Internet Cello Society Archive

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A Brief History and Analysis of Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo

Introduction At the tender age of ten, Ernest Bloch wrote a vow that he would become a composer. He then built a mound of stones in the shape of an altar and burned the paper over the stones in ritual fashion. Before age 15, he made good on his vow, having composed both a string quartet and an Oriental Symphony. However, it was with the composition of his epic Schelomo: Rhapsody for Violoncello and Large Orchestra, that he proved to the world that he had indeed become a composer of world class ability. After a performance in November of 1923, the San Francisco Chronicle review affirmed the accomplishment, reporting: "Schelomo is a magnificent work by one of the greatest living composers. Splendid as it is in brilliant coloration, it is not in the vivid pictures that [...]

A Cello Journalist’s Journey

In 2001, I found myself sharing a taxi with Dutch cellist, Anner Bylsma, who was perhaps best known and loved for his performances and recordings of the Bach Cello Suites. We were on our way to the Royal Northern College of Music’s Cello Festival in Manchester, which was the première cello celebration in the world at the time. As we discussed what his detractors were saying about his book, Bach, The Fencing Master, I couldn’t help but note how surreal it was that this was actually happening – that I was spending time with one of my cello idols. It had been 15 years since my cello professor and former Leonard Rose student, Toby Saks, had first played his revelatory 1979 Bach Suite recording for her studio. Having grown [...]

A Biography of Gregor Piatigorsky (August, 2000)

by Robert Battey One of the pre-eminent string players of the 20th century, Gregor Piatigorsky was born in Ukraine in 1903, and died in Los Angeles in 1976. His international solo career lasted over 40 years, and especially during the 1940's and early 1950's he was the world's premier touring cello virtuoso -- Casals was in retirement, Feuermann had died, and the three artists who were to succeed Piatigorsky (Starker, Rose, and Rostropovich) were still in their formative stages. His one true peer, Fournier, was limited in his travelling abilities by polio. Thus, Piatigorsky had the limelight almost to himself. He was gregarious, loved to travel and perform anywhere, and he hobnobbed as easily with farmers in small towns as he did with Toscanini, Stravinsky, rubinstein, and Schoenberg. It [...]

Baroque Dance and the Bach Cello Suites (November, 2002)

by Tim Janof A statement made by Nathaniel Rosen about the Bach Cello Suites has been bugging me for years: "People often talk about the notion that these pieces are dance movements. They're not dance movements! They are works for unaccompanied cello which have, with the exception of the Preludes, titles of dance movements." 1 Having never seen a Baroque dance, how could I know if this statement is correct? I've read a couple of books on Baroque dance, but, like learning to play the cello, a one can't get an intuitive sense of such a kinesthetic subject from a book. As luck would have it, I recently discovered that Anna Mansbridge, a Baroque dance specialist, had moved to my hometown, Seattle. She hails from the United Kingdom, where she [...]

A Profile of Robert LaMarchina (January, 2004)

by Tim Janof Though relatively few may know of him today, Robert LaMarchina was one of the most brilliant cellists of the 20th Century. A child prodigy, he was the toast of the music world and was showered with praise from some of the most celebrated musicians of his time. Gaspar Cassadó said that LaMarchina was "the most outstanding talent I have seen." Maurice Maréchal said "There is no doubt of it, the boy is unusually gifted." Toscanini referred to him as "my little angel." Had he not gone into conducting and had some self-sabotaging tendencies from a career standpoint, there is little doubt that he would have been a household name for cellists around the world. LaMarchina was born in New York City on September 3, 1928. His parents [...]

Conversation with Thomas Demenga (May, 2007)

Interview by Tim Janof Thomas Demenga, born 1954 in Berne, Switzerland, studied with Walter Grimmer, Antonio Janigro, Leonard Rose and Mstislav Rostropovich, among others. Important chamber-musical influences were Claus Adam, Felix Galimir, and Robert Mann at the Juilliard School in New York As an internationally renowned soloist, composer and teacher, Thomas Demenga counts among the most outstanding cellists and musicians of our time. He has performed at important festivals and musical centers around the globe and shared the stage with fellow musicians such as Heinz Holliger, Gidon Kremer, Thomas Larcher, Paul Meyer, Aurèle Nicolet, Hansheinz Schneeberger, Thomas Zehetmair, and Tabea Zimmermann. He has worked with conductors such as Moshe Atzmon, Myung-Whun Chung, Charles Dutoit, Claus Peter Flor, Howard Griffiths, Heinz Holliger, Armon Jordan, Okko Kamu, Mstislav Rostropovich, Dennis Russell Davies, [...]

Conversation with Mischa Maisky (May, 2007)

by Tim Janof Mischa Maisky has the distinction of being the only cellist in the world to have studied with both Mstislav Rostropovich and Gregor Piatigorsky. Rostropovich has lauded Mischa Maisky as "... one of the most outstanding talents of the younger generation of cellists. His playing combines poetry and exquisite delicacy with great temperament and brilliant technique." Born in Latvia, educated in Russia, after his repatriation to Israel, Mischa Maisky has been enthusiastically received in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, New York and Tokyo, along with the rest of the major music centers. He considers himself as a citizen of the world: "I'm playing an Italian cello, with French bows, Austrian and German strings, my daughter was born in Paris, my older son in Brussels and my younger one in [...]

