Message from the Editor
I want to encourage you all to write articles for the Internet Cello Society. As you may have noticed, the "usual suspects" seem to be writing most of the articles. But we have over 10,000 members from 84 countries, so surely there are more of you who ache to say your cello-piece. You could write an article about your local cello scene, your latest cello society event, a master class you attended, your impressions of a cello concert, cello poetry, cello fiction.... We are interested in it all! If the Muse speaks to you, please send me an e-mail and we can e-talk about it.
>> I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your interesting research on the Bach dances. I am presently teaching a Liberal Studies class on music history and dance and have found your article to be very timely. A student of mine and I are also using your information to analyze the tempos of the G major suite and we are having a lot of interesting discussion. Thank you for taking the time to put all of this together and sharing your findings with the rest of us.
>> I am a beginner. I can't seem to get any sound out of the cello no matter how much I try. I've tried everything from gentle bow strokes to really digging in. I don't even get that "fingers scratching on a chalkboard" sound. What's my problem?
Bret Smith replies: My guess is that your bow is brand new and it has no rosin on it. If you have some, draw the bow rather vigorously across the rosin for quite a while. You should see a white powder beginning to build up on the hair. It should get between the hairs, all over. You have enough when you can flick the bow hairs and see a puff of dust come off the hair, and when you draw the bow you should not only get a sound, but see a white residue on the string.
>> I would like to comment on a letter in a past newsletter from someone aged 36 who wants to learn how to play the cello. I am 65 years old and I started playing last fall. I am now able to play Bach's Menuet from Anna Magdalena's notebook and Arioso (easy arrangements of course in Mel Bay's book by Craig Duncan). I am doing really well and having so much fun. I am learning from a young lady 30 years younger than me! I played the violin previously, and it was very difficult getting my mind set on bass clef. My advice to the 36 year old, GO FOR IT!
>> I purchased a cello on EBay. It was a student model with a hard case, rosin, and bow. I noticed after I bought it that the sound post was not in place and was rolling around inside. Do you think this is a major problem?
Rajan Krishnaswami replies: This is not a problem at all, as long as there is no tension on the front of the cello. Sound posts are free-standing, and it just needs to be replaced by a competent violin shop, for a modest fee, probably between $20-$40. However, if the bridge and strings are in place and tightened, remove them IMMEDIATELY, because the front could collapse. Among other things, the sound post holds the front up against the tension of the strings on the bridge.
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by Tim Janof
Recitals have taken him to major cities each season: he regularly performs in London, New York, and Boston. As a member of the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio he has recorded and toured extensively for twenty years and recently formed the new group Sequenza. He is a frequent visitor at international chamber music festivals worldwide and has often appeared as a guest with the Guarneri and Emerson String Quartets and at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York.
His solo recording of the unaccompanied cello works of Kodály, Britten, Crumb, and Schuller received an industry award in the US. His recording, "Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello," performed live at Boston's Jordan Hall (GM Recordings), has been highly acclaimed, and the Brahms Sonatas (Arabesque) were released in November 2000. He was also the soloist in the Elgar Cello Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic on a BBC Music Magazine cover CD.
Colin Carr is the winner of many prestigious international awards, including First Prize in the Naumburg Competition, the Gregor Piatigorsky Memorial Award, and Second Prize in the Rostropovich International Cello Competition.
He first played the cello at the age of five; three years later he went to the Yehudi Menuhin School, where he studied with Maurice Gendron and later with William Pleeth. He was made a professor at the Royal Academy of Music in 1998 after having been on the faculty of the New England Conservatory in Boston for 16 years; in 1998, St. John's College, Oxford created the post of "Musician in Residence" for him, and in September 2002 he became a professor at Stony Brook University in New York.
Mr. Carr plays on a Matteo Gofriller cello made in Venice in 1730.
TJ: You studied with the great French cellist, Maurice Gendron, at the Menuhin School.
CC: Actually, Gendron came to the school quite infrequently, at most once a month for a day or two, and sometimes with three or four months between visits. One of his former students taught me twice a week in his absence, but these lessons were rather dull.
Before studying with Gendron, I had played whatever I felt like, usually pieces that were too difficult for me. He reformed me using the same system that he used with his students at the Paris Conservatoire -- Franchomme, Duport, Servais, Feuillard Daily Exercises, scales -- and had me play Romberg and Davidoff Concertos.
Menuhin brought Gendron to the School because of their long-standing professional relationship; they had played together for decades. But Gendron was a terrifying and tyrannical teacher. He was extremely demanding, impatient, and intolerant, and he was not used to dealing with children, and I was ten years old when I began studying with him.
He would often yell, raising his voice to a pitch that was quite scary for child, and he was physically violent at times. I remember him deliberately knocking the bow out of my hand with his bow. By the time I left the school at age 16, people realized that, although Gendron was a wonderful cellist, he was not suited to teach young children, so they phased him out.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
by James Nicholas
I conceived the idea of writing a solo sonata as a going-away present for my close friend Robert deMaine, formerly principal cellist of the Hartford Symphony, and my recital partner in the duo "CELLOMANIA!." In October, Robert was appointed as the new principal cellist of the Detroit Symphony. He took me out to his favorite Italian pastry shop to celebrate. While there, I jotted down the first three "weeping" bars on a napkin and pushed it in front of him. His reaction: "This is REALLY nostalgic." A few days later, I played the opening and closing of the piece for his girlfriend Betsy (a hornist in the Symphony). She looked at me with wide-open eyes and said "This looks back... way back." I admitted that it did, to the time when I was a young cellist of 18 or 19, but to what specifically?
