Mstislav Rostropovich is internationally acclaimed and acknowledged as one of the world's greatest living cellists. He has given countless memorable performances and has inspired the world's leading composers to enlarge and enrich the standard cello repertoire with works specially composed for and dedicated to him. These include works by Britten, Bliss, Khachaturian, Lutoslawski, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Rostropovich was soloist in the premieres of Prokofiev's second Cello Concerto in 1952, Shostakovich's two Cello Concertos in 1959 and 1966, Britten's Cello Symphony in 1964 and Bliss's Cello Concerto in 1970. Many other works have been written for him and today his repertoire includes more than 50 concertos, ranging from the baroque, through the classical and romantic periods, to the avant-garde. As a cellist, Rostropovich is noted for his commanding technique and intense, visionary playing.
Rostropovich was born in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1927. At the age of four he started piano lessons with his mother and shortly afterwards began to study the cello with his father. He continued under his father's tuition at the Central Music School in Moscow and then went on to the Moscow Conservatoire, where in addition to his cello and piano studies he began to conduct. He made his public debut as a cellist in 1942 at the age of 15 and was immediately recognized as a potentially great artist. When the war ended his reputation soon spread outside the USSR, principally through his recordings, and when he began touring in the West it was soon apparent that in Rostropovich the world had a natural successor to the great Pablo Casals, who had reigned as the supreme cellist for more than half a century.
Rostropovich has also won outstanding acclaim as a conductor, appearing with most of the world's leading orchestras, as well as conducting and recording many operas, including Queen of Spades, Eugene Onegin, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Tosca. Since 1977 he has been Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington. He appears regularly in the UK with the London Symphony Orchestra (he made his UK conducting debut in 1974) and with other leading British orchestras. The London Symphony Orchestra have forged close links with Rostropovich through major festivals which have made an enormous impact on London's musical life. Rostropovich was a close friend of Sergei Prokofiev and was the inspiration behind the LSO's Sergei Prokofiev: The Centenary Festival 1991, featuring orchestral and chamber music, and the world premiere of a cello fugue dedicated to Rostropovich. In 1993 Rostropovich led the Festival of Britten with the LSO, appearing both as conductor and soloist. Other events with the LSO have included Rostropovich's 60th Birthday series in 1987 and Shostakovich: Music from the Flames in 1988. Both on the cello and on the conductor's rostrum, Rostropovich is considered one of the leading interpreters of the music of Shostakovich (with whom he studied composition), Britten, and Prokofiev.
Mstislav Rostropovich is one of the world's most outspoken defenders of human and artistic freedoms. In 1974, after a period of four years during which the writer Solzhenitsyn resided in their home, Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya left the Soviet Union at their own request. Since then he has devoted much time and has given numerous performances to support humanitarian efforts around the world. In 1990, after an absence of 16 years, he made a triumphant return to the Soviet Union with the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, giving concerts in Washington and Leningrad to enormous acclaim. During the coup of August 1991 the strength of his attachment to his native Russia compelled him to fly, without a visa, to Moscow, to spend those momentous days in the Russian Parliament building and on the streets, where he was hailed as a national hero.
Mstislav Rostropovich holds over 40 honorary degrees and over 30 different nations have bestowed more than 130 major awards and decorations upon him. These include the German Order of Merit, the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society, the Lenin Prize, the Annual Award of the League of Human Rights, the ÆPreamium Imperiale from the Japan Arts Association and the Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
TJ: When you burst onto the music scene, people were struck by your white hot performances. Your sound was strong and your vibrato was wide, which was a striking contrast to your predecessors. Where did your unique concept of sound come from?
MR: Let me give you a little background first. My family lived in two-room apartment in Baku until I was seven years old. My mother was a pianist and my father was a cellist who had worked with Casals. There is a picture of me sleeping inside my father's cello case when I was four months old.
My first instrument was the piano, which was my first love. To this day, when I am learning a new cello work, I always start at the piano instead of the cello. One of my father's favorite games was to have me play a melody on the piano starting on a key that he chose at random. I became so proficient at this that at four or five years old he would have me do it for friends. My parents never thought that I might have a special talent for the cello.
