Message from the Editor
Armchair quarterbacking is fun, ain't it? I certainly do it, perhaps to my own peril, since I sometimes do it publicly. But isn't it strange how we pass judgement on those who have more talent in their little finger than the rest of us combined?
One thing that really struck me at the RNCM Cello Festival was how difficult it must be to be a performing musician, so I asked some cellists at the festival about this and certain common themes emerged. Keep in mind that they are talking about the "downsides" of being a performer. Of course, there must some overriding great aspects of their career or they wouldn't do it. Brace yourself for a passing dark cloud:
>> This is in response to letters to Bernie Cotes in the last newsletter: Emily, Kathy, and Sarah, please excuse late thanks for your help -- reference 'knee versus cello.' Here the Space Age passes unnoticed as after nine weeks I still await a 'First Fumble Cello Tutor' from our local music shop. I am still playing by ear!
Despite this I try to remain calm and focused, only returning to bemused mode as my cello strut begins to slide slowly East-Northeast carrying cello and carefully composed body with it. Picasso would have loved it. Fortunately the cello, being made in China, could not interpret my comments.
Surely the answer is not rosin! Does the fault lie in the weft (whatever that is) of our carpet? Maybe someone will also advise, acoustically, the removal of carpet. Lack of studio space prevents re-alignment and I have no wish to relocate to the next room where vast stretches of floor abound but where I should be fixed by the inquisitorial gaze of my son's beady-eyed gerbil, Sam.
Thinking that the cello might have a homing instinct for China I consulted an Atlas but gave up trying to align them, bemused by page turning, distance, and curvature of the earth's surface.
What I can verify is that with maps, a magnetic compass, and a ruler my cello strut points precisely in a straight line across the English Channel, through Warsaw, Samara, and on to Omsk! At that point I gave up but wasn't that interesting? Perhaps even there an ICS member is waiting to help me!
>>I'm a cellist from California and I remember a performance of Jacqueline du Pré's in San Francisco at the opera house (1969?). In subsequent photos of Jackie, I've seen what looks like a very heavy bow, indeed. Can you tell me something of the bows she preferred and their weight, and what is that brown sleeve-like thing just passed the frog?
Christopher Nupen replies: For many years Jackie used a bow made by John Dodd which weighed in heavily at approximately 90 grams.
One-day her mother took it to J.A. Beare & Co to be re-haired. Outside the shop the wind blew the car door shut and destroyed the bow completely. Jackie was mightily upset because she valued it very highly indeed.
Charles Beare set about looking for a replacement and finally found an equally heavy bow by Louis Panormo which also weighed approximately 90 grams. Jackie came very soon to prefer it to the Dodd bow and used it for every important concert from that day to the end of her career.
Charles Beare gave her the Panormo bow as a present and when Jackie died Daniel Barenboim gave it back to Charles Beare in recognition of his original gesture. Charles has lent it to another cellist friend, temporarily.
What Dan describes as a "brown sleeve-like thing" was, in fact, a piece of orange rubber tubing which was once used quite commonly in England, and Jackie found it to be an indispensable aid in controlling the heavy bow, notwithstanding the fact that it increased the weight to 105 grams which is probably a record.
>> I just read the latest ICS Tutti Celli newsletter. Always informative and well done. Some comments, though, shocked me considerably.
First, Slavich says in his article on the Popper Etudes that they were created in order to help to strengthen the left hand fingers. WRONG! They were written to develop agility, which is why they are great. We don't need strength.
Secondly, regarding the discussion on finger curvature, Starker says that placing the thumb on neighboring strings is more solid. Instead, what we need is agility, see Victor Sazer. It makes things much easier to keep the thumb on one string only. Also, it is bad to keep the left hand fingers curved. It is a source of cramps. See Sazer again. Curved fingers in thumb position, with the thumb on neighboring strings, makes using the first finger very awkward.
Finally, concerning the endpin, I have used a bent one for about 30 years. Mine was bent by my automobile repairman, and works fine. It is not too pronounced, and does not make my cello "nearly near-horizontal," but it is comfortably less upright.
With this endpin and good left-hand principles, unlike many of my colleagues, at 78, I still play effortlessly, and have no physical problems.
>> I am a cellist and performance artist from Los Angeles who travels regularly with my instrument. I am sending you this e-mail because I am experiencing great difficulty travelling with Delta Airlines.
In the past I have been told that it is an FAA rule that the cello must be placed at the bulkhead (unless it is an emergency exit row), so I usually arrive 2 hours early to ensure that I receive the bulkhead seats, which are set aside for the elderly and disabled passengers. Usually I have no problems. A few days ago I had a cellist's nightmare flight in which I was denied the bulkhead seats by Delta, and told that the FAA no longer requires that the cello be placed at the bulkhead. I won't tell you the whole nine yards. Suffice it to say that I had the toughest flight ever.