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
We hope to see you there!
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Thanks to Bobbie Mayer for compiling the following conversations from our chat boards. In addition to our boards, you are welcome to contact our forum hosts directly. For a complete list of ICS Forum Hosts please see http://www.cello.org/The_Society/Staff.html
>> Was the Haydn D written by Haydn?
David Sanders: Have you seen the February, 2003 issue of Strad Magazine? There is a long article about ornaments in the D Major concerto, and it states, in reference to the recording by Gendron:
It's an interesting article.
Bob: We've covered this here before, but I don't mind doing it again since there are many new members since then. The origin of the "Haydn" concerto is one of music's great mysteries. I have always known that there is a manuscript of this work in Haydn's hand. The central question is, why would he have taken the trouble to write out someone else's ideas? What is unmistakably clear is that this music didn't come out of his head. It couldn't have. There isn't a single other composition of his, in any genre, from any period in his life, that is so harmonically static, so rigid and foursquare in its phrasing, and so formally predictable. Every detail of it is un-Haydnesque. Think of the first two bars of the solo: what Haydn theme can you name that opens with chromatic scales? Think of the recapitulation: when did Haydn EVER simply copy out vast swaths of his expositions, unchanged except back in the tonic. Just compare this work to the authentic Haydn concerti -- the C major cello concerto, the C major and G major violin concerti, and the D major piano concerto. The difference, once you open your mind to the question, is so striking as so remove all doubt. And why do you suppose Gavaert felt the need to make an "edited" version of this piece where no musicologist, performer, editor, or conductor has ever felt a similar need as to any other Haydn instrumental work in history? Why do Bylsma and Starker grudgingly agree that it couldn't be by Haydn?
For those who respond with how the piece doesn't sound like anything by Anton Kraft either, let me add that I'm not expressing any opinion as to who may have written it. I only know who COULDN'T have written it. And I'm certainly not suggesting that if it was somehow proven inauthentic that we shouldn't play it. The piece stands on its intrinsic merits.
And for those who ask whether it matters, the answer of course is, of course not. Nor does it matter whether Shakespeare wrote "Hamlet," whether Mozart wrote the "Jupiter" symphony, whether Picasso painted the "Guernica" or whether Pei designed the addition to the Louvre. Who the hell cares?
David Sanders: I didn't know about the manuscript. Why would he have written it out? Maybe as a favor to a friend?
Bob: Bylsma's theory is that it was a collaboration between Haydn and Kraft. That Kraft showed Haydn his work-in-progress and Haydn was so impressed that he assisted with the orchestration and other details, and published it under his own name as a sort of "job-well-done" gesture to his composition pupil. Whatever. As I say, this is one of music's great mysteries.
Tim Janof: After Bob made these comments years ago, I listened to a lot of Haydn and decided that the "Haydn" D doesn't sound like Haydn.
And yet that article in Strad Magazine says that the discovery of the manuscript settled this issue. And then the article goes on and on about how we aren't being faithful to the holy manuscript, and the many ways in which different editions have deviated from it. If the music isn't by Haydn, are we still to fret over every quill stroke of the manuscript?
Gary Stucka: I'd be more convinced of Bob's argument if I was sure he had heard/studied EVERYTHING Haydn had written. Meaning: I need to try to find a piece by Haydn that I've heard within the last 6 months on WFMT-FM, here in Chicago. It sounded quite like it came from the same hand that wrote the Concerto in D, chromaticism and all. I'll report back if I find out what that piece was. In the meantime, I will continue to agree to disagree over this subject.
I also agree with the other poster who said, "What does it matter? It's still a good piece whether by Haydn or not", or something to that effect. If it is indeed NOT by Haydn, should it be dropped from the repertoire?? Some have spoken out against the Sammartini G Major Sonata. Should that lovely piece be dropped as well if it is indeed not by Sammartini? What about Boccherini/Gruetzmacher or the Handel/Casadesus Viola Concerto?
>> Orchestral Bowings
Mary K. asked the professionals: How do you orchestra professionals set bowings? Are they passed down from performance to performance, principal to principal, does the stick-waver have a say, or??? How much attention do you pay to what the violins are doing??
Carter Brey: Well, there are really two approaches, depending on the circumstance.
If I'm reviewing a part being borrowed from another orchestra, I'll sit down, sharpen some colored pencils, pour myself a double scotch, and start scrawling marginalia such as "I can't believe these lamers in the State Sanitation Department Orchestra of Toulouse! If this should be an upbow, then monkeys can come flying out of my butt!"
If it's a fresh part, then I sit down, sharpen a couple of regular #2 pencils, pour myself a double scotch, call Brinton Smith at home at about half past midnight, make sure he's drinking heavily, and ask something like, "Brinton, what is the least intuitive bowing you can think of for the theme of the second movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony?" He'll try out a couple of things over the phone, I write down the worst one, thank him, hang up, and run the bad bowing through an algorithm I've developed, which is designed to increase the similarity of any musical phrase to the fuzz-pedal guitar interlude from "She's So Heavy" on Abbey Road.
