TUTTI CELLI CONTENTS -- volume 8, issue 1

Tim Janof, Editor

Message from the Editor

Membership Letters

ICS Exclusive Interview

Feature Article



Membership Spotlight

ICS Featured Website

ICS Forum/Cello/Equipment Chat Board

Activities and Announcements

Music Festival Watch

ICS Library

Other Internet Music Resources


2001, what a year....

As the world has become more tumultous, I have found solace in my ICS activities. What could be a better escape than to focus one's attention on people like Timothy Eddy, Luigi Silva, Bernard Greenhouse, David Finckel, Rostropovich, Frans Helmerson, Aldo Parisot, Natalia Gutman, Laurence Lesser, Piatigorsky, and Guilhermina Suggia. Or to argue about whether our fingers should be flat or curved. Or whether the cellists of the past were better than the cellists of today.

May these kinds of issues loom over all others in 2002.

Tim Janof


>> I have been working at playing acoustic guitar for a number of years but have no experience or exposure to the cello other than an appreciation and awe of classical music. Can adults like myself develop a proficiency playing the cello starting in middle age or is it necessary to have started as a child? Is this challenge more difficult than electrical engineering (EE) school? I'm an EE too.

George Soto

Tim Janof replies: You are definitely not too old to begin, so put that out of your mind. No, you will likely not be the next Yo-Yo Ma, but neither am I, and I've played most of my life.

Is it harder than EE? Yes. Mastering voltage dividers and phasors is child's-play compared to learning how to play an instrument. Getting an EE degree takes 4 or 5 years. Learning how to play an instrument takes a lifetime. But don't let that stop you from trying! It's worth the time and effort.

>> Thanks for a delightful and generous discussion with Tim Eddy. I am lucky to have shared that last summer with Tim at Blue Hill and Luigi Silva. Silva's analytical gift was to break down psychologically daunting tasks by assigning preparatory exercises that produced excellent results very quickly. This was for us "slaying the dragon." The woodshedding was fierce and inspiring as was Silva's personality.

I remember well Tim's quiet dedication. That he shares this and the many gifts that come our way with so many others serves to make a rich heritage even more so.

Richard Armin

>> I am an adult "begin-againer" and I read with much interest Nicholas Anderson's article in the July/August issue, "A Breakthrough in Natural Cello Artistry." Much like Margaret Rowell, I experienced as a young person a natural talent for the cello. I studied it for a couple of years in elementary school, and picked it up again as a second instrument in college. My cello professor, as well as several of his colleagues, encouraged me to put my study of piano aside and pursue the cello, as they thought even with my very late start, I had the natural ability to perhaps take the cello to a professional level.

For numerous reasons, one being my obsession with the piano and music education, the cello took a back seat and finally was put aside. Two and a half years ago (after not touching a cello for almost 20 years), I decided that I wanted to again study cello. Sadly, I had completely lost the feel for the instrument. My cello and bow felt awkward in my hands and everything was difficult. And even with my musical background, a good teacher and a lot of hard work, I still do not play as well as I did after only one semester of study in college. What is more frustrating is my ears hear what I should be doing, but my hands will not cooperate.

After reading Mr. Anderson's article, I was greatly inspired and have been approaching my cello differently and am having great results. In the last month, I have made great progress, and some of that natural feel is beginning to return.

I do not aspire to become a great cellist, I play because I love the sound a cello makes when it is played correctly. I love the way the cello and bow feel in my hands when everything is just right. And I long to be able to make my cello sing the way I once made a cello sing. Mr. Anderson's words encouraged me to take a different approach to my cello, and they gave me hope that one day, I will again be able to play well. For that I am very grateful. Thank you.

Leeanne White

>> With pleasure I read Tutti Celli and realize that the cello-problems in studying cello playing arise worldwide. As a listener and collector of cello music I think I have reached the end of the recorded repertoire. What I miss is the transcriptions of violin-piano sonatas of Beethoven, Schubert Fantasy in C, D.934, or other beloved pieces, etc.

What is the secret that there are (hardly) no recordings of the Spring and Kreutzer violin sonatas (or the other 8) of Beethoven, although the scores are available. Is this not interesting enough for cellists, or are there insuperable technical difficulties? Or the cello version of the violin concerto of Beethoven in addition to the piano version.

I hope that somebody can give an answer.

