Message from the Editor
I had the perfect outing planned for my visit with Steven Isserlis when he came to Seattle to perform the Schumann Concerto. It was a warm, sunny day so any itinerary that involved being outside was pretty much a guaranteed winner. We would take a relaxing stroll in the Arboretum along the wood-chipped path that winds through a cattail bog, then we'd go to lunch, then we'd do an interview. It was going to be the perfect "date," or so I thought.
The walk started out nicely but after a hundred or so feet it degenerated into hopping over puddles and repeated "uh-oh's" with each step as our feet sank deeper and deeper into a surprisingly well camouflaged organic, swamp ooze. The path was being swallowed up by the bog.
Trying to salvage the experience, I attempted to reassure him, saying, "I'm sure it will be better around the next turn … I swear it wasn't like this the last time I was here … really…" but our slog only worsened. After another fifty feet, we simply had to turn back, but of course that meant forging again through the sludge that we had just tiptoed through. Any patch of clean that remained on our shoes would surely be enshrouded with algae saturated mud as we retraced our steps. After several zig-zag hops between micro islands of dry, and after a few long jumps, we emerged from the park and reached safe ground, our shoes now smeared with an aromatic muck. "Um, sorry about the shoes, Mr. Isserlis. I hope they weren't expensive...." Our humor was still intact, but my self-confidence was on a rapid decline.
We then drove over to the Madison Park district and had a quick sandwich. I was considering doing the interview in the deli, but Surfin' USA was blaring over the sound system. The shop was empty, so I asked if there was any chance the music could be turned down for a little while. The incredulous sandwich artist haughtily refused, saying, "Why would we do that?" I considered explaining that he was being a complete jerk in front of a world famous cellist, but a quick personality appraisal led me to conclude that he likely didn't fancy Schumann or the cello, so we packed up our things and left, now a little grouchy. This day was not going well.
We then walked towards the park nearby and it occurred to me that we could sit on its shaded, grassy bank and enjoy a view of Lake Washington as we chatted. We could watch the boats and water-skiers zoom by and luxuriate in the cool, gentle breeze that wafted off the water. It would be a picturesque and relaxing location for an interview.
We crossed the street to the park and looked down the bank towards the beach below and before us was a teeming flock of bikinied maidens. As one might expect, we agreed with little to no discussion that this was indeed a satisfactory location for an interview. In retrospect, it probably wasn't ideal for our noble task, since questions and answers were occasionally half-heard, or sprinkled with unexpected caesuras, not to mention a general reduction in completed thoughts and sentences. But we soldiered through for the greater good of the cello world. We had a job to do, by gum. At least our visit ended on a higher note (or is it a lower note....?).
I don't know if the day was a success, but it was certainly memorable. In order to prevent any mishaps in future interviews, maybe I should just meet cellists in a conference room with a quiet cup of tea and scone. Well, maybe not.
>> I am an adult beginner and I have stumbled on your website. I think it will be really helpful!
I wanted to say something about the issue of tape on the fingerboard. My teacher had me use automobile pin striping, not only because it comes in cool colors (better for the kids) but because you can FEEL it. I don't think you are supposed to look at it, but if you run your finger down the fingerboard, there it is. You can find your spot easily. As I am getting further along here, I find that I don't notice it very much now, so I am probably growing out of it. Hope this helps.
>> Hildy wrote, looking for information on an English folk song paired with a cello solo from a Bach Suite. It just so happens that I am performing, this weekend, what is probably the piece to which she referred. It is called, "O Waly, Waly," arranged by Daryl Runswick, and it pairs the song with the Prelude (edited to fit the song's meter) of Bach's First Suite. I don't know who may have recorded it, but perhaps having the title will help her find it.
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Steven Isserlis is a remarkable cellist whose commitment to and obvious pleasure in music making is an inspiration to audiences and fellow-musicians. His artistic profile is characterised by a uniquely beautiful sound, a diverse choice of repertoire, a passion for finding neglected works and, above all, empathy with the music he plays.
Steeped in music from birth - his grandfather was the Russian pianist and composer Julius Isserlis, while older branches of his family tree have a direct line to Felix Mendelssohn -- Steven Isserlis has communicated through music from an early age. As Artistic Director of IMS Prussia Cove in Cornwall -- a role he inherited from founder Sandor Vegh -- this energy and passion for communicating and educating is evident in the annual master classes and chamber music sessions that he leads each April and September. In 2000 Steven commissioned 'Unbeaten Tracks', a collection of eight contemporary miniatures for the cello aimed at children and amateur cellists and, the following year wrote Why Beethoven Threw the Stew, biographical stories of six composers aimed at a young audience.
