recordings

Phrasing and Meter — by Robert Battey

Today’s ruminations have to do with musical phrasing.  As a music critic for the Washington Post, I'm regularly attending concerts of all kinds.  That, plus a lot of chamber music coaching, leads me to ruminate on this subject often.  The ability to produce clear phrasing is just as important as having good rhythm or intonation, but a lot of folks don’t do it well, or as well as they think.  Remember, in grade school, when we had to take turns reading aloud from the book?  And how some kids were flat, with little inflection and the same pause between every word, while with others it came out sounding like natural speech?  To a certain extent it’s the same with music, sometimes even at the professional level. It’s often been remarked that the [...]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 4): An Interview with Colin Carr — by Aron Zelkowicz

  Two of my favorite recordings of the Third Britten Suite are both by Colin Carr, with whom I studied during a summer in high school and then years later as a doctoral student.  On both occasions I brought the Third Suite to my lessons.   You first recorded the Third Suite on an album for GM Records, “Unaccompanied Cello”, with solo works by Kodaly, Crumb, and Schuller.  Was this your solo debut album? I had a recording made as part of the Naumburg competition prize, Franck and Debussy sonatas and a few little Faure pieces, but this was my first commercial recording. Why did you choose to include the Britten with these other works? I wanted it to be all unaccompanied and didn't want to play Bach. That meant a [...]

The Britten Cello Suites (Part 2): An Interview with Steven Doane — by Aron Zelkowicz

My first live encounter with a Britten suite was an in-your-face experience.  Steven Doane played the First Suite, Op. 72 as a “dry run” for a group of students as we crammed into an Eastman studio with barely enough floor space to not get poked with an upbow.  Mr. Doane’s association with the piece has only grown, leading to a brand new recording of the complete suites to be released this year.  I asked Mr. Doane about his thoughts and experiences playing this demanding work over the years. Do you remember the occasion of learning the Britten First Suite for the first time? It’s a piece that I discovered late - I was in my mid thirties when I started working on it, and it was revelatory.  It was an [...]

Pezzo Capriccioso, Transitions, Alterations, and Rosin (Edited Version) — by Robert Battey

I am indebted to Aron Zelkowicz for correcting factual errors in the first version of this article, and to Peter Close for locating an on-line version of the original score.   Today’s ruminations are on Tchaikovsky.  And his congenital weakness regarding transitions.  It’s kind of endearing, that such a genius would have this Achilles’ heel; for some reason, his muse regularly deserted him when he needed to stitch together two sections of music. It could be in a placid spot, such as the transition to the jerky second theme in the first movement of the Piano Concerto . . . or the connecting “music” preceding the waltz variation in the A minor Trio. It could also be in a transition meant to increase tension, like the second return to the [...]

Bach Suites and You – by Robert Battey

“In a work of art the intellect asks questions; it does not answer them” -Friedrich Hebbel Few tasks are more daunting than attempting to discern and convey J.S. Bach’s precise intentions for his Cello Suites.  Just playing them is hard enough, but a true and meaningful interpretation of the Suites requires an entirely different heuristic model than that of our other repertoire.  This is because the autograph of the Suites has been lost, and we are left only with several flawed and inconsistent copies.  Since there is no original source, everything, from notes to rhythms to phrasings, must be questioned. With many pieces, one can rely on the fidelity and accuracy of a high-quality edition, prepared either from autographs or composer-supervised prints.  There, you have the simple choice of either [...]

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 [...]

Myth Busters — by Brant Taylor

Instrumentalists often prepare for an orchestra audition by seeking feedback on their preparation from a teacher or colleague.  Perhaps because my career includes both orchestral playing and teaching, I am frequently asked to coach players who are preparing solo work(s) and orchestral excerpts for a given audition.  Some players I hear are very new to the audition game, while others are already seasoned professionals looking to step up to another ensemble or for a promotion in their current group.  After years of talking with these musicians about auditions in general and about the specifics of their preparation, I've noticed several assumptions that players sometimes make about auditions.  While some of these assumptions are true, and made with good reason, many others are best described as myths. Some of these are half-truths, and [...]

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. [...]

Sound Designer — by Jeffrey Zeigler

As we continue our discussion about the various ways to integrate a sophisticated approach to sound design, there is one point that I would like to make before we get to far into the equipment nitty-gritty. That is of the need for your own sound designer. I think that the person in this role has both the most important as well as the most unsung job in a given concert. Important because they have complete responsibility for how you actually will sound in the hall. You may play wonderfully, but it could all be for nothing if, for example, the sound person has set you up to sound brash and tinny. But I also say unsung because the audience will only see them as the person standing at the mixing [...]

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