After my family moved to Moscow, my father played in orchestras that performed in small towns, such as Zaporozh'e. He did this to make some extra money in the summer months. I remember going with my godmother to open air concerts of my father's when I was seven or eight years old. I'd cry when I listened to Tchaikovsky or some other sentimental music, and my godmother would give me a piece of chocolate to soothe me. I soon learned that the trick to getting chocolate was to cry.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
by Tim Janof
Given the drama that led up to this concert, which featured cellists Lynn Harrell, Zuill Bailey, and Shauna Rolston, it is a testament to the professionalism of each and every musician that the concert was a brilliant success. Dropped recording equipment, struggles with balancing work and family, a critically ill baby, and cracked instruments provided an undercurrent of hair-trigger tension that, if released, could have caused the performers to scatter in despair. Those of us who were not in the center of one of these storms found ourselves treading very lightly so as to avoid being the catalyst for the unraveling of this special event.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
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>> Zara Nelsova DVD
carrickp: Thanks to a thread here recently I learned of the Zara Nelsova DVD, which I have now purchased and watched. She was an incredible player and a great virtuoso. As a student, I am interested in her left hand, which seems to me to have more tension than that of some other fine cellists. She keeps the fingers extended a lot more than some players do, and seems even to extend the fourth finger at times. She also plonks the fingers down quite hard and very audibly, even in thumb position. If there really IS tension, it sure as hell isn't stopping her from playing with great speed, agility, delicacy (when appropriate) and accuracy. I'd be very interested in comments from you excellent players.
Babinicello: Many years ago I heard Nelsova in Rio de Janeiro in a formidable program that by its contents would be exhausting for a player with the physical endurance of a Tarzan. She started with the Bach Sixth Suite, and then she played the Locatelli sonata. After the intermission, she played the Arpeggione, some Beethoven Variations, and then ended the program with the Kodaly Solo Sonata. Not even a single wrong note was heard and everything was simply spectacular, in terms of her music making, sound projection, and incredible virtuosity. After such giant of a program she graced us with seven encores. The next day she did the Schumann and the Dvorak with the Orquetra Sinfonica Brasileira under Eleazar de Carvalho---both performances were simply magnificent. I remember talking with her about her cello, a Pietro Guarnerius, and I just could believe as I examined the instrument HOW HIGH WERE THE STRINGS, really I SIMPLY COULD NOT BELIEVE SHE COULD PLAY SO MAGNIFICIENTLY WITH SUCH IMMENSE TENSION OF THE STRINGS.
Nelsova was indeed NOT ONLY a great cellist but a magnificent one. Many, many years later I was invited to seat at the table next to her, during the wedding of another great cellist, that writes under the name of BA in this chat room. It was a great occasion to know her as a human being---a very humble one, and demonstrating a great knowledge of LIFE and people. She left a immense VOID in the world of music with her passing.
BA: Zara throughout much of her career did have considerably more tension in her left hand than normal. It was the cause of continual struggles with tendonitis and her hammered articulation in the left hand was the source of some teasing, both friendly and otherwise, from her colleagues. It was in spite of this tension, not because of it, that Zara became, in my opinion, one of the great cellists of the 20th century.
Around 1970 Zara, through conversations with an another ex-Feuermann student, radically changed her left hand approach. She described her new approach as if the left hand fingers were 'hanging off a cliff' rather than hammering down. The change was quite drastic for her. I never heard from her in lessons the type of hammered articulation you hear on the old recordings.
Some have suggested that her left hand tension caused her to have more intonation problems than the other top cellists of her day. While Zara would have been the first to tell you that the left hand tension of her younger years was not good for her and should not be emulated, I simply hear no evidence that her intonation suffered more than most cellists because of it. I think this DVD of live performances offers quite compelling and thorough evidence to the contrary. Her intonation did decline in her 70s as her hearing became less reliable, but this is the fate awaiting all of us mortal string players. Even Heifetz had to retire.
Zara was also an truly extraordinary human being who understood life and music as Italo said. I would not be in music today if I had not met her. It was a great pleasure to be able to bring her and Italo, the two greatest influences in my cello life, together at the same table. I have a picture somewhere.
I think your comments on her DVD are extremely accurate and perceptive and I'm grateful that everyone has a chance to see her performing.
>> Yo-Yo Review
Bob: I heard Yo-Yo last night in the Kennedy Center. Suites 3, 5, & 6. A mixed bag, to be sure. Yo-Yo, of course, has long since transcended the world of mere musicians (let alone cellists) and is now a cultural icon, a "destination" artist, like Streisand, the Three Tenors, the Rolling Stones, etc. At least once in your life you have to go see him. There were folks of all ages and stripes there (not just the elderly conservative-type audience one finds at most classical music events), and I only saw one other professional musician who had managed to get in.
