>> I am an italian amateur cellist (65 years old), but I dare to say something about the tip "Playing the tenor clef." The object of the question was a method of reading the tenor clef without reference to bass clef, reading the note in bass clef and then translating it to tenor clef. <> It seems to me that it is enough to think that the tenor clef is a C clef (the central C or, as we can say to a beginner, the C in first position on the A string and on fourth line of staff. So on the higher space, with reference to the symbol of clef) there is the D, on the first higher line the E and so on. The more interesting thing is that if you accustom yourself to this method (appreciating intervals on the lines of staff) you can easily read, or soon accustom yourself to read every new clef. In such a way, for example, you can read the 6th suite of Bach in the different clefs it was written by Bach (or, better Anna Magdalena). The proper use of different keys make the music more compact and centered on the staff with a minimum use of ledger lines: you can appreciate better the intervals between lines of staff and read the note with reference with an initial note as established by the symbol of clef. Perhaps at the time of Bach people was less "specialized" on a single clef and found useful to use the appropriate clef for every piece of music. The manual transcription of music, that was common at the time, is more simple without many ledger lines. But I think the usage of different key can be useful also today. Some pieces that in the traditional clefs for cello have a lot of ledger lines, are almost without if you choose appropriate clefs.
You must believe me because for many years I was not fluent in reading the music (only from four years I came back to play every day as a professional): it is a pleasure to see almost all notes on the staff, not over nor under. Thank for your attention and excuse my daring but my love for cello is too strength and for me it is a great adventure to study it at my age and with my experience!
>> I read with interest Tim Janof's cogent essay on the Bach Suites, having also struggled - for several years - to bring together the intellectual, historical, philosophical, autobiographical, and artistic aspects of these absolutely sublime works. One major problem as I see it is our collective willingness to accept received wisdom, which is very often quite spurious, so I was gratified to see examples in Mr. Janof's essay where he cites one such piece of accepted dogma, then writes something to the effect that, "I have heard, but have not verified it." What a breath of fresh air! Independent and rigorous enquiry is the only means at our disposal to come to grips with a very tangled legacy of conflicting ideas; the problem is that so many musical ideas are viewed through anachronistic literary prisms that become academically fashionable - be they Marxist, Phenomenological, Existentialist, Feminist, Deconstructivist, or what have you - that eventually become in a sense canonic. This has been going on for centuries, and the resulting buildup of conceptual grime on our picture of the works of Bach necessitates a cleaning on a massive scale - commensurate, in fact, with the Urtext movement of a few decades back. The Urtext movement erased from printed music thousands of accumulated ideas from celebrated nineteenth and twentieth century virtuosi, who by and large felt no shame in altering the printed indications even of a Beethoven or a Mozart. But these accretions appeared on the printed page. It now becomes necessary to reexamine various philosphical and literary accretions that impinge upon how we actually read that same page of music.
A hard-line performance of the Bach Suites must first take a very thorough study of original sources, such as Arbeau, Mattheson, Scheibe, the Bach children, and various others, as its starting point. But it also means taking seriously any content their writings present that is at variance with our personal experience, and this is one area where I believe modern scholarship fails us abysmally. As one example, two very respected scholars, in a major Urtext edition of these Suites, cite Johann Mattheson - who knew Bach personally as a colleague in Leipzig - describing, in Germany in 1739, how the Bourree was played. Mattheson used adjectives like "easygoing, a bit listless, a little slow," and yet in the previous paragraph this eminent pair of scholars characterized the same dance as a "lively running dance," simply because that is the only way they have ever heard it - and they do so without comment, let alone explanation.
They have heard it only as a a lively running dance because that is how Casals played it, and everyone is still copying Casals like lemmings. An informal yet stringent consensus of performers on recordings over the past half-century has led to a scholarly consensus that remains quite spurious. On one hand, scholarly consensus rests on unexamined assumptions that lead to a sort of cognitive dissonance with the original sources, which is apparently more trouble than is deemed worth facing and sorting out. As a result, leading musical thinkers of our era have become just as much influenced by anachronistic concepts as the people they teach. (Conscious anachronism is largely their stock and trade, in fact, and has been increasingly so ever since Immanuel Kant's time.) On the other hand, to pursue the question of some of the world's most successful cellists why they copy Casals without question, one finds at bottom they do so because of commercial considerations, not historical or scholarly ones, and this unfortunately includes some leading lights of the HIPP movement.