Okay, okay. Usually what happens is that all parts which need to be bowed, which means all fresh parts and all parts previously unplayed by the New York Philharmonic, are first sent to the Concertmaster, Glenn Dicterow. He bows the 1st violin part and the library gives a copy of that part to each of the remaining section principals (Marc Ginzburg, Cynthia Phelps, myself, and Eugene Levinson). Each of us refers to the 1st violin master in making bowing decisions, as well as to the score and to each other. It's particularly important that Eugene and I coordinate, since our parts so often contain the same music.
Bowings can, of course, be changed on the fly in rehearsal, and often are, but one has to be careful of the ramifications. It's important to be aware at all times of what's going on elsewhere.
David Sanders: Sometimes I feel as if all we're doing is a bowing exercise, seeing if we can get any sound at all out of the instrument, just because the violins are doing it one way, and our principal doesn't want to change it. Unfortunately, the "stick-waiver" does have a say over the bowings, and they often haven't a clue as to what would sound good on the cello.
In the "good old days", Frank Miller would often demonstrate to the conductor the difference between the conductor's lousy bowing and Frank's masterful choice. It would go something like this:
Maestro: "Of course, Mr. Miller, anything you want." It was a riot.
Ah, how I miss the good old days.
SteveDrake4: Here in the minor leaques, we can't afford scotch, so we use the tried and true Budweiser Method.
I do bowings for a couple of orchestras, and generally I take the basic concepts of the 1st violins, and see if I can make it work for the cellos. And then I just make up anything that strikes my fancy. Actually, I keep a ton of xeroxes of old parts, and often check with what's worked in the past. And then make up anything that strikes my fancy. I have one colleague in one of my sections who makes educated guesses about which TV show I was watching while I bowed each part, and she's been right a surprising number of times! HBO= longer, more dramatic bowings. Food Network = choppier, spicy bowings.
I've been trying to get Carter's algorithm to work, but it only works on certain types of Linux boxes. I'm still trying to port it to my NeXT.
cbrey: Steve, here's a shell script which should work on any UNIX:
cat $BOWING | sox -highp 40000 > BRINTONS_BOWING &&
grep $LIBRARIAN &&
if $LIBRARIAN -e
mail $BOWING $LIBRARIAN@nyphil.org &&
echo "Crap bowing sent to orchestra; time for more scotch!"
echo "Back to the drawing board, lamer!" && getty /dev/ttyS2 connect 'chat -v
"" ATDT$BRINTONSNUMBER "CONNECT"' && play
SteveDrake4: Works perfectly! Except the bozo bin is empty, or at least temporarily empty currently. And I had to do the SUB SCOTCH=BUDWEISER sub to make it work.
Hey, we're all bozo's on this bus!
>> Competition for Orchestral Positions
I'm curious to know how competitive it is out there for orchestras. Obviously, the New York Philharmonic and St. Louis Symphony would be like biting nails to get in. But what about the lesser orchestras like the Rochester and Buffalo Philharmonics or the Indianapolis or Richmond Symphonies?
SteveDrake4: The Nashville symphony is pretty much in the middle of the rankings, but it's still pretty hard to get into. We had an audition last year, and 35 people showed up for one position, and a lot of them were REALLY good. And the person we hired has fit into the section perfectly since he got here.
HoosierGirl: About 75 people auditioned for the last cello opening in Indianapolis, which was several years ago. Recent hires for the violin and viola sections have held degrees from places like CIM, Curtis, Eastman, NEC, etc. and often had competition wins and/or experience with other orchestras to boot. Indianapolis is a 52-week orchestra with a contract similar to Atlanta and the auditions are competitive.
Ricky Martin: I've heard it put this way (by a former teacher): "There are about 30 major orchestras in the U.S., give or take a few. Here in [insert name of major city here], we've had three cello openings in the last 10 or so years. So if you multiply three by 30, you get 90. That's less than 100 job openings for cellists in the last ten years."
HanzWelserMost: To get a job in an orchestra that pays more than 40 thousand dollars a year you have to be a very good cellist and very well prepared for your audition. I believe that cello auditions are on a much higher level than violin, viola, and bass auditions. Don't know why. Maybe it's just something I want to believe.
BA: I think the basic reason is that, while violin playing generally has the highest standards in the string family, there are twice as many jobs for violinists. In a given year there are generally multiple openings in many major orchestras, and good violinists find jobs very quickly. The general standard of cello is on the average higher than viola and bass, but there are the same number of vacancies, so the jobs are very competitive.
With cello you cannot rely on there being a certain number of openings in any given year. Some years there are many, some years very few. There are indeed a lot of fine cellists out there who wait a long time to find a good job. Over the course of time, though, they do seem to end up with good jobs, it's just that the process is much longer and more difficult than for violinists.
Evan Setzer: Does the name of your school make a difference over your playing? Does it matter if I go to a lesser-known university and still study with a stellar teacher opposed to going to a big name conservatory?
Benjamin Myers: Orchestras and college teaching are a bit different. I'll talk about colleges. We do care where you went, and we do care whom you studied with. But we also care about your teaching and performing record, your reviews, the recording you sent us, and the competitions you've won.
>> What is musical genius?
Ren Woxing: Some years ago, a friend of mine once commented upon the playing of an accomplished violinist both of us knew. He said, "That guy's not really great. He's just a violin nerd."
