Interview by Tim Janof
Timothy Eddy has earned distinction as a recitalist, soloist with orchestra, chamber musician, recording artist, winner in numerous national and international competitions, and teacher of cello and chamber music. In June of 1975, Mr. Eddy received top honors at the Gaspar Cassado International Violoncello Competition, held in Florence, Italy. He has also won prizes in the Dealey Contest (Dallas), the Denver Symphony Guild Competition, the North Carolina Symphony Contest, and the New York Violoncello Society Competition. In addition to numerous solo and chamber recitals throughout the U.S., he has appeared as concerto soloist with many U.S. orchestras, including the Dallas, Denver, Stamford, Jacksonville, and North Carolina Symphony Orchestras.
Mr. Eddy received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees with honors from the Manhattan School of Music, where he was a scholarship student of Bernard Greenhouse. He spent several summers as a participant in the Marlboro Music Festival and toured the U.S. numerous times with the “Music From Marlboro” concert series. Recently, Mr. Eddy has spent his summers with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Sarasota Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Steans Institute.
Timothy Eddy teaches cello at the Juilliard School and the Mannes College and he is Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. As cellist of the Orion String Quartet (with Daniel and Todd Phillips, violins, and Steven Tenenbom, viola), he is an artist-in-residence with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and at the Mannes College of Music. With the Orion Quartet, he has appeared in major musical centers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including festivals in Lockenhaus (Austria); Spoleto (Italy); New York (“Mostly Mozart”); Charleston, S.C.; Mondsee (Austria); Turku (Finland); and Vancouver (Canada). He appears regularly in duo recital with pianist Gilbert Kalish, and he is the solo cellist of the Bach Aria Group. Mr. Eddy has recorded for Columbia Records, Angel, Vanguard, Nonesuch, C.R.I., New World, Vox, Musical Heritage, Delos, Arabesque, and Sony Classical.
Timothy Eddy is highly sought-after as a teacher, and his former pupils have come from England, France, Germany, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan and Korea, as well as the U.S. and Canada, and they have won positions in major orchestras and universities in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Far East; many have also achieved distinction in their careers as chamber musicians and soloists. Mr. Eddy has been a member of the faculty of the bi-annual Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop at Carnegie Hall in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 2001.
TJ: How did you get started on the cello?
TE: My first instrument was the piano, not the cello. My mother was a piano teacher, so she taught me along with her other students. I was never serious about the piano, and I wasn’t too keen on having my teacher living in the same house, so my time with the piano didn’t last.
I discovered the cello in fourth grade at my public school in Bethesda, Maryland. One day my class was broken into small groups and each was sent to the auditorium. A music teacher tested our ears and determined which instruments we might be suited for. My family then received a form letter stating that I was able to study any instrument I’d like, including a stringed instrument. I was particularly interested in the trumpet at the time, but I had had an accident on a jungle gym the previous year, where I had damaged the root of one of my front teeth. My dentist said that the pressure of the trumpet’s mouthpiece could damage the tooth further, so the trumpet was ruled out. It turned out that my grandfather owned a cello which someone else was using at the time. I wanted to use it, but it was a full-size instrument, so we rented a 3/4 size cello for several months until I was big enough for my grandfather’s instrument. If nothing else, I was pleased to be playing a type of instrument that nobody else in my house played.
My first private teacher was Wendell Margrave, a name that would be familiar to many who lived in Washington, D.C., in the 1950’s. I also took lessons for a while with my elementary school music teacher, Ed Cresswell, who happened to be a cellist. Eventually I ended up taking lessons with John Martin, then the principal cellist of the National Symphony. Then came Luigi Silva.
I have my mother to thank for connecting me with Silva. She was a very talented musician herself, but she hadn’t pursued a professional career in music. She had been the victim of poor early training and she didn’t receive excellent training until she was in college. She learned from her own experience that it would be vital that I get the best instruction possible while I was still young. She wanted me to have the option of pursuing a music career later, so she sought out the best teachers she could find.
In her ferreting about for good teachers and good situations, she heard about Kneisel Hall at Blue Hill, a summer camp for talented young musicians. She drove me to New York City to play for Marianne Kneisel, Franz Kneisel’s daughter, who ran the camp. After I played for her, she immediately called Luigi Silva to say that he should listen to me while I was in town. I ended up playing for Silva and he suggested that I study with him at Blue Hill that summer, which I did.