So there is a tangled mess at the roots of what we presently consider scholarly authority; interestingly enough, it is traceable to a fundamental political disagreement Bach had with many of his contemporaries, which in the end put Bach on the wrong side of history. He was fervently anti-Enlightenment, and was ridiculed by several of his peers in print because of it. We today view him through the eyes of his adversaries, even as we aknowledge his genius. We interpret him according to largely neo-Kantian perspectives, as we do all music, and that bespeaks a collective failure of the imagination when applied indiscriminately to works, like Bach's, that predate Kant.
I hope Mr. Janof continues to write essays that pose the right questions - sometimes they are more important than the right answers.
Myles Jordan [DMA],
cellist, the DaPonte String Quartet
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker plays the Fauré's Elégie.
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker plays the "Largo" of Shostakovitch's Piano Trio in Em.
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker is a passionate, sensitive, and highly creative cellist, who brings a magical enjoyment and beauty to everything she plays. She achieved international acclaim when she won the 8th Rostropovich Cello Competition in Paris in November 2005. German and French television made stirring documentaries of the competition, which continue to be broadcast across Europe. A senior French cellist exclaimed, "She is an extraterrestrial. It only takes a few seconds to discover that the fairytale is true. A real enchantment." Reviewers in Europe and America praise her concerto and chamber music performances as "Heartbreakingly sad and dreamwalkingly beautiful" (Die Zeit, Germany, July 20, 2006), "Amazing and stunning" (Chicago), and "A true moment of paradise." (France).
Fred Kirshnit of the New York Sun writes: "Her tone is immediate, yearning, importunate. She grabs hold of the listener by the sleeve and never lets go. She played with her eyes closed throughout, weaving a web of passion and controlled intensity. In the best romantic tradition, she endowed each phrase with its own dynamics, with small contrasts paying big dividends. She has a generous vibrato and even waggles her bow in the old style. Her performance resulted in searingly beautiful communication" (August 7, 2006).
Marie-Elisabeth was born on March 5, 1987 in Zwickau, a city in the Saxony area of northeastern Germany. Zwickau is well-known as a musical city, because it is also the birthplace of the famous composer, Robert Schumann. Her father is a Lutheran minister and she is the 5th born of 8 children. Although her parents are not musicians, her four brothers and three sisters play musical instruments. She has given many concerts with her brothers, Martin and Andreas, pianists, her sister Renate, a violinist, her brother Friedemann, viola, and another brother, Thomas, an oboist.
Marie-Elisabeth began studying the cello in 1992 at age 5 years with Wieland Pörner at the Robert Schumann Music Conservatory in Zwickau. He taught her individually and when she was 8 years old, he also instructed her in a piano trio of her sister, Renate (12) on violin, and her brother, Andreas (13) on piano. When she was 12 years old in 1999, she won first prize at the National German Competition "Jugend Musiziert" ("Youth Makes Music") for chamber and solo playing. She won the same prize for several more years. In 2000, she won the family prize in this national competition with four of her siblings. At age 14 years in 2001, she received first prize and the special jury prize of the International Dotzauer Competition in Dresden and she went to study with the esteemed cellist, Peter Bruns, at the Carl Maria Von Weber Conservatory in Dresden.
When Marie-Elisabeth was 16 years old in 2003, she was awarded first prize of the Cultural Society of the German Business and Commerce Association. She gave a concert in London sponsored by the city of Dresden. She played Tchaikovski's "Rococo Variations" with the orchestra of Dresden and gave concerts in Holland, Munich, Cologne, Husum and Hamburg. She gave concerts sponsored by the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation "Live Music Now" and premiered a work of Wilhelm Killmayer, "Three Concert Pieces for Cello Solo" recorded "live" on CD. In 2004, she also recorded a CD of Kodaly's Sonata for Solo Cello in Berlin. The same year, she was honored with the "Scholarship of the German People". She played Shostakovich's 1st Cello Concerto with the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Zwickau-Plauen. She participated in the International Moritzburg Festival and played for Kurt Mazur at the occasion of his award of the "Westphalia Peace Prize", which was broadcast on radio and television.
She has had master classes with Bernard Greenhouse, Gary Hoffman, Frans Helmerson, Steven Isserlis, Leonid Gorokhov, Daniel Hope, Paul Watkins, Jonathan Tunnel, Peter Bruns, Maria Kliegel, and Anner Bylsma.
