As an internationally renowned soloist, composer and teacher, Thomas Demenga counts among the most outstanding cellists and musicians of our time. He has performed at important festivals and musical centers around the globe and shared the stage with fellow musicians such as Heinz Holliger, Gidon Kremer, Thomas Larcher, Paul Meyer, Aurèle Nicolet, Hansheinz Schneeberger, Thomas Zehetmair, and Tabea Zimmermann. He has worked with conductors such as Moshe Atzmon, Myung-Whun Chung, Charles Dutoit, Claus Peter Flor, Howard Griffiths, Heinz Holliger, Armon Jordan, Okko Kamu, Mstislav Rostropovich, Dennis Russell Davies, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Sándor Végh, Mario Venzago, and Hiroshi Wakasugi. As a soloist he has collaborated with, among others, the following orchestras: Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester, Berner Symphonie Orchester, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Camerata Bern, Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, Kammerorchester Basel, L'Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Nieuw Ensemble Amsterdam, ORF-Symphonieorchester Wien, Sinfonieorchester Basel, Sinfonietta Basel, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Westdeutsches Rundfunk Symphonie-Orchester, and Zürcher Kammerorchester.
Thomas Demenga's artistic work is determined by intensive confrontation with different historical eras and styles of interpretation and composition. He dedicates himself with particular intensity to New Music and is also active as an improviser. Thus his individual voice as a composer and interpreter of 20th and 21st century works (among them important prèmieres) gives a new and complementary dimension to both the historical performance practice of baroque music and his virtuoso interpretations of the classical and romantic repertoire. In 1991 he was the first Swiss composer to be awarded first prize for his composition "solo per due" by the congress of the "Tribune Internationale des Compositeurs." Since 1980 Thomas Demenga has led a class for students and soloists at the Hochschule für Musik in Basel.
In August 2000 he was composer-in-residence at the Davos Festival, "Young Artists in Concert," and was subsequently appointed artistic director of the festival. In 2006 he gave up this position in order to commit himself fully to performing and composing again.
In the Lucerne Festival in summer 2003, Thomas Demenga participated as "artiste étoile," succeeding Sabine Meyer (2000), Anne-Sophie Mutter (2001) and Alfred Brendel (2002), Thomas Quasthoff (2004), Christian Tetzlaff (2005), and Emanuel Pahud (2006).
Thomas Demenga's work is documented impressively on a number of CD recordings on the ECM New Series label. In 2002 ECM issued the final volume of a widely-acclaimed series begun in the mid-80s which combined Bach's solo suites with works by modern composers such as Holliger, Carter, Veress, Zimmermann, Yun, and Hosokawa. His latest CD "Chongur" with Thomas Larcher and accordianist Teodoro Anzellotti has been awarded with the "Deutsche Schallplattenpreis", "Fono Forum: Star of the Months", "Gramophone: Editors Choice" and "Le monde de la musique: le choc du mois" (ECM 1914).
TJ: Your first major teacher was Walter Grimmer.
TD: He was one Maurice Gendron's finest students. He modeled his teaching style after Gendron's, which was very systematic and largely based on imitation. He would play and then I would try to copy him. His students, as with Gendron's, were required to use a color-coded system when marking the music; fingerings were in blue, bowings were in red, and green was for expressive markings. His teaching system was very clear.
I consider my time with Grimmer to be critical to my future success. One is dependent on one's early training and I was fortunate to have a great teacher. In the early developmental stages, it is customary to allow the teacher to lead the student step by step so that when the student moves on, he or she has a clear concept that is retained no matter what happens later on. I am very lucky that Grimmer set me up with good playing habits.
Do you believe that a teacher should dictate more to a young student as opposed to allowing him or her to experiment and explore?
The more dictatorial approach worked beautifully with me when I was young, so there must be something to it.