Steven's consuming interest in music extends through performance and teaching to a fascination with musicological research. Performances of rarely heard works pepper his schedule and he frequently brings his knowledge of the repertoire to bear in devising festivals and concert series for which he gathers around him musical friends such as Joshua Bell, Pamela Frank, Stephen Hough, Olli Mustonen and Tabea Zimmermann, as well as actors Barry Humphries and Simon Callow. Notable examples include his Schumann Festival at the Wigmore Hall (1989), a Mendelssohn and Brahms project at the Salzburg Festival (1997 and 2000) and a concert series entitled "Sleeping Beauties" (2000) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra that contrasted neglected pieces by major composers with their more famous counterparts. More recently Steven has organised showcases of chamber music by Carl Frühling in London, Berlin and Vienna and championed the music of the Russian composer Taneyev. He is currently devising a festival centred around Saint-Saëns which will be presented in London in spring 2004.
Steven's busy concert schedule includes engagements with the major UK, European, American and Asian orchestras. As a soloist he is invited all over the world and has recently been heard with the Berlin Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Czech Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. His interest in period ensembles is reflected in appearances with the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, La Stagione Frankfurt, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of Ancient Music. Steven collaborates with a wide range of conductors including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Colin Davis, Christopher Eschenbach, Paavo Järvi, Roger Norrington, Leonard Slatkin, Mstislav Rostropovich and Sakari Oramo, with whom he recently made his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Isserlis brings his musicological enthusiasm into the recording studio with CD's such as 'Forgotten Romance, Cello World', a disc of trios by Brahms, Schumann and Frühling and a recording of Saint-Sa&@235;ns' Cello Concerto No. 2. Other recordings for RCA Red Seal cover a broad repertoire and include a disc of works by Richard Strauss recorded with Stephen Hough and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Lorin Maazel. Steven's recordings of Tavener's 'The Protecting Veil' (which won a Gramophone Award) and 'Svyati' were separately nominated for the Mercury Music Prize; his recording of the Haydn Concerti won a Classic CD Award and, in common with 'Cello World' and 'Forgotten Romance',' was nominated for Gramophone Award. The Schumann Cello Concerto with Christopher Eschenbach and Steven's CD of works by Janacek, Prokofiev and Shostakovich with Olli Mustonen were awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis.
In 1998 Steven's passion for all things musical was recognised by a CBE in the Birthday Honours list. He is an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music, and in 1993 received both the Piatigorsky Award in the US and the Royal Philharmonic Society Award. Steven was awarded the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau (Schumann's birthplace) in 2000; a 'Classic FM Red f Award' (2001) for his contribution to making classical music more popular; and, most recently the 2002 Time Out Classical Music Award.
Extra-musical enthusiasms include the novels of Wilkie Collins and R C Hutchinson, the films of the Marx Brothers and Indian food!
The Nippon Music Foundation of Japan has kindly loaned the Feuermann Stradivarius of 1730 to Steven Isserlis.
TJ: When playing a technically difficult piece like the Schumann Concerto, what thoughts occur to you while you are playing, technique-wise?
SI: I try not to let any technical thoughts occur to me. I find that this makes technical issues much easier. Occasionally I might look down when playing a big shift, but technique is not my focus. I'm thinking much more in terms of harmonies and what the music is doing - or rather, about the story that the music is telling. If one thinks about hitting a note, then the note is essentially missed whether one hits it or not because the meaning of the phrase will suffer.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
Christopher Haritatos, a specialist in Baroque cello as well as modern cello, has studied with several luminaries in the cello world, including Baroque cello with Jaap ter Linden, both modern and Baroque cello with Peter Wispelwey, and with U.S. household names in the cello world such as Alan Harris and Steven Doane. Armed with a DMA from Eastman, this past year Haritatos moved to Austin to accept an adjunct instructor position at Texas State University in San Marcos. The school only recently changed its name from Southwest Texas State University and is the alma mater of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Its music department is a healthy size in general, numbering about 450 music majors, with the strings area being relatively small, but on the growth curve.
