Drawing by David Yu
The world is a ladder, which some go up and some go down.
‘Think up along the spine’: five of the most important words in the Alexander Technique. It takes as much hard work, patience and humility to understand and live these words as it does to interpret great works of music, perhaps more, because thinking up along the spine means that every waking moment we can be conscious of ourselves, not only when we are making music.
For cellists, thinking up along the spine is going for the gold. So given its importance to us as players, what does this phrase tell us? Working backwards from the last word to the first, let’s see where it takes us. Continue reading
Last summer I was once again a participant in the Marlboro Music Festival. As always, the school generously provided my wife, Dorothea, and me with a house off campus. This time we were given the former home of David Soyer, the cellist of our Guarneri String Quartet for thirty-seven of its forty-five-year existence. Dave passed away in 2010, his wife, Janet, in 2011.
I knew Dave and Janet’s house rather well, a charming, rustic old place set in the woods, and I looked forward to staying in it. When people asked me whether I wouldn’t feel funny living in their house now that they were gone, I laughed and said no at first without really thinking much about it. But then I began to wonder whether Dave and Janet would in fact have liked us to be sleeping in their bed, breakfasting on their porch, or inviting friends over for coffee Continue reading
Posted in Performance
Tagged Arnold, beauty of phrasing, career, cello, cellobello, David Soyer, Guarneri String Quartet, In the Key of Strawberry, incisiveness, intelligence, Italy, Jacqueline du Pré, Marlboro Music Festival, memories, memory-inducing objects, musical world, obituary, Peter Wiley, posters, remembrance, Spoleto, Steinhardt, string quartet, students, teacher
One of the most frequent problems my students ask me about is how to get inspired to practice. Old, young, serious and casual cellists alike come to me in frustration: “But I just can’t find the inspiration to practice right now/ever/this month/today etc. etc.” Parents ask even more often how to get their child to practice without a battle. Here’s the thing - there’s a hard truth about being a cellist, about the practicing it takes. It’s not always fun. Continue reading
Posted in Artistic Vision, In the Practice Room, Performance, Self Discovery
Tagged appointment, Baldwin, cellist, cello, cellobello, daily routine, discipline, feel like practicing, Habits, how to get yourself to practice, Inspiration, inspiration to practice, Martha, Practice Room, practicing, problems, rehearsal, routine, schedule, structure, truth
David Soyer, cellist and founding member of the Guarneri String Quartet, passed away on February 26, 2010- one day after his 86th birthday. Michael Tree, violist, and John Dalley and I, violinists, the other founding members, played in the quartet with Dave for almost forty years and we knew him for close to fifty. Peter Wiley, a former cello student of Dave’s and his successor in the Guarneri Quartet, has known him for easily forty years. Given the close musical and personal relationship that we had with Dave stretching over decades, it is hard to believe that he is no longer with us.
Dave and I first met at the Marlboro Music School- quite literally at a rehearsal for Brahms B Major Piano Trio. In the course of that two-hour rehearsal, I learned very quickly that Dave was smart, direct, even blunt, yet full of wit and charm. And from his very first notes, I knew that I was in the presence of not only an outstanding cellist and musician, but also someone with a distinctive and compelling voice. Dave’s playing could never be confused with that of a solid but generic cellist. As in everything about him, music included, Dave was an original. Continue reading
Posted in Artistic Vision, Chamber Music, Performance, Teaching
Tagged Arnold, artist, bold, bow control, Brahms B Major piano trio, cellist, cello, cellobello, David, distinctive, editor, extraordinary human being, Ford Honors, Ford Motor Company, Guarneri String Quartet, historian, impeccable intonation, John Dalley, lasting mark on the world, Marlboro Music School, Michael Tree, music, musicians, Soyer, Steinhardt, Style, Touring, Travel, University of Michigan, writer