Just a week before I first encountered the instrument, I had read a human interest story that stuck in my mind: the creator of roller skates showed off his new invention at a party by roller skating while playing the violin. Unfortunately, he wasn't paying enough attention to where he was skating, and crashed into a large mirror, ending both his roller skating and violin-playing careers. The hapless inventor was none other than Merlin!
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
by Paul Tseng
JF: In terms of my association with Rostropovich, I studied with him for three years from 1971 to 1974. It was after I took the first prize in the Concertino Prague Competition. Rostropovich also won first prize in a competition with Daniel Shafran [Prague Spring Festival]. He heard about me from a friend. I remember he held an audition in his flat in Moscow and I actually came a year earlier to the conservatory because I had to graduate a year later. But he said I should take a one year extension in my studies. At that time he had gotten involved with Solzhenitsyn and it was a difficult time because he wasn't concertizing very much. But for me it was fortunate because I had regular lessons with him twice a week, which was more than I could have ever hoped for. So his bad luck became my good luck.
PT: That's probably more lessons than anyone has ever had with him. It's a very rare opportunity.
JF: That's right, and I was up to the last movement [of the Symphony-Concerto] with him when he left in 1974. He knew that I would be playing in the Tchaikovsky Competition. He was announced as the competition head. But at the same time, the situation was really deteriorating very quickly. The authorities didn't allow him to do one of his big [conducting] ideas, Strauss' Die Fledermaus, with his wife Galina Vishnevskaya. Consequently, there was a big uprising. Anyway, that's a long story in itself. He left, if I remember correctly, on the 25th of May 1974 but on the 24th I still had some lessons with him. He was really anxious to help me till the last moment. But realistically, he knew that it would not really go far since I was associated with him and the new directions from the party ministry was not to let me win anything in the Tchaikovsky Competition. And that's what happened. I did win a prize but not first.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
Hello everyone! I'm Betsy C from Cello Chat. I am Betsy Clark, just like that woman who makes the round faced cherubs on the Hallmark Cards. I see no reason to not give my name here because so many of you feel like friends and colleagues, and I have only met a very small portion of the folks who reside on the ICS Bulletin Boards. When Tim asked me if I would consider contributing to the Tutti Celli's Membership Spotlight, my first response was that I would do whatever necessary on behalf of the ICS. My next response was "Me?" I truly feel blessed and fortunate to be part of this ever growing cello community with its amateurs and experts. Once I sat back and thought a little bit about what I could write about, it became apparent that I could only write about my perspective, which is definitely that of a full-fledged Cellist-By-Night. I am a late-starter to the cello, and sympathize and empathize with my other late-starting friends here. It truly is a situation that has problems and bonuses all its own! Above all, we Cellists-By-Night are jugglers trying to "get it all done." Sometimes, I have to push other things to the side to give my cello the time she deserves.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
by Barbara Hedlund
A new 2001 PBS recording and music video/documentary, The Song and the Slogan, features a new thirty-three minute chamber work for tenor, piano, cello, and small ensemble. The film, in preparation by WILL-TV producer Tim Hartin who also produced the PBS documentary Violoncello, will be distributed nationally to more than 250 PBS stations (with expectations to be aired on other fine arts channels). The new documentary/Classical music video features Internet Cello Society member and director of MusiCelli Publications Barbara Hedlund from Urbana, IL.
The world premiere of The Song and the Slogan took place on November 14, 2000, at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Urbana, IL. The concert presented internationally renowned tenor Jerry Hadley, a three-time Grammy Award winner and featured artist in major opera houses throughout the world. A special guest reader was David Hartman, former creator and host of ABC TV's "Good Morning America." Mr. Hartman currently has his own award winning production company concentrating primarily on documentaries. In his ever-familiar stentorian resonance, David Hartman read selected poems of Sandburg at the concert as introductions to related songs. In addition, he narrates and appears in the new documentary/Classical music video.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro houses the collections of cello luminaires such as Luigi Silva, Elizabeth Cowling, Rudolf Matz, Maurice Eisenberg, and Janos Scholz.
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>>Playing louder, playing bigger?
