chamber music

The Rep…More than Quartet — by Thomas Rosenberg

More or Less...String Trios, Quintets and Beyond  It is generally agreed that the string quartet is the ultimate chamber music idiom. While there are surely those that differ with that assessment, I confess that I agree from my perspectives as both a listener and a performing artist. Many of the greatest composers from Haydn to the present day have tried their hand at quartet writing. Many have succeeded in giving us their best creations, some of which are regarded to be some of the greatest creative work of human kind. When asked about repertoire for other combinations of strings, most musicians can come up with a relatively small list of trios, quintets, sextets and more. However, in reality, there is a lot of music for string ensembles that are not quartets. Although the most well known [...]

By |2017-10-30T04:35:30+00:00July 17th, 2016|Categories: Chamber Music, Performance|Tags: , , |

Opening the Beethoven A Major Cello Sonata: Obsessing Over the First Five Bars — by Brian Hodges

The five Beethoven Cello Sonatas are iconic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they’re some of the first pieces to include the cello in a true duo partnership, something the violin had been enjoying for a long time. While the first two sonatas (Op. 5, 1 and 2) are actually listed as Sonata for Piano and Violoncello, things have changed by the third sonata, Op. 69 in A Major, with the cello now getting top billing. The sonata was written during Beethoven’s middle period and immediately one can sense his expansive creativity at work in full force. The opening is one of the more notorious openings in all of the cello literature. It starts with the famous melody played by the cello alone, like a soliloquy.   [...]

By |2017-10-30T04:40:05+00:00June 15th, 2016|Categories: Artistic Vision, Repertoire|Tags: , , , |

Great Chamber Music Reading and Watching — by Thomas Rosenberg

Besides enormously enhancing listening skills, chamber music study also develops a players’ ability to sight-read, note read and watch. These are skills that are vital in orchestral situations as well. However, this is not about that kind of reading and watching! This is about books, movies and videos that will also greatly enhance the skills of anyone playing chamber music. READING: There are some great books out there about chamber music. None of these are long (300 pages or less) and are relatively quick and easy reading. I hope this will spur the interest of those reading this article to check some of them out. Con Brio: Four Russians Called The Budapest String Quartet by Nat Brandt The Budapest Quartet was perhaps the greatest quartet ever…or certainly one of the most important. They existed for nearly [...]

A Chamber Music Concert is Worth a Thousand Words — by Thomas Rosenberg

One of the goals of good teaching is assisting students to develop into interesting, compelling and communicative artists. Of course, there are many influences that create artistic musicians and many of them can be discussed and demonstrated in lessons. However, one of the factors that I believe is extremely important is also one that cannot actually happen in a lesson. For it to get done, you must often rely on the parents of your students or, for collegiate students, the student themselves. That factor is getting students to attend concerts to hear and watch professional and artistic musicians performing “live." Imagine the difference it would make to students who love sports if they could not see great athletes performing. It is relatively easy to see a basketball game, baseball game, tennis match, football game, gymnastic or swim meet, [...]

What?….I have to listen too?? — by Thomas Rosenberg

  For seven long minutes he stood. Then he stirred And he said to the bear, “do you know what I heard? Do you see that far mountain…? It’s ninety miles off. There’s a fly on that mountain. I just heard him cough! Now the cough of a fly, sir, is quite hard to hear When he’s ninety miles off. But I heard it quite clear.”  -Dr. Suess   In Dr. Suess’s story, “The Big Brag”, the rabbit goes on and on about how well he can hear. Of course, that is not the point of the story, which is about how dumb it is to brag about how great you are. (That is a possible topic for another article…not that musicians ever do that!). But it does have an important message that [...]

The Viola and 2nd Violin (The Unsung Heroes of Chamber Music Groups!) – by Tom Rosenberg

  When violinists are asked what part they prefer to play in chamber music, there are often just two answers. I wish more often that there were three common answers, but more on that later. Some like to feel like they are the star, and so they want to play 1st violin. Others are either unwilling or unable to take on the 1st violin part which often features the most virtuosic part writing in the strings and so they choose 2nd violin. The irony in that decision is that playing 2nd violin well in a chamber ensemble requires a skill set that is in many ways more difficult than what the 1st violin is required to do. And, it is very different than in orchestra, where the individual player can and often should blend into the section. [...]

Developing Musicianship Through Chamber Music — by Thomas Rosenberg

In a typical private instrumental lesson, until a student has reached a fairly high technical level, much of the time in a lesson is spent on issues such as good hand positions, intonation, tone production, fingerings and bowings, and the development of technique in both hands through scales, etudes, etc. The choice of a solo piece or pieces is usually connected to these same issues. Musicianship is hopefully discussed, and hopefully in some detail. But, the fact remains that it is unlikely issues of musicianship will dominate the lesson time. One of the great benefits of having students play chamber music is that it helps them become better musicians faster. A good, well matched chamber music group with a good coach will push forward the abilities a student has already developed and enable them to be able [...]