In 2005, she moved to Leipzig to continue her cello study with Peter Bruns at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy". In October 2005, she gave her American debut at New York City's renowned chamber music concert hall, Bargemusic. The next month, she participated in the International Rostropovich Cello Competition, which is held every four years in Paris. She played with her brother Martin on piano the 1st Cello Sonata of Prokofiev, which was written for Rostropovich, who premiered it with Sviatislav Richter in 1950. All the six finalists in Paris chose to play the same composition, the 1st cello concerto by Shostakovich. Marie-Elisabeth won the Grand Prize and two other special prizes -- the first time a cellist has won 3 prizes in the 30-year history of the competition.
Since May 2006, she is a member of the Elite Advanced School for Strings of the Kronberg Academy (Kronberg in Taunus, Germany). She is a featured soloist with Gidon Kremer and his Kremerata Baltica in concerts in Austria, Italy and elsewhere.
For the 2006/2007 season, she will play chamber music, sonatas by Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Frank, Kodaly and cello concerti by Haydn, Vivaldi, Elgar and Shostakovich in Festivals in Cannes, Paris (Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Louvre, Musée d'Orsay), New York, Illinois (Woodstock Mozart festival), Kronberg ("Chamber Music Connects the World"), Frankfurt, Manchester, Lisbon, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Elba Festival (Italy), Orne (France festival), Madrid, etc.
She plays an Italian Bajoni cello from 1864, which is on loan to her by the Lösch Inherited Community under the directorship of Dr. W. Lösch.
Where were you born?
I was born in Zwickau, which is in the Saxony part of Germany.
How many people are in your family?
We are altogether ten with my parents and eight children.
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
It is a double quartet with my four brothers and three sisters.
Are you the oldest child of your parents?
No, I am the fifth.
Do some of your siblings play musical instruments?
Yes, everyone plays, all are studying or will be studying. However, my youngest sisters will probably not be able to do this professionally.
Have you always made music together?
Yes, we grew up with siblings playing together with other siblings, until a certain age. Studying in different cities makes this more difficult. But we make music together whenever we see each other.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." -- Muhammad Ali
One could walk the earth, consult the sages, and come away no wiser.
In ancient China and India, it was well understood that the study of a musical instrument is a means to unlock the mind and soul of the player. To learn to 'turn this key' is to enter a state of grace. No pushing, striving, or fighting is of use and the amount of effort exerted is in inverse proportion to the result gained. Here is a story I sometimes share with my students:
A young boy traveled across Japan to the school of a great and famous swordsman. When he arrived at the school he was given an audience with the founder, who was impressed that this young boy had made such a long journey.
'What do you want from me?' the master asked.
'I wish to be your student and become the finest swordsman in the land,' the boy replied. 'How long must I study?'
'Ten years at least,' the master answered.
'Ten years is a long time. What if I studied twice as hard as all your other students?'
'Twenty years,' replied the master.
'Twenty years! What if I practiced unrelentingly, day and night with all my effort?'
'Thirty years,' replied the master.
'How is it that each time I say I will work harder you tell me that it will take longer?' the student asked, quite confused by now.
'The answer is clear,' said the master.
'When there is one eye fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the way.'
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
This was the first time the New Directions Cello Association has held the festival in my neighborhood, California. For the past three years it was held at Lawrence University in Wisconsin. So on that Friday morning, after completing some family obligations, I tossed my old beater in the car dashed the 450 miles.
I arrived in time for Chris White's workshop Playing Over Big Band Changes. Improvising a solo on a pentatonic scale over continuous bars of G minor? Ok, I was willing to try that, but then we were expected to follow chord changes every bar! And what's with this augmented 5th, flatted 9th, augmented 13th stuff? Ah, but Chris gave us a system for approaching it. Maybe with practice I'll zip through those changes next time.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
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>> Thumb under fingerboard?
duckumu: I was browsing old newsletters and came across a report of a Starker Master Class. In it was this point:
SC80: I studied with Starker and he taught that position only in a section of the Hindemith concerto where, although in thumb position, one has to play fingers alternating with the open string.
He did venture as to the thumb-under the fingerboard position maybe being a possible alternative in the future, but do learn the proper position first.
I think for someone with his level of technique, which is as far as it goes (further, actually), such propositions are a way to look for further challenges, while the rest of us mortals struggle to achieve even 80%,in the best cases, of what he can do.
