The purpose of this dissertation is to present the history, the artists, and, in particular, the virtuosos associated with the medium of alternative cello performance. In clarifying the title, the term "virtuosity," as defined by the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is "great technical skill." For the purposes of this dissertation, virtuosity will imply notable technical and musical facility, and will be from the perspective of the technical achievements of Western classical cello performance. The word "alternative" will mean, "alternative to the way the cello has traditionally been used." Since the cello has been an instrument used primarily in the performance of Western classical music, the term, or phrase, "alternative cello performance," will be used throughout the dissertation to refer to any cello performance outside the standard concert tradition of European classical music. That being clarified, a distinction is made between the terms "alternative" and "crossover." "Crossover" cellists are occasional performers outside Western classical music. "Alternative" cellists are full-time non-Western-classical cellists. Clarification is also given of an assumption made in the title of the dissertation. The word "cello" is intended to mean the acoustic cello. This is in order to focus on the retention of the acoustic sound of the cello (as distinguished from the electric cello) across styles. The project will document the years from roughly 1960 through the present day, with some additional looking ahead to the turn of the century.
The study is presented in three main parts: The first presents a brief historical overview. The second provides a more detailed account via the form of interviews or oral histories of the experiences of some selected and currently active performing alternative cellists: Ed Willett, Nancy Lesh, Evan Richey, Ward Williams, Abby Newton, Trevor Exter, Erik Friedlander, Hank Roberts, and Matt Turner. The third consists of an equally detailed presentation of selected and transcribed musical examples in the form of solo cello excerpts from what I judge to be some of the most virtuosic performances available on recent alternative cello recordings. Among the solo cellists highlighted (along with their ensembles) are Richard Bock, David Holland, David Darling, Eugene Friesen, Erik Friedlander, and Ward Williams; although he is a crossover cellist, special reference is made to Yo-Yo Ma. My goal with this dissertation is to synthesize my research and my experience in order to provide suggestions for continued cello performance.
For more information, email Lee Richey.