Tom B. Vree

>> Bobbie Meyer's article.....I love the membership stories of people's adventures with the cello.....I can't relate to lines like Silva saying to Timothy that other students were waiting in line to study with him and that Timothy wasn't working hard enough.... Words like that I understand in fantasy but not reality.... It seems so stuffy but I quess maybe the professional world is a bit stuffy with its devout perfectionism.... But the person who loves to play JUST BECAUSE ... and has other lives to live around cello playing, now that is something I can relate to.... It is fascinating.... Please keep allowing these stories to be told.... I love them.... They are my story as well....


**If you would like to respond to something you have read in 'Tutti Celli', write to editor@cello.org and type "Membership Letter" in subject field. (Letters may be edited.)**



by Tim Janof

Emerson String Quartet cellist David Finckel's multi-faceted career makes him one of the world's most active musicians. His recent solo engagements have taken him to Germany, England, Canada, Mexico, and Japan, and in the United States to distinguished series in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Atlanta, Cleveland, Albuquerque and St. Paul. In the summer of 2000, David Finckel and Wu Han performed the complete cycle of Beethoven Sonatas at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and at Chamber Music Northwest. They also made their debuts at festivals in Finland and Mexico, and returned to Japan for a special recital honoring the 10th anniversary of the Japan-Aspen Music Festival. Last May, the duo presented their third recital at London's Wigmore Hall. This season David Finckel records John Harbison's Cello Concerto, and performs new works composed for him by distinguished American composers Augusta Read Thomas and Bruce Adolphe.

Finckel is a co-founder of ArtistLed, the first musician-directed and Internet-based classical recording company. All five ArtistLed releases have received critical acclaim, and a sixth disc featuring the three great sonatas of Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Prokofiev was released in February 2001. Finckel recently concluded three years as Artistic Co-Director of SummerFest La Jolla, one of the country's most distinguished summer music festivals, where he brought international recognition for high performance standards, and innovative programming of concerts, symposiums and multi-disciplinary events. He is a regular member of the distinguished teaching faculty of the Isaac Stern Chamber Music workshops in New York and Jerusalem, and gives master classes at the Aspen Music Festival in the summer.

TJ: You come from a family that is rich in cellists.

DF: Yes, cellists and other musicians. My grandfather on my father's side was a cellist, and there are rumors of cellists in the family before him. His wife, Nell Callahan, from Kerry County, Ireland, was a violinist. All of their children studied instruments too. Several were pianists and one son, my Uncle George, was a cellist. George went to Eastman and fathered two boys, who are now professional cellists -- Michael and Christopher Finckel. Chris is the cellist in the Manhattan String Quartet.

When I was 10 years old my father, who was my piano teacher, asked me to choose a second instrument. When I later asked my parents for a suggestion, they said, "Why don't you play the cello, like so many others in your family?" I agreed to try it and I soon fell in love.

Of course my connection with music runs very deeply. I was exposed to music from the very beginning because my father was a composer, arranger, music teacher, and pianist. There was always music in the house, so it seemed like the family trade. Choosing it for a career was pretty much inevitable.

(Click here for the complete transcript.)



by Anita Mercier, Ph. D.
Professor of Humanities
The Juilliard School

Guilhermina Suggia (1885-1950) was one of the first women to make a professional career of playing the cello. A child prodigy, Suggia began to study the cello in her native Portugal at age 5, graduated from Leipzig Conservatory at age 18, and went on to become one of the most celebrated musicians of her era. Her artistry was ranked alongside that of Pablo Casals, who was her teacher, musical partner, and lover. England's prestigious Suggia Prize is one of her many legacies to the cello-playing world.

Suggia's story is not widely known, and much of what was written on her prior to the last decade is not fully credible. Suggia herself contributed to the mystery and misconceptions by deliberating obscuring parts of her history and destroying personal papers before her death. Most of the documents she left behind are stored in a municipal archive in Matosinhos, Portugal. Some papers are in private hands and in the Fundació Pau Casals in Barcelona. Two books on Suggia by Portugese author Fátima Pombo, one of which is published in a bilingual edition, are valuable sources based on the available documentation. Robert Baldock discusses the relationship between Suggia and Casals in his 1992 biography of the Spanish cellist. In Portugese there also exists a fictional biography by Mário Cláudio. From these sources it is possible to assemble a portrait of a singular virtuosa at work during a period of rapid transformation in women's musical history.