At that time, I didn't really quite understand what he meant. The violinist in question was born into a musical family, practices very hard, and is very active in the local professional music scene. It wasn't until after I had begun reading more about the great performers that I finally knew what my friend meant.
I've read that Rostropovich was not only an exponent of the cello, but could actually play the keyboard reduction of many famous operas on the piano from memory. Legend also has it that when the paparazzi of the day followed Paganini to observe what he does for practicing during concert tours, it was found that he only played scales and open strings. Feuermann's concert marathon of almost the entire standard cello repertoire was also equally awe-inspiring.
The great performers not only have a good command of their instrument; they also somehow seem to have a holistic understanding of music that transcends the physical gymnastics of playing an instrument. I suppose in their youth, they did of course put in a minimal amount of practicing, but then again, so did lots of other people. What sets the great performers apart then?
Evidently, practicing 8 to 10 hours a day isn't enough to make a great musician. Most people, if given enough opportunity (e.g family background, financial backing), hard work, perseverance, patience, and good guidance, are able to master an instrument. But the great performers also possess a fantastic mental capacity that everyone can't fail to notice. I suppose it is this "mental leap" which brings about their musical feats that fascinates us when they perform on stage.
Andrea: I heard somewhere, maybe here on the board, that Rostropovich once said something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing a little): "I once practiced six hours one day, and I'll never do that again!"
Jacqueline du Pré apparently shocked all the other students in Moscow by how much she didn't practice. All the other students were practicing six hours a day, du Pré only 2.
Andante Sostenunto: In all of my observations in both music and sports it all comes down to the individual and what he or she needs. First of all, these people possess fantastic natural talent which makes this much easier. Rostropovich is just another Mozart. Mozart was able to write a symphony in less than a week. Rostropovich on the other hand has the innate ability to memorize the piano scores to opera and play them from memory at the drop of a pin. Second, different people are different and therefore need different methods of training. In swimming I know someone who can just show up at a meet and blow me away. For me to beat him I'd have to attend all the practices. Additionally, you have to be careful not to overtrain because that leads to burn-outs. I have the same problem as Andrea. If I practice something again and again eventually it is like I just shutdown and cannot play the piece anymore and I'll have to take a break from it for a few days.
Pilot002: I think that some people do it naturally (in some way they were raised, not a blessing by an unknown power) and others have to work at it. Anybody CAN become an amazing musician, but they've got to work hard and keep the pressure on. There have been many people who were just average musicians for a long time that have kept working hard, and, because of their hard work, they are now considered to have a much desired talent. Most of all it comes down to what they want to put into it. If one were to really want something and work to match their desire, they will succeed. Teachers are another big part of it, finding the right one for you. However, teachers can't make you want to walk up to the next step and practicing won't either. It's all in the heart! Or something like that.
To answer the question of what makes a good musician good in a short answer, I would have to say that it comes down to how much they want to get to their destination. Not everybody has that drive.
Focusing: American Masters, the PBS series, broadcast a show last night on Juilliard. In one section, on the Pre-College program, there was a discussion on prodigies, burn-out, nourishing genius, etc. The commentor, either Dorothy DeLay or Perlman (I forget) made the point the in the long run it made no difference whether a great performer began as a natural genius or was a middling talent who had worked extra hard. Ultimately the performance would be the same.
grace422: I think what sets most of us apart from genius is genetics. I think if you look at geniuses in any discipline you will find that they all enjoyed great expertise at a very young age. Mozart composed as a child, Yo-Yo showed innate ability as a child, Tiger Woods could putt with the best of them as a toddler, Oprah was a great communicator even as a little girl, the Dalai Lama was compassionate as a very small child, Feynman questioned the physics of the world as a boy, and so on. I think there are lots of types of genius, and I definitely think their brain is wired differently. But there are a heck of a lot more great world-class players out there that got there through practice, discipline, and sheer desire. There are also those 'geniuses' who have all the right wiring except one component -- passion. Without that, they won't get any farther than us normal folks.
SteveDrake4: I liked what Laurence Lesser said once -- that to attain the technical proficiency to have a professional career, one has to spend 6 years practicing 6 hours a day. I don't think he was speaking in absolute terms -- certainly some people have enough natural facility that they can practice less, or in my case, 8 years of 8 hours a day is what made it. There really aren't set rules about these things -- we're not robots, after all.
DWThomas: I have wondered ... It seems to me that many legendary musicians (that I'm aware of) had parents who were musicians. So, that could mean there is a "musical ability gene" passed along. But yet, it also generally means these kids were exposed to music even before they were born. They would have grown up from birth surrounded by music and musicians, seeing and hearing instruments played. I suspect that might give any kid a head start. Obviously my anecdotal guesswork has no academic credibility, but I wonder if anyone has ever attempted any scientific research on the matter. Is it genetics or environment? Or both?
Shennie: I think it has to be a combination of some kind. My oldest son is exceptionally talented (although not prodigal). Both my husband and I are somewhat musical but are not musicians. The kids grew up surrounded with recorded music. Oldest and youngest are very musical, the middle is tone deaf. Go figure....
