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Straight vs. Angled Bowing: A Visual Experiment

This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to study at the Bowdoin International Music Festival. One of the pieces that I brought to the festival was the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3. The main goal I had for the piece was to sound less “choppy” and play with a smoother legato sound. After trying everything I could think of to solve the problem on my own, I brought the issue to my teacher, Paul Katz, who like a skilled doctor immediately saw what the problem was and fixed it! The problem turned out to be that rather than keeping my bow straight, i.e., perpendicular to the strings, I bowed in a semicircle. As soon as I started to bow in a straight line, I was able to [...]

By |2019-09-12T01:27:03+00:00September 11th, 2019|Categories: Featured, In the Practice Room, Teaching|Tags: , , , , , |

Not Enough

The long drive from Aspen gave me a chance to refine a bit what I said to my students there to end our last class: I have been almost as lucky as you can be in this business. I've had countless disappointments of course- some deserved, some not. That is the nature of the business. But I have a good job, a happy reputation, a balance between solo, chamber, orchestral playing and teaching, the good fortune to be friends and colleagues with some of the musicians I admire most in the world, and the respect of some of the peers that I care the most about. I've had the chance to travel, play concerts, enjoy the camaraderie and live some of the enviable life. I haven't had everything, but I've [...]

By |2019-09-04T01:13:43+00:00September 4th, 2019|Categories: Featured, Self Discovery|Tags: , , , , , , |

Remembering Anner Bylsma

I play early music on period instruments because of the great Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma, who passed away on July 25 at the age of 85.  When I was 14 I entered the classical music section of a Tower Records store where Bylsma’s recent release of arrangements of music for unaccompanied flute and violin by J.S. Bach, performed on his son’s 7/8ths-sized cello tuned like a violin, was being played.  I didn’t pay much attention to it until Bylsma hit the final note of the prelude to the E major Partita, BWV 1006. It ended a driven but, as I realized much later, subtly nuanced and very “spoken” performance. It seemed the energy stored by what had preceded the note was fully released by it: powerfully, beautifully, emphatically, and most [...]

By |2019-08-28T23:45:13+00:00August 28th, 2019|Categories: Internet Cello Society Archive, Featured|Tags: , , , |

Conversation with Anner Bylsma

        Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma received his first lessons from his father and concluded his instruction with Carel van Leeuwen Boonkamp at The Hague Conservatory, when he was awarded the Prix d’excellence. In 1959 he won a prestigious first prize from the Pablo Casals Concours in Mexico. He was solo cellist with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam from 1962 to 1968. He performs regularly around the world as a soloist and recitalist, and has recorded for Das Alte Werk, Telefunken, Decca, Harmonia Mundi, Seon, RCA, Phillips, and EMI. Anner Bylsma is perhaps most famous for his interpretations of the music of Baroque and Early Classical periods. He recently published a book on the Bach Solo Cello Suites, entitled “Bach, The Fencing Master - Reading aloud from the [...]

Remembering Anner Bylsma (1934 – 2019)

With heavy hearts we share the loss of Dutch cellist, Anner Bylsma.  His presence and artistry have made an enormous impact, profoundly influencing the lives of generations of cellists.  Over the course of his career, Bach played a significant role in Bylsma's life as reflected in his performances, writings, and the two sets of recordings of the complete Cello Suites he made in 1979 and 1992.  In fact, his first recording was the first ever to be recorded on gut strings, achieving a significant stride in the period performance movement. Bylsma was a strong believer in the essential accuracy, and therefore sanctity, of the Anna Magdalena Bach manuscript of the Cello Suites.  He accepted there were some mistakes but not that all performance indications were suspect and therefore optional.  In [...]

By |2019-08-10T02:26:34+00:00July 29th, 2019|Categories: Featured, News|Tags: , , , , |

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 9: Mentalization and Mimes Part 1 — by Robert Jesselson

Although I am in China this week and next, I would like to share these two blogs on mental practice – it’s “mind over matter”. Playing the cello is very much a physical activity. Our ability to play is in many ways governed by how we hold the instrument and the bow. As soon as we take the cello out of the case and sit down our body automatically does what it is used to doing – […]

THINKING IN A NEW WAY—Overcoming Habits (Part 1 of 6): The Value of Quietness — by Selma Gokcen

We can overcome habits of a lifetime in a few minutes if we learn to use our brains. —F.M. Alexander The obstacle is the path. –Zen proverb I offer this six part series of articles to demonstrate how I work with the Alexander Technique to help musicians to overcome deeply ingrained habits. If a quick and easy fix is what is wanted, then the reader won't find it here. The process as I see it is multi-layered—the same habits that affect our cello playing and music-making are also our habits of life, the way we perceive, react and behave, moment to moment. Such observations are at the heart of Alexander's work. Albeit with the help of a good teacher the process of unlearning habits can be easier, there are no shortcuts. [...]

New and Old — by Yeesun Kim

This summer I had two very different experiences performing contemporary pieces. The first piece, as it turned out, had several performances spread over two months. Two concerts included working with the composer prior to the concert. The second piece was set up to be only performed once, without the composer's presence and with only two days of rehearsing. Both pieces were quite difficult in their own ways. The first piece called for virtuosity, stamina and the ability to clearly outline the structure and narrative in order to hold the piece together. The second piece was almost the exact opposite. Short and obsessively detailed in its use of sound effects, it abounded in the use of extended techniques.  It employed extremely soft dynamics and seemed to purposefully obscure perceptible structure in [...]