Message from the Editor
I've been lurking in the chat boards of Violinist.com lately. It's amazing how cellists and violinists argue about the same sorts of things. Cellists argue about whether the cellists of yesteryear are better than those of today, and violinists argue about the top violinists in a similar manner. Instead of Feuermann vs. Isserlis, it's Heifetz vs. Hahn.
The violinists' board can get pretty nasty, though, which makes me really appreciate the comraderie that we enjoy on our chat boards. Yes, we have our spats at times, but basically we're pretty gentle with each other. We're not all angels by any means, but there seems to be a higher percentage of mutually supportive people on our chat board than on theirs.
I wonder why this is? Is there something about the cello that attracts certain personalities? Does our supportive role in ensembles instill a certain humility and willingness to share our knowledge and experience? Or am I just a tad biased?
Whatever the reason, if there even is one, I'm sure proud to be a cellist.
>> As an adult cello student, I really appreciate and enjoy the many wonders of this internet site. There is so much information, reading, and interviews that give me a feeling of being part of this wonderful musical community. Keep up the good work. I hope some day to bring my two cents of experience and share it with all of "yous grand poubas" of the mighty cello.
>> I am looking for sheet music for some pieces on Ofra Harnoy's "Bach to Offenbach" CD -- Duet for Cello & Oboe by Eugene Bozza and Andante for Two Cellos by Stevens. If anybody knows where I can find the scores for them, please send Tim Janof an e-mail.
>> I am from Nigeria. I would love to become a world class cellist, but the opportunities for studying the cello in my country are minimal. I am using a cello that does not belong to me, and I am not allowed to take it home to practice. If anybody has any ideas, please let me know.
>> I have a recording of Nomos Alpha, a piece for solo cello by Xenakis. There's a section where ascending and descending scales are played at the same time. Is this a recording trick, or can a cellist actually play this by him or herself? If you know about this piece, please send Tim Janof an e-mail.
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by Tim Janof
TJ: You studied with Felix Salmond, who, among others, taught Leonard Rose, Frank Miller, Samuel Mayes, and Bernard Greenhouse. How would you describe Salmond's playing?
OC: He didn't have a virtuoso technique but he had a very beautiful modern sound. Almost everybody who studied with him inherited his approach to the instrument, which was very relaxed. None of us were plagued by physical problems that result from too much tension. I don't mean to imply that he was a dull player -- far from it. He produced a big sound and had a fiery temperament. He had what I call "intensity without tension."
He stressed the importance of singing on the instrument and made sure that we didn't force the sound. Over-pressing results in a nasal timbre, which was common in the older generation cellists of the day. The difference can be heard in "Recorded Cellists," the anthology on the Pearl label. The older generation cellists on the recording have a dry sound, while the younger ones have a warm and rich tone. I think it was Casals who opened cellists' ears to the difference.
Salmond taught at Juilliard and Curtis at the same time, so a whole generation of the most talented cellists in the country passed through his studio. He was a very rough teacher to work with -- terribly harsh and critical -- but he had a very perceptive ear and he expected his students to develop it too. Salmond set a very high standard of musicianship.
TJ: Would you say that he wanted pretty much every note to have a beautiful tone?
TJ: I assume he acknowledged that there are times when one wants to be a little more aggressive.
OC: Of course, but he stressed that a big aggressive sound could still have a beautiful tone. Just listen to recordings of Feuermann and Casals and you'll see that it's possible.
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Eva Heinitz, my former cello teacher, died last year at the age of 94. She was known to have very strong opinions about music, too strong for some. Her response to her detractors was "If you haven't figured anything out by the time you're 90 years old, then what the hell were you doing all those years?" Few dared to challenge her, most just listened.
One of her frustrations in her career was that she was known primarily as a Bach player, even though she felt equally at home in the music of other eras. But there was a reason for her reputation: she seemed to have a special understanding of the Bach Suites, both compositionally and emotionally. She became so intimate with the Suites that she was known to recite the harmonies from memory while walking around the University of Washington campus. No, she wouldn't be considered an "authentic" baroque player by today's standards, even though she was a true pioneer in the revival of the viola da gamba. But she must have been doing something right, because musicians came from all over the United States to play Bach for her, and not just cellists; violinists would play the Sonatas and Partitas and pianists would play the Goldberg Variations.
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Except for the voices of a few singers, the cello has long been my favorite instrument. I featured it in the two "Bartok" string quartets I wrote as a student, but it wasn't until 1980 that I composed For The Cello, one of a series of unaccompanied works I wrote for all the standard orchestral instruments. Even though some of it was, I now think, too scrambly for that noble instrument, Fred Zlotkin premiered it and played it here and there. I long planned to do some rewriting based on his advice, but new projects kept interfering. I did finally get back to it, but in an unexpected way.