My cellist son had three teachers growing up. The first is reasonably talented and has no musicians in his family. The second teacher is reasonably talented and came from extremely talented parents (mother went to Curtis). His brothers are both musicians as well. His last teacher is exceptionally talented (not a prodigy). He plays with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Also no musicians in his family. Ultimately, the environment has to be there in combination with the genetics. I doubt that either one in isolation will create a great musician.
Ren Woxing: I've observed that some performers do play the instrument very well, i.e., faultless intonation, nice phrasing, etc., but they somehow lack charisma when they go on stage. Then there are some which just simply have an arresting presence the moment they start playing.
Benjamin Myers: Then there are those who should be arrested the moment they start playing.
Nicholas Anderson: I think that what's of relevant interest in OUR spiritual discipline of the cello is to probe for new insights and technologies regarding the question of what is actually happening when we put the label "genius" on something, in such a way that we can begin to produce that on purpose, instead of having to shrug it off in resignation as something forever outside of human control. Certainly, greater quantities of practicing don't produce it; nor do any recipes of traditional logical thinking that have been developed so far. Those things are helpful and important; but they haven't nailed down that ineffable "charisma" in an authentic way. However, it may be that through a different approach to the technology, the secret can be cracked. Feynman in particular thought along these lines. He was the one who said something to the effect of, "There are certain things that you can only learn by inventing them."
Just to clarify, I'm not talking about genetics. Also, I'm talking about something much more cello-specific than what Andy was describing in his post (astute as those observations are); something that can be taught. Catch-all terms like "genius," "talent," or "charisma" would become obsolete if we could know what that element is and produce it on purpose. And again, I can't say it enough times, I don't mean genetically!
Katiecello: Musical genius is playing from the heart, conveying emotion. Technique follows that. If one plays with wonderful technique yet without emotion and passion, then something is missing. Then, that isn't musical genius.
Over practicing is very bad. Lots of people think that if they practice 6+ hours a day then they will become star virtuosos. I think the opposite is probably true. If most of that 6+ hours is spent with the mind elsewhere, the practicing is worthless. After a few hours, the mind is more on the aching fingers and the frustration. Two to four solid hours, in my very humble opinion, is best. Hours that are spent fully concentrating on the cello, and fully aware of what you're doing. grace422: As far as genetics, perfect pitch is genetic. It has been documented. True perfect pitch is also very rare. Musical genius, of course, has many other components besides (and not requiring) perfect pitch.
Victor Sazer: A hopeful composer once showed Mozart a symphony that he had written, asking the master for guidance. Mozart advised him to spend a year or more writing simple two part songs and then perhaps to try composing an overture. "But you wrote symphonies and concerti when you were a child" he exclaimed.
Mozart responded " Yes, but I didn't have to ask".
radpaul: I would just add that there would undoubtedly be hundreds or likely thousands of genes that could potentially impact one's aptitude and talent for music. For example, there may be several genes involved in the development of perfect pitch. As has been discussed here before, perfect pitch comes in different flavors and it may be that various combinations of genes produce these expressions of perfect pitch.
Many genes would likely code for brain circuitry that enables various levels of rhythmic aptitude. Similarly, manual dexterity for left hand skills, right hand skills, coordination, positional sense, spatial awareness, physical speed, emotional characteristics, memory, visual pattern recognition, and any number of other traits or abilities may be enhanced or diminished by complex genetic factors.
Just imagine all the subtle and not so subtle physical and mental qualities that might potentially impact one's ability to play a musical instrument and interpret a musical composition. This web of genetics and structure can come together in an almost infinite spectrum of human existence to produce the amazing diversity of people and musicians we see among us today.
Genetics is only part of the story, though. It is well known that environmental factors have a major impact on how our genetic blueprints are realized. The brain circuitry is modified continually throughout our lives, but most dramatically in our formative years. So, being surrounded by music and musical instruction as children clearly does have an impact on to what degree our musical talents are ultimately developed. That doesn't mean you can't learn music as an adult or improve greatly as a musician in later years; it just means that modifying our neural pathways is easier to do in childhood. Studying music alone would not be the only environmental factor impacting our musical development. Any activities we take part in, whether they be more physical or more mental, could affect our metamorphosis as musicians.
It really boggles the mind to try to think of all the factors that could potentially impact the genesis of a musician. We happily do have the ability to compensate to varying degrees for our innate deficiencies. No doubt, thoughtful guidance, skilled instruction, and great motivation can enable us to reach a higher level of musicianship than other more 'gifted' individuals. Some are so unbelievably gifted that they truly can excel with minimal effort. Ugghhh!
In any case, what a magnificent thing it is to observe: the human struggle for excellence in its infinite spectrum.
Andrew Victor: It seems to me that the qualities we label as "genius" (whatever the field) seem to involve the ability to:
1. internalize vast amounts of information (not necessarily intellectually)
2. organize it is unique ways
3. "regurgitate" it in ways that communicate to others (at least some (sense) of) what the genius has found in that organized information.
It can be in any field of the arts, sciences, business, sports, socialization - or whatever.
If the regurgitation requires the use of muscles, then practice is called for to keep those muscles at peak performance.
Some people have special abilities that aid them in this; for example very good hearing, photographic memories, exquisite sense of their own body motion, etc. and so they have access to expression of their "genius" in ways compatible with those "natural" gifts.