I must admit that I don't work this way at all with my own students. In fact, I do the complete opposite. Having studied with many teachers besides Grimmer, I see myself as a hybrid of all of them. I took what I needed from each one and formulated my own approach, which didn't result in some clearly defined, rigid teaching system. In my own teaching I discuss different ways of approaching the same technical or musical problem and I let my students figure out for themselves which approach works best. It was a huge realization for me that I should never assume that what is best for one person is best for another. There are very few universally correct solutions in music.
After Grimmer you studied with Janigro.
Janigro in many ways imfluenced me the most because his ideas have stayed with me to this day, especially his belief that one should never separate technique from music. Many students come to me saying that they want to learn technique so they can play music, but this separation makes no sense. Every phrase in the literature poses a unique problem. Yes, there are certain technical basics that can be applied to many situations, but the reality is that every problem has to be treated differently because each musical expression requires a unique set of factors that can't be practiced on their own. Janigro opened my eyes to the idea that music and technique are so interrelated in music-making that focusing on technique for technique's sake is not all that productive.
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There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction."
-- F.M. Alexander
What is the fuss about sitting in a chair? In the world of the plush sofa, easy chair and computer, our simplest movements have lost their vitality. In the act of sitting, Alexander observed that most of us in the 'civilised' world violate the fundamental principles of coordinated movement. We tighten the neck, pull the head back and down, shortening and contracting through the spine, and using our 'bottom' to find the chair.
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Buying an instrument is a major decision for any player. Buying it at auction can add another layer of pressure – it's hard to keep your cool when you're in a crowded saleroom bidding against savvy dealers and the price is approaching your budget. Consider instead an internet auction, where you can bid anonymously from your own computer and take time to reflect before placing your bids.
This is what Tarisio Auctions offers. An American company launched by Dmitry Gindin, Jason Price, and Christopher Reuning in 1999, it specialises purely in online sales of stringed instruments and bows. It entered a market dominated by long-established auction houses, but Gindin and Reuning are both established experts and the three believed that the combination of their expertise and the flexibility of online bidding could be a winning formula. Eight years on, Tarisio (it's named after the 19th-century Italian dealer Luigi Tarisio, who sold the 'Messiah' Strad to Vuillaume) is one of the world's leading musical instrument auctioneers, running five sales a year from offices in New York and London.
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acello1: I would like to know what etudes you did at an early college/pre-college level (basically, before Popper). I'm interested in this because I am trying to navigate this for some of my cello students, so it would be good to know what has worked for other people.
PatWhite: Jessica, my mantra with my students is that if I can give them technique, then they can play any piece they would like to play. I deliberately go through the repertoire slowly with even my most advanced students, building a strong base of technique to lay a great foundation.
Each of the students who has totally bought into my philosophy has excelled. In fact, students excel to the degree they accept my methods. I don't reject the students who coast, but most situations have a way of working themselves out.
So, yes, there are two 'etudes' a week if you see the Mooney books as etudes. I classify them as exercises, though. So they have an etude from Grant and an exercise from Mooney.
Most of my students are not on the future professional cellist track, so they are well-rounded kids who practice anywhere from 40 minutes to a couple of hours a day. I do have a few who practice much more than that and, they obviously are on a more demanding regimen.
The students find the etudes more difficult than the Mooney exercises, so they might tend to take two weeks for each etude, which is acceptable to me. However, I also make clear they are on a three strike system with etudes. One lesson with inadequate preparation, okay. Two lessons, conditionally acceptable. By the third lesson, if an etude is still not properly prepared (correct tempo, dynamics, notes, expression, etc) then we have to spend the whole lesson on the etude. NOT as punishment but because there is OBVIOUSLY something about the etude they do not understand and my job as a teacher is to enable understanding.
Really works well in nearly every case...!
Generally speaking, my students have the following assortment at all times:
At any given lesson, we might not get to everything. They obviously understand they then have another week to prepare what we didn't have a chance to do in the lesson, for most of my lessons are 45 minutes. I simply don't have more time to give, and we can't always get through everything.