The move from Europe and Eastman to the Lone Star State might strike many as odd, as it did us here at Tutti Celli, so we sent Arnie Williams, a fairly recent transplant himself from the San Francisco Bay Area to central Texas to sit down with Haritatos for a chat about his impressive cello background and the reasons behind his Texas sojourn.
AW: I understand you're originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, where until recently, I myself spent many years. Was that where you began your early cello studies?
CH: I'm originally from El Cerrito, near Richmond and very close to Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. The elementary schools there didn't have orchestra and I wasn't interested in brass. But my sister studied violin, and I wanted to do something different. I tried cello and just took to it right away.
I studied for a time with Julie Feldman, who played in the San Jose Symphony and who does a fair amount of freelancing in Berkeley and in the Bay Area. Then I studied four years with Milly Rosner, a major influence for me in my youth.
Not having an idea of what I wanted to do after high school, I went to the University of Chicago to study liberal arts. There I took private lessons with Alan Harris, who was teaching at Northwestern at the time. He's a very good teacher, very disciplined. He has figured out every technical detail of how to play the instrument. Milly was a very passionate woman and teacher; Alan was very different. He was more hands-off, musically speaking. He encouraged you to become your own musician, but he wouldn't necessarily lead you every step of the way. He was a great person for me; someone who really encouraged me to think.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
I'm looking for a shop in the Kansas City area which can fit a bridge for my cello. Any suggestions? Also, I'm considering an "adjustable bridge" for my cello and wondered what you thought about them.
Dear sweet, tender Michael,
The wonders of the internet swirl before me, and it took me about fourteen seconds to find several luthiers in Kansas City via Google! You should try it sometime!! Unfortunately, KC is NOT known for anything but its BBQ, and, of course, one the most important films of our age: "Kansas City Bomber."
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
We have featured this website before, but there is a fascinating article on Saint-Saëns that everybody should read.
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>> Beethoven's Ninth
mister brucie: We are playing Beethoven 9 this week and the conductor had an interesting idea for the "Ode to Joy" theme when it first appears: he asked the cello section to play it all on the G string, so it would match the color of the basses better and make a darker sound overall.
I was just wondering -- is this a common way to play this? The cellists don't like it (one of them asked the conductor, "Are you serious?"), but it sounds VERY cool. The only time string-crossing is allowed is for the low A before the syncopated F#.
BA: I never used that fingering until I got to New York but Carter does and so does about half the section. It's the only way to avoid the open D which (on steel strings at least) otherwise sticks out -- and the D sounds weird as the only note without vibrato. You have to practice it a bit to make it sound good (i.e. NOT matching the basses sound) and the wolf is always lurking, but I don't think we sound like a herd of cows.
I think the fingering is doable, and ultimately better, it just takes some individual practice. It would also depend on how soft the conductor wants it.
zambocello: I read the original post and was just going to offer a Subject of "Dumb" with no text. Then I read that the New York Phil does it that way. Still, I think: dumb. But the New York Phil includes cellists gifted enough to make dumb fingerings work. There's nothing wrong with the sound of an open D, at least on my cello and the other non-stolen cellos played in the LA Phil. How much vibrato is called for in the rest of the tune, anyway? And the open D should blend in if the rest of the tune is played softly enough. Oh, wait.......that's right......the NY Phil still plays in Avery Fisher Hall. No wonder they're pushing so much sound that an open D string is objectionable.
David Sanders: Well, it's not really the only way to avoid the open D if you cross over to the D on the G string with the 4th finger, at least that's how I've done it from time to time when I want to avoid the open D. At least you all probably haven't played the theme at exactly half tempo, like we have with a soon-to-be gone music director.
Has anyone ever started the beginning of the Dvorak New World Symphony on the G string? Leinsdorf insisted on that about 20 years ago.
BA: David (Sanders) is right about the other fingering, which I have also used -- the only thing about the all-G-string fingering is that it really does keep it all the same color. Not much vibrato on anything, but I've never heard a cello where the open D matched the sound of stopped notes. It doesn't blend, even if you back off it to keep it from sticking out. True, it's not that big a deal, but the phrase goes to the F# rather than the D and if the D sticks out by being louder and a different sound, it puts a weird emphasis on the phrase. It's not a dumb fingering, it's a hard fingering that's worth it to some people ... like playing the second theme of the Dvorak on the D string.
I have to say one of the things that I have gained from watching Carter and certain other colleagues here in the last couple of years is increased awareness of string choice and fingering possibilities -- trying to keep colors consistent through a phrase by not thoughtlessly switching strings just because it is easier.