Will you please help me? I was wondering if the Internet Cello Society has info regarding air travels with cello or any other information that might help me as I wish to avoid the hell I went through before. Needless to say, I will avoid Delta Airlines in the future and want to let other touring cellists know that Delta is NOT cello friendly.
"Chola Con Cello"
>> I'm an old young beginner and I recently ordered my very first cello with the help of Ms. Simonetta Barone, who generously gave of her time and wisdom to try several instruments for me and choose the best. I can never thank her enough.
There came a knock at my front door. My first cello! I prepared to raise the lid, feeling as Lord Carnarvon must have felt when he raised the lid and saw Tutankhamun. There she lay, shimmering like old dark rubies. I thought of the French craftsmen who made her, long dead and their bones forgotten. Yet their child was here, living and ready to play for me. I drew the bow across an open string and my room overflowed with beautiful sound. I bowed again. And again. And I fell in love with the Queen of Instruments.
I take out my new found love and practice with her twice every day, beginning with long slow bows. Sustained notes sound so beautiful. Nearly three weeks have now passed and already I can play scales and exercises in first position. Intonation is a little shaky when I first sit down but seems to become spot-on after playing for a while, and I never look at my left hand. Our honeymoon feels as though it will go on for ever.
>> My cello arrived damaged when it was delivered by Federal Express (FedEx). What can I do about this?
Todd French replies:This is certainly a very unfortunate experience -- and I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of good news for you. FedEx is notorious for refusing to pay for repairs or replacement, even if you have fully insured it with FedEx on top of your standard insurance. At StringWorks, we refuse to use them at all because of a similar situation which, even after legal action, FedEx refused to budge on. I wish I could tell you that this is going to be an easy fight, but it's not....
First of all, find out what 'antique' is classified as under the FedEx regulations -- make them send it to you, showing you the very spot on your contract where it is. If it's not there, keep it for later when you fight it. Next find out when your cello was made and see if it would be considered 'antique' by FedEx's requirements. If it is, maybe just put it aside for now as it won't help you. The only way it might is if you didn't sign anything that states this garbage about limited coverage for antiques.
Next you need to make sure you have the box and packing materials, and take photographs before they can come take them away. By the way, did you insure it separately through FedEx?
If you go to a shop for an estimate, take it there yourself -- obviously don't ship it again! The next step after gathering all your information is to call them and start the process, which will not be fun. Check into small claims court in your state, and find out what the requirements are. If you can make a claim against FedEX -- if the particular laws there allow you to -- grab a claim form and take it home. There should be a line where you name a defendant and it has to be an individual's name (in CA anyway). When you call, ask who's name you should put on the small claims form because you can't use the company name -- a representative or officer must be named. Usually, after revealing the information you have gathered and seeing that you are serious enough (you don't really have to do a small claims court suit, unless you really want to -- it's more of a threat) to file a suit, they might budge.
I wouldn't promise anything, but know that it will be a difficult struggle with FedEx -- much easier with UPS or the Post Office, unfortunately.
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by Tim Janof
Born in Natal, Brazil, Mr. Parisot began studying the cello at age seven with his stepfather, Tomazzo Babini, and made his professional debut at age twelve. He came to the United States in 1946 and made his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, followed by extensive touring in the United States, Canada, and South America. His first European tour was in 1957, and since then he has toured annually as a solo cellist throughout the world. Mr. Parisot's recital activities have been equally international since his Town Hall debut in 1950, and appearances have included London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, and both Tully Hall and Fisher Hall in New York. Washington D.C. was the scene of another coup by Mr. Parisot when he played the difficult and rarely performed Schoenberg Cello Concerto in the Kennedy Center. In the Spring of 1976, Mr. Parisot made a five-week tour of Poland, which included concerts with orchestras and recitals. He created a sensation when he introduced Donald Martino's composition for solo cello, entitled "Parisonatina Al'Dodecafonia" at the Tanglewood Festival. The "New York Times" remarked: "Those at this performance are not going to forget [Parisot's] feat overnight," and the Boston Globe wrote "…there is probably no cellist that can equal Parisot's dazzling achievement." Harold Schoenberg of the "New York Times" has said of him: 'A very strong technician with a sweet tone and impeccable intonation, he is altogether a superior instrumentalist and musician." Articles have appeared about him in a number of magazines, including the "New York Herald Tribune Magazine," "Music and Artists," "Musical America," "Music Journal," "New York Magazine," "U.S. Camera," "They Talk About Music," "Reader's Digest," "The Strad," and "Instrumentalist;" as well as innumerable articles in newspapers around the globe.
Mr. Parisot has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors over the years, including gold medals from Lebanon and Brazil, and honorary citizenships. In 1980, Mr. Parisot received the Eva Janzer "Chevalier du Violoncelle," an award given by Indiana University. In September 1982, he was awarded the "United Nations Peace Medal" following his performance at its Staff Day ceremonies, and, in 1983, he received the "Artist/Teacher Award" presented by the American String Teachers Association. In May 1997, Mr. Parisot received the "Governor's Arts Award" from the State of Connecticut for outstanding achievement as a musician and teacher.