>> Characteristics of a great cello
What makes the $30,000 or million dollar cellos worth what they are?
mycatmarti: As you get into very expensive instruments, you'll probably find that they were made by one person, rather than several or by machines. There's more attention in the detailing and workmanship. But that might not effect the sound. A beautiful to look at cello may not sound as nice as a cheaper cello.
Todd French: One thing that is important to remember when thinking about 'value' in an instrument is that sound has NOTHING to do with its monetary value. I spent years as an appraiser for Butterfield's auction house, and one of the most difficult things is to explain to someone that their instrument is worth only a few hundred dollars, and they come back with a long and fevered story about how amazing it sounds. Truly, it could be the best sounding instrument in the world, and its monetary value -- which is determined by factors such as maker, region, rarity, condition, etc. -- is next to nothing.
Regarding new instruments, again, value is not based on sound, but rather 'cost.' Instruments made by one individual are more expensive to make than those made by several or many. Instruments varnished with a spray are less expensive than those varnished with a brush -- many possible combinations in the formula, but it all comes down to what YOU like to hear in a cello. Pay no attention to what they cost and just act as if you have unlimited funds, simply choose based on what you think is the best cello, because you will drive yourself batty trying to figure out why a $13,000 cello sounds better than a $15,000 cello.
Andrew Victor: Every cello has a somewhat different sound from others. Some are louder or softer. Some have a different spectrum of frequencies for each note played leading to a brighter or mellower sounding instrument. Preference of these qualities seems to be a matter of personal taste and may be affected by what you want to do with a particular cello (i.e., play in church, play only for yourself, play in orchestra, play chamber music, play concertos with orchestras, etc.). Playing cello in orchestra can be particularly tricky, since it can be difficult to hear yourself. The sound balance that allows you to hear yourself may not be what you expect.
Some cellos have annoying wolf tones that must be either "played through" or damped with appropriate equipment properly placed.
One very important characteristic of a cello is "playability." I think most players will agree on how easy or hard it is to get the sound out of a particular cello (or other bowed string instrument). The selection of bow and such accessories as specific strings, endpin, and tailpiece will all affect playability and tone characteristics. These can totally change your opinion of a given instrument.
The most important tonal quality is the one YOU want, since you will be living with the sound every time you play. I can tell you from my own experience that you will spend more time playing if YOU love your sound as you hear it when you play.
Todd French: It's always tough to put a description of tone into words, particularly in English because our language is so limiting in terms of descriptives. The one point I'd like to reiterate that Andrew brought up is that you must choose one that sounds good to YOU -- many times I see people choosing an instrument based on what a teacher or friend thinks about it, rather than they think of it themselves. It all comes down to who is paying for it and who is playing it, and unless your teacher or friend is doing both those things, choose what sounds best to YOU. Tone is wholly subjective, so there's no fixed formula that can be applied that equals a 'great sounding cello.' To some, bright is best, to others, a super chocolately dark color even on the A is just what they want to hear. It's all subjective.
Bobbie: While I agree with Todd on choosing what you like, I would like to add a caution: don't rule out a cello everyone else likes because it sounds too bright or too loud to you. Listen from in front of it, while someone else plays, and try it out long enough to get used to the sound. It can be hard to adjust to a bigger or more open sound when you first try it, but you might like it after you get used to it.
Ricky Martin: The only determining factor of an instrument's price or worth is how much someone will pay for it. In other words, what is it worth to me? However, when you're dealing with an instrument by an established maker, in good condition, that sounds good, then value tends to reflect quality.
Also, keep in mind that the cello will sound different under your ear and in a small room than to your friend sitting in the back row of a hall. Try the cello in different sized rooms with different friends listening. Also, record your sessions so you can hear what it sounds like from a distance.
I am preparing for college auditions and my music has to be memorized but I am having a lot of trouble. Does anyone have any tips for memorization, esp. Bach?
ArnoldWilliams: I happen to be one of those people for whom memorization comes easy, whether it's poetry, dramatic dialogue, or music. But in all cases, I go a phrase at a time. Then I reinforce it daily.
Itzpapalotl03: A trick you can try is recreating the piece on paper, just sitting down and writing it all out. If you screw up, practice that spot.
Bathmike: Just one thing to add to the excellent advice that you've already had. Memorizing a whole piece by "finger memory" only has the BIG downside that if your memory should fail you during performance (for instance, if you accidentally loop back to an earlier phrase something that can certainly happen with Bach!), you may not find the way out of it too easily, and you might even find yourself in Groundhog Day territory until you eventually crash out embarrassingly. So make absolutely sure that you know a whole lot of sections in your head as well, just in case you need a signpost at any time.
MysCellist: I have found that memorizing a piece in terms of structure is the best way to go. You'll memorize most of the phrases and phrase fragments just by practicing regularly. A strong knowledge of how the piece fits together will aid you in memorizing and interpreting.
TheDrCello: Phrase by phrase can be a waste of time, because you have to piece everything together. at the end of memorizing something, it should always feel like a whole, not like it has sections. That's when you know you've really memorized it, when you don't have to say "what comes after this part?"