Pedro cello: Paul Tortelier has used this technique (it's described in his book "How I play, How I teach"). It can be useful in some situations.
batmanvcl: I've never noticed that any overtones are dampened by having the thumb down vs. not having it down. What about having it touching the string but not really pressing down firmly? Also, does this mean that anyone who, when playing a fourth finger, places the third finger on the string as well for support is also killing some of the resonance of the cello?
More questions than answers...
Victor Sazer: One occasion where Starker expressed the above thoughts was when he presented a master class at a cello congress.
He played a few notes with his thumb down and then removed it to demonstrate that holding it down does indeed dampen the sound. He then added his belief that one should always keep the thumb down because keeping it off is less secure.
Perhaps Starker's impression that keeping the thumb off is "less secure" is because during his long and illustrious career he has been accustomed to using a methodology where the thumb is always held down. However, there are many roads to Rome.
In my opinion, keeping the thumb down when not using it to play a note not only dampens the sound but limits freedom and mobility. Liberating the thumb can be a great advantage when playing in all parts of the cello.
ARBettridge: The one time I've used thumb under the fingerboard was for the last note in the gigantic scale in the Elgar concerto. I had that idea passed on to me as a Starker suggestion, for what it's worth.
>> On being heard
JanJan2: I just returned from Summerkeys and realize I have difficulty correctly evaluating the quality and volume of my sound. I played Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod) in a master class, and was told my sound was too small, play closer to the bridge. So I did. Everybody listening thought it sounded terrific. I, on the other hand, felt it was forced and harsh sounding. Later that week, while rehearsing a piano trio, I thought perhaps I was playing too loudly, only to be told to play out more. Another time I thought my volume was just right, and was directed to back off. So my question today is, how do you "hear" what the audience is hearing? Is it something you simply learn to judge through years of experience?
Bob: Heifetz once stopped a trio rehearsal (w/Piatigorsky & Rubinstein) and said "gentlemen, there is something wrong with the balance -- I can hear the cello."
Fact is, we're almost always at a disadvantage, whatever ensemble we're in, large or small. Anyone who attends concerts knows this. Thus, we should always work to cultivate the biggest sound possible, consistent with beauty. If you practice your scales and arpeggios fortissimo, always striving for beauty of tone as well, you will be spending your time wisely. When all we know how to do is make "practice-room sounds," and a coach, conductor, or colleague demands "more," the results will be strained and forced. If you have learned how to project using the largest possible muscles and relying on bow speed as much as bow pressure, it is a simple matter to back off or lighten up when necessary. Going the other way is a different story.
As far as "hearing oneself," indeed sticking a tape recorder some distance away is a good suggestion. While your pianist or flutist may occasionally feel you're too loud from where they sit, the reality out in the hall may be different. The main thing is to always be aware of the principal voice(s), and to be sure you're not covering them/it.
zambocello: For cello there are three dynamics in piano trio play: 1) as loud as you can, 2) so loud you wonder if it is poor taste, and 3) so loud your hands hurt.
Balances can be tricky because you aren't sitting where you can hear objectively. Even the big boys and girls appreciate having a helpful ear around at a dress rehearsal to confirm that balances are okay.
My admonition to everyone, regardless of playing level: don't worry about how loudly you play or how "big" your sound is, and almost never play as loudly as you can (except when playing piano trios). Cultivate power in your sound in your practice sessions and then in "real life" use that power in gradations, just like an athlete who pumps iron to develop great strength but rarely, if ever, swings/throws/whatever as hard as s/he can.
>> Historically Informed Performance Practice
mlunapiena01: How/when did this HIPP thing start and what was the standard practice before/how did that change once it was introduced?
Tim Janof: I don't consider myself an expert on HIPP history by any means, but I did study with Eva Heinitz for seven years and absorbed a lot of oral history from her. You can read more about her here: www.cello.org/Newsletter/...einitz.htm
She was a pioneer in the HIPP movement, along with Wanda Landowska (who was much older) and Arnold Dolmetsch (who was much older still), way before HIPP was called "HIPP." As an aside, Eva Heinitz was told by Rudolf Serkin that Casals didn't want her to come to Marlboro as a gambist because Casals hated the harpsichord. Times and tastes were different back then, though there are those who still hate the harpsichord.
Eva Heinitz felt strongly that phrases should feel connected, like Casals' "rainbows" or Zara Nelsova's "rivers of gold," so she was repulsed by the practice of the HIPP players who followed her that let the bow breathe more. She hated those swells, which made her feel "seasick," musically speaking. She demanded connected lines. Frankly, when you listen to her playing, she often seems to force her gamba to sound like a cello.