While working on a section in the Shostakovich Concerto #1 I realized that I needed EVEN more sound, but I knew there was absolutely no more I could give in the way of bow weight and sounding point. It was then that I just decided to use the whole bow on every quarter note while maintaining the same equilibrium of bow weight and sounding point. Somehow vibrato factors into the appearance of a bigger sound as well.
Given the almost infinite combinations of Sounding Point, Bow Weight and Bow Speed, what are some things you do to get a bigger sound?
Eric replies: I'm an inexperienced cellist, but whenever I have needed more sound, adding weight to the bow is always what has worked. Increasing bow speed has always resulted in that "breathy" sound. I have also found that when I concentrate on not putting weight on my left arm, I am able to put a lot more weight on the bow. It also tends to bring out a better quality sound. I know I'm relatively unexperienced, but that's what I've found.
Steve Balderston replies: The older I get the more I find myself steering away from the whole arm weight/bow pressure thing. It seems to me that tone comes from the horizontal vibrations of the cello, and in order to find this one really can't try to vertically force it out. Try to see how the natural weight of the bow grabs the string and pulls it to one side or the other as you move upbow or downbow. Then move closer to the bridge. If you get ponticello chances are there is too much or too little vertical pressure or the speed is not correct. Once you've found the groove, see how far you can take it.... I try to imagine that I will blow the sides out of the cello from sheer horizontal vibrations. THERE is the tone, and it's almost infinite!
zambocello replies: More weight on the bow makes a different sound, not a louder sound. Volume comes from the amplitude -- the width of the string's swing -- not the complexity of the sound. Especially from a distance the intense heavy sound does not project. Sometimes the weight, while making an intense sound under our ear, clamps up the cello so that it doesn't project. While even though under the ear the "wide swinging" sound may seem a little unfocused, it projects! Other things being equal, more bow speed, not more bow weight, equals more volume.
MsCheryl replies: My biggest sound always comes from relaxing the right arm -- not bearing down. This sinks the bow into the string, allowing it to pull the string more, causing more vibrations. What I tell my students about adding "pressure" is that it would be like putting your hands around the throat of a singer and squeezing -- you actually choke off the sound.
Gary Stucka replies: It's not too easy to completely verbalize, but as stated in other posts, a bigger sound can be gotten through a combination of bow pressure, bow speed, and (IMHO most importantly) the position of the bow between the fingeboard and the bridge. It's also important to play with "flat" hair when trying to obtain a bigger sound. What do I mean by flat hair? Positioning your bow so that ALL of the bow hair is in contact with the string. ALL of these factors are variable with regard to the kind and amount of sound that you want to achieve. A mastery of the finesse of these variables blows the theory of "big person equals big sound" right out of the water.
Nico67: Beginner question ... What's the "sounding point?"
Andrew Victor replies to Nico67: The "sounding point," for lack of a better name, is what many people call the position of the bow on the string. You might consider it the distance from the bridge, or the relative distance from the bridge and the end of the fingerboard.
On really good instruments, each "sounding point" that you might select has its own tonal qualities, including sound volume and projection (due to way the frequency distribution at each pitch played varies with "sounding point"). It can often take more pressure to play closer to the bridge and/or faster bow movement.
One of the hallmarks of "artistic playing" is the controlled variation of sounding point to achieve the desired aural effects. It is not easy to do, but it is easier on the cello (where one can see the bow) than on the chin-held bowed strings.
One of the first steps in this direction is to hold the right hand a little higher than might feel appropriate or natural. This tends to draw the bow straighter on the strings and yields a better tone, allowing you to control the sounding point better (at least it works for me).
It is probably worth pointing out that there are cellos that do not allow much variability of sounding point. In fact some don't seem to sound at all more than halfway to the bridge. These could just be poor instruments, or they just might need some adjustment or setup changes. Also, there are instruments (violin, viola, and cello) on which variation of sounding point is not particularly effective in changing the tone color. These instruments tend to cost less, even though some of them may have really beautiful tone.
Using too much bow pressure can obviate the whole concept of sounding point on many instruments (see the rest of this thread).
