Concerto

Conversation with Alban Gerhardt

After winning several international competitions early on (Wettbewerbserfolgen 1990 at the ARD, and the Leonard Rose International Competition in 1993), Alban Gerhardt has established himself as one of the world's leading cellists. His career-launching debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has led to performances as soloist with such orchestras as the NDR Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich, and Frankfurt Radio Orchestras, Bamberg Symphony, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Dresden, Hamburg, and London Philharmonic Orchestras, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, National Symphony, Houston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orchestre National de Belgique, St. Petersburger Philharmonikern, Shinsei Symphony Orchestra Tokyo and Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, as well as the chamber orchestras of Lausanne, Amsterdam, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. Among the distinguished conductors with whom [...]

Conversation with Gary Hoffman

American cellist Gary Hoffman was born in Vancouver, Canada, in 1956. At 15 he made his London recital debut in Wigmore Hall; his New York recital debut occurred in 1979. At the age of 22 he became the youngest faculty appointee in the history of Indiana University School of Music, where he remained for eight years. Mr. Hoffman, who is frequently invited to hold master classes, has coached cellists at numerous institutions and festivals, including Aspen, the Gregor Piatigorsky Seminar at the University of Southern California, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, the Casals Festival in Prades, the Eastman School of Music, Schleswig-Holstein, Verbier, Ravinia, etc. He achieved international renown following his victory at the Rostropovich International Competition in Paris in 1986. He has appeared as soloist with some of the [...]

Conversation with János Starker (2)

"With his peerless technical mastery and intensely expressive playing, Janos Starker is universally recognized as one of the world’s supreme musicians." (New York Times) János Starker was born in Budapest in 1924 and began studying the cello at the age of six. By the age of eight he was coaching his first pupil, and by eleven he was performing in public. His early career took him through Budapest's Franz Liszt Academy, and on to positions of first cellist with the Budapest Opera and Philharmonic at the end of World War Two. In 1948 he emigrated to the United States where he subsequently held the posts of principal cellist with the Dallas Symphony, Metropolitan Opera of New York, and the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner. In 1956 he started his world-wide [...]

Conversation with János Starker (1)

János Starker is known throughout the world as a soloist, recording artist, and teacher. Born in Budapest in 1924, Janos Starker came to the United States in 1948, where he subsequently held the principal cellist chair in three American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner. Starker then resumed his international performing career in 1958. Since then he has performed thousands of concerts with orchestras and in recitals throughout the world. When not touring, János Starker holds the title of Distinguished Professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, where his classes have attracted talented string players from around the world.   TJ: Is there such a thing as a student with no talent for an instrument? JS: I wouldn't say that a person has no talent, I would rather say [...]

The Holy Sextet (Part 2) — by Brant Taylor

Part 1 began an exploration of three bow variables that—in addition to the three well-known concepts of weight, speed, and contact point—make up a sextet of basics that should be known and practiced to maximize your control over the string with the bow.  We discussed the first and most important, bow angle, in Part 1. The remaining two variables may seem relatively minor, but they are by no means unimportant. If practicing means attempting to find solutions to the challenges of successful instrumental control, you should attempt to understand every potential reason for success or failure with the bow. FLATNESS OF HAIR, or how much of the hair makes contact with the string. Many cellists hold the bow with the stick tilted up (toward the fingerboard) to some degree. This means that [...]

Tour Musings — by Alisa Weilerstein

I'm now a few days removed from one of the most exhilarating—and definitely the longest—tours of my life.  I've grown accustomed to playing a different concerto every week, sometimes with a recital thrown in here and there.  But I can't remember the last time I actually played only one piece for three weeks straight.  However, that's exactly what I did in the last week of March and first two weeks of April; I played Shostakovich 1st Concerto fifteen times across the US with the St Petersburg Philharmonic and Yuri Temirkanov. I've had so many thoughts about this tour and am struggling to consolidate them into a coherent blog entry.  I have to start by saying what an incredible musical and educational experience it was for me.  There are players in [...]

Defining the Intangible — by Melissa Kraut

Several years ago I was asked to contribute to an article for Strings Magazine on "what teachers look for in an incoming student."  I was excited about the article—what a fantastic idea—a compilation of suggestions from teachers who listen to 100+ cellists a year auditioning for music schools!  Despite my best intentions, I still haven't crafted a contribution. (Here is where I should publicly apologize to the cellist, who is no doubt reading this entry, for the 3 year delay in responding to your request).  My neglect  was not for lack of interest, or lack of knowledge or experience on the subject.  It came down to the difficulty in putting words to something that  is so nebulous—defining the intangible.  The title for this entry popped into my head during audition [...]

In the Zone — by Talya Buckbinder

I received my most memorable lesson in distraction during my first year of playing the cello.  My teacher sat me down one day, instructed me to play the Gavotte from Suzuki Book 2, and then proceeded to demonstrate the most amusing display of histrionics I'd ever seen, even going as far as to caterwaul loudly and spill her coffee down the front of her dress.  My teacher thought she could train me to focus on the music if she presented me with an array of possible distractions. At the Perlman Music Program, Toby Perlman would tell us the story of how Mr. P played a concert through an earthquake and continued performing, completely unaware that the earth was trembling below the concert hall.  We all laughed incredulously, though I couldn't [...]

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 [...]