Anner Bylsma said, "The concept of flowing lines is not appropriate for eighteenth century music, it belongs to the nineteenth century." Eva Heinitz's gamba playing definitely seems to fit this description. Her playing sounds nothing like HIPP players of today, who later discovered that baroque bows lend themselves naturally to those swells. She was proud to rebel against her younger colleagues and she defiantly titled her self-published CD, "Authentic Baroque Music Performed in a Non-Authentic Manner."
Most HIPP players bored her in the early days. They seemed obsessed, in her view, with technical issues and played with dead left hands, which she loathed. Partly due to her difficult personality and partly due to her refusal to embrace the latest research, she was brushed aside.
Somewhere along the line, Amsterdam became an important center for HIPP studies. I'm not sure when this occurred, or who started it. It was in Amsterdam that musicians like Anner Bylsma, Gustav Leonhardt, the Kuijken brothers, and Franz Bruegen combined energies and gave the Early Music scene a major boost. They were the next generation after Eva Heinitz. Who can forget how the cello world was rocked when Bylsma recorded the Suites the first time? Then came players like Jordi Savall, Margriet Tindemans ( www.cello.org/Newsletter/...emans.html ), and others. Towards the end of her life, Eva Heinitz admitted that Jordi Savall's playing was actually growing on her.
Many HIPP people in the early days were by no means virtuosos on their instruments. Eva Heinitz recalled how the valveless brass players would receive applause from their colleagues in rehearsals if they were able to string more than three correct notes together. It was not a fun time for perfectionists, but eventually the technical level reached a high standard.
As the HIPP movement became more established, they became more militant about how Modern players were doing it all wrong, that Modern players were insensitive and being disrespectful to composers. This attitude drove Eva Heinitz insane. Thus began a war between Modern and HIPP players that continues to this day, though it seems to be calming down. HIPP players eventually made it clear that they were here to stay and they became less obnoxious and militant in their assessment of Modern playing.
In recent years, we have seen a bit of co-mingling of the Modern and HIPP worlds, at least superficially. Yo-Yo has been dabbling in the HIPP world here and there. Wispelwey has been a "tweener." Natalia Gutman bought a baroque bow and has been playing Bach much more delicately. And like the merging of the Montagues and the Capulets, Raphael Wallfisch (Modern cellist) married Elizabeth Wallfisch (HIPP violinist).
The Oracle at Cellphi: One wonders about the role of Wanda Landowska in this whole mise-en-scène... as when she purportedly said to a colleague, "All right - you play Bach your way... and I'll play him HIS way!!!!!"
As for hating the harpsichord - how did Beecham (or whoever it was) characterize the instrument? "Sounds like two skeletons copulating on a tin roof!"
In terms of the original "pantheon" of HIPP-ocrites (no, just kidding!) - wouldn't you include Nikolaus Harnoncourt in that galère? I have his recording of the Bach Cello Suites, and it sounds HIPP-ical to me.
In any case - it does seem that many of these "Early Music" aficionados have a huge HIPP on their shoulder!
DWThomas: As for hating the harpsichord, many of the instruments available in the middle 20th century were pretty bad and did not present the instrument in its best light. One famous make was basically a modified piano which means the action was about ten times heavier than a real harpsichord. Fortunately, in the 1970s and 80s, folks began to unravel more of the mysteries and make better instruments.
GM Stucka: Just to editorialize for a bit: There's so much trouble in the world today that can be traced to fundamentalist religions that are intolerant of others because they feel that their way is the ONLY way. I am bothered by HIPP advocates who have no tolerance of other viewpoints to their "current" HIPP scholarship: In other words, they feel their way is the ONLY way. One of the marvelous things about music, IMHO, is that there is room for many viewpoints. I have my personal preferences for performing Bach, but for listening, I've enjoyed Casals and Bylsma, Stokowski and Harnoncourt. I'd feel terribly deprived if 'fundmentalist' HIPPsters could deny me access to other approaches and I pity those HIPPsters who can't see or hear beyond their narrower, less all-encompassing viewpoints. Just my two cents.
andrei: For info on style, articulation, agreements, messa di voce (the mid-bow swelling Eva Heinitz should have read about), and other related beasts, one can consult the following:
ericedberg: This is a recent article from the New York Times:
August 6, 2006
Period Music Grow Up. Period.
