On How to Play the Baroque Cello: Vibrato

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In my first blog entry I described a coaching I had gotten on the F major sonata by Brahms, during which I was told I sounded like a “baroque” cellist. I think this was because I disappointed her expectations as to what good cello sound should be, because I’m familiar with some of the excellent players in her circle and with how they play. More than anything else, I think it was my use of vibrato that gave her pause. I should say, however, that my playing at that time did not evince any provocative stance on this topic. But what vibrato I did apply to Brahms clearly did not near her idea of what is appropriate for romantic music.

In her defense, I concede that this idea is shared by most musicians I hear. My coach’s disappointment in my sound and her displeasure at my supposed perforation of Brahms with “baroque” tendencies were borne of a trend some 90 years in the Continue reading

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On How To Play The Baroque Cello: The Baroque Bow, or, What Your Ear Imagines, Your Bow Should Do, part III

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This illustration and text come from the Methode by Michelle Corrette, published in 1741. The work remains the earliest extant treatise that deals with every technical aspect of playing the violoncello. This section details the variations in the manner of holding the bow that Corrette found acceptable.

The areas that he prescribes for placing the right hand upon the bow are familiar: A player may hold the stick at the frog, or may “choke” the bow higher on the stick. The exact distance depends on the balance point of the particular bow, which in any case would be different from that of a Tourte-style stick. (I caution against taking Corrette’s illustration where “ABCD” are concerned literally, that is, placed almost in the middle of the bow. I rather believe he means Continue reading

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The Buddha, The Brain, & Bach: One Cellist’s Inner Exploration of Practice

 By Barbara Bogatin (see bio below) 

Buddha

My bare toes feel cold on the smooth cement. The scent of rosemary is hinted in a gentle breeze, as a bee glances my ear and wild turkeys caw raucously in the distance. I take a slow breath—in … pause, out … pause—and become aware of the arising of the intention to take a step.

As the weight shifts to the left side of my body, my right knee bends slightly, lifting the heel off the ground, and then the ball and the toe glide airborne over the stone till the tip of my toe reaches its destination. Balance shifts as the right foot bears the full body weight and I stand suspended, legs apart, caught in a slow-motion reenactment of a child learning to walk.

Try as I might to stay present to the vividness of my internal world, a flashback sharpens into focus: I’m 14 years old, sitting on a scuffed wooden straight-back chair with my Continue reading

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Rule #1

(SP)OLY-RUSSIA-SOCHI-FIGURE SKATING-LADIES SHORT PROGRAM

 

I can still vividly recall the lesson in high school when I first learned of RULE #1 and RULE #2. Somehow, though, I am still unable to impart these crucial principals upon my own students with the same gravitas as my teacher did then. These two general guidelines shaped the way I learned to focus my practice time and prepare my mind and muscles for Continue reading

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Sports and Cello: Starting the Discussion

cellorunning

We see the dramatic moment in sports all the time: with the game on the line, a player steps up to shoot the game-winning free throw, kick the field goal, or take the penalty kick. Make or miss, social and news media chatter about these moments for days afterward. Documentaries and TV series offer detailed views inside the lives of athletes and behind-the-scenes depictions of how Continue reading

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On How To Play The Baroque Cello: The Baroque Bow, or, What Your Ear Imagines, Your Bow Should Do, continued

Charles Philips Portrait of a Gentleman

For the continuation of my brief discussion of the baroque bow, I’d like to begin by listing several descriptions that I believe only faintly hide a prejudice towards it as a primitive tool. “The baroque bow is for speaking, while the modern bow is for singing.” “The baroque bow articulates while the modern bow sustains.” “The baroque bow makes a lean, silvery tone, while the modern bow creates a round, lush sound.” And my favorite, “the baroque bow naturally weakens as it is pulled towards the tip.”