I think we mostly do the opening of New World all on the A and then change to the D at the subito p(p?).
cbrey: Never occurred to me that playing it on the G string was hard. Never even considered playing it on the D string. Too old and cranky to start now.
>> Hints for Practicing the Dvorak Concerto
cellogal: Anyone have any suggestions for practicing the first movement of Dvorak Concerto? I have worked through the entire piece several times, but never to the point of performance. I have never done a concerto competition and so I decided it is time. So I am entering a concerto competition in six weeks that only requires one movement. It is basically memorized, and I have been working on it in large sections with tuner, metronome etc, very systematically, but it feels kind of contrived, it doesn't flow.
Also, I get one section sounding really good, but then the others go down hill. I feel like I am juggling a bunch of elephants. I actually really love this piece, but if I am tense at all when I play it sounds bad and I get exhausted, but if I don't keep up on it, it gets out of tune and messy. It is a fine line.... It seems I am good at practicing this piece but not playing it.
Peccatte: I think when playing this piece it's important to remember that one can only play so loud. People try to really tear into the Dvorak and I think this is how one ends up feeling tense, having a hard time playing through etc.... It's easy after growing up and hearing recordings that are miked closely to feel like most of the piece needs to be played super forcefully. I think it really helps to try and create a beautiful sound and not worry too much about volume. Obviously, in needs to be articulate, and some places need to be played out but, if you take the opening for example, you don't need to absolutely kill it, and no matter how much you force the sound its not going to help. Try to find places to relax as much as possible.... I find that the trills are a good place to try to relax as much as possible physically for example.
Also, there is a pretty big break after the exposition so you don't need to immediately go on to the development material when you are playing through the piece. I also find it helpful to not think about the "elephants" that are coming up. If you focus on what you are doing at the given moment, not forcing the sound, playing in an articulate beautiful way, and not think about some part coming up you are worrying about, everything will tend to sound better ... no point in worrying about something two pages ahead.
batmanvcl: When you say "contrived," it sounds like you may be falling into a trap very common with this piece: thinking of it as the DVORAK CELLO CONCERTO, that cornerstone of our concerto repertoire. Think of it as a piece by Dvorak. Then think of other pieces you know (and have hopefully played) by Dvorak. Try to fit the concerto into your sense of who he is as a composer. I would hesitate to even give this piece to a student who hadn't played anything else by Dvorak, and it's certainly compulsory to get to know as much of his music as possible. Then everything you see in the concerto will seem different, in a good way. You'll start to wonder why everyone beats the crap out of the opening bars, when it's simply marked "forte," for example. And you'll start to wonder where all the freaky rubato comes from in the recordings that you hear. Make it YOUR piece, and study it based on a relationship that you have with the composer, not on just on the recordings we've all heard.
>> Tape on Fingerboard
ubertar: I don't think that tape on the fingerboard is a good idea. I agree that visual cues can be a crutch. I was thinking about putting tape on the back of the neck, as a tactile cue for the thumb. The tape wouldn't tell you "put your thumb here," but "across the neck from me, there is a note -- adjust accordingly." It's still up to the player to use his/her ears and physical memory to play the note with proper intonation and hand position. He/she just has some added information to go by.
While I think there's a fundamental difference between a visual cue and a tactile cue, I don't think visual cues are the devil either. On guitar, the dots that tell you where the 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th frets are, are valuable shortcuts. Sure, you can learn to play without them, but why? Les Paul still has them on his guitar, and if you were to ask him if he was ashamed or embarrassed, he'd probably laugh (or just be bewildered by the question). Poor Segovia, he still used training wheels into his 90s.
It's interesting to me that this seems to bring out a strong emotional response in some people... I think there's a lot of pride in doing something difficult, and something that makes it easier is seen as "cheating." Guitar players are not ashamed of their frets. The oud is a fretless instrument, but usually has lines where frets would be. When I play oud, I usually look at the lines just before I start playing. Once my left hand is on the instrument, I don't look anymore. If cellos had been traditionally carved with bumps or indentations on the back of the neck that lined up with the notes, no one would give it a second thought now.
I don't think I need the tape, but I'm still curious to try it. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't. The ears are the final judge.
