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


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.


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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On How to Play a Baroque Cello: Gut Strings


gut strings III will now attempt to shift the focus of my series on baroque cello from attempting to define what a baroque cellist is to getting to it and actually playing a baroque cello. Before I do, I would like to point out to the reader that for the vast majority of those of us who play period instruments came to them after we had gained experience on standard ones. Holding the cello between one’s legs, using a baroque bow, minimizing vibrato, and other elements that seem, in the minds of many, to be trademarks only of the period instrument movement therefore often feel as though they are diminishing something we’re used to, almost to the point of deprivation. It’s similar to dieting, in the sense that one often limits what one eats, and says to oneself, “I can’t eat this, I won’t eat that, I don’t eat this and the other.”

But making music has to be a wholesome, indulgent, and positive experience, at least in a Continue reading

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On “What Makes a Baroque Cellist:” Foreign Languages, continued

Baroque Cello

In the previous segment of this blog post I began providing an attempt at an answer to “What Makes a Baroque Cellist.”  I ended with the assertion that what unites many of my favorite early-music practitioners – who in fact often enjoy active careers playing music from all eras, including our own – is a love for language.  I promised that this love is what helps define a “baroque” player, at least of the sort that I admire.  I’d like to illustrate how this is in the following.

There are volumes upon volumes written by brilliant women and men on the causes for the dawn of late-nineteenth century isms: Expressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, then Neoclassicism, Minimalism, etc.  When tonality had outlived its usefulness to some composers, they created new languages.  Their favorite performers had the benefit and privilege of having the composer teach them his or her new language.  Theorists (oftentimes the composers themselves) could write extensively on the new language in order to try to attune the public’s ear to it.  The creation of a new language was occurring quickly and before everyone’s eyes and ears, and by midcentury many spoke the new tongues and few were exempt from having to gain fluency in them.

I recently had the pleasure of coaching several terrific college students on some baroque music.  Armed with an already sure technique, they glided through even the most demanding passages.  But it wasn’t always right; Continue reading

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New England Conservatory Cellist Taeguk Mun Wins Pablo Casals International Cello Competition

Reprinted from Xinhuanet.com

Taeguk Mun

Taeguk Mun

BUDAPEST, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) — Twenty years old cellist Taeguk Mun of South Korea, winner of the Pablo Casals International Cello Competition was presented with his award in Budapest on Saturday as part of the 48th Budapest International Music Competition at the Hungarian Academy of Music.

The presentation was combined with a concert which included performances by Mun as well as second-place finishers Ildiko Szabo of Hungary and Tomasz Daroch of Poland, and third placed Santiago Canon-Valencia of Colombia.

Mun performed Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor, op. 129. He was accompanied by the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Janos Kovacs.

Daroch played Chopin’s G-Minor Cello Sonata op. 65, with Maria Kovalszki on the piano, Szabo played Continue reading

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On “What Makes a Baroque Cellist:” Foreign Languages


Johann Zoffany (1733-1810).  The Gore Family (1775).  

I began answering “What makes a baroque cellist?” in a blog posted last year. Since that time, some memories of my not-so-distant youth have been prominent among the many thoughts that are conjured by the question. I first encountered what we now call historically-informed performance practice when I was about 14. I had only been playing the cello for a couple of years, but my first teacher gave me tapes (yes, tapes) of cello concerti by Vivaldi and Boccherini, performed on standard instruments, very early during my Continue reading

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CelloStream Artist Master Class Series 2014-2015

Streamed live from Pierce Hall at New England Conservatory in Boston


Marcy Rosen
Sunday, 28 September 2014
2:30 pm-5:15 pm EDT

Joel Krosnick
Sunday, 19 October 2014
10:00 am – 12:30 pm EDT

Alisa Weilerstein
Thursday, 30 April 2015
exact time TBA

For info and videos of previous CelloStream master classes, please see below.

To view a CelloStream Artist Master Class, please navigate to the CelloStream page at the appropriate time.

For up-to-date information on the next live streaming of a cello masterclass, please check CelloBlogs and/or CelloBello on Facebook periodically. Continue reading

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