The Yale Cellos and Mr. Parisot performed at the May 2001 International Manchester Festival, where he also gave master classes and was given the "Award of Distinction." As conductor of the Grammy nominated Yale Cellos, he has recorded two CD's for Delos, and a CD of Ezra Laderman's -- three works written for Aldo Parisot and the Yale cellos -- is about to be released. The ensemble, which also performed in the Beauvais Festival in France in 1999, and again in 2001, gave its Carnegie Hall debut in April 1998. A Yale School of Music faculty member since 1958, Mr. Parisot was named the "Samuel Sanford Professor of Music" in 1994 -- the first recipient of this honor. In 1999 Mr. Parisot received the Yale School of Music's "Ian Mininberg Distinguished Service Award" and an honorary Doctorate of Music from Shenandoah University in Virginia.
TJ: You've only had one cello teacher, your stepfather, an Italian cellist named Thomazzo Babini.
AP: That's correct, thank God. I don't agree with students who bounce around from teacher to teacher.
I studied with my stepfather for eleven years, starting when I was 7 years old. Everything I know and teach today comes from him, and it was he who taught me about the importance of playing without unnecessary tension. Under his guidance I learned how to be a very relaxed player, which helped me to progress very rapidly. This enabled me, as a child, to play the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto on the cello with little problem, and, at age 12, to play the Paganini Moto Perpetuo with my eyes closed. It was easy for me, like drinking a glass of milk. I am very grateful to my step-father.
When I was 18 years old I became the principal cellist of the orchestra in Rio de Janeiro. Carleton Sprague Smith, the attaché to the American embassy, came to one of our concerts and heard me play the Brahms Double Concerto with violinist Ricardo Odnoposoff. Smith was so impressed with my playing that he came backstage and invited me to a party that was being thrown for Yehudi Menuhin, who was also in town for a concert. At the party, Smith took me aside and said, "Why don't you go abroad?"
I replied, "But where would I go? Besides, I don't have any money."
He said that he would arrange for me to go wherever I wanted, so I told him that I wanted to study with Emanuel Feuermann in the United States. He kept his promise and it was arranged for me to study with Feuermann at the Curtis Institute. Unfortunately, Feuermann died three months before I was to leave Brazil, in 1942. This was extremely disappointing, since he was the only person I was interested in studying with.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
by Nicholas Anderson
In this article, I'd like to give you a bit of an idea of what goes on in my seminar, and what sorts of methods you would encounter there -- to the extent that it's possible to do that in an essay such as this. It won't be the same as if we were together in person, and you could ask me questions to clarify what I mean; or I could see if I thought you were actually doing the thing I'm showing you how to do. Also, this is just the smallest "taste" of it, since the seminar is usually scheduled to take an entire weekend, or more. But I hope that from this you will get a sense that Margaret found newly effective approaches to old and difficult issues, and that by opening some doors that had been closed to us before, a special kind of inspiration came to life.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
Why does Jacqueline du Pré maintain her hold on the public imagination, long after she left this world, in a way that very few performing musicians have done in the past? We all know some of the answers. None of us knows all of them. Happily some things are beyond explanation. Meanwhile there are millions who remember that radiance and rejoice in it.
And why have we made a fifth film about Jacqueline du Pré when we had already made four; all of them still alive and well in the world?
There is one reason above all others The world cannot have enough of Jacqueline du Pré. People want to touch that radiance because Jacqueline du Pré sometimes touched them in a way that is as unforgettable as it is unexplainable.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
This fine site has discussions about cello books, sheet music, and some fingering charts for the cello.
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>>The Cello Witch of Bremen -- Part the First
The 24th of May, in this the year of our Lord 1749
The afternoon was as dank and gray as my trusted mule, Horst. When I, Mauritius Annheuser -- humble cellist, tinker and all around Bon Vivant, arrived in the town of Bucholst. An itinerant musician working my way across Bavaria to my home in Munchen, I hoped to gain a few Marks by busking the local tavern here or at least find room and board for the evening in exchange for a few simple tunes on my cello, perhaps mend a few pots, do a little dance and get down tonight.
A bruised and beaten oaf of a fellow confined to the stocks, directed me to a place called "Der Schpankenspiegel," a notorious establishment I knew to be associated with lay-abouts, cut-purses and eel smugglers. Thrusting aside the oaken door, I entered to find the locals busy at games and revelry. Their ruddy, ring-wormed complexions smudged with smoke and soot discharged from a fireplace in which a boar was haplessly roasting on a spit (or for vegetarians -- please visualize a big chunk of tofu). Upon sensing a stranger in their midst, a sudden and stony silence fell across the room, broken only be the rattle of dice (or was it teeth?) hitting a tankard strewn table. Suspicious and jaundiced eyes turned towards me and instinctively my patrician nostrils flared in what I like to describe as simple disdain and/or unfettered contempt.
