Message from the Director
2004 ICS ANNUAL FUNDRAISER EVENT! 33 DAYS LEFT IN DRAWING!
Dear ICS Members,
Happy New Year! Slowly but surely our numbers have grown to an inspiring 11,201. So many cellists to help better our world! We hope to learn more details about our international fellowship this year by concentrating on different parts of the world in each issue of TUTTI CELLI. In the next issue we would like to feature cellists and events in the countries of Central and South America. We encourage all cellists from these countries to write about themselves and the local cello scene. Share a recording (with proper permission only)! Send news clippings, local cello newsletters, photos, or other cello graphics!
However, please don't wait until your region is featured. To make the Internet Cello Society a true reflection of its membership, we need everyone's help.
How to help?
Shorter on time than on money?
This past year our webmaster Eric Hoffman has found himself busy just continuing to fix bugs of our current website. I am therefore going to have him continue in this capacity while seeking out an additional Internet database programmer to develop a new version of the ICS website, complete with current functionality and if affordable, features such as a more powerful ICS search engine, audio file server (due to the demise of mp3.com), and a more vital homepage. I have some more time this winter to dedicate to preparing and supervising this project. Any expert advice or help in this area is much appreciated!
We give a heartfelt thanks to those of you who have supported us over the years. Our goal is to raise the remaining $5000 (out of $9000) to pay for this major upgrade next year. Please make your contribution soon! From those who contribute, three names will be randomly selected at the end of January 2004 to receive a free ICS souvenir of their choice including ICS t-shirts, mugs, clock, teddy-bear, aprons, bags, frisbee, postcards, hats or mousepad! To see prizes or to buy your own souvenir, see http://www.cafepress.com/cello.
With the explosion of information and communication technologies, I think we all find ourselves more exhausted with the closing of each year. May you continue to find inspiration and solace within the ageless music of the cello.
>> This letter is for Mackenzie, who wrote the paragraphs in your latest newsletter about being a former music teacher who recently got a cochlear implant. I also hear with a cochlear implant. I am writing to let you know that in July 2001, I started a listserv for musicians with hearing loss. (I was getting really tired of hearing healthcare professionals say music perception isn't as important as speech perception so I decided to do something about this.) We also have audiologists and a few music teachers on our listserv. Some of our topics have focused on pitch perception problems (a favorite one for our CI users) or more often the fact that there are few programs, either in digital hearing aids, as well as CIs, that focus more on music listening and not speech listening. You are welcome to join our listserv if this sounds interesting to you. Our web address is:
and there is a link to our listserv on the web site.
>> I am a cellist / teacher in Melbourne, Australia and completed studies some years ago now with Christopher Bunting in London. I want to call attention to this exceptional educator with extraordinary musical and aesthetic ideals (in many respects a protégé of Casals). His essays on the craft of cello playing are masterworks, and have been recently reissued by Sangeeta Press, as have his technical 'portfolios.' There are many other compositions and articles too.
>> I love the sound that Lynn Harrell obtains from his cello. The sweetness from the high notes to the rich depths on his G and C string. I have looked all over the web to find out what strings he uses. I can not afford the same cello as his but I may afford the strings. Can you help?
Tim Janof replies: I think he uses Pirastro Permanent A and D and Silver Wound Gut Olive C and G. He used to use Dominants on the lower strings.......but I've heard he now uses the Pirastro Olive.
>> I am not a reader of the cello.org bulletin boards (I'm a violinist...), but I do read your excellent newsletter. In the Nov/Dec newsletter, there is an exchange about stringing a cello backwards for a left-handed player. The following information may be of interest: The construction of the cello (like all members of the violin family) is asymmetrical on the inside. The asymmetry is caused by the bass bar being on the bass side, and the sound post being on the treble side. This asymmetry is important for the proper acoustic function of the cello and also causes the four string positions to be different acoustically. For example, if you put the exact same strings on all four string positions, you will discover they all sound and respond a bit differently! That is why a cello strung "backwards" will sound different (often for the worse) from the original "normal" stringing.
Director of R&D
J. D'Addario & Company
P.S. I design bowed strings at D'Addario. I am also the co-director of the VSA-Oberlin Acoustics Workshop, which is an acoustics workshop for violin makers held every summer at Oberlin College. The workshop is sponsored by the Violin Society of America (I'm also on the board of directors of the VSA).
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by Tim Janof
Though relatively few may know of him today, Robert LaMarchina was one of the most brilliant cellists of the 20th Century. A child prodigy, he was the toast of the music world and was showered with praise from some of the most celebrated musicians of his time. Gaspar Cassadó said that LaMarchina was "the most outstanding talent I have seen." Maurice Maréchal said "There is no doubt of it, the boy is unusually gifted." Toscanini referred to him as "my little angel." Had he not gone into conducting and had some self-sabotaging tendencies from a career standpoint, there is little doubt that he would have been a household name for cellists around the world.
LaMarchina was born in New York City on September 3, 1928. His parents had first met on a ship that was headed for the United States from South America, his father being from Argentina and his mother from Brazil. LaMarchina's father, Antonio, a cellist, soon joined the St. Louis Symphony and moved the family to St. Louis, where Antonio remained for 27 years. At age 3, LaMarchina's mother left, and there are various theories as to why. It was said that she left because her husband was abusive. Others say she left because she was disappointed in what she perceived to be her less-than-exciting life. A part of Brazilian aristocracy, she had mistakenly assumed that professional musicians traveled in more glamorous circles than they actually do. She left her little son behind, some say because her husband refused to give him up, which resulted in him being subjected to an unhappy series of step-mothers and several new siblings with whom, except for one sister, he felt little connection.