The 2600-seat hall was sold out many months ago, with more seats crammed on stage. Tickets ranged between $45-$95. But that wasn't enough to cover the cost of one fella flying down from Boston with a cello to play three Bach pieces he learned when he was 10 and has been playing ever since, including multiple other cities on this tour. Before the concert began, the presenter asked that we recognize and give our appreciation to the chairman of Toyota North America (in attendance) for Toyota's "generous" support in underwriting the evening's concert. In other words, roughly $182,000 was insufficient to put on a concert of solo cello music -- "generous" philanthropical assistance was needed to cover the shortfall.
So how was it? Well, pretty good. Free of the need to stick with Morris's choreography, Yo-Yo's C major Suite was elegant and understated. His tone was rich, but restrained (using his Strad rather than the more robust Montagnana); minimal vibrato and many notes played with 1/2" of bow. He is clearly aware of the "original" slurs, and uses them when it suits. He no longer does the C minor Suite scordatura. Tempi in the fast movements were uniformly slow-to-moderate except for the D major Gigue, which was very impressive. No startling interpretive insights, but some enjoyable moments included: a delightful sense of innocence in the C major Bouree; nicely-done inegale in the C minor Prelude, followed by an impressively-sustained long build-up throughout the Fugue (though he has now dropped the single really good Bach idea I've ever taken from him, which was to add a full tonic chord at the beginning of the coda (41 bars from the end)); perfect understanding, and bringing-out-of, the amazing syncopated cadence in both halves of the C minor Courante; really nice, lusty rendering of the C minor Gavotte #2 -- played with strong, forceful bows but in the upper half; enviable bow control through all the sustained chords of the D major Sarabande; and the sheer virtuosity of the aforementioned Gigue.
On the other side of the ledger, Yo-Yo has acquired an annoying affectation of starting many chords up-bow. Intonation good, but certainly not as pristine as Starker in his prime. Most bothersome by far was the absence of any pulse in slow music. All the Sarabandes, the 5th and 6th Allemandes, and the first part of the 5th Prelude were a mess rhythmically. As if he was truly improvising as he went along. There is an acceptable range for this sort of thing, but he was way outside it. A few weeks ago some extremely talented young cellists were eliminated from the prestigious Washington International Competition (by me, reluctantly) for this same transgression. It is not true that keeping a basic pulse means hampering your expressive freedom, as Casals so definitively showed us.
A far, FAR more thought-provoking and interesting interpretation of these Suites was offered last month by Selma Gocken in the small hall upstairs. Maybe 2/3 full, and that likely only because of the promise of a brief cameo from Greenhouse. But that's for discussion on a different thread. Anyway, after these sublime pinnacles of Western Art, Yo-Yo played two encores. I don't know what they were. I am afraid to guess, though, that they involved movie music. Both slow and brief. One had lots of open-string drones. I'm trying to forget them.
Easy for us pros to snipe at those on top, which Yo-Yo most certainly is. Imagine getting paid in the high five figures night after night just to play three Suites!!! But he worked hard to attain this notoriety, of course, and god knows he is talented and charismatic. And however much they did or didn't understand what they were hearing, the folks were rapt. In the quiet moments, as he approached final cadences of the slow movements, you could hear the air-handling system; no one coughed, no one breathed. Everyone was there in a communal worship of whatever they understood Art to be, and that's what makes a civilization. Right now, Yo-Yo's the only one who can do this at this level (of public interest). We could be in worse hands, I suppose.
JCook21: I know someone made a thread recently about cello chairs so please excuse another one so soon but I was just wondering if anyone had used one of these chairs: http:// www.everythingcello.com/deluxe-adjustable-cello-chair.html
I'm keen to here any experiences anyone has had with these chairs before shelling out my cash (and $69 for shipping to the UK).
KayZee The QuikLok chair pictured is similar to the one at Everthing Cello. QuikLck makes several chairs and stools that might be of interest to cellists. They all fold or collapse in some way. They're distributed locally to you by Brandoni Music Ltd. They might be able to tell you where you might try before you buy. And they look more robustly built than the chair at Everything Cello.
Victor Sazer: Contact Judy Johnson: 714 832-6769, firstname.lastname@example.org
She sells seat cushions in many sizes. Small, medium (an inch higher than the small), large (2 inches higher than small) and/or any amount of height above those. They are light and portable, well upholstered with a handy carrying handle. They are made of a firm basic material with only one inch of foam on the top for comfort. Many musicians (including those other than cellists) find them more convenient than transporting chairs.