Without a word, I began removing my beloved cello from its protective covering -- a 12th century Persian tapestry (stolen from Castle Gottenhimmel earlier that Spring in an ill-advised escapade from which I barely escaped with my life! -- but that is a different story for a different time). I found my darling to be perfectly in tune and immediately launched into a rousing version of "Flow Gently Sweet Afton," followed by a heartrending arrangement of the old standard "Gammer Gerten Got Got." The anemic crowd went wild, demanding more and I was prepared to accomodate them. I began a spirited rendition of a real tuner -- the gigue from the 3rd Suite -- Johann is a personal friend of mine and had autographed a copy of his composition for me in spite of the extreme vocal protests of Anna Magdalena. That shrew!
Upon hearing the totally hummable opening bars, the tubercular townsfolk began to gigue madly about the tavern, patting their heads and rubbing their bellies as was the fashion in that part of the land. When I played the final C chord (which I like to stretch out a really long time), the pitiful bunch roared their approval, gathered me up and began carrying me about the room atop their osteo-arthritic shoulders. This was to my chagrin and great dismay for surely they were all teeming with disease.
To be continued....
>>The Cello Witch of Bremen -- Part the Second
"Innkeeper! More ale!" I demanded, as the admiring, goiter encrusted simpletons plopped me down in a chair stained with Heaven only knows what.
The barsy hastened to my bidding, placing several tankards of what appeared to be a really nice Pilsner on a tray held by a comely, yet surly bar wench. Leaving what appeared to be a dining area replete with all manner of mid-18th century treats and which she seemed to have cordoned off for her own consumption, she swaggered over to my table. I deemed her to be about 47 in years, quite used and yet somehow attractive -- in a gutter sort of way. The tavern tart possessed a luxuriously ample bosom, which she apparently held in high esteem. A leaf of tobacco or sotweed, as is known, was rolled into a sort of stick where it dangled from her sneering, pouty lips. I thought for a moment I detected the odor of Lycra, though I could not be sure.
"Your ale, sir." She sniffed, almost dropping the tray and managing to splatter my plum and silver waistcoat with foam.
"Gaping posthole!" I declared, my voice choking with rage. "How dare ye!"
"Arrogant chippie!" Cried a toothless hag.
"I know ye are, but what am I." The floozie replied impudently.
"Clumsy roudheels!" Voiced an anthrax spreader.
"I know ye are, but what am I." She cooed.
"Impertinent Sally-dally!" Shouted another, in the midst of some manner of seizure.
She then subdued one and all with one withering glance. The typhoid-laden crew cowered as if slapped. Then she, indeed, began walking among them, slapping them soundly as she went. With her task complete, she then cast narrowed eyes on me. Approaching me slowly, until our faces were within mere inches, she stopped.
"Oh...shut up." She sneered.
To be continued....
>>The Cello Witch of Bremen -- Part the Third
I was struck dumb by this cutting statement. This ale house empress owned not only a luxuriosly ample bosom, but was glib as well. My zoftig enchantress began the trek back to her wench-post. (A wench-post is where bar wenches wait until they are told otherwise.)
"Pray,a moment, my good woman!" I called after her, for now I was...well...intrigued. "Prithee, won't ye join me in a tankard of ale?"
"Do ye think there be room for the two of us, sir?" She quipped.
My humiliation was complete! Once again, I was bested by the this overly ripe fig with feet and by a jape as old as the Alps!
"Now see here...." I began.
Sensing a moment of weakness she quickly interrupted "Nay, sir! For thou art a drunkard and a stinkard and I will none of thee!"
"Madam, I assure you I am no drunkard!" I countered and yet could feel the heat rise in my face and for a moment feared I had contracted the plague ... or worse.
"Ha! A stinkard then! So away with ye! Away with ye and thy big fiddle!" She commanded, arms akimbo, sotweed a-dangle and voice heavy with challange and amusement.
To be continued....
>>The Cello Witch of Bremen -- Part the Fourth
"Thy name, saucy wench and be quick with thy answer!" I could be forceful when pressed and I felt ... well ... pressed. Besides, there was something familiar about her. Something I couldn't quite identify. Something ... unsettling.
"Gerta Finkelschtadt. If any business it be of thine!" She snorted.
"Lying slop pot!" I answered. "The callus on thy index finger betrays thee. I recognize it as the result of cello playing and by its strange shape (and it was strange, for it resembled perfectly the likeness of Georg Telemann). Verily, it is the mark of the The Dark Lord himself and thou art revealed as none other than BettyLou -- The Cello Witch of Bremen!"