Bob: I was brought up on a rigorous diet of etudes; all the standards, and more besides. But then I hit the wall called "real music." Etudes are written by those who know the instrument inside and out, who know the fingerboard like the back of their hand. For the most part they are designed to drill some technical pattern that is derived from the instrument's basic set-up and vocabulary. Which is fine; we all need those types of drills.
But there is a disconnect between what Popper, Franchomme, et al. ask you to do, and what actual literature asks you to do. Back when I could play most of the Popper and Gruetzmacher etudes decently, I sat down one day to try and play the slow movement of Beethoven's Fifth. Holy crap! How come nothing I'd done prepared me for this? It never even left bass clef!!!
What etude prepares you to play the double-stops in the Saint-Saens or Shostakovich concertos? Any Bartok Quartet? Don Juan? The Prelude to the Fourth Bach Suite?
At the conservatory where I once taught, it took me years of fighting but I finally got jury requirements changed so that orchestra excerpts could be presented in lieu of etudes. Today I still teach etudes on a limited basis, but I make sure that everyone understands how much else there is out there.
>> Beethoven's 5th Fingerings
acello1: I have an orchestra audition and I have realize that I forgot my bowings/fingerings for the below excerpts! Can anyone offer me their fingerings for these selections? And maybe even bowings!?
2nd mvt, mm.1-10, 50-59
3rd mvt, mm. 28-43; 84-99
4mvt, 28-43; 84-99
zambocello: Below are my fingerings:
David Sanders: In bar 100, after the 2 on the Db (6th note) I prefer to use 3 on the Ab; in bar 103 I prefer 3 on the C (2nd note)...the 5th (C-F) is easier for me, and it's easier to then play 1-4 in the next group (Bb-Db). I also prefer 2-3-Q-3 in 105 (these were Frank Miller's fingerings).
>> Rostropovich Humoreske
ochichornye: Rostropovich wrote it for his teacher when he was a student at the Moscow Conservatoire. Here's the story in Slava's own words:
"It happened that I saw my fellow students were collecting money to buy flowers. I asked them whom they were to be presented to. 'Oh, they're for Kozolupov's birthday tomorrow.' I had completely forgotten about this date, and felt upset not to be contributing. So I went home and decided to compose a piece for him. I wrote and learnt the Humoresque that same night, and performed it - from memory - for Semyon Matveevich in class the next day."
[From: Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist, Teacher, Legend by Elisabeth Wilson].
>> Ravel Duo
Jon Pegis: I'm learning the Ravel duo for violin and cello, and there's a passage in the second movement that has me stumped for a good fingering. I'm using the Durand edition, and the passage begins 6 measures before #19 and last for 4 bars. Zambo, if you could scan the passage in so everyone could see it that would be great! Thanks in advance for any and all suggestions!
zambocello: Here is the passage in question: http://www.cello.org/Newsletter/ravelduo.doc
Victor Sazer: Suggestion for 6 before 19: 23Q 23Q Q13 Q13
JSP007: 124 124 124 124
Tom Flaherty: I use 124 124 123 123, sometimes with a harmonic on the last E.
Bob: Q13 Q13 Q13 Q13 (first two triplets beginning on G-string, next two on D-string)
1. Sophie Feuermann
-Sophie Feuermann, died at the age of 99 in New York City on November 6. An accomplished Pianist, she was born in Kolomea, Poland and grew up in Vienna, Austria. She often concertized with her brother, the world famous cellist Emanuel Feuermann. In 1938 she and her husband Harry Brown fled to America to escape the Holocaust. Here she performed, gave piano lessons and coached musicians. She is survived by two daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
2. Harvey Shapiro
Harvey Shapiro passed away on October 25 at the age of 96. He was a giant and will be terribly missed.