Bob: I have never used tape and would never allow a student to. But ubertar's points are not without merit. We have, of course, a strong tactile reference for 4th position. Yes, we still need our ears to perfect a note there, but it's a lot easier to perfect a note when you're that sure of its general location. If there were some small tactile referent for one or more of the lower positions, one that didn't otherwise impede or distract the thumb's movements, I can't muster a strong argument against it besides the obvious one.
The goal is to be able to shift accurately from any finger in any position to any other finger in any other position. Other than 4th position, no position has tactile or visual referents (at present); thus we need to develop a targeting system that doesn't depend on those inputs. And we have. So time spent dealing with (i.e., depending on) tape or anything else is time that will delay mastery of the ultimate task. Yes, the goals are similar, but anything other than focused work on ear training and proper shifting techniques will dilute and delay the best results.
But I can see the counter-arguments too. There is more than one way to skin a cat.
I would, though, suggest that guitar analogies are not useful. (1) Due to the frets, intonation is not the be-all and end-all on that instrument that it is on the cello. There's only so much you can do. (2) Cellists spend far more time looking at music while playing than guitarists do. I'm not talking about practicing your solo piece, I'm talking about the many hours we spend in orchestra and chamber music rehearsals. It is principally for this reason that any technique based on visual cues or measurements is faulty by definition. We don't have TIME to look at our fingerboards when playing a Tchaikovsky symphony, so why build a technique that would require us to?
>> Harrell vs. Ma
Tim Janof: I was just speaking with a cellist who said that Harrell's palette of vibrato and bow technique is much wider than Ma's. What do you think?
David Sanders: I think Lynn has more control over colors, vibrato, shading, everything than just about anyone. I also, however, don't always agree with how he uses them.
cellofan07: Oh, I don't know.... Harrell's Shostakovich recording is unmatched in my opinion, and his Dvorak with Levine is fantastic. However, based on the list of Yo-Yo's recordings, he has got to be more versatile than Harrell, if not everyone out there. I, like many here, have not been Yo-Yo's biggest supporter these last few years, as most of his recent recordings have been fluff, or just not great ... but this new Vivaldi CD of his is really fantastic. I love Lynn Harrell's playing, but it does have a certain 'sameness' to it (though if I could always sound that the same, I'd be pretty damn pleased!!).
However, if we are talking command over technique, one needs to look no further than Harrell's bow technique videos with Orlando Cole. He can clearly do anything with the bow, more impressively than anyone else I've ever seen. I think this is what contributes to his control over shadings and colors.
I'm sort of on the fence on this one, because while I'm not always in total agreement with Harrell's use of his incredible facilities, I am certainly in a greater deal of disagreement with a lot of Yo-Yo's decisions....
BA: Between the two I definitely prefer ... uh ... Feuermann.
Lynn probably has the wider theoretical range, since Yo-Yo has basically one way of playing the cello, but it ain't what you got, it what's you DO with it. Personally, I think Lynn has been suffering from the singer disease -- projection prioritized above all else -- but you can't argue with his innate talent.
ammcello: I may have a sort of biased opinion on this one, since one of them is my teacher, but Harrell has such an incredible palette of colors in his playing.... Hearing him play excerpts from sonatas and concertos in studio class never ceases to amaze me. I used to think that he had the vocal disease before studying with him, but now I truly believe that every color is so unique and so appropriately chosen. In contrasting Ma and Harrell, I came to this conclusion particularly when studying the Herbert concerto. After being well versed in Ma's recording with New York for years, I was EASILY swayed the other direction towards Harrell's. Ma sounds so generic to me sometimes. I guess that Ma is more versatile when you consider all the "ethnic" CDs, but I guess that is a financial/career choice.
batmanvcl: I think there's something to be said for hearing Harrell live, as opposed to only on record. I didn't begin to develop any appreciation for the things he does until I heard him live (it was the Elgar). It's like stage makeup for actors: sometimes, from a distance is better. Plus, the more he's come to play with our orchestra, the more I've also appreciated the fact that he is a consummate professional --- always prepared to the Nth degree, ready to get down to work, good natured, and willing to weave very difficult or obscure concerti (Lutoslawski, anyone?) around some of the bozos waving the stick. His Bach? No thanks. Schelomo? Bring it on.
gloriarex: I've heard both of them play many times over the past 20 years - mainly from within the orchestra. My initial impression was that Ma was a more natural player -- Harrell a little more studied. Harrell has always felt like he could do whatever he wanted -- his control was so complete. But when he would play Haydn or Rococo, I was always aghast at some of the musical choices he made. My theory was that he could do anything, so he would always push it to the edge which I found jarring and not to my taste. Early on, I always liked Yo-Yo's playing. His approach to the cello didn't seem as machine-like and his playing felt more fluid to me. Lately, I'm less enamored of him.
