Message from the Editor
I would like to acknowledge some people in the ICS that rarely get any thanks -- John Michel and our new webmaster, Eric Hoffman. While I get the fun of editing the newsletter, John and Eric are SLAVING away behind the scenes, constantly looking for new ways to improve our website.
I am constantly amazed at what John is able to accomplish. In addition to his ICS duties, he has a large cello studio at Central Washington University, he actively performs as both a soloist (I just heard his marvelous performance of the Elgar Concerto) and a chamber musician (the Kairos Quartet), and he has a wife and three young children. I don't know how he does it!
In addition to the unbelievably demanding task as our webmaster, Eric has his own programming business. How he finds the energy to program our site when he spends all day programming professionally boggles my mind. Frankly, without Eric, I don't what we'd do. ColdFusion is a very complicated programming language. We'd be lost without his expertise.
Please be sure to send a note of thanks to these unsung ICS stars from time to time. They deserve our deepest gratitude.
>> Can you tell me how to measure a young person and an adult so that a proper cello can be ordered?
Bob Jesselson replies: Here are some guidelines for selecting a cello:
>> I am a musician of many years and recently decided to enjoy learning the cello. I must admit that it is a bit more difficult than expected, which makes me very happy.
>> I am writing because somebody told me that if I want to travel with my cello I should put down the bridge and the post. Could you tell me what the "post" is?
Bob Jesselson replies: When I travel, I never loosen my strings, though I think that some people do. Therefore, I don't remove the bridge either. The danger in loosening the strings is that the bridge may fall over, and if that happens it reduces the tension of the instrument and the soundpost might fall over in traveling. All of this means that you will then need to have a luthier set everything up again, and it usually takes some trial and error to find the right spot for the soundpost.
I have traveled all over the world using a Kolstein cello case, which has an air cushion surrounding the cello that protects it very well. The cello comes out of the plane completely in tune and I have never had any problem with damage or with the soundpost falling. There are many other good cases for traveling too. Have a good trip!
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Zara was convinced of her own destiny and turned down offers of lucrative commercial work to concentrate on building a solo career. This was at a time when, in the United States, cellists were not considered salable items by the music managers. Being a woman created even more obstacles. With no managerial backing or help from wealthy patrons, her determination to have a solo career eventually led to worldwide recognition as one of the greatest cellists of all time.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
by Tim Janof
Stephen Kates studied with Gregor Piatigorsky, Leonard Rose, Claus Adam, Laszlo Varga, and Marie Roemaet-Rosanoff. He was awarded the Silver Medal at the Third International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1966 in Moscow, where he returned as the American juror in 1986. He has made solo appearances with the world's greatest orchestras in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, Leningrad, and Los Angeles. He is a former President of the Violoncello Society in New York. For seven summers he was a member of the faculty of the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California, and has taught at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore for almost 30 years. He has recorded for the RCA, Denon, Melodiya, Orion, CRI, and Bainbridge labels.
TJ: You come from a family of cellists.
SK: Yes. My great uncle, maternal uncle, and maternal grandfather were all professional cellists.
My grandfather studied at the Liszt Academy in the late 1800's while David Popper was the director of the conservatory. I don't believe he took any lessons with Popper, but he had every piece that Popper ever wrote in his library, marked with his fingerings -- perhaps in Popper's own hand. I wouldn't be surprised if Popper influenced him greatly. Popper did sign his graduation certificate.
My very first cello lesson was with my great-uncle, Paul Turkisher. The arrangement in the family was that he would start me out and then my grandfather would take over once I reached a certain level. My grandfather didn't have a lot of patience for beginners, especially a grandson, so it was deemed best for me to wait a few years before he would take over my teaching. I think he may have heard me during my first or second year of study, but he made it clear that I wasn't ready for him. Unfortunately, he died when I was twelve years old, which prevented him from ever really knowing me as a cellist. This has always been one of my greatest disappointments.
My grandfather was probably my most profound influence in my early cello life. He always played for me when I visited. I would sit under his legs and look up in awe at his instrument while he played the Bach Suites, The Swan, and the Popper Gavotte, which was a piece that really made me come alive. Those early years, when I was four to six years old, were when the idea was implanted in my soul that the cello was something for me, probably thanks to him. I also loved, admired, and revered him tremendously. His love for the cello was obviously infectious.(Click here for the complete transcript.)