By MICHAEL WHITE
FORTY years ago there was not much of an issue about how you performed a Mozart symphony, a Bach cantata or a Handel oratorio. You played it the way Wilhelm Furtwängler, Thomas Beecham or Herbert von Karajan might have: with mid-19th-century ideas that had hardened into accepted norms and generally meant big symphonic forces, heavy textures, slow speeds and modern instruments.
Then came "early music," also known as period performance. Early musicians researched period instruments, rediscovered forgotten composers, revived old performance practices and in effect declared war on the interventionist musical culture of the mid-19th century. They set out to make their case with fundamentalist fervor, espousing lighter forces, faster speeds and period instruments. And through the 1970's and 80's they mutiplied and gathered force.
At the start they were largely dismissed as eccentrics, the musical equivalents of New Agers and Flat Earthists. The British conductor Neville Marriner, who championed the performance of early repertory with a relaxed sense of period style on modern instruments, called them "the open-toed-sandals and brown-bread set." Early players on period instruments were often scorned as musicological types unable to master their exotic instruments and play in tune.
But sooner than anyone might have expected, they gained the upper hand. They espoused their gospel of period instruments, original sound and composers' intentions in dogmatic, almost moral terms, often shaming conventional instrumentalists and ensembles away from early repertory. Along with the advent of the CD, their new-found repertory and fascinating new-old sound gave a boost to a classical recording industry then (as ever) in need of one.
If early-music specialists have since lost some of their combative edge, it is largely because they have been absorbed into the mainstream, with pianists emulating the sound of the harpsichord in Bach, symphony orchestras scaling themselves down to chamber proportions in Beethoven and almost all performers adopting aspects of period style.
So what was once a counterculture on the barricades, pleading its cause hot with passion, has for the most part won its arguments. The heat has cooled, and maybe some of the excitement. Performers who were its enfants terribles have become its elder statesmen.
The British harpsichordist and conductor Trevor Pinnock, for one, is celebrating his 60th birthday by revisiting a landmark in both his professional life and the period-performance movement. In 1981 Mr. Pinnock and his band, the English Concert, caught the wave of excitement about period performance with a celebrated recording of Bach's "Brandenburg" Concertos for Deutsche Grammophon. It opened many ears, turning Mr. Pinnock and his players into stars. Now he is recording the "Brandenburgs" again, for the Avie label, this time with a crack new band, assembled from players in leading period ensembles, which recently convened in Sheffield, England, before a international tour.
Oddly, through all of this, North America, with its wealth of musicologists and performers, and New York in particular, have been slow to follow. Mr. Pinnock, who himself tried to establish the Classical Band in New York in 1989, said the United States "is not a strong voice" in early music. Yet 50 years ago New York was something of an early-music hotbed, largely on the strength of Noah Greenberg and his New York Pro Musica Antiqua.
Historians trace the modern early-music movement back to Arnold Dolmetsch's colorfully reinventing viol consorts in the early 1900's, and to events like the Göttingen Handel Festival in Germany, which started the slow process of restoring Handel's operas to the stage in 1920.
But by common consent, the first generation to make a real difference in the way early music is played and heard was that of Gustav Leonhardt and Nikolaus Harnoncourt (both born in the late 1920's). And things really took off in the 1970's, when a second generation emerged, creating period bands in every direction.
Mr. Pinnock got in fast, founding his English Concert in 1972. In 1973 came Christopher Hogwood's Academy of Ancient Music and Reinhard Goebel's Musica Antiqua Köln. Ton Koopman's Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra appeared in 1977, John Eliot Gardiner's English Baroque Soloists in 1978 and William Christie's Arts Florissants in 1979. Thus was the scene set for a cultural revolution.
"Why it all got going in the 70's I can't explain," Mr. Pinnock said, "except in terms of zeitgeist and the collective unconscious. We just seemed to have the same idea at the same time, which was that old music on conventional instruments had reached the end of a road. It was time to explore a new sound world that the generation just before us had opened up."
The lutenist and conductor Konrad Junghänel, who was in residence at the Göttingen Handelfest this summer, offered a different take. "I trace it back to 1968," he said, "when Europe was in general political and cultural protest. Period performance followed on as a protest against the prevailing music establishment."
The disrespect that greeted early musicians back then was in many cases deserved, Mr. Junghänel says, because their technique was limited. "Players were finding their way with these instruments," he added. "And when you hear recordings from then, sometimes you laugh, it's so bad.''