Victor Sazer replies: Needless to say, there are many variables depending on the quality, intensity, etc., in addition to the volume you want to produce. However, for a bigger sound, you might have better luck playing closer to the bridge with a slower bow. If you guide your bow to go around the string so that you play your down-bows a bit on the upper side and the up-bows on lower, you are to able to "pull" the sound. The danger of using too much downward weight or pressure is that the sound can be choked. It is also helpful (even though the bow is drawn at right angle to the string) to have the bow a bit slanted so that the tip is slightly up on the down-bows and down on the up-bows. Then, rounding the ends of the strokes to form narrow figure eights helps connect the strokes to maintain consistency of sound.
>>Learning Standard Cello Repertoire
Is it essential to learn "the repertoire" in order to learn to play the cello well? Does one really need to wade through all the standard concerti when one could just work on etudes and chamber music/orchestral excerpts? I'm referring to those of us who don't expect to become professional cellists.
Patricia White replies: I don't absolutely profess to know the answer to your question, except I wonder how one can learn to play well without actually playing something? It doesn't necessarily have to be "the repertoire" if instead you are focusing on etudes and orchestra excerpts.
The solo literature tends to be more specifically oriented for the instrument than does the chamber music/orchestral literature. Most students tend to get bored if they are fed a diet of pure etudes, which are of course cello specific. If you are content to avoid any solo pieces, then you don't have to worry whether you are missing anything. Etudes alone should do the trick if you really make the most of them.
My students have to have pieces prepared for state contests, recitals, and auditions, so they cannot avoid having to learn solo pieces from the repertoire. I also try to arrange it so that I have no two students performing the same piece at the same time, so I am constantly looking for acceptable pieces that they will both like and learn from.
There was an earlier discussion about the Romberg Sonatas and Concerti that I'd like to address as well. Some of my students have very little 'musical' sophistication, and very slight 'chops'. The Romberg Sonatas and other such student fare are perfect for them. In a less complicated piece, it is VERY EASY to show the important elements to a student. For example, in Romberg it is so easy to show phrasing. It is easy to demonstrate how a composer can slightly alter a theme. The form is quite apparent -- here is a classic Rondo form, or A-B-A, or whatever it is. Interpretation is also easy to introduce because it is basically cut and dried. It is also easy to show them how the tonic-dominant-relative-parallel stuff comes into play with regards to the key. It is my belief that if I show the student this information in a piece that is fairly easy for them, and if I teach them how to take an 'easy' and perhaps even 'musically boring' piece and make it sound impressive and even 'musically interesting', then I have taught them an important lesson in music-making. The lesson will translate over into anything else that they play. So, I guess that while I would NEVER program one of these works on a recital of my own, I consider them an important stepping stone in a student's musical journey.
Have you ever known an "accomplished cellist" that got started late in life? Did any of the "greats" start later than 15? The question really is, given two people of equal talent, one starts at 5 the other at 35. Is the late starter doomed as far as a career in cello goes....?
I have the uncomfortable hunch that is there is something "intrinsic" in starting the cello at a formative age? (similar to learning a second language where if you start later than certain age you just won't get the accent ... no matter what!) Do your experiences support this? Do you find it's the music or the mechanics of cello playing that are easier to get at teeny-bopper age.
I realize that in these times of the "you can DO whatever you set your mind to" educational philosophy, it's politically incorrect to even suggest that the age-challenged have missed the boat (I'm a late starter too so this includes me) but what does reality suggest?
David Sanders replies: I started the cello at age 14, and although I didn't become one of the "greats", I have had a good career playing the cello in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Tim Janof replies: Carter Brey, principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, started taking private lessons at age 16. You might also read the ICS interview of Frances Walton, a highly accomplished amateur cellist who began her studies in her late twenties.
As for whether a 35-year-old can become an accomplished cellist, I would say "Absolutely!" I would guess that the odds are against a 35-year-old becoming a professional cellist, but there is a good chance of him or her becoming accomplished enough to enjoy years and years of very satisfying music making.
Why is it is more difficult for an adult? I would imagine that there are numerous reasons. I have heard from people who are not doctors that an adult's central nervous system doesn't learn as easily a child's, but I'd love to hear what our resident neurologists have to say about this. This would relate to your analogy about adults picking up new languages.
Another big factor is that 35-year-olds have very full lives. They have full-time jobs, families, gutters to clean, and other responsibilities, so they don't have the luxury of practicing six hours a day for the next six years. It takes a lot of work to get to a professional level, more work that most adults have time for.