(Click here for the complete transcript.)



by Bobbie Mayer

Summer music camps and workshops abound, and many welcome adults, from beginner to much more advanced. An online search of "summer music camps" yields a multitude of sites, and a print listing is available from Strings Magazine in their annual summer study guide issue (and also online.) Some online lists are provided at the end of this article. But what is it really like to attend music camp as an adult cello student? In this article, I will share with you the experiences of three ICS'ers at summer music camps and workshops.

(Click here for the complete transcript.)


Reflections of Bernard Greenhouse on his life and music
by Laurinel Owen
Kronberg Academy Verlag

Reviewed by Robert Battey

Bernard Greenhouse is one of the great life-forces of our instrument today. Born in 1916 in New Jersey, he remains active as a teacher, and even a performer on occasion. His distinguished career has encompassed all aspects of the art of the cello, but with particular emphasis in the field of chamber music. In his lessons and masterclasses he passes down the highest standards of music-making, gleaned from his own studies with Feuermann, Casals, Salmond, and Alexanian, and honed during 70 years of professional experience.

(Click here for the complete transcript.)


Stefan Moberg

Hi! My name is Stefan Moberg, I'm 22 years old and I live in Malmö, Sweden, where I'm an undergraduate student (second year) at the Malmö Academy of Music.

I began playing the piano when I was 7 but I didn't become that interested in music until I was 16, when I started taking cello lessons. I saw a picture of a cellist and I somehow knew that the cello would be an instrument that I would feel comfortable with. I started taking lessons once a week and I would play pieces from the Suzuki books and stuff like that. I remember working on a two octave C major scale on my first lesson. After six months of cello playing it felt pretty natural to take my first auditions as a cellist. I prepared two pieces, the Mendelssohn "Lied ohne Worte" and the first movement from Goltermann's Fourth Cello Concerto in G major. I auditioned for three different schools and got accepted to two of the three. I moved to Härnösand (I grew up in Gävle, about 250 kilometers north of Stockholm) and studied at the Kapellsberg School of Music for two years.

(Click here for the complete transcript.)


January/February Featured Website:

*** Paul Bazelaire ***


This is a website dedicated to the French Cellist Paul Bazelaire.

**Please notify Tim Janof at editor@cello.org of interesting websites that you would like to nominate for this recognition in the future. Websites will be selected based on their content, cello relevance, creativity and presentation style!


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ICS Forum Hosts have been asked to check your posts regularly. In this way, not only the forum hosts, but the entire membership and Internet community see your message! You are still welcome to contact the forum hosts directly. For a complete list of ICS Forum Hosts please see http://www.cello.org/The_Society/Staff.html**

>>Perspectives on Orchestra Auditions

We had open auditions this week for our soon-to-be-vacant Principal Cello position in the LA Philharmonic. We had two candidates make fine showings and advance to the finals but, after the final auditions, the committee and maestro are not now actively considering any candidates. I presume we now go to the stage of inviting big shots to come and play individual auditions and sit guest principal with the orchestra.


Isn't this the 3rd time this has happened? Why did they even bother to have an audition in the first place when it seems that your music director already knows who he wants? I feel sorry for all the people who spent a lot of money and time to go to LA for nothing. Perhaps the old adage -- fool me once shame on me... stands true for this position.


This is why there's such widespread cynicism about the audition scene. There can't possibly have been no one who auditioned for that position who couldn't have done the job, especially on a trial basis. I agree with the rest of you: why do they even bother to have open auditions?


Hate to disagree, but you can't say that there couldn't possibly have been no one who auditioned for the position who couldn't have done the job. You don't know what they are listening for. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has been criticized for so many years about the times we don't pick anybody for a position. Well, maybe we have such a great orchestra because we wait and pick the players we feel are the best, and that best satisfy us. What's the rush, especially for a player who might be there for 30 or 40 years. It's good to take your time and get someone you will be really happy with.

David Sanders, CSO

With all due respect, David, that's baloney. There are plenty of qualified cellists out there who can do the job perfectly well. I'm pleased to hear that you take your own job seriously and the CSO is certainly a fine musical organization, but don't go overboard on the importance of the role.


No, it is not baloney. The fact of the matter is, when you're listening to an audition behind a screen, when you can't take anything into account except how the person plays, it is sometimes very hard to find someone you are happy with. And doing the job "perfectly well" is not necessarily what a committee is listening for. They may want something more, something intangible.