Before I continue, a quick reminder of two things I mentioned in my previous post: First, what your ear imagines, your bow should be able to do. That last description is usually left where it ends because in this case, the comparison to the modern bow should obviously result in “…while the modern bow does not,” which is, in fact, untrue. As a bow of any period and design is pulled and the hand – the source point of the arm’s weight – moves away from the string, the sound will Continue reading

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On How To Play The Baroque Cello: The Baroque Bow, or, What Your Ear Imagines, Your Bow Should Do

Bylsma Bach

What Your Ear Imagines, Your Bow Should Do. Remember this as you read the following.

Here’s another Hallmark-worthy, embroiderable line: The Bow is the Soul of the Violin. By extension, the description applies to the cello, as well. Writer upon writer of numerous treatises from the 1540s to the 1920s describes the bow in exactly these terms. When, in 1924, Carl Flesch declared that the bow was responsible for clearly-defined intellectual tasks, while the left hand (meaning a constantly vibrating left hand) awakened the “deep feelings which subconsciously slumber in our souls,” he was performing a 180-degree turn away from over 450 years of string-playing tradition. He was describing a trend popular with himself and many others, where constant vibrato and a purely instrumental sort of “singing” was displacing what may have been a more Continue reading

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This Looks like another Viola Joke, but it’s Not a Joke! Air Canada’s Outrageous New Policy

Reposted from The Violin Channel

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Air Canada has today published a detailed explanation of its musical instrument transportation policy – declaring violins and cellos are permitted to be taken within the cabin, but violas must be transported within the hold.

“Violins may be accepted as carry-on or checked baggage,” the online Air Canada policy statement has outlined – however “Violas can only be accepted as checked baggage.”

“A cello may be accepted as checked baggage, or may be transported in the cabin if Continue reading

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On How To Play A Baroque Cello: Gut Strings, continued

gut strings II-2

In last week’s blog, I outlined a brief history of gut strings in the 20th century. Here I complete my blog on gut strings, and also offer a bit of advice on their use.

There is no doubt that the character of the sound of gut strings differs from that of steel. Gut has what is usually described as a warm sound. This is despite the fact that the surface tension of gut is much higher than steel, and the “buzz” that musicians often hear under their ears coming from gut strings is part of what propels the sound toward the listener. I have found that the variety of color between the strings and along the same string, especially on unwound gut, creates a great deal of interest in the ear and dissipates the need for higher decibel levels. I question if these are significantly higher with steel strings, on which players use a variety of technical tools in order to create the impression of greater volume, as well. Clearly, I have an opinion about Continue reading

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New England Conservatory cellist Tony Rymer wins Second Prize in Enescu Cello Competition

Eun-Sun Hong

Eun-Sun Hong

Cellist Eun-Sun Hong (South Korea), has won the 15,000 Euro First Prize at the 2014 Enescu Cello Competition in Bucharest, Romania. New England Conservatory cellist Tony Rymer (USA) received the 10,000 Euro Second Prize and Sarah Rommel of USC (USA), the 5000 Euro Third Prize.

Eun-Sun Hong has performed with important international orchestras such as The Seoul Philharmonic, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Russia Philharmonic, and the South Korean Chamber Orchestra. At only 25, she won the Third Prize in the Tschaikovsky International Competition.

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Tony Rymer, photo by  Glenn Triest

Tony Rymer, photo by Glenn Triest

Cellist Tony Rymer has already performed major concerti to critical acclaim with the Atlanta Symphony, Boston Pops, Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, and Pittsburgh Symphony, among others.  A native of Boston, Tony  attended the Walnut Hill Arts School and then NEC, where he studied many years with CelloBello founder Paul Katz, and with Laurence Lesser. He is featured on this CelloBello website in many CelloBello lessons with Paul Katz, as well as in Pieter Wispelwey’s master class of the Schubert  “Arpeggione” Sonata.

Reached for comment, Rymer said, “Performing with the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ovidiu Bălan was Continue reading

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