I have met many fine cellists who started as adults. Some play in chamber music groups and community orchestras and they are having the time of their lives, playing great music and making new friends. I consider them to be "accomplished." This is definitely within reach of those with some talent, the right teacher, the desire, and the time to practice.
Paul Tseng replies: No one is doomed unless they allow themselves to be doomed. If you have a good teacher and you are willing to work hard and smart, there is no reason that you can't have an unlimited potential in your playing. Granted, I do think that there is something about starting early that is related to learning anything that will be a lifelong skill. The more years you have doing it correctly, the more natural it becomes. Imagine not learning to speak a language (a foreign one) until you are 15. You will eventually do it but it may take a while before it become natural and you don't have to think about it. Can a person become fluent in Chinese at the age of 35? He may not feel as natural internally as one who learned Chinese from the very start. But with hard work and good training, he can come pretty darn close and a listener might never know the difference (externally) between him and a native speaker.
There is always hope. I reiterate Tim's citing of Carter Brey, who before he became the principal cellists of the NY Philharmonic was an internationally acclaimed soloist. He was the winner of the Rostropovich Competition. You can bet he worked his tail off and had good training.
I just heard a Chandos recording of this concerto with the BBC Philharmonic. I really enjoyed it. Does anyone know of any other recordings of this neglected masterpiece? The slow middle section is wonderful. I wonder why this piece has not entered the standard cello repertoire?
Ryan Selberg replies: As the self-appointed champion of the music of Korngold on the board, and as a result of having performed the concerto last February with the Utah Symphony, I fully agree with you that it is indeed a wonderful work and fully deserving of more widespread exposure. I had a wonderful time learning it as well as learning about it.
In brief, the concerto came to life as a major component of a 1946 film, entitled Deception, starring Claude Rains, Bette Davis, and Paul Henreid. It was a melodramatic love triangle between a composer/conductor (Rains), a cellist who had just come to America from a concentration camp in WWII (Henreid), and their common love interest, a pianist/composition student (Davis). Rains invites the cellist to perform his new concerto, and all sorts of intrigue ensues. Lots of time is spent hearing and seeing portions of the concerto on screen, played on the soundtrack by Warner Brothers. principal cellist, Eleanor Aller Slatkin (mother of National Symphony conductor, Leonard Slatkin, and NY cellist, Fred Zlotkin).
There are two other commercial recordings of the concerto, one by Francisco Gabarro, with Charles Gerhardt and the National Symphony (a British studio orchestra) as part of a recording of Korngold's film music, headlined by Elizabeth and Essex, and the other by Julius Berger, with the North German Radio Symphony, in a series of recordings of Korngold's symphonic works. The Gabarro recording is excellent, and the Berger is not, in my opinion. Peter Dixon, on the BBC recording also does a good job. Unfortunately, no major artist has chosen to record it yet.
Two things primarily keep it from a wider exposure. First is its length. It is only about 13 minutes long, and generally a touring soloist is asked to play a longer work so that both he and the audience won't feel shortchanged. Otherwise two concert works have to be paired to make everyone feel that they got their money's worth. Second, there is still a lingering opinion that, because the concerto was originally "film music," it is somehow of lesser quality. As film music and its composers find more and more acceptance into mainstream musical circles that objection and stigma is lessening.
I am delighted you have discovered it and liked it. Korngold wrote lots of great orchestral music, both for the concert stage and film, plus chamber music, opera, song, and piano music. Let us know if you get a chance to explore more of this wonderful composer's music.
On October 22, 2000 I resurrected a cello concerto that has not been heard in 60 years. It is the Concerto in d minor by Frederick Stock.
Frederick Stock was the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) from 1904-1943. In addition to being a much beloved conductor here in Chicago, he was a prolific composer and arranger. He wrote the Cello Concerto for Alfred Wallenstein, the then-Principal Cellist of the CSO, in 1928. The world premiere took place in January, 1929, and featured Wallenstein with Stock conducting the CSO.
Wallenstein played it again in Chicago with Stock in March of 1929 and then in the summer of 1929 at the Hollywood Bowl (Stock's sole appearance as a conductor with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra). After becoming Principal Cellist of the New York Philharmonic, Wallenstein performed the concerto in Carnegie Hall in April of 1932 with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. (A mere week prior to this performance, Wallenstein and Beecham made their legendary recording of R. Strauss' Don Quixote).