David Sanders

For those of you who are assuming that those who do not win the auditions are spreading the rumors that the "fix was in," you are being way too harsh. There have been several auditions in the last few years where a student of the principal or the yearlong sub "happened" to be the ONLY person to get in the finals. To make it even easier for them -- they were usually shuttled into the finals in the first place. You don't have to be Oliver Stone to believe that the section already knew who they wanted. Not all auditions are like this but more than one sullies the whole process.


First of all, I should be taking exception to the 'fool me twice' comments as I was in the finals of this audition and as well as the one two years ago! I don't really consider it a waste of time or money though. I have nothing better to do. I think I did suck somewhat less this time, though clearly not enough less.

Two people from the section also played and made good impressions. The other person in the finals is third chair in Pittsburgh, who played a special semi the morning of the finals. However I had a sense from the previous days semis, where they heard very little of most of the candidates (sometimes only one excerpt) and passed only one person, that they were not taking this very seriously.

I do understand why they should want someone in a job like that who already has some big time experience. It is one thing to subject everyone to an audition process and have high standards. But resume and current job become big factors in a situation like this. And when some candidates are not asked to perform the same tests as the others, no really fair comparison can be made. Not really fair to compare someone playing the Rachmaninov Sonata in a recital to someone playing Prometheus at an audition.

And the truth is they have already seen everyone who has the right 'qualifications' or was interested and passed on them. So either they must recruit someone new (like Hai-Ye Ni) or hire Des Hoebig or else go the European route again. They have already seen what is out there.

In short, regardless of whether we lived up to the committee's expectations for the job, there are non-musical factors that are at work and will be at work in the process. I must disagree that had someone from the section of the southwestern Louisiana Symphony walked on and played like Feuermann, they would not be scheduling a trial week right now, and it is naive to think so. There is a 'stature' requirement for this job, and probably rightly so, but it is clearly there. Section auditions are generally less involved with these considerations but, even then, getting a committee of musicians of different ears and experience to agree on what is most important and who has it can be a real challenge.


The folks who have the jobs think the process is fair. The ones who don't, don't.


The folks who have sat through hundreds and hundreds of auditions think that it is fair.

David Sanders

I'm with you on this, Dave. I've seen it too many times - the person who doesn't make the audition bitching about how the audition was fixed, when you knew all along they weren't going to make it. There are so many of them out there spreading this myth that most people believe it. I've been on a couple of dozen audition committees, not just for cello, and I've heard it time and time again -- the audition was fixed, when in reality, there was no way it could have been. Sometimes the standards are just higher.

Steve Drake

This is really silly. It is equally ridiculous to say that all auditions are fair or that all are fixed. There is a sliding scale of fairness. It varies from instrument to instrument, orchestra to orchestra and even audition to audition for the same section. Chicago does try very hard to run fair auditions and they do a good job of it. (The only complaint often lodged against our friends to my knowledge is their expectation of a perfect preliminary round in order to advance, which does occasionally lead to some quirky advancements and non-advancements to the finals, but the standard is applied evenly and they do hire good people, so in my book this is fair).

Cleveland has notoriously unfair auditions -- Geber (and Vernon) students generally win. They don't use a screen and generally invite only people with some connection to the orchestra. Other orchestras have auditions that raise eyebrows -- someone well known to the section -- already playing in the orchestra, or studying with the principal triumphs over rather formidable odds. And then there are very fair auditions, even in the same section in the same orchestra at a different time. But even in a complete absence of politics, auditions would produce strange results sometimes because there are, quite frankly, idiots who sit on committees from time to time, including our esteemed music directors and people who got into these orchestras when the major audition requirement was opening the case from memory. One of my father's favorite sayings is never attribute to clever conspiracy what can be explained more easily by incompetence.

Overall, it is generally a pretty fair process, but it is run by human beings and they are influenced by non-musical factors, including personal relationships and resume. In LA they want someone with some major experience already, and that is perfectly reasonable for them to want. It is a big job. My main objection to LA is that the invited candidates were never forced to play the same difficult excerpts that the auditionees were. Had they done that, I think they would be a lot more likely to be giving somebody tenure right now instead of having to start all over again.