Beethoven's Sonata Op. 102, #2 for piano and cello is one of his most dramatic works. The last movement, a fugue, is a prime example of his revolutionary and powerful use of the form. Although the movement starts with a simple, even dance-like subject, the music quickly begins to travel through enormously different emotional, textural, harmonic, and oratorical domains. The work derives great power from Beethoven's transcendental sense of form, phrasing, harmony, and motivic treatment of the subjects and countersubject.
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
This, I don't have to tell you, is not enough of the good stuff to get one past the weasles in the wood of even Lalo, let alone Ligeti, Haydn or, heavens to Betty-Lou ... Dvorak! I am an incompetant cellist by these measures! Hopeless!! A Joke....
So why do I have full time employment in a vivacious award-winning Period Instrument orchestra? What gives? Have the rules changed? And the last time I saw the beavers, they were ignoring me after Tuesday Technique Class, scooping great swaths of greasy hair behind their ears to get a better view of a mini-score of some work no-one wants to pay to listen to ... except people with very little money already!
So ... I have a ball, tour heaps, play lots of Bach and Mozart with lots of lovely open strings and stay in first position (I reckon it is the hardest position!). But should my place rightfully be as a beaver with a mini score? Will the voices stop? I'm feel so happy on stage, but I suspect in the darkest hours that I am so cellistically bankrupt that I've missed the entire point..........
Thanks for everything, I know you will make me feel better.
P.S. You can never have too many hats, shoes and gloves. New strings and tonal adjustments, yearly cleaning etc. is for dorks!
Dear Mr. Dorset,
After reading your letter, I poured myself an icy diet Coke and re-read it, and for the life of me, could not figure out what your problem was! You have the ultimate arrangement, and you need to get over your guilt feelings pronto! The last laugh is on all those gearheaded musical dorks that end up with boring computer jobs because they have no business skills, no social skills, and an over-abundance of technique! Some of the best studio and pit orchestra gigs I have been handed came from expert hob-nobbing of the right people. Most of them had never even heard me play! You obviously have all the skill and charm it takes to be successful (like our dreamy Todd French, hi Todd!) so if the guilt about your technique not being up to snuff is bothering you, take out the Barber Sonata, or the Faure Elegy, and give them a whirl. If you get stumped, give Colin Carr or the soon to be free-agent Andrew Schulman a call and set up a "tea," and then ask them for some friendly (free) advice.
P.S. So true, one can never amass enough clothing accessories! As I write this, my guest house is being turned into a cedar-lined walk-in closet for moi! Twelve hundred square feet should do it!
(Click here for the complete transcript.)
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>> On the passing of Zara Nelsova
I'm sorry to report that Zara passed away this past Thursday (October 10) after a long illness. She was certainly one of the giants in our field, and will be greatly missed. It's an important transition, and we'll be hearing a lot more about it in the days and weeks to come.
Bob replies: The tragedy now is how few recordings she made and how few of those are available today. At her best, she was as great as any of the legends we all speak of here. But I don't know of more than 3 CD's of hers. And London will likely never re-issue her wonderful Beethoven Sonatas with Balsam. But she was unique, a Grande Dame if there ever was one. I saw her play many times, but I'll never forget the Walton in Cleveland. When she lifted her bow and spun out the opening phrase, her face rapt and joyous, it was sheer magic. And she was always so sweet to me, even though I didn't study with her and didn't see her that often. A wonderful lady, and a great artist.
Tim Janof replies: A beautiful statement from her ICS interview:
"For me, playing music is about sharing, sharing my love for music and sharing my love for what we are as human beings. The minute I start to play, I'm in a different world, and I'm so caught up in the music and in my desire to share it with the audience that all else fades away. The overwhelming feeling I get is a sense of connection with each person in the audience; I want the audience members to know how much I love what I am doing and how much I love them. And how do I do it? I do it by trying to communicate my love through beautiful music." I think she meant every word of it. She will be missed.
BA replies: I have been struggling for a day-and-a-half searching for the proper way to express who this woman was -- as a musician and a human being. Tim's quote gives some insight. I could list her many accomplishments, I could direct you to her CD's (the Bloch and Barber being currently available on CD, and the Elgar is released in England, I believe). But I will leave that for others. I think the best thing I can do to honor her is to tell you what she meant to me in my life, because it says more about who she was than I could any other way.