Emanuel Ax had been in several of my theory classes in the Juilliard Preparatory Division when he was in high school. Years later, after he had begun to play duo recitals with Yo-Yo Ma fairly often, I was one of probably many, many composers who were generous enough to let that pair know that they would be willing to write a new piece for them. I don't think I ever actually expected it to lead anywhere, but one summer at the Aspen festival, Ax and I were walking to lunch when he said, "Oh, by the way, Yo-Yo and I would be happy if you were to write a duo for us." ("by the way" ????? )
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SG: What led to the creation of the label Cello Classics?
SC: A number of different things all coming together at the same time. At the bottom of it all is my interest in finding repertoire that hasn't been played before, which I imagine is common to nearly every cellist. In particular, for many years now, I have been trying to work out where the origins of the 19th century sonata actually lie. We are led to believe that the cello and piano sonata began with Beethoven, as if he suddenly decided to compose the Opus 5. There must have been other previous examples. In the course of my research, I frequently talked to Keith Harvey and discovered that he had similar interests. His own music library is vast, but needed cataloguing at the time, and it was while carrying out this task over many months that I discovered many treasures, including some Boccherini sonatas unknown elsewhere in the music world. Keith generously suggested that I should record them, which set me to thinking how best to go about it. I mentioned the idea to an old friend Nicholas Soames, who with his sister
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Mrs. Irene Watson influenced me tremendously. She began by insisting I learn to play on bare gut strings with no fine tuners. She introduced me to the joys of the Klengel technical studies, Schroeder etudes, and slides. She liked to add glissandi to everything! I guess she was quite elderly;, I know her husband was retired. She taught me to keep my left knee behind the lower bout - gripping with both knees was unladylike! Two things I can still hear her saying to me in my mind are "snap those fingers" and "play louder." She often talked about "the cello" as if it were something quite magical, and those of us that played it were somehow involved in a mystical quest. To this day I still think the cello is the coolest thing on the planet.
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I have been playing the cello for seven years now and I have begun playing the Lalo cello concerto. No matter how hard I try I cannot master the fast notes and it's taking me forever I have tried almost everything please help!!!
Herr Lalo is trying to tell you something, dear: he's not ready for you. There are hundreds of chatters around who want to vanquish major works after 20 months or so of cello lessons, but in my opinion, those people would barely be able to scratch out a decent C major scale after such a short time! I was 36 before my teacher allowed me the privilege of "The Swan." Obviously, the Lalo is not quite your speed (literally), so let's give it a rest. Never gauge your skill with the number of years you have studied, as that means nothing! I mean really! How many of those seven years were spent living it up, inebriated, dancing to the hypnotic throb of "trance" music sans cello? Lots of them, I bet! Good things come to those who wait! Godspeed to you dear!
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
This page has great pictures that compare baroque and modern cellos.
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>> A suggestion for re-arranging the orchestra
The problem for violins and violas generally is that anyone who sits on the right side will be disadvantaged as against the other sections, since their f-holes will be pointing away from the audience. The problem for 2d violins, generally, is that their parts lie in the lower and middle ranges of the instrument, which are definitionally weaker than the upper register where the 1st violinists play. Even if they were at some acoustical advantage in terms of placement, it would not overcome the natural imbalance of the registers. It is true, as well, that seating the violins together destroys many antiphonal and hocketing effects composers from Vivaldi through Mahler carefully wrote into their scores. The problem for the celli is that they need to sit on the outside, both for space reasons (more horizontal bowing space needed) and for sound reasons (their f-holes, being at knee-level, should not have any other bodies blocking the sound). On the other hand, cellos are pointed slightly to the right of the player, meaning that even when seated on the outside they're still not optimally positioned. This applies even more so to basses.
The global solution? Y'all ready for this?
The strings seated, from left to right, as follows:
* 2d violins
* 1st violins
**Double-basses all along the left side, back to the center. No "stacking" of stands; everyone has a clear shot to the audience.
Naturally, this makes too much sense. And conductors would have to -- 'gasp' -- actually re-learn something. But this would fix most of what ails orchestras today.
>> How to do Sautillé
I can't get the hang of this bow stroke. Any suggestions on how to start?