When NY hired Hai-Ye Ni for associate, Masur gathered the finalists together and explained in front of all of us everything he didn't like about her excerpts. What she had done wrong and how it showed a lack of experience and conception (such a nice man), and then concluded by saying that they were offering her the job anyway because they had so much faith in her cellistic abilities, and that she would learn on the job. They had barely listened to the rest of us. But Hai-Ye is truly a wonderful cellist and she deserves to be in that job as much as anybody I can think of, and as much as their decision was clearly influenced by her resume, it is hard to call that audition unfair because she is good and she deserves the job. As long as good people are hired I don't complain. But it is naive to say that the process is always completely objective.

I know this process inside and out. I have sat on and run lots of committees, and I have taken lots of auditions. I was a finalist for principal of LA, Detroit and Montreal and associate principal in New York, Cleveland, San Francisco and St. Louis. (It would have been more impressive to win any one of these and been axed in the first round of the rest, I think) I also at one time made an exit after only two excerpts for Chicago section. It made me mad at the time, but looking back, they were exactly right and I would have voted the same way.

There is a strange psychological phenomenon I have witnessed on committees, of a kind of group thinking as consensus forms. It leads members into thinking the winning candidate was more perfect than they actually were and that losing candidates were less competitive than they actually were. I have experienced it from the committee point of view -- it is a subtle but unavoidable side effect of spending so many hours in side-by-side comparisons. Auditions are not perfect and not absolutely fair, but they are the least unfair way I know to do things and in most cases a big improvement over the way things used to be run.

Your odds of getting a fair opportunity at an audition are far, far better than they are in any other aspect of the music business, and I would strongly encourage those just starting out not to lose faith in the process just because of the occasional eyebrow raising result. Talent and ability will be recognized, just be patient.


Well put, BA. Good insights and observations.

I too have been suspicious of Cleveland's auditions. On the other hand, it's inevitable that sections will have a disproportionate number of "connected" players. Here in LA we have a number of USC grads in the section. I'm confident the fix wasn't in for any of them. When you study with the Principal and have excerpts class with the Associate Principal, you will undoubtedly have a good understanding of what the orchestra expects!

Similarly, in my previous orchestra, the fellow who replaced me was a student of the Principal and had played a one-year stint with the orchestra. I don't think those facts won him votes at the audition; rather, those circumstances afforded him the opportunity to learn what would win votes at the audition.

It's interesting to me how differences in audition processes can create different results in different orchestras. In Houston, the Music Director takes part in finals voting and has his vote weighted so that he needs only a couple of people to go along with him to choose a winning candidate. Therefore, an audition candidate can win a position, even without a majority of the musicians on the Audition Committee wanting to hire him/her! Here in LA only musicians vote on finalists. The Music Director then has his choice from those who got enough votes.


I guess this may be as good a time as any to bring up the importance of the Beethoven 5th second movement again. When Chicago had its "dry spell" -- a couple of years of auditions yielding no "acceptable" candidates -- I remember that the most shocking issue for me was the cavalier way most candidates approached the rhythm of this excerpt. Triplets or double-dottings abounded. This is simply unacceptable for most orchestras. I don't feel that we are perfection-bound here at the CSO. However, so many people went down in flames in this piece that we were really alarmed here about the education/experience of the majority of the candidates. Glad the dry-spell is over for now.

G M Stucka, CSO

What's wrong with accepting somebody who is obviously a fantastic cellist with the understanding that they need some mentoring on the intricacies of orchestral playing, i.e. on-the-job training? This practice is common in other fields.

Tim Janof

Not to be too harsh, but I guess we didn't hear any "obviously fantastic" cellists during our dry spell. Also, regarding mentoring, the CSO and other such orchestras are NOT training orchestras.

G M Stucka

How can a new cellist know how the cello section of his new orchestra plays based upon a tradition that has lasted for decades? There will always be a learning process. I know that in many German orchestras they have an institution for this learning process, a so called 'orchestra academy.' New players are taught by the leaders or players of the section how the section of this orchestra usually plays. For that job, some orchestras have not only a principal, but also a player called "Vorspieler, " which could be translated to demonstrator. It is a player who demonstrates the way critical passages are played, closer to the bridge or closer to the fingerboard, more or less bow etc. He is responsible for the homogenous sound of the section, and he integrates new players into the section. If necessary, in sessions of only two players, the Vorspieler and the new player. They do a fine tuning of the sound. At auditions, they check if the musical and technical skill is sufficient, but the fine tuning of the sound is done later.