The first thing I ever heard Lynn play that I really thought was terrific was the Lutoslawski Concerto. I thought that suited his style perfectly. We opened this past season with Ma playing the Lutoslawski and I found his performance not as convincing. Different strokes for different folks.
But as far as sheer musicality and beauty of playing, I have to give my old boss credit here. Although not recognized on the same level as Harrell and Ma, Ron Leonard in his final season with us played the most beautiful third movement of the Elgar Concerto I think I have ever heard. It truly brought tears to my old crocodile eyes and showed him to be a player of the highest level.
G M Stucka: Harrell may often be "over the top" in expressivity, but I'll take that any day over Ma's generic heat-and-serve performances, spiced with the obligatory and staged "love-feast" facial expressions and body contortions.
Tim Janof: Lynn Harrell is a fascinating cellist. Technically speaking, he is the only cellist I recall ever discussing the use of different bow-holds, depending on the desired musical effects. His holds range from a fingertip hold with two fingers and thumb (for delicate, airy playing), to the more traditional hold, to the traditional hold but with the pinkie wrapped around the nut of the frog for more torque, to the full-fisted hold (yikes!). Whether all these bow holds are necessary is a question, and whether the effects he creates with these different holds are desirable is another question. But I find this notion of ever-changing bow holds to be rather innovative. Who made up the rule that the bow hold has to be a certain way and must remain as-is no matter what? Lots of cellists do just fine the traditional way, of course, but Harrell has always been a maverick, going back to his Juilliard days, if not earlier. And he certainly can produce a wide range of colors with these various bow holds (and vibrati).
I have tremendous respect for him. He has the technique to do ANYTHING he wants, which is amazing in itself. It's as if the cello is a toy in his gargantuan hands and huge frame. He also has the strength of character to play his own way despite the occasional raised eyebrow that meets his searchlight gaze when he catches a musician's eye in the crowd. He feels he has paid his dues and has earned the right to do whatever he wants musically. More power to him, I say.
I've heard him play "straight," so I know he can do it. I saw him play the Dvorak in a rehearsal and it was straight-ahead, Harrellism-free playing. It was a truly great performance. At the concert that night, he pulled out his huge bag of musical tricks and toyed with the music, using a dazzling array of colors and effects. It was as if the rehearsal was for the musicians, letting them know that he could play "correctly" if he felt like it, and the concert was a fully committed, turbo-charged version that was designed to keep the audience enthralled. It was a remarkable transformation.
When I go to a Harrell performance, I've become accustomed to expect the unexpected. Not so with Yo-Yo. Harrell bear hugs pieces, perhaps seizing them by the throat at times, whereas Yo-Yo puts his arm over a piece's shoulder and charms it with his warmth of character. I always leave feeling great from a Yo-Yo concert but not necessarily shaken to my core. With Harrell, I usually leave the hall with some sort of strong reaction, sometimes quaking from the shock of his powerful delivery (Shostakovich 1), sometimes appalled (Haydn C and D), but always energized and enriched.
The question in my mind is whether Harrell's performances are calculated or sincere, spontaneous expressions. He claims to be like a Method actor, in that he inhabits a piece and takes on its character. In the heat of the moment, anything can happen, I guess. Whereas Starker says, "I am not an actor, I am a musician," and "Create Excitement, don't get excited," and maintains a certain professional distance, perhaps more like a classically trained actor, Harrell would probably say "I AM the music" when he's performing. I wonder if he got the kernel of this idea from Tortelier, who believed that one should always have a story in mind when playing because it produces more interesting musical results. Maybe he got it from Marlon Brando. Does Harrell totally transform, or is he in essence crying in his hands while peeking through his fingers to gauge the audience's reaction? Hard to say, but I respect the guy for trusting in his passion, his clear desire to connect with and energize his audience, and his complete mastery of the instrument.
I just wish he'd move his bow away from the bridge more often.
mvotapek: I've already established myself as a mutant for religiously keeping left hand positions, so I might as well say the same for the right hand.