LaMarchina's father was his first cello teacher and a strict taskmaster, especially once he determined that his son had a special talent for the cello. He made little Bobby, only seven years old, practice several hours each day. He wouldn't let his son play sports, except for a little soccer, because he was afraid that his son's hands would be injured. As an example of the rigor of young LaMarchina's technical regimen, Antonio insisted that his son play scales so slowly that a single run-through of a four-octave scale had to last a minimum of twenty-five minutes. If it didn't, he had to do it again. The result of this painstakingly detailed work was that LaMarchina had exquisite bow control and a sparkling left-hand facility, but a lost childhood.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
Musicians in my family currently span three generations and a variety of styles. My Mom, a 93 year old violinist, still performs chamber music concerts, my oldest brother is a cellist and contractor in Toronto, another brother plays banjo in a D.C. area blue grass band called "New Mode Grass," an uncle is a pianist in Greeley, Colorado, a cousin plays Baroque harpsichord in Seattle, and a nephew is guitarist for the Spin Doctors.
When I was growing up in Virginia, my father conducted the Norfolk Symphony. Some of my earliest memories are of going to orchestra rehearsals just to watch and listen. At the age of six I started playing violin and by the time I was ten my brother Peter had become a really good cellist and I wanted to play like him, so I switched to cello.
My first cello was a gamba with a cello neck and my first teacher was my aunt, Virginia Wendt, who was a fine cellist who had trained with Felix Salmond at Juilliard. In the summers my parents would take me when they visited Peter and I would have lessons with someone at the camp or festival where he was: Don McCall at Meadowmount, Madeline Foley at Marlboro.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
DEAR ABBY: Please help my friend and me settle an argument. We have agreed to abide by your decision.
"Matt" and I both play the cello for a small community orchestra. Although it is not a full-time vocation for either of us, it is a hobby at which we both excel. For two years, we have enjoyed a friendly rivalry as we compete for various solos and other honors.
The competition took an unfriendly turn several weeks ago when Matt "inadvertantly" ran over my cello with his station wagon when I was loading our instruments into the back. My cello was destroyed, and it was right before a concert in which I had a solo. Because I had no instrument, Matt got the solo that night.
My cello is certainly replaceable, and Matt has offered to purchase a new one for me. Our concern is this: Because Matt had demolished my cello, I felt that he should have offered me the use of his cello for that evening's concert. Matt, however, feels that he had no obligation to surrender his cello. What do you think, Abby?
DEAR KATHI: Since Matt deliberately ran over your cello -- which you implied by placing "inadvertantly" in quotes -- why would you have expected him to offer you his cello for the evening concert? His objective was to play the cello solo that night -- and he succeeded.
http://www.kotapress.com/journal/Archive/Journal_V4_Issue11(Nov03)/journal6.htm .... scroll down to "Sarajevo."
http://freespace.virgin.net/debbie.cassell/poetrypage.html ... scroll down to "The Cello Player"
http://seattlewritergrrls.org/2003i4_poem5.html ... scroll down to the "Golden Oak"
http://members.aol.com/Crewgrrl20/poetry.htm ... scroll down to "My Cello"
**Please notify Tim Janof at firstname.lastname@example.org of interesting websites that you would like to nominate for this recognition in the future. Websites will be selected based on their content, cello relevance, creativity and presentation style!
In addition to our boards, you are welcome to contact our forum hosts directly. For a complete list of ICS Forum Hosts please see http://www.cello.org/The_Society/Staff.html
>> Yesteryear cellists
Nicholas Anderson: The newsletter is excellent, as always. Great job.
Having said that, (and meaning it), I have to take strong exception to a statement you made right at the beginning of it. In your opening remarks about Keith Harvey, you said: "In addition to the fine example set by his illustrious performing career, his willingness to share gems from his enviable collection has resulted in an increased awareness in younger generations of a level of artistry that may never be equaled."
To say that it may never be equaled is to say that it is not now being equaled, and that there's substantial reason to think that it will not be in the future. This, of course, amounts to a pot shot at current and future cellists; and a pot shot with which I'm sure that many on this board will agree.
I've gone into great detail here in the past about my perspective that these questions of values in "equaling levels of artistry" are a matter of interpretation and subjectivity, being in the sphere of aesthetics and philosophy, which has a special and rigorous relationship to the question of objective reality. What I've said has not been understood and has been dismissed as inconsequential and trivial; and I have no inclination to rehash it. However, I can at least register my disagreement, so that your statement does not appear to have gone unchallenged.
Tim Janof: I believe what I wrote, though I must admit that my views have flip-flopped over the years as to whether yesteryear musicians were better musician's than today's. If you had asked me about this five years ago, I probably would have eye-rolled at those with Rose-colored glasses. Not so now.
Whenever I've heard an old-school player like Bernard Greenhouse, or the late Alexander Schneider, or the late Oscar Schumsky perform live I have been blown away. Or when I've heard the great recordings of Kreisler or Casals or Feuermann, I just can't believe my ears. Their phrasing, their "rainbows," their subtle but heartfelt rubato, their variety of slides, both audible or implied, and their charm are done in a way that makes me well up instantly, and I just don't hear this kind of playing these days.
Starker once said that he doesn't buy into this notion. According to him, each generation has its set of uber-talents, and I think he's right. I believe that there are musicians around today who are as talented as many of the late-greats, and that had they been around in the early 20th Century, we would be talking about them with the same reverence. But I feel that something has been lost over the years, and there are many theories out there as to why.