That was my point exactly. I said that it is difficult enough for a new player, let alone someone who isn't really what the players wanted. I'm not saying that we expect a new player to come in and know how the section plays based on our tradition. I'm saying that by choosing someone we feel we like very much, not someone that we're not quite sure about, they are more likely to fit in with us.

David Sanders

When we recently hired an associate principal here, I had the unenviable task of explaining to a losing candidate that he was unsuccessful in part because we got the feeling from his playing that he would have a hard time being flexible enough to blend in with the section in the way that I wanted. "Why didn't you ask me to try different things and give me a chance rather than assuming? " he replied. While I doubt it would have changed my mind, he was right. We make so many assumptions on a committee about what the smallest details mean, and what they imply about how a player would fit into an orchestra. And often we are wrong. Playing a good audition is a separate and learned skill, connected to but in many ways separate from both overall cellistic ability and from one's ability to play in an orchestra and blend with the section. (That is one reason that players who are known to be able to fit in style-wise have a big advantage competing against unknowns. Hiring is a gamble and firing even non-tenured players is traumatic).

Gary says that he didn't hear any 'obviously fantastic' cellists in recent auditions there, but I know some of the people who were there and I know there truly were some fantastic cellists sent packing, possibly in some cases for a singular offense such as the Beethoven. It is perfectly reasonable to expect people to have the ability to play a clean dotted eighth/sixteenth rhythm, but there are factors other than an inability to play rhythmically that could cause it to sound off. People get nervous, people get distracted. Some people even listen to Ron Leonard's CD which tells them not to play a strict rhythm.

Wouldn't it make more sense for all of us on committees to spend a little more time asking people to play again correcting the offending passage rather than giving no allowance for someone who might have been taught to do something differently or might be nervous, and eliminating many excellent candidates. What ultimately are we looking for? The person with the best nerves? The person with the best teaching? Or the best cellist who has both the control to mold to the section and the awareness to do so. If someone rushes one excerpt does it mean they are incapable of playing it in time given another chance and that they will chronically rush in the section if hired? Experience has shown me this is not the case.

Clearly if we are talking about many different problems or one chronic problem then that is something different, but the somewhat disdainful attitude seen in some of the posts shows to me a kind a overzealous focus on minutiae, which often loses the forest for the trees. It is common among committee members -- an unfortunate side effect of being forced to find the most non-subjective ways to eliminate candidates. But this attitude is almost never seen among those who have been recently on the other side of the screen and remember how tough it is. We have all heard Feuermann and Heifetz play a sloppy 16th here or there, and it is awfully hard for me to believe they couldn't have done it right if they needed to.

To work in a section it takes ability, awareness and desire. It does not take utterly unflappable nerves or the ability to mindread the way a particular committee might want to hear something. And I am coming to realize that by spending a little more time asking to hear what I want them to do and seeing whether they are truly able or not, I am both helping them get something useful out of the audition and ultimately helping to achieve I think a fairer and better result. I am grateful for the insight my colleague gave me, and I pledged to him to reform and to preach reform.


>>Temperaments and Tuning

We have had a go at tuning on several occasions on Cello Chat, but I have a few nagging questions about which, I would appreciate some clarification.

Western classical music decided...well sort of...back in the 18th century to accept equal temperament tuning, (ETT), wherein there is equal distance in "cents" between the twelve pitches in a chromatic scale, thus allowing modulations to remote keys. Although equal temperament music is slightly "out of tune" to our ears, we 'accept' these compromises to gain the ease of modulation that ETT allows. There are those that maintain that equal temperament was not used as much as we think because it sounded "bland and out of tune" to sensitive ears. These same people maintain that other temperaments led to music much richer in harmonic content than that obtained with ETT.

When we tune our cellos using A 440 (a standard pitch that was only officially accepted in 1939!) and then proceed to tune our D, G and C strings in perfect 5ths, have we not then tuned to another temperament other than ETT? That is to say that our strings are now "out of tune" with fixed pitch instruments that have been constructed using ETT. This becomes more apparent when we play with other instruments such as the piano and adjustments have to be made while playing.

My second question is this; if we tune using perfects fifths what temperament are we now using? Pythagorean, Just, meantone...? Meantone tuning favors perfect thirds whereas Pythagorean tuning favors the perfect 5th.