The Concerto, which remains unpublished, was played only 2 more times: in 1939, Edmund Kurtz, another former CSO Principal, played it with Stock and the CSO. In 1940, none other than Gregor Piatigorsky performed the piece with Stock and the CSO in Chicago.
Another "flirtation" with performing the piece came in the 1950's. CSO violinist, Fred Spector, recalls that CSO cellist Joseph Saunders was able to arrange for a solo appearance with the CSO. After several weeks of trying to "decipher" the Stock Concerto, Saunders deemed it too difficult and opted to play the Victor Herbert Concerto #2 instead.
I learned of the Concerto when I was a free-lancer in Chicago about 25 years ago. One of my colleagues was Theodore Ratxer, a CSO Cellist from 1920-57. He told me about the Concerto and even played some of the main tunes from memory for me (he hadn't heard the piece in maybe 35 years!). He and other former Stock-era CSO members recalled the piece fondly but warned that it was "over-orchestrated."
It's always been a dream of mine to play the piece. When the conductor of the Harper Symphony, Frank Winler, wanted to re-engage me as soloist, he said "Let's do something different." I think the Stock fills the bill, and then some!
It's hard to describe in words what the piece sounds like. I've only heard the piano reduction of the score thus far and all I can say at this point is that the piece is extremely chromatic à la early Schoenberg and thickly orchestrated à la R. Strauss. The piece is dark and turgid, yet passionate and impressionistic. Quite a combination! The finale includes a wild waltz reminiscent of Ravel's La Valse and Strauss' Dance of the 7 Veils combined.
>> Excerpt from "Classical Music for Dummies"
The name of this book is rather insulting, but they won me over with the following description of the cello:
"Ah, the cello. We can't even write about this instrument without sighing. What a beautiful, rich, singing sound this instrument makes. Of all the string instruments the cello is the one that sounds most like the human voice....
"Thankfully, composers eventually discovered the beauty of the cello's sound -- and it spurred their imagination. They started writing works in which the cello takes center stage, accompanied by other instruments. The sonatas and concertos written for this instrument are ravishing.
Perhaps because of the daily physical contact with this beautiful vibrating instrument, cellists are some of the happiest people we know. They tend to be nice, easy going, and pleasant. And when, in the course of orchestral events, they get a rare melody to play -- watch out! They throw themselves into it with utter passion and conviction."
>> Rostropovich in Salt Lake City
The big day has finally come and gone -- Slava's first concert in Salt Lake City in 20 years. It was a rather memorable experience, in a number of ways. He was sandwiching us in between dates on both coasts and points in between. He flew in from Dallas Tuesday morning, and left for Phoenix on Wednesday morning. Our rehearsal with him, for Dvorak, was Tuesday afternoon, with the concert that evening. It was one of the most bizarre rehearsals I have ever been involved in. Slava stopped often to correct things, including perceived tempo irregularities from the orchestra and our guest conductor, former music director, Joseph Silverstein. As often as not, the problems were caused by Slava's own sense of rhythm and phrasing. But both parties did not make life easier for each other. I felt like going to the two of them, offering both a glass of Geritol, and telling them to go take a nap, and come back later when they felt more rested! We did get through the rehearsal, and during intermission I was invited to Slava's room, along with another musician, and we had a delightful chat with him, hearing some wonderful stories. Totally different demeanor than on stage.
The sold out concert went very well, with only a few rough edges. Slava has lost some of the crispness in his intonation and sound control, almost bringing him back to merely mortal standards. However, I would still rather hear him play Dvorak than nearly any other cellist on the planet, which includes the cellist who played it at the WCCIII. He still plays with a passion and conviction that transcends mere notes on the page, even if age has taken its inevitable toll on the body.
His encores were both Bach, the d minor Sarabande (reported in today's newspaper review as the "Em Sarabande" -- well educated reviewer!) and the Bourrées from the 3rd Suite. Both of them were very personal statements, beautifully played, but making Casals sound like an Early Music expert of totally classical proportions.