Chris G: In my experience (not much), I've found that a relaxed state of mind is the key to memorization. If you are consciously working at remembering note after note, it can become a pretty grim task, and a self defeating one. Hopefully you have left yourself enough time for it not to be a matter of some anxiety yet. I have found that if I am practicing as usual but in a highly aware state, bar by bar, concentrating on all the usual issues, bowing, tone, intonation, etc., the notes fix themselves automatically in my mind. That is, without trying to memorize, I do memorize. If you pick your cello up now without the music you will probably find that you know the opening phrase. Occasionally after a practice session, leave the music aside, and just see how far you get, or how many bars you can play automatically, without berating yourself if you don't get too far. Hear the music and let your fingers find the notes.
ArnoldWilliams: Whether you do it phrase by phrase, divide it into three sections, visualize it to the point that you can write it down, none of this matters once it's memorized. After that you need to devote time daily or several times weekly playing it from memory to reinforce it. Classical guitarists memorize whole sets of repertoire so that they can present a three-hour program from memory. After a point, most reach a kind of saturation whereby they have to let a few of their older less played pieces go in order to introduce new pieces into the mix.
So once you've got a piece memorized, if you truly plan to have it be a long-term part of your "memorized repertoire," then add it to your daily practice schedule to run through at least once.
violynncello: I find that pieces I've played before are easier to memorize than something I'm in the process of learning. You already know how it sounds, and the technical aspects have been worked out already. You can focus on memorizing, not worrying if you've got the right notes in the first place.
Francis Cox: Playing something over and over again to memorize it seems problematic for me. On a previous instrument I studied I tried this approach, and I generally got sick of the piece by the time I'd learned it. This seems a bit counter-productive, and I certainly hope I can find a better strategy on the cello.
Nicholas Anderson: I agree with Francis. Though to me, it's not so much a matter of boredom as ineffectiveness. I believe in working smarter, not harder.
In my experience, it works this way. There are actually three kinds of memory, and they all have to work together; it's not secure with just one or even two of them. They are:
For corroboration of this (though it's not where I got it), I recommend an excellent booklet by Tobias Matthay (if you can find it), called "On Memorizing and Playing from Memory (and on the Laws of Practice generally)". It was taken from some lectures he did in 1926, and was published by Oxford University Press in 1968, and perhaps reprinted more recently. It's probably easier to find in England, where you seem to be! Oddly enough, even though it's a British publication, they spell "memorizing" with a "zed"!
cellogramma: It's weird, but it worked. At one of the several schools I've hung around, there was a great shortage of practice rooms, and the only one I could reliably get was the one with the light burned out. Since it was in the basement, there was just enough light coming in the dinky little window in the door that you wouldn't kill yourself falling over the chair. To work in there, you worked without music! So I'd scan a page in the hall, then go in and work for a while, then nip back out to see how I was doing. It wasn't my only practice space, so the initial work on the piece was done with actual light on the page, but that was the best memorizing I ever managed.
1. Stephen Kates dies
The following is an obituary that was pubished in the Baltimore Sun. Also refer to his recent ICS Interview:
Stephen Kates, an internationally known cellist who was taught by many of the greats and went on to teach generations of strings players at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, died Saturday of lymphoma at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 59.
He appeared with most of the major orchestras in the country, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra , and participated as a chamber musician at the top festivals. He performed at the White House for Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and for numerous heads of state and dignitaries, including Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Princess Grace of Monaco.
One of Mr. Kates#&39; greatest achievements occurred more than 35 years ago when he was awarded the silver medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1966, the height of the Cold War, an amazing feat for an American, particularly one so young, colleagues agreed. In 1986, he returned to serve as the American juror in the competition.
"He was a wonderful cellist," said concert violinist Itzhak Perlman, at whose wedding Mr. Kates was best man. "He had a beautiful, beautiful sound. He sort of felt the music."
"He could be very serious, but he never took himself too seriously. We had many laughs," Mr. Perlman said.
Many years ago, the musicians had CB radios in their cars and would converse over the airwaves with one another -- and with passing truckers who would never have believed the true identities of handles "The Mellow Cello" and "The Fast Fiddle," said Mr. Kates' wife, the former Mary Louise Robbins.
Stephen Kates was born into a musical family in New York, where his father, David, was a member of the viola section of the New York Philharmonic for 43 years. His mother's side of the family represented three generations of professional cellists, including his maternal grandfather who composed the scores at Paramount Studios for the Popeye and Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons.
Mr. Kates began his formal music studies at age 10 with Marie Rosanoff while attending New York's famed High School of Music and Art. He went on to study with Leonard Rose and Claus Adam at the Juilliard School of Music, where he graduated with honors. He later joined the master class of world renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky at the University of Southern California.
Mr. Kates spent 28 years as professor of cello at the Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory of Music, commuting for 18 of those years to Baltimore from New York before he and his wife moved to Annapolis 10 years ago.
In 1990, the couple bought the old Holzapfel Violin Shop on Fayette Street in Baltimore and found a treasure trove of instruments inside the century-old shop. Mr. Kates donated many of them to the Baltimore Museum of Industry and had some of the instruments rehabbed for students in need.
He also liked to work in the garden and go fishing -- endeavors some musicians eschew for fear of injuring their hands.
"He enjoyed his life thoroughly," said Mrs. Kates, an interior designer whom he married 20 years ago. "The day was not long enough for Stephen to fit in everything he wanted to do."
Said Jesse Levine, head of the strings department at Yale University: "He lit up the room. He had an indomitable spirit that one could describe as a youthful joy. He helped all of us to find humor."