My third question is about tuners. When cellists tune all strings using an electronic tuner of some sort (a practice that, IMHO, is not ultimately good for ear-training), do these tuners use ETT? If so, when we then play our 'perfect' fifths, they will be out of tune to our ears. I have a piece of electronic tuning software on my computer that allows me to select ETT or historical temperaments as the basis on which the scales are constructed. Using ETT, the 5ths are out of tune. Setting the temperament to Pythagorean puts the fifths in tune to my ear.

These questions may all be academic in live playing situations where players adjust to each other, but I believe they could be real problems for players using period instruments, especially older instruments that may have been constructed using these alternate temperaments as the basis for the notes in their scales.

An interesting and helpful essay on this (for those that may find it interesting) can be found at the following URL: http://www.casaninja.com/christi/academic/classicaltuning.html


You are right. In ETT, the only interval that does not produce beat tones is the octave. Fifths produce beat tones, therefore on a correctly tuned piano even simple major chords produce audible beat tones and sound somehow expressive. When you tune your cello in perfect fifths, it will be slightly out of tune according ETT, therefore when playing together with a piano, tuning the cello strings according the piano notes will avoid problems when you play open strings. Tuning in perfect fifths leads to a Pythagorean tuning because this tuning is defined by fifths. You start for example at C and tune the G until the beat tone disappears. Then, starting at the G, you tune the D and so on. That is exactly what you do when you tune your cello. The problem of this tuning is: When you go through all fifths and finally come back to C, this C will have not the same pitch as your starting C. This difference is called the Pythagorean Comma. And, the tuning of all notes depends on with which note you started. When you start at A=440Hz and go on tuning all subsequent fifths according to Pythagorean, the difference between Pythagorean and ETT will get bigger and bigger the further you proceed. When you play A Major, all will be fine. But when you modulate to a key that has a big distance from A on the Circle of Fifths, for example E-flat Major, it will sound strange.

However, this small difference will not lead to severe problems because on woodwinds, the intonation will never be that exact that the notes come exactly with 1Hz-precision. And the tuning of pianos is a totally different story. Only the midrange of the piano is tuned according EET, but every piano tuner has his personal taste how the piano should sound. In addition, some mistuning is done on purpose. The higher octaves of a piano are tuned higher than EET else those notes would sound dull and flat. On the bass registers, they do the opposite, i.e. those notes are tuned lower else they would sound sharp. This procedure has a name that I don't remember, and there has been a lot of scientific research why the piano has to be mistuned to sound correctly.

Cheap tuners use ETT, but there are more expensive tuners like the Korg Orchstral Tuner OT-12. It has a lot of different tunings, and I learned from it that the brass instruments use some additional, different tunings.

Your observation that fifths on your cello are perfectly tuned when you switch the tuner to Pythagorean is true, it is because fifths are the basis of this tuning, see above.


Many electrons have been worn out on the subject of temperaments on the harpsichord list. This is always a big item in the land of keyboards, since you normally can't adjust as you play. I think it especially excites harpsichord players because much of the literature predates ETT, but also because the harpsichord sound typically has many, many partials bouncing around to bring out more subtleties in not-quite-pure intervals.

Besides the classic Pythagorean and Meantone, there were many attempts to fudge the intervals around to obtain an "ideal" temperament. Some received names: Werkmeister, Valotti, etc. Most were attempts to make pure, or only slightly compromised, as many commonly used intervals as possible, crowding the bad guys off to some seldom used key.

"1/3 comma meantone" and "quarter comma meantone" take their names from the way the unavoidable differences were divided up.

Occasionally there were treatises published explaining how to tune some of the more common versions. Of course, no one had any sort of digital gizmos to document what they were doing. ("maketh thy fifths slightly narrow but not too greatly ...") People trying today to duplicate the work have occasionally found situations where the instructions didn't seem to produce the claimed results. Folks probably started out in some pattern and then tweaked a little until it sounded like something they liked.

As far as I know, garden-variety electronic tuners are ETT unless otherwise claimed. I'm not sure how absolutely accurate they are, as the tricks of dividing down even a several Mhz clock does throw some small quantization errors into the tones generated. I have one that takes punchcards to set a temperament (yes, Olde technology!) that claims to do quite an assortment.

I suspect string players will adjust on the fly to reach some sort of "pitch center." (And then there's "leading tones" and all that stuff too.)


>>Historic vs. Recent Recordings

In the last few years it seems like collecting and listening to pre-1960 recordings is considered to be more mature and more interesting than for modern recordings. It seems as if no one thinks that the top modern string players are anywhere near the class of Heifetz, Feuermann, Milstein, Huberman, and others from that era. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with that, but has the golden age of great string players really passed? Can anyone name a few modern players that belong on a list of names like this?