Kates blamed it on the change to steel strings. Others blame it on the proliferation of recordings and our Information Age. Others blame it on Jackie (I think there may be something to this, at least for my generation), and others blame it on the Authentic movement.
Some blame it on our obsession with technical perfection. I don't believe that Kreisler, for example, would have been Kreisler if he had been disciplined about his practicing. His carefree, relaxed phrasing and charm would have been suffocated by today's requirement of technical perfection.
I also think that the loss may be partly due to a huge cultural shift. This is a very different world from the world in which Casals thrived. My teacher, Eva Heinitz, grew up in old Weimar Germany, for example. She used to mention how it was considered unthinkable to eat while walking down the street in her youth, and that people used to dress up regularly in the way that one sees in the wonderful Georges Seurat painting, "Sunday in the Park." A certain galantry, a certain elegance, and a certain formality have eroded over the decades, and I suspect that this cultural shift may have some relationship with the shift in the style of musicianship as well.
I think the faster and faster pace of our world may be detrimental to musicianship too. I suspect that younger generations will have less and less time (less patience?) to obsess on each phrase and to take the time to let a work truly sink in before they perform it. Would somebody today wait twelve years before performing Bach in public like Casals did? I doubt it.
As an analogy (perhaps a lousy one), I am reminded of that mini-anecdote about how Shostakovich loved to talk with Piatigorsky because Piatigorsky talked in a manner that was common in the pre-Revolution era, and it brought Shostakovich back to his youth. Both could talk Russian, but Piatigorsky's use of language (vocabulary, phrasing, manner) was vastly different because they came from different eras, different worlds, really. This is not to say that Shostakovich, or any modern-day Russian, spoke bad Russian, but there must have been something extra-special about the way some of the old-timers talked, and I'm assuming it was done much more gallantly and with a rare flair in Piatigorsky's case. Similarly, in music, we're playing the same notes as the late greats, but we seem unable to play them with the same touch or charm because our musical vocabulary has changed, i.e. how many modern-day inferior recordings of Kriesler's music do we have to be subjected to? The point is that something has been lost, it's not that it's simply different.
I am not saying that all yesteryear cellists were equally transcendent, or that the great ones were great all the time (i.e. Rose's Bach was horrible) but I do believe that the ones who have stood the test of time hold a place higher on the mountain than today's cellists ... so far. But I am always listening and always hoping to find one who can phrase and articulate as touchingly and as beautifully as I've heard Greenhouse do it, and do it as consistently. Until then, or at least for now, my view stands.
>> Beethoven vs. Contemporary Composers
Andante Sostenunto: [to cellists in the New York Philharmonic and St. Louis Symphony] Now that the Beethoven Series in each of your orchestras is complete, I am interested on your thoughts on the experience on how it affected the way you view Beethoven and each of his symphonies.
mvotapek: My most deep and frank thoughts? "Praise God we have no more Beethoven concerts this season." Some repertoire I never tire of, and I get excited about every single day. After a season of doing all nine symphonies, all the concerti and overtures, and the Missa Solemnis, I'll be Beethoven-ed out for a little while...sorry!
Did anyone hear on NPR this morning Ned Rorem blasting the collective us for playing so much Beethoven? I wonder if I sound as bitter as he did?
David Sanders: Heaven forbid that we should force the public to listen to Beethoven. What a crying shame. I'm sure they're staying away in droves just to protest. After all, we could be playing more Carter, Boulez, Birtwistle, and yes, Rorem. I only get tired of playing Beethoven if the conductor is tired of it, or does it in a tiring way.
cbrey: For me, the most interesting thing about the series was the variety found in the piano concerti. Our soloists ran the gamut, from Christian Zacharias, who stunned us all with his musical intelligence and technical perfection, to Gianluca Cascioli who was a complete nebbish and an irritating bore who has the old fashioned bad habit of anticipating with his left hand.
We also loved Rudolf Buchbinder, whose subversive wit in #2 was infectious.
I still like Fleisher's recordings with Szell the best. I had to miss his Carnegie Hall recital (his first since 1947) because of the Beethoven series. This did not innure me to the extra performance load of the festival, I have to admit. I should have called in sick and just gone. Hearing him play the Schubert opus posthumous B-flat Sonata would have been worth any number of Beethoven Symphonies to me.
mvotapek: There was a question: "How much difference does it make in Beethoven perspective and perception, living in the place of his creative efforts compared to living in a distant land where Viennese culture is an import rather than a domestic item?"
I think it would make a huge difference. But I'm suggesting that an American who has a childhood sticking out as the only classical musician in the school, who grows up hearing recordings of old orchestras of Europeans and led by Europeans, studies music with Russians, Germans, Americans, and Hungarians, plays in ensembles mixed with people from Europe and everywhere else ... this American likely isn't going to be importing Beethoven's perspective any more than a 21st century Viennese musician would be. To both musicians, this music, its language and content, is partly a domestic item in their soul, and partly a very distant import from the past.
I wouldn't say the same for an American performing J. Strauss, or a German performing swing. (Although from what little I know, all the jazz realms have spread to become almost as much of many cultures as Beethoven has to you and me.) Those ties aren't as diffused by time yet.
I find it interesting that no one seems to question the sense of authority of British early music ensembles. Or the long-standing dominance of Hungarian conductors doing all sorts of non-Hungarian music. How about French composers writing Spanish music? (I know, these are all neighbors without oceans dividing traditions, but is the ocean any more of a divide to us today than the Pyrenees were to them?)