Mr. Levine, who calls Mr. Kates "one of the great cellists of the world of his generation," has been saving answering- machine messages left by his friend over the past two years. They are a series of hysterically funny impressions, many of famous musicians, Mr. Levine says. The tape is full -- 45 minutes on each side.
Mr. Kates received a diagnosis of lymphoma nearly two years ago, just as he was starting a sabbatical. He had such a good attitude about his illness -- "He would never complain; he would just go on fighting," Mr. Perlman said -- that he served as an inspiration to the other patients he would sometimes counsel.
His most prized possession was his cello -- a 1739 Domenicus Montagnana, described by Mrs. Kates as the cello's equivalent of a Stradivarius violin and the best by that maker that still exists -- which he acquired after the death of a wealthy Californian. Mrs. Kates said her husband received several inquiries over the past year about what would happen to the cello after his death. She said her husband hadn't decided what should be done with it.
"I'm just going to hold onto it for a year," she said. "He couldn't give up his baby girl."
Mr. Kates' last concert was held Dec. 18, a month before his death, at the hospital where he spent many of his last days. It was standing room only as he played for the doctors and nurses and other staff who had cared for him. It was his way of saying thank you to them, Mrs. Kates recalled. He played his favorites, including "Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy and "Ave Maria."
Mr. Kates was in the process of re-editing the whole cello repertoire, his wife said. He believed the fingering method was outdated and he had come up with a new system -- but he hadn't finished the work. He had started on a memoir of teaching (many of his former students play for the best orchestras in the world). He had originally planned to retire this year and open a school for graduate students and young professional cellists in Monterey, Calif.
"It's tremendously satisfying to have somebody come back after 10 or 15 years and tell me what it was that they learned from me that helped them to achieve their goals," he told an interviewer for the Internet Cello Society newsletter late last year. "A wonderful testament is that I'm now starting to teach the children of my former students. It's incredibly satisfying to know that something that happened 20 years ago made such a difference in my students' lives that they would choose to send their children to me."
A memorial concert will be scheduled at the Peabody during the spring. Mrs. Kates is starting a scholarship fund for young musicians in her husband's memory.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Kates is survived by his father, David Kates of Pittsburgh; a brother, Michael Kates of Somers, N.Y.; and a niece, Cynthia Kates-Wilk of New York City.
Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore Sun
2. Prince Takamado dies at age 47
The following is a message from the NPO International Cello Ensemble Society in Japan:
"Prince Takamado, as he was playing squash at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo Thursday afternoon (November 21), collapsed suddenly during the game at about 4 pm and passed away that night.
"It was only the night before that the Prince went to the concert of his good friend, Yo-Yo Ma, in Tokyo. On the next day, November 21, Yo-Yo Ma was supposed to be invited to the residence of the Prince to give him a special cello lesson. In fact, the bow the Prince was using was the one Yo-Yo Ma had bought for him in New York and brought to Japan. You can see how they had a close personal association with each other.
"Our relationship with the Prince started when he was an honorary president of our first "1000 Cellists Concert" held in Kobe City on November 29, 1998. After this great concert, which was very impressive and successful, small cello ensemble concerts were given throughout Japan, which pleased the Prince so deeply that he himself also joined cello concerts of about 100 players in scale, which were held in various places throughout the country every year.
"We are organizing another great project, 'International Cello Congress in Kobe,' which will be held in 2005. The Prince was to be a key figure and supporter for this too.
"We lament the loss of the Prince who, as a great lover of the cello, devoted all his life to the encouragement and promotion of the cello and its music.
"NPO International Cello Ensemble Society"
3. Piatigorsky Celebration
On May, 4, 2003, the Shriver Hall Concert Series presents a Piatigorsky Centennial Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. This will be a multimedia presentation with video, audio, stills, and live performances. Jephta Drachman, the President of our Board of Directors and a Baltimore resident, is the daughter of Piatigorsky. Her son Evan, will be performing in the event. In conjunction with the concert, the Baltimore Museum of Art will present a special exhibit on Piatigorsky featuring the little seen Botta Strad and works from his art collection. On May 5th, the performances will be repeated at New England Conservatory in Boston. Featured cellists will include Erling Blondal Bengtsson, Myung Wha Chung, Evan Drachman, Laurence Lesser, Nathanial Rosen, Paul Tobias, and Raphael Wallfisch. For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
4. New cello mute
A new mute has been developed for the cello. It was created by Wisconsin cellist, Jane Hollander. For further information, please contact Janehollander@aol.com. It is also sold by Shar Products.
5. New books
Bonnie Hampton is leaving her position at San Francisco Conservatory and will join the faculty at the Juilliard School.
7. Award Winners
8. More Cello News
A cello news link has been engineered using Google.com's features. Be sure to bookmark it.
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.
Cello Festival Dordrecht
Cello Festival Dordrecht (Netherlands) May 24-27, 2003. http://www.cellofestival.dordt.nl.
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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2. Annual Chamber Music Festival in Bozeman, Montana
3. Ashland Chamber Music Workshop
4. "Notes from the Pit"
5. Music Workshop Guide
6. Music for the love of it
7. Amateur Chamber Music Players
8. Music Library On-Line
9. Alan Stellings, cellist, pays tribute to Oscar Peterson
13. Nils Wieboldt, baroque cellist
14. Summer Master Classes in Europe
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