I was 13 years old the time, and the other kids were 15, 16, and 17-year-olds, many of them from New York and the Juilliard Pre-College Division. In watching the other kids, my eyes were opened wide as to what was possible on a stringed instrument. I couldn’t believe the playing I heard from kids who were just a couple of years older than me. After the summer I continued my studies with Silva at Peabody Prep, but I still wasn’t really practicing. Toward the end of the school year, Silva shocked me by telling me that he would not be able to continue teaching me. He said, “There are people waiting in line to study with me. You’re talented, but you’re not working .” Naturally, I was devastated and I dissolved into tears on the drive home. Needless to say, I began practicing seriously that week. I went to Blue Hill again that summer and practiced hard for the first time in my life; that was when I truly got hooked on the cello.
TJ: What was Luigi Silva like as a teacher? My impression is that he was pretty analytical.
TE: He was quite strict, businesslike, and demanding. He was also extremely methodical. With him, it seemed that all of cello playing could be described in one giant outline with headings, subheadings, and subtopics. For all large and small aspects of playing, there was some way to understand and describe what was involved. Furthermore, strategies for mastering any aspect of technique could be devised if the issues involved were thought through logically.
TJ: How did he teach you how to play octaves, for instance?
TE: The first step was practicing what he called “mono-chords,” which are single note exercises played with one finger. In the case of octaves, he would first have us play scales with the thumb — major, minor, chromatic, whole tone, arpeggios and so on. I realized years later that, in addition to helping the student become accustomed to using the thumb as a finger, this exercise helped to educate the arm about shifting; it is the arm that is primarily responsible for shifting, not the fingers or the wrist. This exercise is one of the purest lessons in shifting because you don’t have the distraction of changing fingers.
TJ: The hard part about octaves is that the distance between the thumb and third finger changes constantly. How did he address this problem?
TE: The next steps deal with this. First the thumb in placed on A on the D string, carefully checking its pitch with the open A string. Then the third finger is placed on A on the A string, an octave higher. If the third finger is out of tune, the third finger should be adjusted, not the thumb, because the thumb has already been tuned to the open A string.
The next step is to glissando up an octave, bowing only the lower string, the D string in this example. While doing this, the third finger approximates or “shadows” what it’s supposed to do, but it is actually not played. The glissando needs to be done slowly so that the hand’s closing can be sensed on the way up. Only after the high A is reached with the thumb and after it has been verified that it is perfectly in tune, is the third finger checked to see if it has been closed the proper amount. A similar thing is done when descending an octave down; only the thumb is played, and it is estimated how much the hand must open up on the way down in order for the third finger to be in tune.
The third finger is then checked, but only after it has been verified that the thumb is perfectly in tune. If the upwards and downwards glissando are practiced slowly in this manner, one gets a feel for the ratio of the upper and lower octaves and for the rate of change for the spacing. This method trains what I now call a kind of “master reflex,” which is the part of ourselves that gets a “knack” for certain techniques, without us needing to think about how to do them. The beauty of this preparatory exercise is that it provides a simple, more pure experience of the ratio of the two octaves without getting all hung up on the details in between. One has a chance to get the “knack” of ascending shifting leading to a specific ratio of closing the hand’s spacing.
After this outline of the skill has been mastered, intonation is checked more frequently along the way, perhaps every minor third, so that the “fuzzy line” becomes more and more defined, which results in a more precise concept of how the octaves change during the ascent and descent. Then intonation might be checked after each whole step, and then each half step. It is important that the checks only be done in a series of identical intervals so that the number of “variables” in the equation are minimized. This will provide a clearer lesson on how the ratio changes than if the intervals are mixed by playing something like major arpeggios, where there are shifts of major thirds, minor thirds, and perfect fourths. The idea is the gain a physical sense for the change in distance between the thumb and third finger.
TJ: You mentioned in another interview that Silva had a method for teaching down bow staccato.
TE: Like the octave exercise, he developed a set of very distinct steps for developing this technique. An important thing to remember is that the stroke is not done much below the middle of the bow, because it’s a forearm stroke. It should be started at or just below the mid-point.
When first learning this skill, press the stick down firmly so that the stick is almost touching the hair. He was adamant that there should be absolutely no bounce in the stick while doing this; in other words, no pressure variation. Then short quick bursts of horizontal motion are done in the down bow direction, letting the pressure and the friction stop the sound, but without releasing the pressure whatsoever. It produced a horrible sound — choked and rough — but he never seemed to be disturbed by it. He wasn’t looking for finesse at this point; he wanted to make sure that the mechanics of the stroke were clear. Then another short stroke and stop is done and so on until the tip is reached.
