Setting Goals

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photo: Meb Keflezighi. In 2014, he became the first American to win Boston Marathon since 1982

“The well-prepared marathoner looks after every detail of proper physical and mental training, nutrition, hydration, clothing, and equipment.”
– Amby Burfoot (running guru and winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon)

This attention to a wide range of details occurs over months of training, all with the ultimate goal of running 26.2 miles. Musicians should train for performance the same way runners train for marathons: with great organization and structure. Marathon training plans are highly detailed, with specific goals for each day. All facets of daily life become focused around achieving a personalized and realistic goal. This goal is set for one race, and is based on previous experience and current fitness. Both running and music are daily Continue reading

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Make It Your Own: Teaching Alexander Technique

http://www.alexandertechnique.com

from http://www.alexandertechnique.com

The Alexander Technique has its own process of training to become a teacher of the work. Much like cellists, we take lessons from established teachers, we attend school daily and we begin from the beginning, with lots of preconceptions which are called habits. Our teachers constantly bring our attention to them, rebalancing and releasing negative patterns of use, mostly through their hands, sometimes through words, and often both.

As the inner fog lifts and our sensory awareness improves,  we begin to be able to “put hands on” others and transmit what we have received. It’s so tenuous at the start and requires years of experience to be able to Continue reading

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Cello and Marathon Training

 lonerunner

Rule #1 and Rule #2 focus on the mental aspect of training: about setting your intention before working on a passage. This is necessary to practice effectively, and ultimately leads to better performances. Our experience playing the cello is a delicate interplay between mind and body, which is a balance that must be cultivated again and again as age, circumstances, and stakes change.

Athletes face many of the same experiences in training and competition. Throughout my education, I found that my attitudes about Continue reading

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Queen Elisabeth Competition Adds 2017 Cello Discipline!

reposted from the Queen Elisabeth Competition

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In 2017, the Queen Elisabeth Competition will hold a competition devoted to the cello.

The decision to launch a new competition, dedicated to the cello, was a natural one, taken after meeting with a number of outstanding young cellists and against a background of worldwide enthusiasm for the instrument today. Despite this enthusiasm, it seems that the international scene has lacked a major competition devoted to the cello; the cellists approached by the Competition over recent months have reacted very favourably to the idea of establishing a competition along the same lines as the others organised by the Queen Elisabeth Competition.

The incorporation of this new discipline is sure to receive a very warm welcome from music professionals, from our extensive public, and from Continue reading

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Laszlo Varga, Cellist for the New York Philharmonic, Is Dead at 89

reposted from Herald-Tribune

Laszlo Varga during his early years with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Varga, who died this month, had lived full-time in Sarasota County since 2000.

Laszlo Varga during his early years with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Varga, who died this month, had lived full-time in Sarasota County since 2000.

Laszlo Varga, a Hungarian-born musician and teacher who escaped a Nazi work camp to become principal cellist for the New York Philharmonic under the batons of Dimitri Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein, died on Dec. 11 at his home in Sarasota, Fla. He was 89.

He died several days after a fall had precipitated a stroke, his son Michael said.

In a long career, Mr. Varga applied his virtuosic skills to solo performances, orchestral playing and ensemble work. As a young man he lost his position as first-chair cellist of the Budapest Symphony in a purge of Jews. He came to the United States after World War II as a member of a celebrated ensemble, the Lener Quartet, and in 1948 he joined the New York City Opera orchestra. Continue reading

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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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