I think the answer to the original question has more to do with psychology than anything else. If you grew up listening to Feuermann and Rose then you consider them the greatest ever. There is a natural tendency to find affinity to cellists whose playing you have heard over many years, followed their careers etc.

If you ask young cellists who their favorite cellists is they usually say Yo-Yo Ma or Rostropovich. A few will say Jacqueline du Pré, some Lynn Harrell, and some will say Steven Isserlis. Then there are those who will swear by Anner Bylsma with his more authentic approach. Over the years I've talked to young cellists and although many had heard recordings of Rose and Feuermann in the libraries of their schools or bought CDs of them, most didn't find much affinity with those recordings. I personally don't like Feuermann and Rose much either. I find their vibrato and sound not to my taste and I much prefer the playing of Harrell, Yo-Yo, and Slava. It's who I grew up listening to. I also really like Isserlis.

So it's about personal taste and psychology more than anything else. Whether someone like Rose is a greater musician than say Lynn Harrell or Yo-Yo Ma is in the eyes, or should I say ears, of the beholder.


I'm sure that personal taste and psychology are elements in the preference of certain cellists over others but I think the "more than anything else" is simplistic. I think a lot also has to do with one's musical education: was the emphasis on technique alone? What about quality and personality of sound? Was the person taught to play merely in tune, in time? What about tapping into one's imagination and spiritual depth? Does one approach cello playing merely as a display of athleticism? Has one been taught the (allegedly) intellectual approach of "historically informed performance"? At the risk of sounding snobbish, I'll dare to say that if one's education, musically, is narrowed to just one or two of the above, the appreciation of, IMO, the superior artists of the past MAY be diminished. (I say MAY be diminished because even my explanation for this very complicated issue is simplistic.)

G M Stucka



** Members can submit announcements or news to editor@cello.org **

1. Easy now, Yo-Yo.

Yo-Yo Ma fell out of his chair during the third movement of the Beethoven Triple Concerto at the inaugural concert of the new concert hall in Philadelphia. Apparently it was the result of a bit too much swaying, which gradually shifted the chair off the short riser. Thankfully, Yo-Yo seems to be unharmed. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/17/arts/music/17KIMM.html.

2. New Directions Cello Festival

The New Directions Cello Festival will take place May 31-June 2, 2002 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. http://www.newdirectionscell.com.

3. Second Cello Classics CD is Released

www.celloclassics.com has released more of the personal selection by the renowned cellist and collector, Keith Harvey, of some of the most treasured recordings of the last century. While some of the artists represented will be familiar to many, there are also several included whose work will be of interest to afficionados of string playing. This is the second in Cello Classics' historical series. Cellists include: Zara Nelsova, Pablo Casals, Arnold Földesy, Emanuel Feuermann, Maurice Marechal, Samuel Mayes, Anthony Pini, Daniil Shafran, Ennio Bolognini, Gregor Piatigorsky, Pierre Fournier, Maurice Gendron, George Neikrug, Janos Starker, Mischa Maisky, Alexander Gotgelf, Alexander Rudin.

4. New Book

Lewis Davis has come out with a new book, Fingerboard Mastery for the Cellist: A systematic approach to fingerboard geography, precise intonation, and note and interval recognition. For more information, go to: http://lewisdavis.50megs.com.

5. New Video

The Kronberg Academy has come out with a new video, called "Teaching the Cello." It includes master classes with Janos Starker, Gary Hoffman, Bernard Greenhouse, Maria Kliegel, Steven Isserlis, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, and Frans Helmerson. It will be available near the end of January. For more information, go to: http://www.kronbergacademy.de/en/buchshop1.htm.

6. Prize Winners


Here�s a list of the festivals I know about in 2002:

The New Directions Cello Festival
The New Directions Cello Festival will take place May 31-June 2, 2002 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. www.newdirectionscell.com.

Feuermann Competition
The Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann -- The First International Cello Competition will take place November 17-22, 2002 in Berlin. http://www.gp-emanuelfeuermann.de.

Kronberg Festival
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 next Manchester (U.K.) International Cello Festival has been advertised for May 2004. In future this event will take place every three years instead of every other year.

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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5. NPR In Rehearsal


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