The idea that holding the bow with the fingertips of two fingers and the thumb could produce a more delicate and airy sound is absurd. Which two fingers? 2 and 3 would lend the best lateral flexibility and be the most viable, but I have a hunch Harrell probably uses 1 and 3, or even 1 and 4. Fingers don't just transfer arm weight to the bow. They also function just as much to take away arm weight from the bow, and if you want light sound nothing beats all fingers, staying in (a constantly in motion) position. No wonder there are arm problems....
The fist hold works great for 5% extra sound at the expense of any and all flexibility. I used it in the 11/4 bar in Rite of Spring!
I remember when I was a very young student, Louis Potter attended a TV taping of Yo-Yo Ma with me (Yo-Yo must have been in his late teens or maybe early 20s). Mr. Potter loved it, but he must have told me a dozen times that Yo-Yo sounded great despite what he was doing with his body while he played, not because of it. (This was early Yo-Yo, playing while looking at the ceiling the whole time.) If Lynn is sounding good during his different bow holds, I apply Mr. Potter's line.
To me, being an actor vs. being a musician isn't a matter of professional distance. It's a matter of respect and humility. Some composers and performance situations deserve a lot of respect. And I'm not suggesting this should come at the expense of energy and communication.
Tim Janof: When Starker says, "Create excitement, don't get excited," that sounds like somebody who's keeping his emotional response to the music in check, perhaps even a professional distance. Is this respect and humility, or is it due to his admirable desire to deliver a solid, professional standard performance each and every time that is not marred by technical mistakes that are the result of getting "carried away"?
mvotapek: I think the idea IS to keep your emotional response in check while performing...just NOT to keep your emotional output in check. Haven't you ever had emotional worked-up performances that you thought were great until you heard the tape afterwards?.
In Starker's case, it is respect and humility towards the music, truly. That's not to say that one can't theoretically be completely egotistical about just how so respectful and humble they are. It's humility towards one thing, but not necessarily towards everything.
cellosound2: I do not agree that Harrell is the only one who holds his bow in different ways. Slava holds his bows in different ways too. You can see this especially in the video with Bernstein (Schelomo and the Schumann Concerto) and the Sinfonia Concertante.
>> Sad News
theotherlucky: A friend of mine has directed me here to what looks like a wonderful place. I've been online to a few different chat boards and rooms but never any music-related.
I have played cello for 16 years now, but stopped last April (2003) after a tragic event. Playing, lately, is a somewhat emotional ordeal because of the reason I stopped and it's also physically challenging because I am so out of shape.
Do you have any tips on how to start again? I feel like I need to be alone when I play but someone has suggested taking lessons again which is probably my best chance at getting to the level I was at before. I'm going to try to force myself to deal with being around others so I can get going with this.
Thanks in advance for the help.
theotherlucky: I guess I should give you a little background about me so you understand why I stopped playing and why I'd like to start again. I know the way I wrote my first message was a little confusing and brought up questions - I was just not sure how to put it without saying more than I felt comfortable with in my very first message here.
Just over a 18 months ago, my husband had a heart attack at age 28. He had no previous health problems and no signs of a problem. It weakened his heart and he never fully recovered. He had another in April '03 and the doctors were unable to help him.
Although it's hard as hell to get through some days, I do have something (someone) that he left with me to make life seem worth living. I found out that I was pregnant two weeks before he died, but as he was in a deep coma, I didn't get to tell him. Well, I told him, I just don't know if he heard me. That doesn't really matter now as I know he is looking down on us. The baby was born in September (very early, but he is doing fine) and has kept me sane over the past year. He seems to like it when I do rarely pull out the cello or sit down at the piano so maybe part of my reason for starting again is to have him around music early.
Nick was a violinist, a very good one at that, and we played together all the time. We were in a quartet that had gigs almost every weekend, played duets together at home constantly, and both taught privately. We always really enjoyed it and it was very nice to have music as a common interest among other things. There are many a story about our quartet gigs and being married to each other. Most of them consist of him looking up to cue me, smiling and having me start to giggle because I was married to the most perfect man in the world. We had a lot of inside jokes that just drove the other two members crazy! and that was always fun.
To get back on track -- I stopped playing because it brought nothing but memories of him that were too hard to deal with. I'm in the healing process and now occasionally I'm able to think of the happier memories of our time together, so I do believe it's time to start playing again.
I don't want to start taking lessons privately yet. I do not do well being the center of attention in any situation so this would definitely be hard. I'm thinking of trying to start a cello trio or a cello quartet with some friends. We'll see if it happens.