After the audience finally allowed him to leave the stage, which he did by taking the concertmaster by the hand and leading him off, he greeted a huge line of well-wishers for over an hour, finally having to turn away and disappoint the last of the line because of exhaustion. Before he left the stage, both my stand partner and I received the ultimate salute from Slava with a kiss to the cheek. Immediately after the concert, I received two more, as I thanked him for sharing his music with us.
I don't know how many more times we will have the privilege of hearing him live, but it was an unforgettable experience in many ways, both on the stage and off. By the way, he used his Storioni, rather than the Strad, for the concert. That was probably my only regret of the day.
>> Got the cops called on me for playing the Schumann
No lie, guys. Guess I got too loud. I recorded the piano portion earlier and was on my 8th hour of practice when they knocked on the door and asked me what the hell was going on. I told them I was sorry, I had no idea the sound carried like that through plaster walls.
Had I been drinking, they wanted to know.
"No more than usual," I said. Aberfoyle Springs, Mountain Dew, green tea.
"What the hell was I playing?" they asked. I told them. I invited them inside to take a look at the score and my practice room. They came in, I guess looking for some cocaine or something.
"Okay, bub, but you need to tone it down with that [bleeping] Schumann," said the cop.
I asked him who was his favorite band.
You guessed it. It's been so long but I found out/What people mean by down & out....
Got a gig playing for his sister's birthday party. But if I hear you playing that Schumann at 5 am, man, you're going downtown.
1. World Cello Congress Videos
A 2-hour tape of the June 3, 2000 concert at the Myerhoff Symphony Hall is now available. It features the performances of Korea's Beehouse Cello Ensemble, Japan's Toho Cello Ensemble, and the World Cello Congress III 235-member Massed Cello Ensemble, conducted by Laszlo Varga and Terry King. The total cost is $30 US dollars (including shipping and handling). Proceeds from the sales will be used toward the World Cello Congress IV in June 2006. To order a copy of the tape click, go to:
Another video should be available in the Spring of 2001. It will include:
2. Harry Wimmer Site Update
Harry Wimmer has added three new pages to his website called, "Cello Technique Topics from A - Z." Check it out!
3. Michael Rudiakov dies
The following is re-printed from the November 24, 2000 New York Times:
"Michael Rudiakov, a cellist and teacher who performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and was heard regularly in recitals and chamber concerts, died on Nov. 17 in Yonkers. He was 66 and lived in Manchester, Vermont.
"The cause was a heart attack, said his son, Ariel.
"Mr. Rudiakov was born in Paris in 1934 and grew up in Tel Aviv, where his father, Eliahu Rudiakov, was a concert pianist and teacher. One of Eliahu Rudiakov's students was Menahem Pressler, who became the pianist in the Beaux Arts Trio. The younger Mr. Rudiakov later became a student of the cellist Bernard Greenhouse, who was Mr. Pressler's colleague in the Beaux Arts.
"After his early training in Tel Aviv, Mr. Rudiakov spent a year playing the cello for a regional German opera house before moving to New York to study with Mr. Greenhouse at the Manhattan School of Music in 1956. After a brief tenure as the principal cellist of the Indianapolis Symphony, Mr. Rudiakov returned to Israel to become principal cellist of the Jerusalem Symphony.
"In 1966 he returned to New York and joined the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College, where he directed a chamber music series. He taught at the New England Conservatory, the Manhattan School of Music and Lehman College as well. In 1983 he joined the faculty at the Manchester Music Festival in Vermont. He became the director of the festival in 1985.
"From 1968 to 1975 Mr. Rudiakov was the cellist of the Composers' String Quartet, a pioneering new music group known for its performances of works by Elliott Carter, Ruth Crawford Seeger and Henry Cowell. He was also an early member of the Aeolian Chamber Players, an ensemble that is also known for its championship of contemporary music, and he was heard as a soloist with the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra and other ensembles. As a recitalist, he performed frequently with his father; with his son, a violist; and with the pianist Gilbert Kalish.
"In the 1980's he formed the Rudiakov Duo with his cousin, Shoshana Rudiakov, a pianist. He was a member of the Brooklyn Philharmonic for many years, and although he moved to Vermont in 1996, he continued to perform with the orchestra.
