Concerto

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 [...]