In the end, I guess the proof is in the pudding, so let me know good examples of whom to listen to prove me wrong. Until then, my favorite Beethoven is by a Greek and a Frenchman, and my favorite Chopin is by a Russian. And the music that I have most in my soul isn't Copland or Barber. It's...well...ok it's not Beethoven either, but you know I wasn't about to say it's Rorem.
BA: Well, I don't know which of us is more representative, if indeed either of us are, but in this I couldn't feel more differently than my friend Mark.
This was my second Beethoven cycle in three years. I could do one every year. To me almost every one of these symphonies could rank among my very favorite pieces. Unlike most works, where even the great ones dull with continued repetition in a narrow period of time, Beethoven stays fresh for me. As clichéd as it sounds I always find something new that interests me. Perhaps I lack imagination, but the slow movement of the 7th is one of the most moving works I know. Beethoven did not perhaps have the gift for cantabile singing melody, but my God, what he did have, and what he did with it. Each symphony seems to be a triumph of will over tradition, moving each time in a new, different and profound direction. I don't know of any other composer where I find the each symphony so different from the last. This was brought home particularly in the last concert that paired Beethoven 8 and 9. In what other composer could you find that contrast? Two utter opposites, and yet each perfect in its own way. For me Beethoven symphonies are some of the few pieces that seems to be able to rise above the idiosyncrasies of any particular conductor.
But that's just me. I've always loved them, and I hope I always will. I'm pretty traditional I suppose. But what was particularly amazing to me was the audience turnout for these concerts. I have never seen Fisher so packed, at virtually every single concert. I'm beginning to think that getting an audience for classical music is not such rocket science. Play good music and they will come. We play a lot of modern music here and in my (unqualified conservative reactionary) opinion, 90% of it is crap. I'm amazed that people keep buying tickets. I feel like we have the mindset that if we're going to let them hear a nice Brahms symphony we have to punish them first with some god-awful piece by this year's celebrated composer (whose music sounds like that of nine other marginally famous composers.) And now we're told that we're playing too much Beethoven? I would say to Mr. Rorem to call back when he can write something on the level of a Beethoven symphony.
It's not that I don't think modern music should be played. We have to play it, so that the good pieces actually get a chance. There is some very good modern music and we should promote it. But we seem to play an awful lot of the bad stuff. And why must every program be a mixture? Why not have some programs that are all modern, for those who like that? Why not have some programs that are all old masterworks for those who like that? Perhaps I am blinded by my own tastes, but I think if I had to keep sitting through some of these awful pieces we play for $50/ticket, I would stop coming to concerts. At least when I buy a CD, if I hate the piece I can turn it off. It seems actually that with the cheapening production costs and burgeoning independent labels, CD's could be the logical place where modern music takes it's first steps, and from there the best pieces could work their way to the concert stage.
Beyond that, my major thought resulting from our recent Beethoven cycle was that I think we all tend to use too many strings relative to the woodwind writing. So many of the symphonies have such complex and delicate interplay between the woodwind section and the strings, but with the modern huge string sections, they tend to dwarf the sound of the woodwinds. If I were God for a day, I would try cutting the string sections more and putting the winds on risers for better projection.
I shared Carter's opinion's of the pianists. Pianists like Zacharias and Buchbinder prove once again that there are first class musicians around today. Their style may be different from the old school, but I think they are great musicians. That's not the problem -- the problem is that the wrong people are getting all the attention. Lang-Lang, Casciola, etc...
zambocello: Actually, the number is probably more like 98%. But how to find the 2% without going through the 98? And it's always been 98% trash, I believe. It's not as if every piece written from 1720-1920 was a gem. Anyone who has poked around through unpublished manuscripts or unrepublished old editions quickly realizes why.
Is it trite to remind that our canonized creators were all untried, modern composers in their day? That there has probably been nothing worse said about Corigliano, Carter, or Takemitsu than was said about Beethoven, Wagner, or Stravinsky?
What to do with new music? To ghettoize it to new music concerts is unfair and unhealthy. How would repertoire ever make the transition to "mainstream"? But including more than token new music on subscription series gives marketers (and some audiences) headaches. Frankly, I think this conflict is healthy (or at least interesting). There is no right answer for what to do. Each artist and organization partially defines themselves by how they wrestle with the conflict. For me, healthy doses of new music on mainstream concerts is the answer. It is the way for new music to become mainstream.
BA: Sorry Zambo, but with all due respect I think that is a myth. As many of old 'greats' were recognized as great and beloved, if also controversial, in their day as were not. You are correct that there was a tremendous amount of bad music written then as well, but the situation is not analogous to the 20th century. The sorting process usually takes place in a decade or two, not centuries, and many works were immediately accepted into the repertory of 'great' works. I personally think it's time to accept that there will never be a large audience that appreciates serial music and that Rorem is not Schubert.
Are there pieces from the 70's that have entered the standard orchestral repertoire? Perhaps you can think of some but I can't think of any offhand that fit the usual definition of 'modern' music.
zambocello: "Standard" rep from the 70s? Not much springs to mind! Bernstein's Mass, perhaps. From when is Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto? Most of the pieces I can think of from the 70s are chamber pieces: Crumb's Vox Balinae, Black Angels, Makrokosmos, and Ancient Voices of Children, Shostakovich's late Quartets, Britten's 3rd Cello Suite and 3rd Quartet, Rochberg's Ricordanza, Berio's Sequenzas....
