A Return to “What Makes a Baroque Cellist:” A Slight Digression about Textbooks, continued

guypic

I ended last week’s post by qualifying the common sobriquet for the period between 1600 and 1750, “Baroque,” with a “so-called.” I didn’t mean to incite controversy, but I said “so-called Baroque period” because I meant just that. It is so called. It simply does not exist beyond us calling it so in textbooks and elsewhere. Or more accurately, we repeat some music critics’ derogatory epithet for music written during this time, an aspersion that can be found as early as 1753. The word is evidently based on the Portuguese word for “misshapen pearl.” Clearly to some, reading through a concerto of Vivaldi was comparable to risking one’s life by diving in search of a Continue reading

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Rule #2

boxing2

The previous post introduced the concept of Rule #1 (Never Stop), which trains the mind for performance by teaching it to stay focused, even after mistakes. Simulating the timing and continuous playing of performance is a crucial experience to be repeated many times during training. Through Rule #1 practice, we get important feedback about our Continue reading

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A Return to “What Makes a Baroque Cellist:” A Slight Digression about Textbooks

historywestern

My recent posts about “How to Play the Baroque Cello” were brought about by earlier posts in which I attempted to answer the question, “What Makes a Baroque Cellist.” I spent almost as much time contemplating my difficulty in answering this very interesting question as I have finally trying to answer it. Undoubtedly, there are concrete topics that may make up an answer, and I have tried and will continue to discuss these. But my struggle was palpable. That may be because, despite what we all know, see, and hear, ultimately there may not be such a thing as a “baroque cellist,” nor did such a person ever exist. Not now, nor in 1697 or 1732, nor at any other time. And this is because there may not have ever been a “baroque period.”

“WHAT DID HE SAY?!?!” you ask. Your incredulity is Continue reading

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On How to Play the Baroque Cello: Vibrato, continued

vibcontinued

In last week’s post, I attempted to set out the basic arguments made by those musicians who, for over four centuries, advocated a judicious approach to the application of vibrato to stringed instrument sound, and those who, for the last ninety years or so, have championed a more continuous presence for this expressive tool. Members of the former group adhered to the original attribution of vibrato as an ornament that is most highly effective when employed sparingly, where those who belong to the latter group see it as an indispensable component of good tone production.

Two things should be kept in mind. The first is that each statement constitutes what is largely a philosophical stance, although the Continue reading

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On How to Play the Baroque Cello: Vibrato

vib

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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