The brilliant thing about his approach was that he isolated the process into purely vertical and horizontal elements. He first said to press the bow down (vertical) but not to move it. Only after this has been done are short quick strokes made (horizontal), but without releasing the weight on the bow.
TJ: He sounds like an amazing teacher!
TE: Yes, he was. His method was like that of a scientist, which really appealed to me. Had I not gone into music, I might have gone into the sciences. With him, any problem was solvable, and just about any kind of skill was attainable if, with a little patience and diligence, you just used your head to figure out what the underlying issues were. This was one of the greatest gifts he gave me.
When things are explained in this manner enough times, confidence is gained that anything can be figured out by breaking it down into its core elements, which greatly affects one’s attitude towards problems in general. Technical hurdles become fascinating puzzles instead of insurmountable challenges — “How am I going to master this one? What are the basic elements of this particular challenge?”
TJ: Unfortunately, he died when you were 15 years old, which must have been a crushing blow. Your next teacher was Bernard Greenhouse.
TE: Yes, that was a very difficult time. By then I had been commuting to Juilliard Prep in New York City to study with Silva, who had left Peabody. When he died, Juilliard engaged Greenhouse to finish the semester for him. I was still grieving for Silva, so I wasn’t really interested in studying with another cello teacher at that point. There were a couple of lessons left in the school term, so I went reluctantly to Greenhouse’s apartment for my first lesson. While waiting for the lesson before mine to finish, I heard him demonstrate at the other end of the living room. His playing absolutely took my breath away. It was so beautiful and expressive, and it had a sense of personal communication as if he were speaking and singing through the cello. He impressed me profoundly with the artistic potential of making music on the cello.
TJ: Greenhouse seems to have a vastly different approach to teaching than Silva. Greenhouse discusses technique often, but there is usually a musical backdrop to his advice. It sounds like Silva enjoyed more purely technical discussions.
TE: Greenhouse certainly dealt with technique differently. I’d say that Greenhouse dealt with physical form more than Silva. Greenhouse liked to discuss technique in terms of the efficiency of movements and muscle use, as if he were coaching a professional athlete. He was always searching for the most direct and simple approach to playing. When I later worked with Casals in some master classes, I came to understand where some of Greenhouse’s ideas were rooted. Greenhouse’s desire for simplicity and efficiency of approach were very much in the Casals vein.
TJ: I would have assumed that Greenhouse’s technical approach was from Feuermann, one of his other teachers.
TE: I’m sure Feuermann had a huge impact on Greenhouse, but I recognized a lot of Greenhouse’s ideas when I worked with Casals.
Casals’ playing was built around speaking with the cello, and speaking with the greatest candor from a gut level. He was more interested in soulful playing than in prettiness, though there was incredible refinement and finesse in his own playing. His playing was so gutsy, direct, and simple that when I watched him play my reaction was “How could it be done any other way?” His technical means fit the musical end perfectly.
TJ: Greenhouse emphasizes the need to shape phrases like “rainbows,” something that Casals also emphasized. I don’t notice a lot of musicians using this idea today, however. Is this an old-fashioned concept that has gone out of style, or are many of today’s musicians missing something?
TE: That rainbow image is a manifestation of some larger principles. As Sascha Schneider often said, “Phrase with your eyes.” When the line goes up, it often sounds and feels right to crescendo. This rule of thumb often works because a composer frequently makes a line rise when he or she feels a growing emotional intensity. Just as the composer will choose more harmonic tension and dissonance to express greater intensity, they will also choose higher pitches to evoke heightened emotion.
The composer probably models this compositional practice after our speech, at least on a subconscious level. I’ve found that the degree to which the sounds we create with our instruments are recognized and perceived as deep and powerful communication depends largely on the extent to which they follow the natural characteristics of speech. The more excited we become, the more we tend to talk louder and raise our pitch, and the more sustained the intensity, the more we tend to stay at these higher levels. The same is true with music, where the emotional messages come from pitch, articulation, and sound quality. The music of speaking seems not to be as widely recognized these days as being a powerful model for much of Western classical music. Casals understood the connection and passed it along to Greenhouse, who now transmits these same ideas and values to younger generations.