The infection ridden towns folk gasped in unison. BettyLou -- The Cello Witch of Bremen -- was in their midst ... had been in there midst for months and looked as though she may be ... in their midst for who knows how long. Oh, could Beelzebub be far behind?
BettyLou squatted in a mockery of a proper curtsy. "An astute observation, kind sir and doubly remarkable from one -- with such a pronounced overbite!"
Alas! She had found my Achilles Heel for I was acutely sensitive to my one physical flaw! Her words cut me as a knife would cut warm butter. I was the waving wheat and she the merciless scythe. I had always considered myself a rather handsome fellow. My mother told me as much on more than one occasion. This flagrant disregard for the opinion of my mother only served to underscore the cruel evil expected of such a heinous creature as BettyLou -- The Cello Witch of Bremen!
To be continued....
>>The Cello Witch of Bremen - Part the Fifth
"Is there no end to your wickedness!" My voice sounded embarrassingly shrill.
"None, Sir Squeaky!" she replied smugly. "How would ye like to kiss this?" She teased and walked away from me, patting first her right buttock and then her left. All the while making sucking and kissing noises.
I could tolerate no more of this and live.
"Witch, I challenge thee to a cello duel!"
"A cello duel!" cried the the lice-laden crowd in unison and immediately began clearing a space in the middle of the room.
"A duel it is then, sir." She said, trying to imitate my newly found soprano. "But be warned, the last to issue me such a challenge was reduced to a whimpering, drooling dolt and is now banished to the picturesque wilds of the Austrian outback! Expect no quarter, whatever your name is!"
"Mauritius Annheuser, your servant. I expect no mercy, nor none shall I bestow. If truly goodness and virtue exist in this foul world, then I shall prevail! I tell thee, witch, if righteousness and justice reign supreme, then I will emerge the victor! If excellence in all things is cherished and godliness treasured, then...then...."
"Yah...then?" the mucous soaked townsfolk begged in unison.
However, before I could end my eloquent declaration (and a fortunate thing, too, for I was at an uncharacteristic loss for words), BettyLou produced from thin air a strikingly beautiful cello, which, on its lower right bout bore the inscription "To BettyLou. We'll always have Cremona! Affectionately, Antonio S." This was none other than the legendary Stradivarius known as "The Duchess of Malfi" and believed to be lost at sea decades ago.
"Just how old is this witch, anyway?" I wondered and was not a little ashamed that my own dear cello held no such pedigree, but was merely stamped "Made in Tyrol" on its inside where a label should be.
"Shall we begin, ye mincing nincompoop! Or are ye...chicken?" Whereupon the high cholesterol infused townsfolk began making clucking and squawking sounds ... in unison.
To be continued...
>>The Cello Witch of Bremen -- Part the Sixth -- Prelude
The rules pertaining to a proper cello duel are simple. The challenger plays several virtuoso pieces and the other then plays what he/she assumes are even better pieces. Upon proving his/her superiority and in accordance with tradition in this part of the land, 'twas customary for the loser to concede defeat by exclaiming "KRAUT!"
Oh, but the price was heavy when the inferior cellist was revealed, for it meant a life of scorn, ridicule and banishment to the Austrian outback. The unfortunate was deemed no longer worthy of the name "cellist," instead, was expected to assume a much less demanding instrument such as the pennywhistle or triangle.
Since I had issued the challenge I was, by custom, obliged to begin.
The familiar opening bars of the old Bavarian drinking song "Der Fuchs und der Trauben" was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the pox marked. With the exception of BettyLou, who was showing her indifference by perusing the latest edition of the Bucholst Gazette in an insultingly bored manner, save for the cartoons which seemed to cause her no end of joy.
This I followed with the naughty, yet oh-so-popular "Benka, the Buergermeister's Daughter." Alas, during which the foul strumpet preoccupied herself with removing a bit of fluff she imagined to reside on her sleeve. As if taking her cue, the rheumatic throng adopted her ennui and stared past me at an oak tree visible through the window. "What is an oak tree, really?" they wondered in unison.
Beads of flop sweat, as 'tis known, formed on my brow and the collar of my shirt suddenly and alarmingly seemed to decrease in size. It was now the time to prove myself to one and all! As a last all-consuming effort, I would play "As I Lay Dying in Hamlin," a melody so beautiful, so sad and so self-pitying no jade in all of Germany could resist its heartbreaking strains. (This piece was understandably very popular in Hamlin. Oh, and just to set the record straight, ye know those rats that were supposedly piped out of the town by that "pied" fellow and into the river and drowned? Well, I tell ye that is a bald-faced lie! For they simply scampered down the road a-piece to the wretched town of Bucholst, where, to this day, I swear they enjoy near deification!)
Upon completing the last bars of this masterpiece, so haunting in their beauty and finality, the hayfevered group sniffed and patted their myopic eyes, not daring to break the delicate magic of this moment with something so vulgar as applause, at least ... I hoped that was the reason. I lifted eyes triumphantly to the despised cello hussy, BettyLou.