Thinking on this topic, I looked at several composers' works lists. So many pieces by so many recognized composers! Diamond, Foss, Ligeti, Berio, Feldman, Henze, Stockhausen, Penderecki, Davies, etc..... I've heard or played little by these. Why do we not play these composers' works more often?
Indeed, it begs a troubling question. Do we not play these composers' works because they don't sell to a larger public (and what does that say about the lofty goals of our orchestras?) or because they simply are NOT AS GOOD as the works by composers from earlier times? I'm hesitant to simply say that modern composers are just not as good. (At what point in time was this not the claim?) No, Rorem is no Beethoven. I don't think he tries to be, in fact. Modigliani is no Courbet ... at least when it comes to painting pretty and realistic pictures. Does that make him worse? Hmmm... If I had to choose one to keep and one to discard, I choose to keep Modigliani. (Perhaps I'm just sympathetic to heavy drinkers.)
And compositions from the 2nd Viennese School give an interesting look at the 20th Century sifting process. Indeed, 12-tone composition seems to have hit its dead end. But still, good works are played: Berg's Violin Concerto and 3 Pieces, Schoenberg's Variations, and concertos, Webern's Passacaglia, Variations, and Five Pieces....
>> Crooked vs. Straight Bows
stradimania: Does anyone have advice on how to bow parallel to the bridge?
Andrew Victor: It is too easy to think that if your bow moves a certain way you have solved the problem. I agree with using a mirror to see if the bow is moving parallel to the bridge (pretty much -- there are times when you don't want that).
But while the bow is moving on the strings it should be:
stradimania: Thanks for all the help. One more question. Why is parallel bowing important. What aspects of playing does parallel bowing effect?
Nicholas Anderson: That last question from stradimania is the one that should have been asked in the first place! The entire premise may be worth questioning....
DWThomas: Well, I think "parallel to the bridge" is secondary. The string and bridge geometry geometry says that if your bow is moving parallel to the bridge, the bow is moving perpendicular to the strings. (Approximately.) Among other possible problems, not bowing with the bow at a right angle to the string can excite longitudinal vibrations in the string which can result in screeching sounds. In addition, less energy is being transferred to the string in the desired vibrational mode. e.g., you do more work and get a lousier sound. Yes folks, once again, physics barges into real life!
Victor Sazer: Trying to keep your bow parallel to the bridge at all times is at the very least, a questionable goal. In the first place, the image of a straight bow is a rigid one, which is contrary to your body's natural impulses. All normal human motions are circular or curved.
In the second place, if you really keep your bow straight; you have to stop the motion at the end of each stroke to reverse direction. It takes more muscular effort (to put on the brakes) to stop the motion, than to continue it. You will surely have better results by visualizing your basic bow strokes as figure eights. This allows you to maintain continuous motion.
You might experiment by playing with tip of your bow pointing a bit upward (toward the scroll) on your down-bows and a bit downward (toward the floor) on your up-bows. Then connect one stroke to the next by rounding the end of each stroke (figure eight shape) to be at the angle you want for the new stroke (in preparation) just before you play it.
"There are no straight bows. " -- Leonard Rose
horst: Stradimania, imagine that you do a full bow from the frog to the tip. If you want to keep the distance between bow and bridge constant, you will have to bow parallel. And keeping this distance constant means that the sound quality remains constant during the full bow. If you don't bow parallel but try to keep the distance to the bridge constant, the bow hair has to move sideways on the string which causes noises and an unclear sound. Important is that the bow hair moves perpendicular to the string axis. Example: You do a full bow from frog to tip, not parallel, the tip points to the ceiling. If you keep the bow hair moving perpendicular to the string, your bow will steer away from the bridge, and when you reach the tip, you will bow somewhere above the fingerboard. Usually the bow hair will move automatically perpendicular to the string because any movement sideways will require additional forces due to the friction. This means that if you don't bow parallel and if you do not intentionally apply corrective forces, your bow will slip towards the bridge or towards the fingerboard. Because most people unintentionally bow not-parallel, they don't correct this movement of the bow along the string axis, and this is one possible reason of inconsistent tone quality. The cello sounds different when playing at the frog or at the tip, and up- and downbows sound different, too.
>> A fix for out of tune fifths?
gloriarex: I find that despite my strings being in tune, I often have to put my fingers at an extreme angle when trying to play fifths between the A & D, and the D & G string. My stand partner this week showed me a little trick on his cello. There is a very small piece of wood underneath the nut to help make fifths easier to play in tune. I'm not sure how this works, but he says that many people have this done to their instruments. Does anyone else have something like this?
David Sanders: About 32 years ago, I played in a master class for Starker at the Ravinia Festival. I was in the Grant Park orchestra at the time, and it was my first time playing for Starker. A friend had arranged it. I played the Boccherini A Major sonata, and when I finished, he asked if I had a match. I replied, "Why, do you want to burn my cello?" He got a (paper) match, and put a little piece of it under my D string at the nut. It made a world of difference.
Jon Pegis: My cello had a small piece of ebony under the D string at the nut when I bought it in 1987. The fifths line up well, so I've had no reason to take it off. I once heard that this practice helped tune a metal D string with a gut G string but I can't remember who told me that. In any event it seems to work well even with all metal strings. I use Chrome-Core Plus A and D, and tungsten Spirocore G and C.
zambocello: I looked today at the cello GloriaRex referenced. Indeed, there is what looks like a bit of a paper match under the D string.