My biggest physical problem is right/left coordination. I'm a bit weak everywhere, but what's really bothering me is that I don't change my bow as smoothly as I need to and it doesn't always correspond with the left hand fingering -- that makes for an interesting sound! I know the solution to this is just to slow down and work that way, I'm just not a very patient person. My vibrato is also very tense and I know I'll spend a lot of my time working on it.
I really like this place -- and oddly enough, feel comfortable here after just two days.
Take care and have a wonderful day,
PS: Nick called himself "Mr. Lucky." That explains my name.
etsisk: Back in May a cellist named Drea (theotherlucky) posted here, saying she was "New to the board, Returning to cello." She hadn't played for a year and a half since her husband died from a heart condition at age 28. She had a new baby that he never saw, and was trying to move beyond the place where playing the music she shared with her violinist husband just brought hard memories, moving into a place where it made her smile to remember him, and their love, and their music.
Drea was recently diagnosed with cancer. The subsequent surgery went well, but Drea never woke up -- dying 36 hours later. She leaves a 10 month old child and family and friends that loved her. And I think she leaves us a bit worse for her passing as well.
Perhaps they're duetting as we speak ….
1. Stolen Strad Cello Lost Then Found
A Los Angeles nurse found a stolen $3.5 million Stradivarius cello next to a dumpster and was going to have it turned into a CD cabinet until she learned it was an instrument the whole town was searching for. The cello was stolen from the porch of the Philharmonic's principal cellist Peter Stumpf by a thief riding a bicycle, police said. Three days later, nurse Melanie Stevens found it beside a dumpster about a mile from Stumpf's home on her way to visit a patient.
2. Elsa Hilger Turns 100
Elsa Hilger, the first woman to be hired full time by a professional orchestra, recently celebrated her 100th birthday. She auditioned for Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934 and was hired by Leopold Stokowski after sight-reading for him for two hours. She remained in the orchestra for 35 years without missing a single rehearsal or concert.
3. David Finckel and Wu Han
David Finckel and Wu Han have been named co-directors of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society.
4. 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.
5. Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center Celebration
The 26th Annual Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center Celebration will take place September 19, 2004 in Bloomington, IN.
6. ISG Publications Announces New Works
ISG Publications recently signed-on new composers who have written some great works for cello. They are dedicated to presenting new works which are interesting, challenging, lyrical (mostly), and well developed. Check out their new cello editions at their newly designed website. New composers recently added include:
7. Pablo Casals – Artist of Conscience: An Homage
On 9th October 2004 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, a unique event will take place in honor of the memory and legacy of Pablo Casals. Through words, texts, and music, Selma Gokcen and Jonathan Kramer will explore:
The evening will conclude with an assessment of Casals' legacy as artist of conscience, his relevance to our own time of moral uncertainty and fear. What is the responsibility of the artist as he or she confronts a torn and bewildered world? Is Art a retreat from the urgent issues of the day? Or is it a force of engagement, as it was for Pablo Casals, which affirms the sanctity of life by celebrating its beauties and revealing its sorrows? This affirmation is, we believe the essence of Casals' endowment [that which he was given] and gift [that which he gave].
I am a man first, an artist second. As a man, my first obligation is to the welfare of my fellow men. I will endeavor to meet this obligation through music--the means which God has given me--since it transcends language, politics, and national boundaries. My contribution to world peace may be small, but at least I will have given all I can to an ideal I hold sacred.
8. Cello Ensemble in Seattle
Music Center of the Northwest is offering a 5-week cello ensemble opportunity this summer. Details as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 pm - 8:55 pm
June 23 - July 28 (no class July 14)
Five (5) 85 minute classes
Leader: Larry Gockel
Tuition: $8 per session or $35 for 5 sessions
9. New CD
http://www.acvapara.org has just released a new CD of works by Vivaldi, Villa-Lobos, Faure, and Max Bruch. Also, it includes two documentaries about the Amazon Youth Cello Choir.
10. Prize Winners
11. More Cello News
A cello news link has been engineered using Google.com's features. Be sure to bookmark it.
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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please send word to Roberta Rominger, firstname.lastname@example.org. **
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2. The Cellist
3. The Cellist (a different link)
4. Concerto for Kazoo and Famous Cellist
5. Penelope Lynex
6. Ruth Phillips
7. Gauche the Cellist
8. Carter Brey
10. Lesson Plan
11. Petar Jovanovic
12. Le Violoncelle
13. Boris Pergamenschikov
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