"Sautillé" means "to hop" in French. The French practically invented modern bowing technique. This stroke emerges from a natural tendency your bowstick has to spring back and forth. So you can think of it as a ricochet. If done properly, the bowhair should remain in contact (or very very close) with the string while the stick of the bow bounces up and down, sometimes coming very close (but not touching) the hair itself. You'll want to execute this stroke mid-bow, somewhere between the balance point and the tip. You'll use very little bow (an inch or so) and the right hand and right wrist must be very loose and flexible. Nearly all the motion will be from the wrist and fingers of the right hand. The further up the right arm, the less motion is needed. Another point is that there should be the feeling of a slight, subtle downward push coming from the right wrist, especially on the down bow. In this case, "downward" means toward the floor. This helps induce the bow-bounce. The up bow is more of a "catch" from the down bow. You can think of it as a kind of "bounce & catch" cycle.
Start with the bow above the string. Let it drop onto the string. If you do this mid-bow you'll notice that it will bounce on its own accord. Your job is to let the bow do all the work as you catch the bounce going one direction and move the bow in the opposite direction, where it bounces again.
You can get the general feeling by starting very slowly, with the bow bouncing a few inches above the string as you play up and down bows, but the stroke itself should be played at a fairly fast tempo with the bow on the string.
Try it out with the metronome set at quarter note=120 and play sixteenth notes against this tempo. At the beginning, just play one note, like an open string (like D or G).
Sometimes the hardest thing about sautillé is just getting it started. So, start the very first stroke slightly above the string, then move and stay on the string for the rest of the notes.
Acquiring expertise in sautille will take some time and effort. Don't expect results overnight. You must be patient and persistent, but eventually you will be able to play the literature much more effectively with this stroke in your repertory. It will bring your playing up to another level, so it's worth the effort.
>> Outdoor Weddings
Outdoor weddin's … ain't they a hassle? I remember the time I played for my own sister's weddin'. I had to ride for 7 hours just to get to her trailer park, and, man oh man, was my horse tired. It was so windy we had to keep our music down by pinnin' it to a piece of plywood with cactus needles. Woooowheee! Now that's a windy day, ain't it?
Anyway, right in the middle of the processional a big ol' ball o' tumbleweed rolled up beside me. Now ordinarily, this wouldn't be no big deal, but this here tumbleweed was carryin' some cargo … a rattler had decided to hitch a ride. Needless to say, I was so scared I practically jumped out of my durn tootin' stirrups! Fortunately, I was sittin' just like Starker taught me … "Sit up so you can git up" (that son-of-a-gun was always makin' fun of my accent). And let me tell you, I and the rest of the quartet definitely did git up and run like a steer from a brandin' iron. Yeeehaaaa!
Then the pastor ran over and hypnotized the critter, picked it up, speakin' in tongues the whole time, carried it to the road, and set it on its merry way. It was the most amazin' thing I had ever seen. Almost made me want fall to my knees and pray right then and there ... Save me, Lord, for I have seen one of your high falootin' miracles!
Then we got back to the weddin'. But I was so shook up I couldn't remember the cello part to Pachelbel. I reckon you don't get any more scared than that.
1. Alan Schulman dies
The following is re-printed from the New York Times. The author is Allan Kozinn.
"Alan Shulman, a composer and cellist whose works were performed by orchestras, chamber groups and jazz ensembles, died on July 10, 2002, at a nursing home in Hudson, N.Y. He was 86.
"Two of Mr. Shulman's most frequently performed scores are the sweetly Neo-Classical Theme and Variations for Viola and Piano -- a staple of the viola repertory in its original version and in an orchestral expansion -- and "A Laurentian Overture," which received its premiere from the New York Philharmonic in 1952, with Guido Cantelli conducting. The New York Philharmonic also gave the premiere of Mr. Shulman's Cello Concerto, with Leonard Rose as the soloist and Dmitri Mitropoulos conducting. The violinist Jascha Heifetz and the jazz clarinetist Artie Shaw are among those who performed and recorded Mr. Shulman's work.
"Mr. Shulman was born on June 4, 1915, in Baltimore, where he studied the cello at the Peabody Conservatory until 1928, when his family moved to Brooklyn. He continued his studies on a New York Philharmonic scholarship, and enrolled at the Juilliard School in 1932. His principal teachers were the cellist Felix Salmond and the composer Bernard Wagenaar. After graduating from Juilliard in 1937, he studied privately with the cellist Emanuel Feuermann and the composer Paul Hindemith.