Since the string length is shortened by moving the nut stop closer to the bridge, all other notes will be closer to the bridge as well. So, if in playing fifths on the A and D strings it was necessary to point up the D string (because the D string notes were sharp relative to the A string notes when played with perpendicular fingers), the problem would be mitigated. But wouldn't this worsen the issue of fifths between G and D strings, unless it was necessary to point down the G string for those D string-G string fifths?
Is there some reason the D string is always sharp to its neighbors in fifths? Shape of the fingerboard? Relative hard and soft spots on human fingers?
And Jon, I had never heard that strings of differing composition would not be in tune. Why? Since strings of different flexibilities swing at different widths, does their tension, and therefore their pitch, not remain consistent? If this was the case, it would show up in open strings as well as fingered fifths, I suppose.
The match under the string reminded me of what I would do in midwestern winters, when the cello was drying out and the strings were getting low, to keep the A string from buzzing against the fingerboard. But doesn't this work contrary to the goal of the matchstick under the D string? By raising the D string ever so slightly, there will be more tension of the string under the finger, making it easier to be sharp.
Tom Flaherty: I am not sure I understand all of this, but when we finger a string, in addition to shortening the sounding length, we stretch it a bit, so the sounding length is not only shorter, but under more tension. Gut and simulated gut strings need more tension adjustment to change pitch than steel -- due to their density, I think (hence the relative uselessness of fine tuners for gut strings.) I imagine that this contributes to the flaky fingered fifths from steel to gut strings.
supercelloartist: What is the difference between putting a matchstick under the string and simply tuning it higher?
gloriarex: My problem with fifths lies not in a too high D string, but rather a too low D string in relation to the A and G. Maybe I should get those little matchsticks on the A and G. In any case, I'm off to the string shop to see what can be done.
Daniel Ortbals: There are two ways to change the pitch of the string: change the length, and change the tension. If you keep the length the same, then you must increase the tension if you want a higher pitch. If you simply tuned it higher, then your string would no longer be at the optimal tension, and in fact might not be very good for your cello. The matchstick method keeps the string at the right tension, but simply shortens the length.
>> The perils of teaching oneself.
BlackBlaze616: I've been playing the cello for a while ... but I wasn't in a school that had orchestra, so I couldn't play. There was no where close enough. I just got my own cello, and discovered I couldn't play very well because I didn't know finger positions. Does anyone know where I can find a fingering chart on the internet?
Bob: You will never be able to play cello even semi-competently if you try to teach yourself. All the books, videos, fingering charts, and etudes in the world will not help you if you go it alone. There are many bad teachers out there, and many overpriced ones. But without a teacher, you are simply fooling yourself and wasting time.
Ellen G: "discovered I couldn't play very well because I didn't know finger positions.
This may be today's problem, but each day you'll find new problems. The more you try to do, the more you'll find other things that you don't understand. I think a lot of people are used to plinking on a piano or strumming a guitar, and they can derive a lot of pleasure from this casual "pick it up" attitude. Cellos are different [for most people].
Can you teach yourself? Some people obviously have, to a degree. In a sense it's like golf hackers or skiers or any number of activities where you can have an idea of what you want to do, and you can go out recreationally and "do it" and have fun. You can say you skied a black diamond even if you spent more of the trip down the hill on your rear than on your skis, lacking form and skill. [Did we discuss injuring yourself?]
Once you get to a point where you realize you want to do something the way someone else does, and you can't figure out how, you end up in lessons and that's where you find out all the things you learned wrong that you now need to change.
The thing is, there are all kinds of people and goals. Some folks want more, like you apparently do. And how much "more" is, and what you're willing and able to do to get "more" can vary greatly. If you're like most people, the goals you set will probably change with time.
You mention charts about thumb and fingers. Playing cello is a PROCESS, a moving one. What you see in a picture only illustrates that one posture or placement frozen in time. How you get from picture to picture is what you need a teacher for. It's what you don't see that you need to know. The dynamics of right hand/arm are really important, and you didn't even mention that in your question. In a loose sense, the left hand makes the notes and the right hand makes the music.
I guarantee you that you can have tapes on a cello and place your finger ON THAT TAPE but wiggle or orient it ever so slightly at one angle rather than another so as to move in and out of tune. You need to understand the difference between guidelines and absolutes. In cello playing there are few absolutes. Your ears are more important than your eyes in terms of intonation, and of course tone. You can play every note in tune and still not have the sound you want. LESSONS!!
Things take form slowly, and they need to be reshaped, refined. It's more like a lump of clay which gradually becomes a sculpture. You can roll a ball or make a pyramid without instruction. If you plan to recreate "David" you're going to need help. Not having arms is a time saver. Tee hee.
Cello happens to be pretty complicated, and getting a solid start with live instruction makes your chances of success greater. I know not everyone has access to one. You just have to be realistic about where you are going to end up without one, and take it from there.
MaryM: http://www.artsconservatory.com/PRCello.html has a Fingering Chart link.
As to finding the notes -- playing with a tuner can help you find the correct position.
However, you really do need to get a teacher. I had taken violin lessons, so I thought I could handle teaching myself the cello. I felt I was progressing fine, but when I bought a new cello I wanted to make the new cello proud of me, so I started lessons. I had to re-learn many things -- I was bowing wrong and my left hand was wrong as well. I definitely realized I certainly would have been better taking lessons right from the start.
Do it right -- start with lessons.
>> Teaching Vibrato.
belacello: I was curious as to how some of you teach vibrato? How long do your students play before you teach them how to vibrato? I tend to wait until they can play two octave scales reasonably in tune.
