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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Rambling About Tanglewood: Tales of a BSO survivor

Originally posted on 8/22/14 by Andrew L. Pincus for The Berkshire Eagle.


Courtesy Stu Rosner / BSO BSO cellist Jules Eskin

Courtesy Stu Rosner / BSO (RAMBLING22 / D1c)

LENOX — It’s been two times 50 for Jules Eskin this summer: the conclusion of 50 years as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist, coinciding with the conclusion of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players’ 50th anniversary season. That automatically identifies him as a founding member of the chamber ensemble.

He’s the only founding member still in it, in fact.

Eskin, 82, is a survivor. After five months out for cancer treatments, he came back to active duty at Tanglewood on July 6 to play one of his trademark solos, the big, lyrical one in Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto. He’s also back to doing his pull-ups and sit-ups and hikes up Lenox Mountain to the fire tower, he says.

He’s tough even when it comes to producing a beautiful Continue reading

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Going Up


Drawing by David Yu


The world is a ladder, which some go up and some go down.


–Gypsy Proverb


‘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

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A String Player’s Guide to the Ivory Ban

If you plan to travel abroad this summer, you may need a passport…
for your bow.


Horror stories have been circulating about the confiscation of string players’ bows at international borders due to the recent “ivory ban.” On Saturday, May 31st, seven bows belonging to members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra were seized at JFK Airport (these did not have proper documentation, and have since been released). More alarming – a bow owned by a double-bassist in the Bavarian Radio Orchestra has been held at JFK since the orchestra passed through in mid-May, as it was found to contain a piece of bone from Continue reading

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