"In 1937, Mr. Shulman became a founding member of Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra, and he performed with it until 1942, when he joined the United States Maritime Service, which provided training for the merchant marine. He returned to the NBC Symphony in 1948 and performed with it and its successor, the Symphony of the Air, until 1957. He also played with several chamber ensembles, including the Stuyvesant String Quartet, which he formed with his brother, Sylvan Shulman, a violist, in 1938. The Stuyvesant ensemble, which performed until 1954, gave the American premiere of the Shostakovich Piano Quintet at Carnegie Hall in 1941, and was known for its performances and recordings of contemporary works.
"Another ensemble in which the Shulman brothers performed was the New Friends of Rhythm, a symphonic jazz group that made many recordings from 1939 to 1947, and included some of Mr. Shulman's original works and arrangements in its repertory. He was also a member of the Philharmonia Trio from 1962 to 1969, and the Haydn Quartet from 1972 to 1982. Mr. Shulman taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Juilliard School, the State University of New York at Purchase, Johnson State College in Johnson, Vt., and the University of Maine in Orono. He was a founding member of New York's Violoncello Society in 1956, and its president from 1967 to 1972.
"A collection of Mr. Shulman's orchestral works is to be released by Bridge Records this month. The compendium includes Cantelli's 1951 recording of "A Laurentian Overture"; Emanuel Vardi's account of the Theme and Variations; a recording by Leonard Bernstein of Mr. Shulman's 1949 arrangement of "Hatikva," the Israeli national anthem; and several string works conducted by Milton Katims.
"Mr. Shulman is survived by two sons, Jay, of Claverack, N.Y., and Marc, of Manhattan, and two daughters, Laurie, of Dallas, and Lisa, of Tuckahoe, N.Y."
2. Video with Piatigorsky
There is a new DVD issued by VAI (DVD 4215): "Great Violinists of the Bell Telephone Hour." Performances all date from 1959-64 and are in color. Featured are Isaac Stern, Zino Francescatti, Michael Rabin, Mischa Elman, Erica Morini, Yehudi Menuhin, David & Igor Oistrakh, Ruggiero Ricci and, from 1960, two performances with Gregor Piatigorsky: the Faure Elegie and Saint-Saëns Allegro Appassionata. All soloists are accompanied by Donald Voorhees and the Bell Telephone Orchestra. Check it out!
3. New Cellist in the American String Quartet
David Geber, cellist of the American String Quartet, has stepped down from the quartet to focus his energies on his full-time position as chairman of the string department at the Manhattan School of Music. Margo Tatgenhorst, acting assistant principal of the Pittsburgh Symphony and cellist of the Divertimento String Trio, will take his place.
4. Arturo Bonucci dies.
Cellist Arturo Bonucci died May 2 in a scuba-diving accident in the waters near Sicily. Bonucci, who recorded several CD's on the Dynamic label, was a cello professor at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
5. RNCM Cello Festival date set
The next RNCM Manchester International Cello Festival will be held May 5 to May 9, 2004.
6. Yo-Yo Ma featured on a new sound track.
A new film, Naqoyqatsi, will feature music by Philip Glass with Yo-Yo Ma.
7. Award Winners
The Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann -- The First International Cello Competition will take place November 17-22, 2002 in Berlin. http://www.gp-emanuelfeuermann.de.
American Cello Congress
The next American Cello Congress is scheduled for May 17-22, 2003, at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.
Adam International Cello Festival and Competition
The festival was set up in 1995 by Professor Alexander Ivashkin and is run by the International Cello Festival Trust, a charitable trust here in Christchurch. The Festival is biennially held in Christchurch New Zealand. It attracts the world's best young cellists to compete in a competition, judged by world renown cellists who also appear as guest recitalists. The next festival is July 2003. http://www.adaminternationalcellofest.com.
The 6th Cello Festival in Kronberg, Germany will be a memorial to Pablo Casals, starting on the 30th anniversary of his death. The dates are October 22-26, 2003. http://www.kronbergacademy.de .
Manchester International Cello Festival
The Royal Northern Conservatory of Music Internation Cello Festival in Manchester, England, has been set for May 5 to May 9, 2004.
World Cello Congress IV
Plan ahead! World Cello Congress IV will take place May/June 2006 at Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland. Cello Congress V is also listed on their website - May/June 2010! (There are also rumors that World Cello Congress IV will take place in 2003 in Israel. If anyone knows, could they contact me?) Also promised is a "Gala Benefit Performance" in 2003 to raise funds for WCC4. "Many of the greatest stars of the music world will join forces to present a one-of-a-kind event not to be missed." Concerts, recitals, masterclasses, workshops, symposia, exhibits, receptions. http://www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongresses.
For those who attended World Cello Congress III, videos are now available at $30 (includes shipping): http://www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongresses/video.html.
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3. Cello Central Plus
4. The Cello Page
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