TJ: You are quoted in one profile as saying to a student, “When you stop being careful it opens the possibility to do something incredibly simple.” Another time you said, “We all have worked so hard to play well and with such effort, but what we really need to do is go back to simple, innately powerful concepts.” What do you mean?
TE: This is akin to slogans that athletes use, like “Go with the Flow” or “Being in the zone.” I work with people who are doing their sincere and level-headed best to play beautifully and to play admirably. But the questions come down to, “What is it that we are trying to do, and what is the best way to approach it?”
I noticed that I began to play my best when I stopped trying so diligently and frantically to do things “correctly.” I performed much better when I began to trust the reflexes that I had built up over the years, reflexes that have been nurtured most of my life for the ultimate purpose of allowing my feelings to pour out in a stream of consciousness, unencumbered by technical concerns. This trusting attitude is an important skill because feelings are constantly changing, developing, intensifying, enriching, and sometimes going into a totally different vein. Sometimes, as Beethoven seems to be signaling so many times, they transform suddenly and without warning, bringing us into a completely different emotional landscape. I have tried to create a flexible connection between my body and this fluid emotional state by attentively listening to what the music seems to be suggesting in the moment and comparing it to the sounds I hear being emitted from my instrument. Then, without being “technical,” I ask my body to physically treat the string in a way that will produce a sound that represents more perfectly the way I feel.
TJ: You once summed this up when you told a student in a master class, “You are driven by excitement and passion, but these shouldn’t be channeled into physically working harder.”
TE: This touches on what I think is a very important perspective on the relationship between emotional state and physical behavior. The object as I see it is to translate an emotional state into the sound that reflects it. The ultimate purpose of our actions is to make this happen. Therefore we need to be malleable, and be ready to do everything and anything that achieves this goal. This can involve doing some pretty unlikely things at times, like physically letting go and backing off, even when you are feeling emotionally very involved.
TJ: Related to this, a student played the first movement of the Elgar concerto for you in a master class at the last World Cello Congress. You noted that her playing was very impassioned. Unfortunately, her emotions were getting in the way of the music.
TE: That’s right. What was remarkable in that lesson was how her playing was transformed when she lifted my arm and felt how heavy it was, and then realized how much power she had available if she would start taking advantage of her own arm weight. She discovered that she didn’t have to struggle to make things happen with tremendous muscle effort, a habit that results in a stiff-arm technique. The key is to be in a malleable, adaptable, and released state, which is the most responsive to the subtleties required for nuanced music making.
You can hear what I’m trying to avoid in some pianists. When they play with stiff arms, everything sounds like a sharp attack, even when the music doesn’t call for it. If that same speed of attack happens on the keys when the pianist’s fingers, arms, and torso are involved in a coordinated, released manner, a much more apt and beautiful sound emerges. We can learn a lot from pianists and the relationship between touch and sound.
TJ: You once said, “The way you move shapes the sound very subtly.” How so?
TE: Let’s look at the bow stroke, for example. The source of the bow stroke is actually a slight turn around the spine’s axis. When we walk, our shoulders move gently back and forth and our arms swing like pendulums in response to our shoulder movement. A similar motion should happen when sitting with the cello. The shoulders still move back and forth, but the bow arm swings in front instead of at the side. The most released and passive way to find this motion is to turn around the spine, where the bow arm swings in front in reaction to the torso’s motion around the spine’s axis. If this type of motion is taken advantage of, the sound will likely seem less forced and more resonant.
TJ: Do you think of bowing as primarily a horizontal movement in which you pull the strings to the side in a released manner?
TE: Yes, in the sense that the arm weight is released into the string and the swing of the arm from side to side is not inhibited; its extent of motion is determined by the size of the “throw” and the friction of the string.
TJ: One objection I’ve heard to this approach is that all this emphasis upon released resonance limits your color palette. Where are the opportunities for a gutsy, full sound if you’re always striving for a ringing sound? Some refer to this approach as very “East Coast.”
TE: The “release” that I usually refer to is a physical state, the allowing of the bow arm, for example, to move freely, without being either held in some way or forced to follow a particular path.
If I’m going to express the whole range of where my emotional state is taking me, then it follows that my playing is not going to be defined by any kind of dogmatic approach to technique. One should be ready to do anything and everything that will get across whatever sound one feels one needs to create, however improbable the technical approach may seem at times. Sometimes this means being very vertical, sometimes it means plastering the bow on the strings and hauling it back and forth, and sometimes it means foregoing an open and ringing sound in order to get a dense, persistent, luscious, and rich sound. Again, one must strive to be infinitely adaptable so that one can serve one’s emotional and aural imagination.
