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
Posted in Artistic Vision, Baroque, CelloBlog, Chamber Music, In the Practice Room, Performance, Repertoire, Self Discovery
Tagged arm vibrato, Baroque, bow, bow vibrato, cellobello, CelloBlog, finger vibrato, Flesch, Guy Fishman, Haydn, Spohr, vibrato
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
Posted in Artistic Vision, Baroque, CelloBlog, Chamber Music, In the Practice Room, Performance, Repertoire, Teaching
Tagged Baroque, CelloBlog, coaching, Flesch, Guy Fishman, Portamento, Soyer, Tertis, vibrato
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
Posted in Artistic Vision, Baroque, CelloBlog, Chamber Music, Performance, Repertoire, Self Discovery, Teaching
Tagged Baroque, Bow Michelle Corrette, cellobello, CelloBlog, Guy Fishman
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
Posted in Artistic Vision, Baroque, CelloBlog, Chamber Music, Repertoire, Teaching
Tagged Bach, Baroque, Beethoven, bowing, bows, CelloBlog, Corelli, Guy Fishman, Vivaldi
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
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