"Yes, but can my fine turdling do this?" she hooted and placed her thumbs in the corner of her mouth and her index fingers in the corners of her slatternly eyes, then pulling her face into a absolute contortion of all things vile.
"Very well, hideous bedpan! Away!" I huffed. "Let us at hear at last the unholy catterwallings thy witchery canst conjure!" My indignity was matched only by concern for my safety and -- as was my wont -- instinctively began plotting a hasty escape should it come to that. And as circumstances seemed presently ... it probably would come to that.
To be continued...
>>The Cello Witch of Bremen -- Part the Seventh -- Courant and Gigue
"Ummm...das goot!" BettyLou smacked, as she discarded a half-eaten confection baked by the legendary baker known only as "Small Debra."
"What shall I play ... what shall I play...Ah! I believe the Sixth Unaccompanied Suite for Cello will suffice!" and pulled from the atmosphere what seemed to be a manuscript.
"Fraudulent frump!" I announced with glee. "For ye are truly undone and exposed for the charlatan and cello cheat ye are! 'Tis common knowledge there be only FIVE of the unaccompanied suites and I ... friend witch ... have a copy of them autographed by none other than Johnny Bach himself to prove it!"
I exclaimed this with all the pomposity and confidence I could muster, puffing up like a bantam rooster. Secure in my sanctimony, I felt I might yet prevail over this cello witch and win the duel on a technicality. The chronically fatigued seemed in agreement with me on this and eyed the witch with newly found scorn.
"See for ye self, pennywhistler!" she taunted and thrust the pages in my face.
My chin dropped so suddenly it made my jaw pop. For there in her callused hand, glistening in a pale and ghostly light, seemed to be a sixth cello suite apparently written by J.S. Bach. In the upper left corner of the first page a note had been scrawled:
Let me know what ye think, liebchen.
Anna-poo B??!! My head was swimming in amazement! How could such a thing be? It was blazingly apparent Anna Magdalena Bach had given BettyLou "first look" rights to Johann's composition! How could I hope to compete with such witchery? Obviously, Anna-poo had entered into some unholy alliance with this handmaiden of Lucifer. (Granted, the relationship between Anna and me was more than a little strained as a result of a hellish weekend I spent at the Bach's home in Weimar and that I will expound on at some future time. Suffice it to say, for now, I caught the woman in the act of ADDING superfluous slurs to the Prelude in G, among other crimes.)
But I digress...
"Play on witch!" I growled and with resignation fell back into my chair, tightly crossing my arms and legs, glowering at BettyLou with eyes as dark as an approaching thunderstorm.
What followed was THE most mesmerizing, THE most inspiring, THE most technically dazzling performance of one of the greatest pieces of music the world had yet to hear! Depressed beyond all compare, I told myself "The witch's dynamics are perfect. The witch's intonation is flawless. The witch makes eye contact at the appropriate times with her slack-jawed audience of the unclean."
"Kraut!v was welling up in my throat and the visualization of life in Austria on a hops farm was parading before my eyes, when...
To be continued...
>>The Cello Witch of Bremen -- Part the Final
I was suddenly possessed of a scathingly brilliant idea!
Slowly I sauntered over to BettyLou's personal treat table (she was in a flurry of double and triple stops and failed to notice my encroachment on her sacred territory). I cast aside the crimson rope that served as protection (rather lame protection in my opinion) from would-be treat bandits and chose an especially delectable Small Debra cake consisting of what appeared to be two soft oatmeal cookies cradling a deliciously smooth white filling.
"Ummm...Ya! Das IS Goot!" I announced, whereupon the witch, realizing what I was about, cast me a look of hatred, followed by surprise, followed by loathing. There was a sudden tension in BettyLou's bow arm and the "Duchess of Malfi" made this sound:
Choosing another confection of chocolate cake, spread with a fluffy white creme, rolled up and doused with scrumptious chocolate icing, I popped it into my mouth, chewing slowly, savoring its rich, creamy goodness with closed eyes.
"Oh, rapture!" I moaned, though with my mouth full it sounded more like "Oh, roopsha!"
BettyLou missed an F# in a long series of slurred 16th notes causing her to swear an obscene oath, which will not be repeated here. It would be not an exaggeration to state my dear friends composition was quite difficult -- even for a cello witch.
The icy fingers of Dame Panic had closed in on the witch's throat and she suddenly seemed to get ... well ... bigger ... and then ... BIGGER.
"Away from there, ye miserable, conniving cur!" she bellowed and yet continued to play, though not nearly as well as she had before, for now, certainly, she had swollen to more than double her initial size.
The hangnail-adorned throng recoiled in abject horror at this latest display of evil gone berserk. Whilst, I, unperturbed, picked what seemed to be a much revered dainty (for, indeed, it rested on an ornate red satin pillow) built of two light and crispy wafers, filled with a sort of nut paste and then covered in rich silky chocolate.