In my opinion the way you sit does make a difference and the height of your seat also makes a significant difference. They effect the way you play as well as your comfort and health. Cellists have the highest incidence of back problems of any group of musicians. Many of these problems can be corrected by improved seating. If your body is optimally aligned and balanced, you are able to play with your greatest possible freedom and ease.
fparry4: Check out this article:
This was told to me years ago and it's true. It also stops getting so uptight about what you are actually sitting on as is so often the case in cello sections. As the article says it's nice to have a basic flat chair to sit on but you will always be confronted with a chair you don't like. Remember it is your posture and you have to learn to adapt.
Babinicello: When Slava first appeared on the American stage around 1959 he created a revolution in the cello playing in our country and in the world. He was TOTALLY fantastic as a cellist and a performer. Leonard Bernstein in an interview stated "listening to him in London doing 35 cello concerts, playing new works dedicated to him as well the entire cello repertoire in existence, in a span of a few weeks…. He has become the new KING of all cellists."
I heard him for the first time in 1962. I actually went to get him at his hotel in Detroit. He let me in his room as he was standing in the nude, saying "I AM IN NEED OF FOOD" can you get me "some donuts and coffee?" As for the PICTURE of his anatomy, I only can say here -- I DO NOT WISH TO HAVE A SIMILAR BODY IN ONE OF MY FUTURE REINCARNATIONS, and I think that King Kong had much less hair. He devoured the donuts he asked for as I re-entered his room. On our way to the Hall, I asked about the inconvenience of practicing in hotel rooms. He said "I NO LONGER PRACTICE, I only open the cello case to PERFORM." PITY... he started to lose much in his cello playing. Then he started to achieve his dream of being a full time conductor, and we all know how tragic such decision was for him as the cellist we all admired. HEIFETZ, was quite the opposite -- of course HE COULD MAKE A GORGEOUS SOUND WITH A BROOM, but his inner duties to the violin and to the world of music, kept him ON A DAILY BASIS with his instrument. I CALL IT A DEEP APPRECIATION FOR GOD WHO BESTOWED UPON HIM THE MOST FORMIDABLE MUSICAL TALENT OF THIS CENTURY, and a MOST CONSCIENTOUS HUMAN BEING FOR HIS ART. I am indeed sorry that Slava decided to neglect his cello, HE LOST QUITE MUCH just to become ANOTHER CONDUCTOR.
So, it was ANOTHER EXPERIENCE in my long life dealing with CELLISTS----THEY ARE ALL CRAZY, some more than others, but the CRAZINESS IS THERE. He talked with much joy about Casals. He eats constantly--and call's the drinking of Vodka as a "GLISSANDO" down to his stomach.......His Dvorak WAS SIMPLY MAGNIFICIENT.
BA: The picture of Rostropovich standing there nude, scarfing doughnuts, discussing his plans to abandon practicing the cello, but not performing, in order to beat out Neville Mariner for the honor of being the worst major conductor of our age is chilling.
David Sanders: Sorry, but with all the really terrible conductors out there, I don't see how you can say that Rostropovich was the worst. There are so many to choose from. While he certainly was a much greater cellist than conductor, I played under him a few times when the music making was glorious. (The stick technique was another matter.)
And while we're telling stories about him, I was at the recital he gave in Chicago in the 70's when Garbousova and her husband picked him up at the airport, took him to brunch where he drank almost an entire bottle of vodka, brought him to the recital which he played with about 8 strands of hair on his bow. It was fantastic.
BA: David your experiences with Slava conducting must have quite different from ours. I played with him about five times in three years and I think many of us were pretty much in agreement that he was the worst conductor, by quite a bit, that we had ever seen. Regularly (as in at every concert) lost in complicated and sometimes even simple music, unable to change tempo where indicated and not even trying, completely unprepared (I looked in his score to check something and was alarmed to see he had highlighted a single line on every page of the score with yellow highlighter pen so that he knew which line to follow at a given moment.) He showed up to conduct one of the more obscure Prokofiev symphonies, spent twenty minutes telling us about his time at Prokofiev's dascha and how intimately he was involved in the symphony's composition (at least that's as close as we could make out of what he was saying) and then as we read through the piece it became apparent that he could not remember how fast different sections were supposed to go or what pattern he was going to conduct. Obviously he had not done even the most minimal preparation. On top of this he was rude to the orchestra and soloists, walking around complaining that Martha Argerich was not qualified to play the Shostakovich and Prokofiev first concerti because "They have to be played by a man." How many men have the power of Argerich?
One of my colleagues actually brought in an old DVD to watch backstage so we could try to remember why we should want to respect him and not strangle him. I certainly don't think I was the only one who felt he was the most incompetent, unprepared and basically uncaring conductor that I've seen to date. I apologize for the very negative tone of my comments, but when someone is blessed with such incredible gifts and squanders them without seeming to give a damn whether he does a competent job or not on the music he claims to love, I take it as an affront to everything the rest of us less talented mortals dedicate our lives to music.