I met Zara when I went to study with her in Aspen. I was 19 at the time and thoroughly burned out on music because of my disappointment in the business and musicians. As much as I admired other musician's playing I found little in their personalities or lives that I wanted to emulate. This business eats up good people and turns them into shameless, self aggrandizing, sycophants. Zara changed my view of that forever. For the first time I saw someone survive and succeed while being strong, compassionate and dedicated to principles higher than her own success. That she played beautifully, that she was so very much in the style of Casals and Feuermann and the great musicians, only made her all the more remarkable.
And yet for all her own gifts and her own successes, she would give back to her students to a fault. How many countless hours she would spend, both in lessons teaching how to create music and also in teaching us how to live. How to deal with the setbacks we all face. How to live in a world of shallow business and still protect inside yourself, like a mother protects an unborn child, your belief in yourself and in the sacredness of what we were trying to do with the music -- for our audience and for the sake of music.
Zara was well known for her views on stage deportment. I showed up for my first lesson with her wearing jeans with holes in the knees and untied high top sneakers. It produced a reaction from her I will never forget. But it was, for her, all about conveying to the audience what should be conveyed without interruption or distraction. She was elegant and perfect on stage because it was what the music and the audience deserved.
To me Zara will be always the cellist -- artist -- that could produce an unbroken phrase in shimmering gold, that could captivate audiences with a perfect intensity and passion that made the music live with a rare logic and urgency. At the same time she was the second mother who whisked me into the kitchen for coffee and cookies before a lesson because I 'looked too thin.' She overcame more hardships in her life than anyone should ever have to face, and yet never tired of picking up her students when they were down, of giving support and belief that we lacked in ourselves, or of explaining how one must live and believe to be a true 'success,' both as a musician and as a human being. There was no separation between the two for her.
That the world lost one of its greatest cellists and musicians, history will be able to judge from the recordings she has left behind. What those fortunate enough to have crossed paths with her know also is that the world has lost a woman of character, strength, courage, grace, humor, and rare compassion and decency. Alav-ha sholem, Ms. Nelsova. The world is a lesser place without you in it. I and the many others whose lives you've touched love you and miss you.
>> Two Schools of Thought
I've put together a little question, and I'm interested in anyone's reaction to it.
For background -- let's just say that when a person first starts out with the cello (as a child or adult), it seems to be a matter of simply learning technique or learning musicality, period, and getting it right -- not one version of those things, as opposed to another version. After a while, this gives way to the realization that there are many teachers, many artists, and many approaches to choose from -- really, as many as there are people, and that it's ultimately an "individual" thing. As this perspective becomes more refined, one may start to see that while this "smorgasbord" does exist, it's actually not a matter of an unlimited variety of viewpoints, but rather that cellists fall into two large classes, or categories, or basic tendencies. These two categories represent fundamentally different aims or goals in what playing the cello is all about -- in the way that a given approach to technique and musicality adds up to a qualitative artistic statement.
To provide examples of this, I've initially chosen ten of the biggest "icons" in the field, and listed them in two groups of five each. I want to stress that for my purposes in this discussion, I don't consider one category to be "right" and the other "wrong" (though I have no doubt that no matter how many times I say that, some people will think that's what I mean). They're just different. I've chosen arbitrary titles and order for the two groups, (i.e. "Group Y" and "Group Z") - just to try to avoid a "hierarchy." I'll give you the two lists, and then say a bit more about why I chose the cellists I did, and what my questions are.
I specifically avoided choosing anyone whom I've said things strongly for or against here in the past -- to help steer it away from my own personal preferences. I've also avoided those who are particularly "controversial" -- as well as those who I feel have not developed as much of a clearly defined aesthetic, (in spite of their fame), as the ones I did choose. However, to the extent that the categories make sense to you, you should feel free to add any other names to either group. That's part of what I'm curious about.
Now, here's what I'm wondering. Do you see things that the cellists within each list have in common with each other, and that differ from those in the other list? If so, what are those qualities? How would you characterize the difference? Where does that difference originate, and what makes a person focus themselves in one of these directions or the other?
Do you think the cellists in each list actually belong together? Are there some that you think should be switched or moved between the two lists? As I said before, feel free to add names, especially if you can explain *why* they belong in a certain category.
Remember that my emphasis here is not on the question of how well a given person does what they do, but, rather, the difference in what it is that they're trying to achieve, in what they're striving for, in where it's all leading, truly, in what their entire artistic output is ABOUT.
So, that's the idea to examine and ponder.
BA replies: Your list makes no sense to me. I do, probably immodestly, consider myself fairly well versed with the intricacies of some of these player's performance, and I really don't understand how one could group them in that way....