Be it known that I, Mauritius Annheuser, never smirked, but today ... I smirked and slowly, ever so slowly, began moving the tasty tidbit to my mouth, wide with anticipation, only to tantalizingly pause, awaiting her reaction.
"No, Good Sir! No! Riches I will bestow on thee beyond ye'er wildest dreams if only ye will but stop your unholy munching!!" The witch's pitiful begging fell on deaf ears.
"Skkaannkk!" whined the 'Duchess of Malfi' and BettyLou now resembled a huge cantalope.
"Crunch!" went the cake.
"EEIIINNKK!" went the legendary cello.
"Snarf...snarf...snarf." went the cellist the witch had deemed "pennywhistler."
In her rage and hurt, BettyLou was now gigantic! Enormous! Gargantuan! With a wave of my hand I beckoned the psoriasis-impaired tavern mites to the treat table.
"Help ye selves, my uglies!" I entreated.
"Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!" they shouted in unison and flocked about the table of treats like hogs to a trough.
The "music" BettyLou played could no longer, in good conscience, be identified as such, for now she occupied a goodly majority of the tavern!
"What say ye now? Ye big fiddling flap-gap!" I taunted, though it sounded more like "Wa sa yo noo? Yo bi fi-ing fapga!"
Then in an amazingly tiny and humble voice, the bloated mass that once was the proud BettyLou whimpered softly...
"What was that? Ye swollen-beyond-all-recognition harridan, harpy and hag!" I jeered. Having swallowed the last remnants of the chocolate goody, I could speak more clearly, though I craved a nice glass of milk.
"KRAUT!" said the huge mess of contrite witchy-ness.
And that having been said, BettyLou exploded! No, it was not a great noise or giant rush of wind, but just a simple, plain, ordinary..."pop." And all that remained of the Cellow Witch of Bremen rained down on us as bits of multi-colored confetti ... as if it were "the quality of mercy" unstrained.
The sun shone. Birds chirped. A rainbow appeared in the sky and somewhere, a children's choir sang "Laaaaa!"
"This tavern is clean." I announced serenely and noticed the townsfolk were miraculously no longer teeming with disease. Instead, they all seemed hale and hearty, even attractive -- in a gutter sort of way.
"Yay! Yay for Mauritius Annheuser! The vanquisher of cello witches!" cried the newly vigorous.
"Thank ye, thank ye. 'Tis nothing really ... well ... I mean 'tis something, but ... well ... ye all know what I mean ... anyway ... thank ye one and all." I spoke with modest humility, yet managed to stike an appropriately heroic pose that I hoped would be remembered when the time came to commemorate my accomplishment in the form of statuary in the town's square.
Horst heehawed impatiently. Sadly, I knew 'twas time to take my leave and resume my journey and announced as much to my adoring Bucholsteins.
"Oh, won't ye stay with us a while longer, Sir?" asked a buxom lass, pouting enticingly.
"Nay, child, for I must to other towns in search of tinkering." I hesitated to admit it, but this cello playing was simply not adding in any sufficient way to my coffers. At the rate I was going, it was going to be 1868 before I was able to earn my way back to my beloved Munchen.
Hoisting myself on Horst, a sweet cherub of a child (that had been until recently a carbuncled sewer urchin) offered me a bouquet of roses. I accepted them graciously and dried the precious angel's teary eyes. Pulling my beloved cello up behind me, I waved farewell to the newly graceful denizens of Bucholst.
"Until we meet again!" I offered and turned towards Munchen as the village bells began to ring and flowers fell from somewhere on cue. The handsome crowd followed behind me, all the while skipping, dancing and singing to the raucous chorus of "Benka, the Buergermeister's Daughter."
And then me thought ... though I could not be sure ... I believed I heard somewhere amidst the joyously gyrating throng a thin, small voice, "Until we meet again...PENNYWHISTLER."
A well-known luthier shop locally has given teachers kickbacks for referring their students to them for instrument purchases. What do you think about this in ethical terms?
BA replies: This practice is both completely unethical and also very common. It goes up to the highest levels. Those who I admire have dealt with this by recommending whatever instrument they feel is best for the student. If the dealer sent a kickback check, it was just passed back to the student.
>>Use of the pinky finger
I've started to put my pinky on top of the stick. Previously I was of the opinion that this position offers less control and more tension. After working with it for a few weeks, however, I've changed my mind. For me at least it offers MORE control and LESS tension.
Questions: What do you think the pros/cons are of having the pinky on top of the stick? Do you find your other fingers shift to accommodate the new position? (mine do) Does it help you to keep your wrist from angling? Regarding the last one, I never really noticed that instead of using my fingers to adjust the bow's path across the strings, I was using my wrist instead. No wonder my lower arm was always sore! Plus, there's more power available this way, as the force is directly shot into the frog instead of the wrist joint. Comments?