Maybe you had better experiences with him, in repertoire that he was more familiar with or perhaps "he was better in earlier years? Again my apologies for the negative tone, but seeing someone with his gifts and opportunities just not care about what he does is far more maddening than seeing someone who is simply without talent. There are innumerable reasons for us to respect and be grateful for the legacy Rostropovich has left us, any one of which would guarantee his immortality, but the way he has behaved in recent decades is a story I am longing to forget. No matter what talents or good fortune one is blessed with, as Heraclitus said, (and I won't pretend I didn't have to look up who first said it) "Character is destiny.
I am admittedly a bit biased by unwittingly getting in the middle of an onstage argument between Argerich and Rostropovich about what tempo a certain pizzicato scale was possible on the cello in Shostakovich 1. The trick is to have the section play the scale divisi 3 notes/3 notes instead of playing a continuous scale, but Rostropovich, having basically never played in an orchestra wouldn't have thought of such chicanery and was insisting that Argerich must play at half of Shostakovich's marked tempo so that the celli could play the scale, which she REALLY did not want to do. She asked if we could play it faster, and I kind of smiled and nodded involuntarily at her. Slava shouted "No Martha, believe me- I KNOW the cello. It is IMPOSSIBLE" She pointed at me and said "But HE says they can" All I had done was nod in a kind of friendly way, but he looked at me as if I had just spit in his face. I quickly shriveled into a small ball. I got considerable and deserved ribbing later for having the idiocy and chutzpah to argue with Rostropovich about what is possible on the cello. Not my brightest moment, but we did ultimately play the scale divisi in the Argerich tempo. I looked up at him right after the scale with my best 'Sorry about that silly misunderstanding, maestro' smile but he gave me the death stare.
1. New book by Steven Isserlis
Steven Isserlis second book on composers has been released, Why Handel Waggled His Wig. This is a follow up to his wildly popular first book, Why Beethoven Threw the Stew.
2. New book by Carlos Prieto
Carlos Prieto will soon come out with an English translation of his new book, "The Adventures of a Cello," which will be published by University of Texas Press. More details later.
3. Solow heads up ASTA
Jeffrey Solow, cello professor at Temple University, is the new president elect of American String Teachers Association.
4. "Simple Gifts"
ICS Members are being offered a free copy of "Simple Gifts for Violin and Cello." This is a part of "Songs of the Mockingbird" album released under the Atlanta Chamber Orchestra brand label. For more information, write to email@example.com.
5. Rocky Ridge Music Center
Rocky Ridge Music Center is a summer music camp located in an inspirational setting high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Young pianists and orchestra musicians participate in The Junior Student Seminars (ages 10-14), Young Artist Seminar, (ages 15-22), or Intro to Young Artist Seminar (ages 15-16). Private lessons, chamber music, theory instruction, master classes, orchestra, piano class, concerts are offered along with a balance of recreation and hiking. Please encourage your students to consider attending this camp for a summer they will cherish always.
6. Cello On-Line Radio Station
AccuRadio.com is proudly promoting its instrument specific classical channels, one of which is its "Cello Soloists" channel, which features artists such as Lynn Harrell, Yo Yo Ma, Leonard Rose, Mstislav Rostropovich and more. To access this free channel, from your PC using Internet Explorer visit:
7. Feuermann Competition
The International Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann Cello Competition will take place November 21-26, 2006, at the Kronberg Academy.
8. New Website for ArcoMusic
Arco Music has revamped its website.
9. Irene Sharp Cello Seminar
Irene Sharp Cello Seminar will take place June 19-23, 2006, in Scarsdale, New York.
10. Teaching Children the Cello
Teaching Children the Cello, a seminar presented by the String Academy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will take place July 20-23,2006.
11. New Emanuel Gruber CD
Teaching Children the Cello, a seminar presented by the String Academy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will take place July 20-23,2006.
12. Orchestra Moves
14. More Cello News
A cello news link has been engineered using Google.com's features. Be sure to bookmark it.
2. Cello Handbook
3. Cartoon Stock
4. Ethan Winer
5. Von Cello
6. Yo-Yo Ma
7. Brandeis Cello Club
8. Isserlis plays the Schumann Concerto
9. Affordable Arts
9. Cello Articles
10. Cello Central Plus
11. Stage Fright Book
12. English Chamber Orchestra
14. New Emanuel Gruber CD
15. Eugene Friesen
16. Orchestra Audition List
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