First of all, when discussing Casals we must start from the early recordings, the ones he made in the late teens and early twenties, as they represent Casals with full technical and musical ability. As his students will tell you, his true playing was never well represented on later recordings. But I can tell you from detailed study (and other detailed studies bear this out) that the two most similar players on your lists in terms of phrasing and general approach to music are Casals and Feuermann. They are so similar as to almost be one idea in contrast with someone like Rostropovich or du Pré.
Piatigorsky was variable. His work is inconsistent. Zara Nelsova used to say she thought the music was often less important to him than it was to the other two, but his instrumental and musical approach was generally in line with the other two and his good performances are simply perfectly, utterly beautiful. In musical approach he shares much more in common with Feuermann and Casals than he differs, especially in contrast to later players.
Nelsova was a student of all three but counts Casals as her greatest influence. Her playing sometimes lacks the sense of effortlessness that often belongs to Feuermann and Piatigorsky, and has more of a sense of tension than the others perhaps, but musically her ideas are drawn very much from the same book.
I afraid I don't really understand what you are getting at here. Music is a language. The instrument must be mastered and then the grammar of the language must be mastered in order for meaningful inspiration to flow. What all these players have in common (as with Heifetz) is their constant focus on how it would sound to an audience. Heifetz always wanted it to keep the audience on the 'edge of their seats,' which he did both by technical brilliance and ravishing melody. Casals' words echo a similar sentiment in different (mellower perhaps) terms, as do Feuermann's and Nelsova's. These are performers that play the music in flowing tempos, allowing the full phrase and structure to speak for the music, and at the same time know how much to push, where to slide, and what color to produce to find the maximum beauty for the ear of the listener. Less would be less, more would be less.
None of them is successful all the time, and for sure they are successful to varying degrees. I cannot conceive of any system where du Pré sits beside Casals and Nelsova. Their approaches to music and phrasing are so dissimilar!
I disagree with those who believe that every performing artist does what they do entirely as the result of artistic choice. A noble hope, but we know the business better than that. To quote Leonard Rose, "Rostropovich could walk out and piss on the stage and the audience would give him a standing ovation." People become famous, often as young prodigies, and they travel from performance to performance without the need for introspection. Fame has its own momentum. Do you believe that if someone stopped playing well their fame would subside, their concerts would dry up, and their audiences would stop the standing ovations? We have countless examples that prove just the opposite. It seems fairly likely many famous players become bit by bit more exaggerated in their expression without ever realizing it.
I can show you many things Yo-Yo does in his playing that I guarantee you are not choices but merely habits, musical and physical. We witnessed Rostropovich struggling to play the cello at the Jubilee recently. He was able to control some phrases to move as he wished to good effect, despite the problems, but how could we believe everything he did was by choice when we know he was struggling just to get out the notes?
Beyond cases of declining powers, when music is bad it is far more often from lack of thought and understanding than from wrong thought and understanding. Intelligent, educated thought is never the enemy of music. Habit, arrogance, ignorance, and a lack of listening to what we really produce are the enemies.
>> Ron Leonard Excerpt CD
I have recently purchased the CD that Mr. Leonard made of the orchestral excerpts. Overall, I am pretty happy with it. I was wondering if any of you disagree terribly with anything that he says on the recording. I don't entirely agree with his comments on Beethoven's 5th, regarding the dotted rhythm. If you have it, you know what I mean. Are there any other raised eyebrows out there?
Bob replies: There is a comment that has particularly raised eyebrows: basically that the dotted rhythms are neither exactly that "nor a triplet." And he indeed plays them somewhere in between. The Slidemaster has come down on him hard for that.
For me, the overall problem with the performances is that he emphasizes beauty of sound over all other factors. Ron was blessed with a gorgeous, natural sound, but orchestra committees I'm familiar with need to hear the applicant demonstrate ALL nuances in the excerpt, even those (or perhaps especially those) that tend to disturb the line. When us lesser talents KILL ourselves trying to bring out the accents in the Midsummer Night's Dream Scherzo without damaging the rhythm, only to hear Ron demonstrate it virtually unaccented, we wonder if we're being led down the primrose path. La Mer too: I couldn't sound 1/4 that good on my best day, but I can, and do, put in more of the hairpins.
1. Zara Nelsova dies
Zara Nelsova, one of history's greatest cellists, died on October 10 at the age of 84. She will be greatly missed by those who cherished her as a person, artist, and teacher. For more discussion, please read the items throughout this newsletter, as well as click on the links below.