Andrew Victor: I will introduce vibrato pretty early IF it is the only way to correct bad left arm habits including bent wrist and tight thumb. Otherwise I try to coordinate it with a good right hand so the tone can happen.
Tim Janof: The tennis ball trick seems like neat idea for teaching vibrato. I describe it in my report of the last National Cello Congress.
bear: I use the percussion instrument, the egg shaker. This way the student can hear their oscillations better. Then, as a professor I had taught me, I put the student on a "Mexican Diet." With metronome "Ta-co," then "Bur-ri-to," then "Que-sa-dil-la." It works really well. Each click of the metronome is broken up into these syllables. Do this on each finger, starting with whichever finger is best set-up on each particular student, usually 2 or 3. I also find that it is much easier to start vibrato in the fourth position, the hand is anchored much better there.
chiddle player: The initial vibrato problem for this beginner, which I still remember clearly is left hand/right hand independence. The right hand wants to shake as well. But that passes in a few weeks. The moment that vibrato really made sense for me was when I read the description of vibrato in Victor Sazer's book. Vibrato is a pull, not a push! We pull the vibrato out if the cello. That made all the difference. Listen to a wide, slow, rich saxophone vibrato. The saxophonist comes down from the pitch and then back up, never above the pitch. Not a nervous shake. So I think "sound like a saxophone" (My own mental image). Anyway, it's all part of getting away from the fixed C-clamp attitude.
ruthann: How to teach vibrato? It depends on the student. For the more analytical learners I have them do the wa-wa's to the metronome, carefully explaining the arm position and how wide I want the vibrato to be. For someone more tactile, I would use a soda can with gravel in it as a practice tool. Some students seem to know when they are ready for vibrato. They want to add something more to their pieces. If the student is still struggling with clarity of tone and string crossings on simple pieces I don't teach them vibrato.
1. Beloved Seattle cellist dies
The following has been re-printed with the permission of the Seattle Times.
David Tonkonogui, a respected and beloved member of Seattle's music community, died Wednesday after a long battle with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer.
Mr. Tonkonogui, 45, who emigrated from the former Soviet Union when glasnost parted the Iron Curtain at the end of the 1980s, was a longtime member of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra's cello section. His influence, however, reached far beyond the orchestra into every corner of the Northwest's musical scene.
Mr. Tonkonogui played in some of the region's leading chamber ensembles, including the Bridge Ensemble and Music of Remembrance, and he soloed with several other groups. As a teacher, he was "a role model the size of Mount Everest," according to Jody Schwarz, wife of Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz. Their son Julian, now 12, began cello studies with Mr. Tonkonogui at 5.
Gerard Schwarz phoned from Liverpool, where he conducted a Royal Liverpool Philharmonic concert last night, to express his "great sorrow at this loss. David was a great artist and musician who saw the good in every piece of music, every concert, every person. I would do anything for him. We were very close friends. He was the most wonderful, caring person."
Mr. Tonkonogui's friend, violinist Mikhail Shmidt, who played alongside him in the symphony and co-founded the highly regarded Bridge Ensemble with him in 1993, said: "All the good things people could ever say about him are true. Usually it is only in books that you see such purity and kindness. There was not an angry bone in his body. His amazing integrity was reflected in his playing.
"Every performance had his utmost respect," Shmidt said. "It was never `a gig' for him. It is so rare to see such respect for the music. I feel very fortunate to be in his human and artistic presence."
Mr. Tonkonogui was Russian-born, a former member of the Moscow State Orchestra and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. As a young player, he won a national chamber-music contest. He came to New York, where he played a "knockout" audition for Schwarz, and then journeyed without his cello (which would have required another airline ticket) to Seattle to play the final audition on a borrowed instrument.
Mr. Tonkonogui is survived by his wife, cellist Mara Finkelstein, and by their daughter, Anna Tonkonogui, both of Seattle. But he leaves a much larger family behind: the bereaved students who loved him, and the family of musicians who played alongside him for 14 seasons.
The Seattle Symphony observed a moment of silence before last night's concert in Benaroya Hall, followed by the performance of a Bach Air in Mr. Tonkonogui's memory.
-- Melinda Bargreen, 10/31/03
2. Schumann Märchenbilder
The following is a message from Christian Bellisario:
"I'm a cellist and a cello teacher in Lugano and in the Milan Conservatorio, where I am an academic and researcher. I have just published a fabulous repertoire work for cello and piano:
3. New book about Yo-Yo Ma
A new book is on the verge of being published about Yo-Yo Ma. Here's the link:
4. New Amati Publications
Amati Music has come out with some fascinating new publications:
Julian Lloyd Webber and pop singer Elton John have recorded a duet. The cellist's latest album, Made in England, celebrates his 20-year partnership with the Philips/Universal Classics label and features John's 1971 hit, Your Song.
6. Summer Music Academy Leipzig
The 4th International Summer Music Academy Leipzig, presented by the Leipzig Music University and the Juilliard School, will take place from July 16 through August 5, 2004 in Leipzig, Germany. Cello study will be under the direction of Christian Giger, Solo Cellist of the Chopin Academy and teacher at the Music University. Students receive two individual lessons and a class lesson weekly and also study chamber music with other faculty members, including Bruce Brubaker and Stephen Clapp of the Juilliard School and Klaus Hertel of the Leipzig faculty. Cellists will take part in student concerts (reviewed) in major halls, and there will be excursions. For more information go to www.hmt-leipzig.de or send an e-mail to email@example.com. There are special cello scholarships available.
7. New Schubert Society of the USA
A new society that is dedicated to Franz Schubert has been formed. For more information, please go to: http://classicalmus.hispeed.com/ssusa.