Being the Music — by Thomas Rosenberg

What is it that makes one performance more compelling to an audience than another? Of course, there are many things that come into play, not the least of which is the aesthetic taste of individual audience members. However, at most concerts the audience consensus is clear. When it seems dull or not played at a high technical level, they are polite; when it seems good, they are appreciative; and when it seems great, they are compelled to give energy back to the performers by clapping energetically and often standing and cheering. I believe there are usually two primary factors that create those compelling performances that audiences and performers enjoy so much. Both involve artistry, but different kinds. And, in the setting of a chamber music concert, the chances of NOT succeeding are greater than in a solo performance. [...]

Rambling About Tanglewood: Tales of a BSO Survivor

Reposted from The Berkshire Eagle. 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 [...]

Working With the Infinite Onion — by Thomas Rosenberg

Here’s a riddle for you: I am like an infinite onion. There is always another layer of me for you to peel back and you might feel like crying the entire time. I am also like doing the dishes. There is always another meal to eat and that means there will always be more dirty dishes for you to clean….forever!     What am I? The answer is:  INTONATION! Great intonation in a chamber music ensemble is one of the most difficult technical aspects to achieve for any group striving for excellence. It often requires a lot of rehearsal time, can test anyone’s patience, and all your hard work can seemingly disappear on stage, even for professional ensembles. I would like to explore the reasons it can be so tricky and complicated, [...]

Reflections from the Bleachers — by Melissa Kraut

I am not cut out to be a swimming mom.  Seriously.  I am a cellist, an artist that uses classical music to parse the profound issues of humankind.  I deal with emotions, both broad and subtle, grand and intimate.  I’m on a journey to refine a skill that I will spend my lifetime trying to achieve, and working on finding ways to convey my passion to others, to convey what is in my soul through my instrument.  I’m a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music, how can I possibly take on the role of swimming mom?? My daughter, a freshman in high school, is an avid swimmer, so it came as no surprise when she tried out for the high school swimming team last October.  As much as I [...]

Orchestra: A Love Story — by Martha Baldwin

Solo playing, chamber music, orchestra, teaching—I loved them all in college but at some point, we all must start to narrow our focus and work to establish a career that is dominated by one or two of these.  I think the most often over-looked aspect of choosing what direction to take your musical talents (insert LeBron goes to Miami joke here), is thoughtful consideration of the daily life. Happiness in life and career is so often not determined by money or status but by how closely our lives conform to our personal ideals and individual quirks. Young cellists often ask me “Why did you choose to play in an orchestra?” This is my answer. I’m a planner. I am happiest with a stable structured day with a decent amount of routine [...]

Teaching at Cello: An American Experience — by Mark Summer

As a founding member of the Turtle Island Quartet, I am grateful to Paul Katz for asking me to contribute to CelloBello. As a conservatory-trained, improvising cellist, I hope I can bring a unique perspective to this forum with thoughts on performing, teaching, and traveling with my cello. This past summer I enjoyed five days of intensely rewarding teaching and performing at the summer music program, Cello: An American Experience. The program attracted 18 young cellists from around the country, and is held at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, 44 miles south of Minneapolis. Left to right: Avery Johnson and Mark Summer My introduction to Cello: An American Experience began with a Facebook message sent to me from the director, and my old colleague, Anna Clift. Anna [...]

What You Did This Summer — by Brant Taylor

We are now in mid-summer, and countless musicians of all types are at various summer music festivals and camps engaging in musical activities that likely differ in some way from the artistic lives they lead during the rest of the year.  Whether a student or a professional, a change of scenery and the opportunity to meet and collaborate with new colleagues has many benefits.  Certainly, for those of us who spend the academic year engaged primarily in one musical activity, summer is a valuable opportunity to do something different. For professional musicians, the tendency to be defined by their "main" musical job or pursuit is strong.  A quick look down the faculty roster of the Mimir Chamber Music Festival, from which I just returned to my full-time position with the [...]

Behind the Scenes of a Music Festival (Part 3): The Rehearsal Mine Field — by Aron Zelkowicz

Quartet rehearsal, 10 am! Which means you show up at 10:04, but then decide to make a quick Starbucks run with the second violinist because the violist is parking his car anyway and seriously, who can be expected to tackle Shostakovich at 10am without their Grande Vanilla Double Soy Macchiato? You return to discuss next week’s rehearsal schedule because there have been just too many e-mails lately (and of course, what are we wearing for the concert?). You take the opportunity to xerox that missing page of your part, unfold your stands, rosin your bows, and then, finally, you’re ready….to tune. It’s ok, no big deal—10:27 is plenty early to start rehearsing. There is always tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Such may be the way of the [...]