2. Andor Toth dies
Cellist Andor Toth, Jr., long-time faculty member at Oberlin, died at the age of 54.
3. New cello books
4. Eva Janzer Honorees
Dimitry Markevitch, Paul Katz, Angelica May, and Milos Sádlo were honored by the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center for their life long achievements in the world of cello playing and teaching.
5. New Chamber Music Festival
Cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han have unveiled plans for a new chamber music festival in northern California, called "Music-Menlo." The two-week festival will occur next August.
6. New American Quartet Cellist
Margo Tatgenhorst, acting assistant principal cellist of the Pittsburgh Symphony and cellist in the Divertimento Trio, has replaced David Geber in the American Quartet. Geber has accepted a full-time position at the Manhattan School of Music as the chairman of the string department.
7. The Borenstein Music Festival Competition
Director: Nimrod Borenstein
Patrons: Vladimir Ashkenazy, Henry Kelly, Sir Colin Davis CH
For cellists of grade 7 standard + there is an opportunity to audition for the Borenstein Festival Orchestra Course, which will start on Monday, 14 July 2003, and culminate with a concert at St. James's Piccadilly on Saturday, 19 July 2003.
For cellists of grade 8 standard + there is the London Concerto Competition. This years' prize for cello is the 'Bruch Prize for cello,' which will be the opportunity to play the Kol Nidrei live with orchestra for the concert on Saturday 19 July at St. James' Piccadilly, London.
The winner will also be competing as a finalist for the Frederick Phelp's Concerto Prize, total value £250, (divided 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes) to be awarded to string soloists at the concert. Soloists will be required to rehearse and prepare with the orchestra throughout the week 14 -19 July 2003 and to participate in the orchestra course for the remainder of the programme.
Deadline for applications: Saturday 1 March 2003
Auditions: Sunday 9 March - Royal Academy of Music, London
Contact: Tel/Fax 0208 427 4568
8. New Feature on Cello Handbook's website
A new series is being started on http://www.cellohandbook.com: "Why Do I Have to Learn All That Stuff?" Every couple of months there will be a new chapter, which discusses various aspects of music theory as it relates to string playing in general, and to cello playing in particular. The first chapter -- "Is Music Theory Really Important?" -- is now posted.
The material is geared toward beginners and intermediate players who frequently have a problem deciding to pay attention to theory, as they cope with all the other things they have to learn. The hope is that this will also be useful to teachers as they work with certain students.
9. Award Winners
10. More Cello News
A cello news link has been engineered using Google.com's features. Be sure to bookmark it.
The Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann -- The First International Cello Competition will take place November 17-22, 2002 in Berlin. http://www.gp-emanuelfeuermann.de.
American Cello Congress
The next American Cello Congress is scheduled for May 17-22, 2003, at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.
Adam International Cello Festival and Competition
The festival was set up in 1995 by Professor Alexander Ivashkin and is run by the International Cello Festival Trust, a charitable trust here in Christchurch. The Festival is biennially held in Christchurch New Zealand. It attracts the world's best young cellists to compete in a competition, judged by world renown cellists who also appear as guest recitalists. The next festival is July 2003. http://www.adaminternationalcellofest.com.
The 6th Cello Festival in Kronberg, Germany will be a memorial to Pablo Casals, starting on the 30th anniversary of his death. The dates are October 22-26, 2003. http://www.kronbergacademy.de .
Manchester International Cello Festival
The Royal Northern Conservatory of Music Internation Cello Festival in Manchester, England, has been set for May 5 to May 9, 2004.
World Cello Congress IV
Plan ahead! World Cello Congress IV will take place May/June 2006 at Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland. Cello Congress V is also listed on their website - May/June 2010! (There are also rumors that World Cello Congress IV will take place in 2003 in Israel. If anyone knows, could they contact me?) Also promised is a "Gala Benefit Performance" in 2003 to raise funds for WCC4. "Many of the greatest stars of the music world will join forces to present a one-of-a-kind event not to be missed." Concerts, recitals, masterclasses, workshops, symposia, exhibits, receptions. http://www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongresses.
For those who attended World Cello Congress III, videos are now available at $30 (includes shipping): http://www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongresses/video.html.
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2. Cello Man
3. Arizona Cello Council
4. Kobe Cello Festival
5. Cello Time
6. Cello Diary
7. Cello Master
8. Kronberg Academy
10. Cello Technique Doctor
11. Cecilia Tsan
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