8. Cello Bach Annalia
The University of Cincinatti is presenting the Ninth Annual Cello Bach Annalia on March 5 and 6, 2004. This event is dedicated to the Bach Cello Suites and the contemporary works that they inspired. Cellists include Richard Aaron, Colin Carr, Steven Doane, Lee Fiser, Ross Harbaugh, Lionel Party, Peter Pesic, and Jacqueline Ross.
9. Hultgren Solo Cello Work Competition
The top prize winners in the Hultgren Solo Cello Work Competition are Jukka Tiensuu and Keeril Makan. Craig Hultgren, a member of the Alabama Symphony, the Chagall Trio, and the newly formed Luna Nova, presented the program of seven cello works, all finalists in the competition. The seven finalists were selected from one hundred submissions from fourteen different countries. The competition was open to living composers of music for solo cello and electronics.
10. Zuill Bailey's cello featured in Strad.
Zuill Bailey's beautiful Gofriller cello (the "ex-Schneider") is featured in the November 2003 issue of Strad magazine. Get a copy so that you may put the poster on your wall!
11. Silva Centennial Celebration
The following is being published courtesy of Brooks Whitehouse and the Violoncello Society. Brooks Whitehouse is Professor of Cello at UNCG and cellist of the Guild Trio.
On March 5-7 of 2004, the UNCG School of Music will present The Silva Centennial Celebration, honoring the playing, teaching and scholarship of cellist Luigi Silva (1903-1961). Home to Silva's Cello Music Collection of some 1775 musical scores, archival materials and books, UNCG is proud to host many of Silva's most prominent students for three days of concerts, master classes and workshops. Performers and clinicians include:
A founding member of the Violoncello Society, Luigi Silva's cello legacy lives on today, not only in the excellence of his former students, but in his many published cello concert transcriptions and etude editions as well. In the 42 years since his death, much of this material has gone out of print. In addition, Mr. Silva was forever working on new publishing ventures, and The Violoncello Society's current newsletter issue's article "Hidden Treasures" by Joan Staples outlines many projects left either unfinished or unpublished at the time of his death.
All this makes a visit to the Silva Collection at UNCG's Jackson Library a vital part of the Celebration. On the opening day, the Special Collections reading room will be open from 9 AM to 7 PM. There will be a display of writings, manuscripts and photographs, and the library staff will give a presentation on the collection's contents and its online catalogue (http://library.uncg.edu/depts/speccoll/cello). In addition, Dr. Margery Enix, translator of Silva's unpublished A History of Left-hand Technique on the Violoncello, will give a presentation on this comprehensive pedagogical work. Throughout the weekend, copies of Silva transcriptions and selected writings will be available to browsers at the School of Music library. Friday visitors will also be free to browse the collections of Rudolf Matz, Maurice Eisenberg, Janos Scholz, Fritz Magg and Elizabeth Cowling that together with the Silva Collection make up the largest body of cello music in the world.
In honor of the Silva Centennial a new web based publishing company called Ovation Press will be releasing several new editions of gems from the Silva Collection. These works will include Silva's realizations of eight Boccherini Sonatas, and several of his arrangements including: Paganini's Le Streghe op. 8; Brahms' intermezzo op. 116; Chopin's Etude in F Minor op. 25 no. 2 and Mazurka op. 17 no. 4; and Scarlatti's Sonata no. 1. Advance copies of selected material will be available at the Celebration.
The Silva Centennial offers students, teachers, performers and the general public access to some of the leading cellists of the day. Students who wish to perform in master classes may submit an audition tape along with their application. Teachers will find professional training in presentations by Martha Gerschefski and Hans Jorgen Jensen, and in a round-table discussion on Silva pedagogy. Performers may browse the cello music collection for new repertoire, and music lovers will enjoy four world class concerts. In short, the Celebration has something for everyone.
The Centennial web site http://www.uncg.edu/mus/silva04 offers downloadable applications, travel and accommodation information, and updated schedules for the event as it continues to grow. If you have any Silva reminiscences, pictures, memorabilia or manuscripts that you would like to share or donate for the Centennial display, or if you have any Silva-related ideas for the Celebration program, please contact Dr. Brooks Whitehouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
12. Prize Winner
13. Faculty and Ensemble Appointments
14. More Cello News
A cello news link has been engineered using Google.com's features. Be sure to bookmark it.
Manchester International Cello Festival
The next Manchester (U.K.) International Cello Festival has been advertised for May 5-9, 2004. In future this event will take place every three years instead of every other year. http://www.cello-festival.demon.co.uk.
The International Pablo Casals Cello Competition will be held 25 August - 4 September 2004 in Kronberg, Germany. http://www.kronbergacademy.de.
The International Cello Ensemble Society will host a festival in Kobe, Japan in May 2005. http://www.kobe-cello.com.
World Cello Congress IV
World Cello Congress IV May/June 2006 at Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland. Cello Congress V is also listed on their website - May/June 2010! "Many of the greatest stars of the music world will join forces to present a one-of-a-kind event not to be missed." Concerts, recitals, masterclasses, workshops, symposia, exhibits, receptions. http://www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongresses/wcc4.html.
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3. Interview with Pieter Wispelwey
4. Cellist Picture
5. Gregor Piatigorsky
6. Piatigorsky Foundation
7. Yo-Yo and his Brazil CD
8. London Violoncello Society event review
9. Another Pieter Wispelwey review
10. London Violoncello Society
11. Bright Lights, Big Cello
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