artistry

Turning on Your Musicality — by Gregory Beaver

“You can teach how to play the cello, but you can’t teach musicality!” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this old chestnut espoused, both by teachers and by students. For many years, I believed it. But is it really true? Let’s start by asking the unasked question: what is musicality? Can we even agree on which performances are musical as opposed to “technical?” After years of performing, teaching, and carefully observing both my own playing and that of others, I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon: everybody sucks at answering this question. Many times I have been upset at myself for playing a wooden performance, and then upon hearing a recording of that performance, was moved by what I heard. Many more times, the opposite was true. Very [...]

By |2019-05-16T19:15:06+00:00October 30th, 2017|Categories: In the Practice Room, Self Discovery, Teaching|Tags: , , , |

The Swan — by Arnold Steinhardt

When I was eleven years old, my violin teacher assigned me The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns. I had no idea that The Swan was a famous cello solo or that it was part of a much larger work, “The Carnival of the Animals.” I had never even heard of its composer, Saint-Saëns, or seen his name in print before. I wondered why there was a funny line between his two-word last name and what could be the purpose of those strange dots perched on top. And was Saint-Saëns actually a saint? I thought that The Swan was very pretty and probably associated the music’s title with its general mood in some vague way. As a child, I often saw swans gliding regally through the water on the lake near where [...]

The Power of Quietness — by Selma Gokcen

The place to find is within yourself.  I learned a little about this in athletics.  The athlete who is in top form has a quiet place within himself, and it’s around this, somehow, that his action occurs...There’s a center of quietness within, which has to be known and held.  If you lose that center, you are in tension and begin to fall apart. – Joseph Campbell True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life. The hexagram signifies the end and the beginning of all movement. The back is named because in the [...]

Playing Audition Excerpts: Yes, the Devil’s in Them — by Brant Taylor

Although the collection of excerpts on an audition repertoire list may seem arbitrary, each one has a purpose: giving the audition candidate an opportunity to demonstrate certain things about his or her playing and artistry. Audition success involves showing a command of certain basic elements—such as rhythm, dynamics, intonation and articulations—as well as conveying a nuanced understanding of the music and the composer. A well crafted audition list will include excerpts that emphasize each of these elements, and a candidate’s ability to demonstrate control and understanding of them will determine his or her chance for success. Let's put these goals into concrete terms using a common cello audition excerpt as an illustration—the opening of the second movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 2:   Brahms Second Symphony, 2nd Mvt. [...]

Holiday Blues — by Mickey Katz

It’s an exciting time for the BSO, as we’re finishing a week of concerts and preparing to go on our first tour in a long time, playing some major pieces by Berlioz, Bartok, Harbison, Mozart, Carter, Brahms, Wagner, Ravel and Mahler (really).  But every visit to a retail store or a coffee shop reminds all of us of the inevitable—the day after we return to Boston is our first concert of Holiday Pops. In just over a week, the Miraculous Mandarin will turn into Frosty the Snowman, and Daphnis and Chloe into Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The Boston Pops has been the alter ego of the Boston Symphony since 1885, and is an integral part of the job of orchestra members. During the holidays we’re required to do a good [...]

Composing and Playing Music: How Composing Helps Your Playing — by Lev Mamuya

Composing one’s own music can prove to be a very valuable resource when it comes to interpreting the music of others, and vice versa. As a composing musician myself, I find that as I get more advanced in each field, each one’s development seems to promote the other’s. Through composing my own music I have not necessarily gained a greater technical facility, but a more complete understanding of the markings in the music that I play and a deeper appreciation of the composer’s intentions.  The practice of putting in more detailed markings has developed over time. The music of 20th century composers is generally more specific marking-wise than the music of the Baroque era in terms of what composers actually wrote into the music. For instance, the Debussy Cello Sonata [...]

Behind the Scenes of a Music Festival (Part 1): The Vision Thing — by Aron Zelkowicz

By self-imposed annual tradition, recent weeks have been crunch time, when a year’s worth of planning comes to fruition.  My pet project, the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival, held sway in early June where, for the past several years, it has settled in the form of four concerts.  I thought it might serve as a useful case study to explore various behind-the-scenes topics. This is the season when myriad music festivals around the country are in full bloom.  What is the take-away experience from any one of these that makes it unique?  Even traditional chamber music festivals have their own trademark DNA that set them apart, from big issues (BUDGET, LOCATION) to small (I’m playing in a festival this summer that offers a cookbook featuring the players’ signature recipes—cool!).  Festival X [...]

Looking & Seeing — by Selma Gokcen

In my last column, I mentioned getting to know some of your habits at the cello…the worst ones can become your best friends, in that they will offer the richest material for work on yourself. So now we step into the arena. Looking at oneself is not easy. The same instrument that presents the problems is also doing the observing, so how reliable can our observations be when the instrument itself is faulty? This was F.M. Alexander’s dilemma. His vocal problem was hidden within himself, and so he set about observing himself in a mirror, later three mirrors, to see if he could discover any correlation between what he was doing with his whole body and his specific vocal defects. After long and patient examination, he identified several harmful habits, [...]

Learning Through Listening — by Yeesun Kim

The other day in my studio class, an excellent question was brought up by one of the students.  How do we use the recordings of artists for study purposes? What is the right way and amount to listen to these recordings? How much imitation is acceptable? Can it be somehow detrimental? We had a wonderful discussion where everyone chimed in to share their experiences and thoughts about this question. It is a very important issue to be thinking about, considering how much easier it is to be downloading recordings than attending concerts these days. There are so many ways to collect many different versions of a piece one is interested in. Also, we can listen to it as many times and at any time of the day as we please. [...]

Running After What is Behind You — by Selma Gokcen

Much of our training as cellists has us working long hours, working hard, but are we working smart? Do we know what is productive and what is counter-productive in our manner of working? How do we know? Is it possible to know? Many years after my cello study at the Juilliard School, I hit a wall. I could not go further in my work with the traditional methods of cello technique, cello etudes, additional lessons and hours of practice. It seemed I was going round in a circle.  I finally realised that solution to problems at the instrument might lie somewhere beyond the green pastures I had hitherto spent my life exploring.  I said to myself: Maybe the study of music is like science.  You have to go into the [...]

Three Cellos are Better Than One — by Lluís Claret

Greetings from Spain to all CelloBello people! This is a big honor and I am full of excitement to be joining your community! I would like to begin my first blog with some personal thoughts about: three cellists living together at home! Yes, my family is made up of 3 cellists: my wife Anna, a former student and assistant; our son Daniel, also a former student; and myself. (Our daughter Aina "just" plays piano...!) Some of my colleagues may find it hard to believe we could have a successful, "peaceful" family life when there are 3 different cello personalities sharing practice space and time under the same roof. But I can tell you, it works. So, what makes it possible? Gÿorgy Sebök, the great pianist, pedagogue, and one of my main musical [...]

Two Minutes of Your Time — by Brant Taylor

Early in 2011, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will hold auditions hoping to fill two vacancies in our cello section.  In my twelve years of hearing auditions as a member of this ensemble, hundreds of cellists have presented themselves on our stage. Some have done so several times. Their audience is a committee of nine members of the orchestra who sit behind a screen in our otherwise-empty hall.  Some of us take notes during the performances, but the only thing that matters to the process is the simple "yes" or "no" each committee member marks on a blank index card after every player has finished. If a candidate receives at least six "yes" votes in a preliminary audition, he or she advances to the final round.  To those unfamiliar with the [...]

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