It’s possible to get so enamored of one aspect or another of your sound that you don’t let go of it easily enough. One of the advantages of being in a healthy chamber music group like the Orion String Quartet is that, if there’s something missing that the music seems to be calling for, we’re going to bring it up with each other. I feel lucky that my quartet members get on my case when I start to play too much in one way or another.
TJ: In fast, short bow strokes, how do maintain a full sound?
TE: Keeping a fullness of sound in faster playing usually involves keeping your upper arm or forearm “weighted” so that even these fast strokes are capable of engaging the string fully. (In other words, don’t suspend your arm weight!)
TJ: Janos Starker’s rule of thumb is that motions should be initiated from the larger muscles instead of the smaller ones. In fast detaché strokes he advocates moving the entire arm with a loose wrist, so that the hand sort of whips passively back and forth.
TE: True, our motions usually work most naturally in that way, from larger to smaller ones. There are an infinite number of choices as to how we can move, and these movements need to be tailored to the music being played. A large body motion can be initiated, but then it must be determined how far it is going to move. If I want to make a loud whole bow stroke with a fairly fast bow, I’m going to throw my right arm with a large and free motion to the right for a down bow, and to the left for an up bow. On the other hand, if I want to land really rock solid in the opening of Beethoven’s D Major Sonata, for instance (see Example 1), I use a stroke that is almost entirely vertical, dropping my arm like a rock. Then my whole arm bounces off the string for the next note. All motions must relate to the music being played.
TJ: You once told a student that the fingers in the bow hand need to be more active, not just reactive. What does this mean?
TE: One of the techniques we can use to come up with different sounds is to let ourselves be physically taken over by the feeling of what we are playing. As I just mentioned, we have choices as to how we behave physically. We can be in a very excited emotional state but we still have to be able to choose how we move.
It’s normal for we human beings to be literally inhabited by our feelings so that everything we do, everything we touch, everything we say, and every action we take is affected. The character of what we do, and the way we do it is affected by the way we feel. If I am immersed in a feeling that is the message I want to convey, then it inhabits me entirely, including the way I touch the bow. If a piece is exuberant, exhilarating, and full of energy, my hand will feel active, not limp and passive, and I find that I tend to want to play in a more accented manner, almost feeling a kind of spark as the bow hair touches the string. This spark is transmitted through my arm and through my fingertips.
TJ: You also cautioned a student in the Haydn C Major Concerto that this initial impulse or spark is important, but then you have to let the impulse play itself out. Feel the excitement, but don’t force the bow stroke or become stiff. (See Example 2)
TE: This relates to the concept of playing in a released manner, which means being free to move. If something is free to move, it’s free to follow through and also to rebound. Music is full of rebound and repercussion. In the Haydn, the energy accumulates at the top F, which should have the freest throw of the bow. The second F is also a response to that first throw on the downbeat.
TJ: You talk about the dangers of raising one’s right shoulder when playing. What’s wrong with this?
TJ: As we discussed earlier, one of our biggest traps is our impulse to try too hard. If something isn’t enough, then, by golly, we’re going to get in there and make it happen by muscling on through.
Our most powerful motions come from freely thrown weight. As soon as the right shoulder is lifted, even a tiny bit, the bow arm’s weight is negated. This results in the sound being weakened, so it is common to bear down even more using muscle power, which raises the shoulder even higher. The irony is that strength doesn’t come from willful determination and gritting one’s teeth. Strength comes from the release and throwing of weight. This weight is resilient and malleable, so the rhythm felt comes through the arms in rhythmic, percussive waves, which is how we naturally experience music. One event causes the next and that’s the way it should be when we play the instrument; one event bounces into the next.
TJ: Let’s talk about preparatory motions. In one master class you described a motion typically seen in cartoons, in which a character who is about to run first leans back before shooting forwards. You find this motion instructive in shifting, for example, in which one should dip and roll the elbow clockwise before shifting upwards.
TE: This notion of a wind-up before springing forward is certainly one valuable principle of preparation.
It’s important that you discover and internalize the particular choreographies that produce various musical effects. Once this is accomplished, following a certain combination of motions at any given time should produce similar musical results. It is through open and imaginative experimentation that a myriad of colors and characters can be found, i.e. a dip in the elbow, how one leans into the instrument, how one approaches the strings with the bow or fingers, a particular turning of the torso, and so on. The discovery and planned implementation of these various choreographies is the ultimate preparation, which goes way beyond simply preparing for a shift.