3. Kirshbaum joins the USC Faculty
Cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, who holds a distinguished position among the world’s foremost musicians, has been appointed the fifth holder of the Gregor Piatigorsky Endowed Chair in Violoncello in the strings program of the USC Thornton School of Music. As "one of the outstanding cellists of his generation," according to The New York Times, Texas-born Kirshbaum has excelled in a career which encompasses performances with the world’s leading symphony orchestras, solo recital appearances, chamber music collaborations, teaching and numerous recordings.
"Ralph Kirshbaum’s artistry is unsurpassed and his teaching is phenomenal," said Midori Goto, holder of the Jascha Heifetz Endowed Chair in Violin and the artistic and academic chair of the strings department at USC Thornton. "Kirshbaum’s commitment to mentoring younger musicians is well-known, and he will bring to our strings program a force that cannot be matched anywhere else with his artistry, expertise and dedication."
Bernard Greenhouse, a founding and longtime member of the Beaux Arts Trio and one of the elder statesmen of the American cello community, called Kirshbaum "undoubtedly one of the most respected teachers and artists in the world. And the fact that he has agreed to take this post at USC will certainly bring the best and the most talented young minds to the university."
The USC Thornton strings program is considered among the nation’s finest. Its eminent artist/teachers are noted for both individual instruction and coaching in chamber music. High standards of professionalism in performance and teaching have been upheld for more than a century by a faculty that has included Piatigorsky, Heifetz, William Primrose, Eudice Shapiro, Eleonore Schoenfeld, who passed away this year, and her sister Alice Schoenfeld, who is still teaching.
The Piatigorsky Chair of Violoncello was established in 1974 to recognize the achievements of Gregor Piatigorsky, one of the greatest cellists of the last century who taught at USC from 1962 until his death in 1976. Previous holders of this position were Piatigorsky himself (1974-76), Lynn Harrell (1986-1993), Ronald Leonard (1993-2003) and Eleonore Schoenfeld (2004-07).
4. New du Pré video
Christopher Nupen has released another video, Jacqueline du Pré -- A Celebration of Her Unique and Enduring Gift.
5. New York Philharmonic Cellist Changes Careers
After 31 years in the New York Philharmonic, cellist Nancy Donaruma has changed careers, becoming an emergency medical technician in Poughkeepsie, New York. She is the first woman to retire from the 165-year-old orchestra.
6. Cellist turned conductor
Cellist Robert Moody has been appointed conductor and music director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra.
7. New Teaching DVD
Irene Sharp, has released a new DVD, The Art of Cello Teaching. This internationally acclaimed shares her techniques in this inspiring DVD, through a seven month progression of filming actual student lessons. Building on a lifetime of teaching, she provides an invaluable framework for teachers everywhere to help their students reach their full potential. The DVD has a total of 19 tracks for a total length of 1 hour and 17 minutes. Each track is a progression in time with the same student (a young girl playing on a 1/8 size cello). Cellist Irene Sharp, a teacher at the Mannes College of Music University of California at Berkeley, and San Francisco State University, has been acclaimed internationally for her teaching. Ms. Sharp led the Margaret Rowell String Seminar for nine years and now gives the Irene Sharp Cello Seminar each June at the Mannes College. She has given master classes for American String Teachers Association, European String Teachers Association, Australian String Teachers Association, and the Suzuki Association of America. Sharp is a founder and Artistic Director of California Summer Music, a festival for young string players, pianists, and composers held in Pebble Beach, California. She has been an invited speaker at the national meetings of the Music Teachers' National Association and the Music Educators' National Conference, has given numerous teacher workshops and in l992 received an award for her teaching from ASTA. She studied with Margaret Rowell, Eugene Eicher, Theo Salzman and Gabor Rejto, and performed in Pablo Casals master class.
8. Faculty Appointments
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2. Yo-Yo Ma
3. Cello Quartet
4. Cello Journey
5. Von Cello
6. Cello Chix
7. Guide to the Orchestra
8. Extreme Cello Playing
9. Amazon Cello Choir
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