The conductor Nicholas McGegan, who directs the Göttingen Handelfest and the San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque, points to "vastly improved techniques" today and to a change of attitude. "Early music used to come like brown rice," he said, "in 'this is good for you' packaging that could be quite severe, didactic and forgetful that when you get on that concert platform, you're giving a performance, not an academic paper on a performance."
Early music has since shed the dogmatism that accompanied the notion of authenticity. Today period performers — chastened by, among others, the music historian Richard Taruskin, who was once one of them — shun the word.
"Looking back," Mr. Pinnock said "I think people oversold what we were doing with the instruments as more than it was. In the right conditions old instruments help because you can push them to the limits of their capabilities, and they won't get in the way. A forte on a modern keyboard is likely to be too thick. On a period keyboard, it won't be. But we don't always have the right conditions in modern concert halls. And the instrument is only a tool of the trade."
Another period conductor in retreat from dogmatism is René Jacobs, the director of an influential early-opera festival in Innsbruck, Austria. "We are now in a position where the facts of old performance practice are well known," Mr. Jacobs said, "but we have risen above those facts. I don't feel I have to reproduce how things were done in the past. I reimagine them. And in doing so, I respond to the current situation as well: the size of the hall, the acoustic, whatever."
Although a sense of fantasy is clearly back on the agenda, Mr. Jacobs still believes in scholarship and thinks the new generation of period players don't do it rigorously enough.
Mr. Jacobs also worries that the repertory is narrower than it should be by now: "Handel is of course the period-performance superstar, and his operas are now easy-listening. Likewise Monteverdi and — in France at least — Rameau. But there's so much virgin territory in Italian opera: especially Alessandro Scarlatti, a great genius, though not so hummable as Handel."
THE meltdown of the classical record industry has been a problem. Mr. Junghänel said: "The early-music boom of the 70's owed everything to radio stations like WDR in Cologne and to the record companies, who in those days were looking out for new and interesting work. They made all these ensembles possible. Now they just record Your Top 100 Pieces over and over. The repertoire shrinks, and the players themselves become less curious, less hungry to discover."
Meanwhile the geography of the period world has shifted. In the 70's it centered largely on Britain and the Netherlands, but now the most exciting newer period bands are coming from elsewhere, notably Italy and Spain.
Yet North America remains the great blank on the world map of period performance. It has some history beyond Greenberg, including the Boston Early Music Festival, which was founded in 1980. It has ensembles. And, Mr. Jacobs says, it has the best musicology in the world.
"What comes out of obscure colleges in the middle of the Arizona desert is amazing," he said. "But this doesn't translate into everyday musical life. I don't know why. Maybe the structures are too rigid, or there isn't the motivation. So American players by and large still have to come and work in Europe."
When the British period specialist Harry Bickett conducts Monteverdi's "Incoronazione di Poppea" in Los Angeles this fall, he will use Americans based in Europe. "That's where they tend to live these days," he said. "It's too hard for them to make careers in their home country. I'd say the U.S. is 15 years behind Europe in the early-music stakes, and the reason is that America hasn't learnt to take it for granted."
That kind of everyday acceptance of period instrumentalists as musicians, pure and simple, has been the quantum shift for period performance in Europe over the last decade or so. From being a discrete interest that divided the music world into those who played on period instruments and those who did not, it has opened out into a broad stylistic concern on the part of all musicians to investigate the historical context of pre-Romantic music. .
A growing number of players now lead double lives, in period and modern bands. And those who don't are at least respectful of their counterparts, and curious themselves. In that process, period-performance values have become an expectation rather than a surprise. And the pleasure of finding everything he has campaigned for during 25 years now taken for granted is, for Mr. Pinnock, worth all the attendant dangers.
"When you graduate from the sidelines into the mainstream," he said, "you create a new conservatism and risk losing the sense of discovery that drove you when you started. But to be mainstream was our dearest ambition in the 70's, and I think we succeeded beyond expectation. Period consciousness is now basic to being a musician, whether you're in the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra or the Vienna Philharmonic. We're the same world now."