Preparation should not be a separate subject from music. A preparatory impulse that is done in the desired character will carry you effortlessly and naturally into just the kind of playing you want. It should feel like an emptying out, which is done without agony and without a sense of struggle, as if something very complicated must be done in order to say something simple.
There are exceptions, of course, and it’s important to acknowledge them when they occur. In music that is conflicted in character, for example, I often feel the urge to do something strong, and yet a powerful inhibiting urge keeps me from playing in an uninhibited way. In other words, it’s important to be aware of our natural tendencies, but that’s not all there is to it. We should be careful to avoid dogmatic approaches to music. If things become black-and-white, they’re not life-like.
TJ: You discussed the nature of a bowed accent in a master class several years ago. You described the process as beginning with a solid engagement of the string, then an explosive release with a fast bow, and then a coasting the rest of the way, using the natural released swing of the bow arm.
TE: That sounds about right. One of the first things I remember Greenhouse opening my eyes to was how essential it is to be varied and creative in how one uses bow speed, and this is particularly useful when playing accents. I would add to your description the drop of the bow onto the string, so that an accent is done with both a burst of bow speed and a drop. The bow’s motion ends up being U-shaped.
I find that students are often distracted by accents. They lose the overall atmosphere and tone quality of a phrase because they dwell on the sforzando marks, like in a Beethoven Sonata, for example. Because of this, I often advise my students to first play the line without the accents so that they get a sense of the development of the line. After they have had some insights into the nature of the phrase, they add the accents back.
In my experience, it is rare that the accent is truly the nature of the phrase. Instead, explosive accents are usually added for emphasis, like the emphatic consonants we use when we speak. As a result, the type and degree of release of the sound and the way it’s done with bow speed or pressure is going to depend very much on the context. If there is some kind of threatening, relentless build up of sound occurring with accents, then a slow, steady, relentless build up of the background sound is also needed, which is returned to after the accents are done.
TJ: One of your former students in your recent profile in Strad Magazine said that you use a high elbow when bowing, possibly implying that there may be dissenting opinions about this. What are the advantages of the high elbow in the bow arm?
TE: I’ve been through a number of stages myself, so my ideas on elbow height have evolved over the years. The elbow height that usually works best for me is one that provides a relatively constant slope from my shoulder, to my elbow, and to my hand. In other words, my arm doesn’t slope sharply to the elbow and then level off between the elbow and hand.
One reason I advocate the high elbow is that it feels like the simplest and strongest connection between my shoulder and the string. There is a direct line between my shoulder and my hand, which allows for the most efficient transfer of energy and motion.
Perhaps more importantly, a high elbow results in a bow stroke that is the most efficient way to pull the string from side-to-side instead of pressing the string downwards. The use of vertical pressure can result in dampening the instrument’s vibrations. In order to keep the resonance alive, and by this I don’t necessarily mean just the so-called “East Coast” light resonance, the horizontal string pulling must continue without interruption, which the high elbow enables.
Also, if you take your right forearm and open it like a hinge, that hinge should be aligned with the direction you want the bow stroke to travel. If the elbow is lower or higher than this optimal alignment with the bow stroke, then the stroke becomes much more complicated and requires all sorts of compensations.
TJ: Regarding the left hand, do you walk it along the fingerboard with your fingers, taking advantage of arm weight to press the strings down?
TE: I usually play fairly pianistically with the left hand, one finger at a time. Unlike the right arm, for which the weight and the depth needs to be constantly choreographed and modulated in order move the sound in particular directions, there should be much more of a constant sense that the left arm is resting through the fingers on the fingerboard. The fingers take over the job of supporting the arm, which should have the feeling that it is almost falling into the cello.
TJ: You said you play “pianistically.” Does this mean that your hand is fairly parallel to the fingerboard, which Paul Tortelier advocated, or do you slope it back somewhat?
TE: I keep my left wrist as undisturbed as possible, which means it’s usually pretty straight, and my left-hand fingers are perpendicular to the floor, which means they look sloped back in relation to the fingerboard.
I have come to certain conclusions based upon my own exploration of issues of cello technique and music-making, but most of all I want to encourage everybody to do their own thinking and experimenting. That’s the way we can all most effectively take possession of our own playing and find our own musical voice.