"In addition to his son, of Yonkers, Mr. Rudiakov is survived by his wife, Judith; a daughter, Liselotte, of Bennington, Vt.; and his stepmother, Grete, and a brother, Yair, both of Tel Aviv. "
4. New William Pleeth master class videos
Shar of North America has recently made available a series of master class videos featuring William Pleeth, perhaps best known as the teacher of Jacqueline du Pré. The following is a list of the videos:
5. Adult Summer Music Camps
"Music For The Love Of It" puts out a publication The Adult Amateur Summer Music Workshops of North America. It details dates, type of workshop, fees and contacts. For more information, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Another Bach Suite edition
Erling Blöndal Bengtsson has made available on the internet his personal edition of the Bach Cello Suites. For more information, go to http://SheetMusicNow.com.
7. New Books
8. New Cello Concerto
A new cello concerto by Finnish composer and conductor Esa Pekka Salonen was premiered last July. He describes the single movement concerto as "modal but not twelve-tone, and extremely virtuosic for the cello, although the use of the cello is relatively conventional." A slightly revised version of the concerto was performed in December with a new cadenza written by Salonen. There was no written cadenza for the world premiere performance last July, so the cellist, Anssi Karttunen, improvised one. Yikes!
9. La Jolla Festival Directorship change
Emerson Quartet cellist David Finckel has resigned from his position as Artistic Director of "Summerfest La Jolla." He will be replaced by violinist Cho-Liang Lin.
10. ASTA with NSOA's new board
ASTA with NSOA presented its new 2000-2002 board, including its new President, Robert Jesselson, cello professor at the University of South Carolina.
11. Prize Winners
Manchester Cello Festival
Manchester (England) International Cello Festival, May 2 - 6. "Exploring the American Influence7334; with cellists Bailey, Bengtsson, Bylsma, Carr, Coin, Demenga, Eddy, Friesen, Georgian, Geringas, Gutman, Leskovar, Lesser, Mork, Muller-Schott, Nelsova, Parisot, Pergamenschikow, Qin, Starker, Tsutsumi, Wallfisch. Also the Yale Cellos. Concerts, recitals, lectures, masterclasses, exhibitions. Cello & bow making competition. For a brochure, send a s.a.e. to Festival Office, The Grange, Handforth, Cheshire SK9 3NR, U.K.
Dordrecht Cello Festival
Dordrecht Cello Festival, the Netherlands, May 24 - 26. Masterclasses, workshops, recitals and concerts with Conjunto Iberico, Marien von Stallen, Jaap Kruithof, Quirine Viersen, Lucia Swats and Gregor Horsch. http://www.cellofestival.dordt.nl .
American Cello Congress/Leonard Rose Competition
Leonard Rose International Cello Competition and Sixth American Cello Congress, College Park, Maryland, May 24 - June 2, 2001. email@example.com
New Directions Cello Festival 2001
New Directions Cello Festival, University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT), June 15-17. Workshops, exhibitions, concerts, jam sessions with Ernst Reijeseger, Erik Friedlander, Big Fiddle, Rasputina, and the Chris White Quartet. http://www.newdirectionscello.com.
Kobe (Japan) Cello Festival
July 25-29, 2001. They hope to assemble a cello orchestra of 1000 players! Solo performers to be announced. http://www.kobe-cello.com
World Cello Congress IV
Plan ahead! World Cello Congress IV will take place May/June 2006 at Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland. Concerts, recitals, masterclasses, workshops, symposia, exhibits, receptions. http://www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongresses .
For those who attended World Cello Congress III, videos will soon be available via the website above. Also promised is a "Gala Benefit Performance" in 2003 to raise funds for WCC4. "Many of the greatest stars of the music world will join forces to present a one-of-a-kind event not to be missed."
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2. Denise Djokic
4. Virtuoso Obbligato Aria Collection
5. Jeanne Jaubert
6. UNC Greensboro Cello Music Collections
7. Hai-Ye Ni
8. Travelcelo Instruments
9. Celtic Cello Music
10. Steel Pan Tuning
11. Arizona Cello Society
13. Cello Dimensions
14. New Harmony Music
15. Violin World
16. Last Resort Music
17. Latham Music
19. Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) article
21. "Sparkling Symphony Gym"
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