Conversation with Olga Rostropovich (May, 2003)

by Tim Janof This brief interview is with Mstislav Rostropovich's daughter, Olga, who attended the 2003 National Cello Congress in Tempe, Arizona. TJ: Do you still play the cello? OR: Not anymore. TJ: Did you quit because of the pressure of being the daughter of Mstislav Rostropovich? OR: Of course, I felt the pressure of being his daughter, but I dealt with it. I mostly quit playing because I got married and had children, and I knew that I couldn't be both a performing cellist and a good wife and mother. Somehow my mother, Galina Vishnevskaya, was able to do both. She was a prima donna at the Bolshoi Theatre Opera, the wife of a very successful man, and the mother of his children. I don't know how she did [...]

Leonard Rose Remembered (January, 2004)

by Tim Janof Leonard Rose was one of the greatest cellists of all time. Many of the recordings he made in the prime of his career continue to be viewed as the ultimate model of gorgeous cello playing. His greatest recordings have a timeless, unmannered quality that sound as fresh today as they did when they were first released. He also had tremendous success as a teacher. His former students are now leading cellists around the world, and include principal and section cellists in professional orchestras, highly regarded pedagogues, and revered soloists. Leonard Rose was a cellist's cellist, who excelled in every aspect of cello playing -- teacher, soloist, orchestral cellist, and chamber musician. While researching for this article, I had the tremendous fortune of finding Barbara Rose-Schirota, who is [...]

A Survey of Bach Suite Editions (1995)

I recently read that there are over 80 editions of Bach's cello suites in existence with publication dates ranging from 1825 to the present. When reading this, my initial reaction was one of incredulity; what significantly different information could the 80th edition, for instance, have to offer over the previous 79 editions? Fortunately, I didn't stop there. I realized that this could be viewed as a great tribute to Bach and a testimonial to the beauty of his cello suites. So I decided to investigate some of these editions and get a glimpse at the insights of each player. The Bach Suites have always been a point of contention in the cello world. Unlike violinists and their solo violin works, we do not have a manuscript copy of Bach's cello [...]

Master Class Reports: Janos Starker’s 75th Birthday Celebration (September, 1999)

by Tim Janof The following are my notes from the master classes in Bloomington, Indiana during the 75th Birthday celebration for Janos Starker (September 12-14, 1999). Please note that, though certain ideas are discussed in terms of specific points in the music, some ideas may be applied in a more general sense. Maria Kliegel's Master Class: Bach c minor Prelude The dotted notes shouldn't come out like triplets (i.e. m. 8). It is important that one learn about Baroque performance practice. Come in on the opening C's with confidence, though not necessarily with a bang. The G in measure 1 continues what the C is doing, so be sure to connect it to the previous C. One gets better articulation in the dotted eighth-sixteenth passages (i.e. m. 6) if one [...]

Cello Classics: An Interview with Sebastian Comberti (June, 2002)

Interview by Selma Gokcen SG: What led to the creation of the label Cello Classics? SC: A number of different things all coming together at the same time. At the bottom of it all is my interest in finding repertoire that hasn't been played before, which I imagine is common to nearly every cellist. In particular, for many years now, I have been trying to work out where the origins of the 19th century sonata actually lie. We are led to believe that the cello and piano sonata began with Beethoven, as if he suddenly decided to compose the Opus 5. There must have been other previous examples. In the course of my research, I frequently talked to Keith Harvey and discovered that he had similar interests. His own music [...]

Conversation with Apocalyptica (August, 2001)

Interview by Michele Klau & Rejscheck The idea was as simple as successful: to play heavy metal music on classical instruments - cellos. Today Apocalyptica is much more than a Metallica cover band. They have their own style and play their own songs. The people at the concerts don’t come to hear Metallica songs, they come to hear Apocalyptica. The four ex-Sibelius Academy students Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Max Lilja and Perttu Kivilaakso (replaced Antero Manninen who left the band in ’99) have released three albums, worked in numreous cooperations with other musicians and have been touring through Europe almost nonstop for the last few years. We made this interview with Max Lilja and Paavo Lötjönen from Apocalyptica before the concert in Jena/Germany on August 17, 2001. Thanks to Jennifer [...]

Conversation with Steven Isserlis (May, 1998)

Interview by Tim Janof British cellist Steven Isserlis performs regularly with the world's leading orchestras, including the London Symphony and the Philharmonia, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago and San Francisco Symphonies, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and Japan's NHK Orchestra, collaborating with conductors such as Ashkenazy, Eschenbach, Gardiner, Norrington, Slatkin, Solti, and Tilson Thomas. He has enjoyed working with authentic instrument orchestras such as the English Baroque Soloists, the London Classical Players, and l'Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, and he has also been an inspiration for composer John Tavener, who as a result has written many works for cello. Admired for his expertise in the chamber music repertoire, Isserlis has been responsible for programming and participating in successful chamber music festivals both at London's Wigmore Hall and at the Salzburg Festival, [...]

Conversation with Victor Sazer (1997)

Interview by Tim Janof Victor Sazer is the author of New Directions in Cello Playing. His teachers included Leonard Rose, Edgar Lustgarten, Claus Adam and George Neikrug. After leaving Juilliard, he became a member of the Houston Symphony. He later moved to Los Angeles where he enjoyed an active professional life in the film, television, and recording industries and as a chamber musician. Throughout his career, Mr. Sazer has been deeply committed to teaching and is widely recognized for his innovative and creative teaching methods. He served as an artist-teacher of cello and chamber music at the California State University at Long Beach for more than twenty years. He is a past president of the California American String Teachers Association and a founding member of the Los Angeles Violoncello Society. [...]

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