>> Playing Harmonics
duckumu: I was browsing old newsletters and came across a report of a Starker Master Class. In it was this point:
Gary Stucka: I want to thank Carter for his fingering suggestion for the treacherous "harmonics" scale passage in the 2nd movement of the Saint-Saens Concerto. Playing the scale by starting with thumb on E-flat, 3rd finger lightly on B-flat, is so much more secure and full sounding.
andrei: The same trick can be very effectively applied to (some of) the harmonics in the Shostakovich Trio No. 2, playing 4th or 5th between Q and 3, for a secure, smooth beginning.
>> Audition Tips
Joseph Turner White: Hear ye, hear ye, Learned People of the Deep Strings. I have a symphony audition coming up in very short order, and am soliciting hints, methods, suggestions and the like to aid in staying relaxed and playing as well as one can reasonably hope to whilst pleading one's musical case before the Lord High Commissioner Thumbs-Down and His Council of WE'LL Call YOU.
BettyLou: As official reigning monarch of Cello Chat, I welcome you with elegant outstretched arms! Your wildest dreams will be realized here, dear, if that is what you wish.
The best preparation for an orchestra audition is 10 mg of Inderol, taken an hour or so before you play. Also, pay particular attention to your grooming and appearance that day. I am thinking something very "Outkast" will set you apart. Other than that, just have fun!
Of course, this assumes that your concerto movement and cobbled excerpts are in top form and have been played for everyone in town, and all of the conflicting feedback has kept you awake endlessly while you toss and turn in the dark straightjacket of night.
Steve Drake: What Betty Lou said. Except I might go for more like 20 mg. Or none at all these days, actually. Just don't go trying the Inderol thing for the first time at this audition.
Coffee before audition = bad. Maybe 2 hours plus before, especially if you're addicted like me, but not any sooner.
Bottles of water are your friends. So are bananas.
Practice like crazy before the audition. Not after.
Do Not Drink alcoholic beverages the night before. I don't care what kind of lousy alcoholic you are, just don't. Even if you have trouble sleeping, and you will; it won't help. Trust me on this.
Play everything a little slower than you think is right. No matter how calm and cool and collected you think you are. Again, trust me on this.
Rosin before going out on stage? You don't need it. Remember, you've put rosin on some 17 times in the last day, you don't need any more.
Don Juan - start it upbow. Unless it's Wednesday, or in the southern hemisphere, then start it downbow.
Did I mention practicing? Ok, do it.
Play as many mock auditions as you can stand. Then practice a lot.
Don't leave anything up to chance.
If you don't win the audition, remember that the committee was on drugs that day, and/or the audition was rigged. Unless you started Don Juan downbow, then it's your own damn fault you lost. Then go practice some more - your next audition is in 2 weeks.
David Sanders: "The last thing I did was get what the rest of the orchestra was playing firmly in my ear. When I played the excerpts, I "listened" to the orchestra in my head and played along."
That's a really excellent approach. One of the things that is so telling in so many of the auditions I have heard over the past 32 years is when someone sounds like they can play the passage, but has no idea how the music goes. You can just tell, with the sound, the phrasing, the breathing, the pacing, the style.
I want to say that I think it is important to prepare the excerpts part of an audition as if you were preparing to play them for a solo recital or a concerto with orchestra. They should be just as well prepared as any concerto, with just as much, or possibly even more, attention to detail.
>> Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Second Movement Fingering
Cello4Ever: Does anybody have a fingering for this?
zambocello: Here are some choices:
Anonymous: Does anybody have cadenzas they could share?
cbrey: Here are mine:
1. Rostropovich retires from performing
Mstislav Rostropovich announced that he retiring from performing with his cello. He will continue his conducting career.
2. Extreme Cellists
Three cellists visited all 42 Anglican cathedrals in England. In all but eleven they played on he cathedral rooftops.
3. New Penderecki movement
Krzysztof Penderecki has added a new movement to his 1994 Divertimento per violoncello solo. It was premiered on September 2, 2006, by Michel Strauss.
4. International Paulo Competition
The International Paulo Competition in Finland will take place April 13-24, 2007.
5. ASTA National Conference and National Solo Competition
The American String Teachers Association will host its National Conference and National Solo Competition March 7-10, 2007, in Detroit.
6. Cellist Moves
The RNCM Cello Festival will take place Wed 2 May 2007 - Sun 6 May 2007.
9. More Cello News
A cello news link has been engineered using Google.com's features. Be sure to bookmark it.
2. Luigi Bonzanini
3. Everything Cello
4. Rostropovich Interview (in French)
5. Cello Heaven
6. Heinrich Schiff
7. Wendy Sutter
8. BXX BOCELLO
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