Jon Pegis replies: Every teacher I've had would tell me something different about pinky placement, and I've come to the conclusion that they all were right! I don't think there's one bow grip that works for everything, and I play with the pinky on top quite a bit. It's very helpful in balancing a tip-heavy bow as you come into the frog. It also helps with certain types of articulation that use mostly wrist and finger muscles. I also agree that the pinky on top position does reduce tension and add control. Lynn Harrell is a good example of a cellist who uses lots of different bow grips. I think he talks about this a little bit on those videos with Orlando Cole.
Steve Drake replies: I studied with Andor Toth at Oberlin, and he has all his students do the pinky on top of the stick thing. Being the good student, I obliged, and really tried hard to make it work, but soon after leaving Oberlin I stopped doing it, and started getting a better sound. My current stand partner is a more recent student of Toth's and he uses the pinky technique, and it seems to work for him. Yes, your fingers will have to shift to accommodate this technique. No, it won't keep your wrist from angling -- quite the opposite -- it makes it angle even more in the wrong direction. Maybe I don't know what you mean. For instance, hang your arm by your side. That is the most natural position for your wrist -- you want to be able to bow as close to that position as the cello/bow apparatus lets you. That's just me though -- I've got big hands, and am pretty dexterous, and use a variety of bow holds. If you've found the pinky on top bow hold on your own, and it works for you, then by all means use it. The more varied techniques you can use, the better! As Jon noted, Lynn Harrell is a good example of someone who uses a lot of bow grips -- Zara Nelsova also told me to use as many varied bow techniques as are needed to accomplish great cello sound.
1. New Penderecki Concerto
Krzysztof Penderecki has composed a new triple cello concerto. The half-hour long, single movement piece was premiered with the NHK Symphony Orchestra under Charles Dutoit in Tokyo in June. The soloists were Truls Mork, Boris Pergamenschikov, and Han-Na Chang.
2. Academy Award
The sound track to Ang Lee's film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" won an Academy Award. The sound track featured the music of composer Tan Dun and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
3. Cello Heaven News Page
Cello Heaven, Marshall St. John's marvelous website, has added a world cello news page, which is updated automatically on a daily basis. Bookmark this page!
4. Another taxi incident
Lynn Harrell forgot his cello -- a 1673 Stradivarius -- in a taxi in New York City in May. Thanks go to the honest cab driver, Mohamed Ibrahim, the cello was returned unharmed.
5. Riga M. Rostropovich Cello Festival
Mstislav Rostropovich has agreed to become the festival president and to give his name to the cello festival at the Riga School. The festival's motto is "Cello in the orchestra, cello with the orchestra, and cello over the orchestra." Apart from the festival president, other participants will be world famous artists such as Ivan Monighetti, David Geringas, Mats Rondin, Karine Georgian, Jossif Feigelson and others. Latvia will be represented by Eleonora Testeïeca, Mâris Villerušs, Marta Sudraba, Kristîne Blaumane, Agnese Rugçvica and Diana Ozoliòa.
6. Prize Winners
Cellists Daniel Lee and Hai-Ye Ni were among the recipients of the 2001 Avery Fisher Career Grants.
Fourth International Australasian Cello Festival
Fourth International Australasian Cello Festival, Christchurch, New Zealand, July 7-14. Mostly a competition, but with daily masterclasses, workshops, recitals. http://www.music.canterbury.ac.nz/4th%20cello%20festival.htm.
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
Riga M. Rostropovich Cello Festival
August 2-9, 2001. Rostropovich has agreed to become the festival president and to give his name to the festival. The festival motto created is "Cello in the orchestra, cello with the orchestra, and cello over the orchestra." Apart from the festival president, other participants will be world famous artists such as Ivan Monighetti, David Geringas, Mats Rondin, Karine Georgian, Jossif Feigelson and others. Latvia will be represented by Eleonora Testeleca, Maris Villeruss, Marta Sudraba, Kristine Blaumane, Agnese Rugevica and Diana Ozolina. http://www.riga2001.lv/valodas/eng/lapas/rostropovic.html.
Kronberg Cello Festival
5th Cello Festival, Kronberg, Germany, Oct. 25-28, 2001. Bohorquez, Bylsma, Cho, Geringas, Gutman, Maisky, Meneses, Mork, Noras, Rostropovich, and the Cellissimo Ensemble. Concerts, workshops, exhibitions. http://www.kronbergacademy.de .
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 are now available at $30 (includes shipping):http://www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongresses/video.html .
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. Another article about the RNCM festival
3. Why study music?
4. Busking Weber
5. Heinrich Schiff Article
6. Bach On-line Edition
7. Cello Web Page
8. Yo-Yo Ma
9. New Directions Festival
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14. More Yo-Yo Ma links
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