Rostropovich

Conversation with Maria Kliegel (September, 1999)

  German cellist Maria Kliegel's international career started in 1981 when she received the "Grand Prix" of the Concours Rostropovich in Paris. She also won first prizes at the American College Competition, the First German Music Competition in Bonn, the Concours Aldo Parisot, and was in the national selection for "Concerts with Young Artists." After the Rostropovich Competition, the international concerts and tours began: she performed in Basel, and played with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and the Orchestre National de France in Paris -- each time with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting. She has performed at the Konzerthaus Berlin, Stuttgart Liederhalle, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Weilburger Schloßkonzerte, Gidon Kremer's Lockenhaus Festival, Gubaidulina Festival in West Germany, Risor Kam in Norway, Alte Oper Frankfurt, and Kultursommer Nordhessen. She has toured Europe, the [...]

Conversation with Frans Helmerson (May, 2001)

  Swedish cellist Frans Helmerson studied with Guido Vecchi in Göteborg, Guiseppe Selmi in Rome, and William Pleeth in London. Other important musical influences came through contact with conductor Sergiu Celibidache, with whom he worked as principal cellist in the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the early 1970's, as well as significant guidance and support from Rostropovich.   Frans Helmerson has performed with many of today's finest conductors and orchestras, touring throughout Europe, the USA, South America, Asia, and Australia since the late 1970's. His love for chamber music led him to take the position of Artistic Director of the Korsholm Chamber Music Festival in Finland as well as appearing at many other renowned festivals.   Since 1992 Frans Helmerson has held a Professorship at the Musikhochschüle in Cologne and [...]

Conversation with Mstislav Rostropovich (April, 2006)

Mstislav Rostropovich is internationally acclaimed and acknowledged as one of the world's greatest living cellists. He has given countless memorable performances and has inspired the world's leading composers to enlarge and enrich the standard cello repertoire with works specially composed for and dedicated to him. These include works by Britten, Bliss, Khachaturian, Lutoslawski, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Rostropovich was soloist in the premieres of Prokofiev's second Cello Concerto in 1952, Shostakovich's two Cello Concertos in 1959 and 1966, Britten's Cello Symphony in 1964 and Bliss's Cello Concerto in 1970. Many other works have been written for him and today his repertoire includes more than 50 concertos, ranging from the baroque, through the classical and romantic periods, to the avant-garde. As a cellist, Rostropovich is noted for his commanding technique and intense, [...]

The Forgotten Live Video Recording: Du Pré & the Dvořák Cello Concerto, 1968 — by Tony Woodcock

The most wonderful video performance of the Dvořák Cello Concerto by Jacqueline Du Pré and Daniel Barenboim was added to YouTube just a few weeks ago. In this CelloBello exclusive blog is a moving, personal description by a young London musician, Tony Woodcock, who was 17 years old at the time. Below he recounts the unexpected political backdrop for this historic concert, which was hastily arranged in response to the 1968 Russian invasion of Dvořák’s home country of Czechoslovakia. Tony Woodcock, by the way, grew up to eventually become the President of the New England Conservatory of Music, and was a primary supporter of the founding of CelloBello.com. My heartfelt thanks to him for his role in making our website possible, and for illuminating us on an extraordinary history that [...]

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 5): An Interview with Steven Isserlis — by Aron Zelkowicz

Your 1992 recording of Britten's Third Suite is widely known, due to its pairing with John Tavener's "The Protecting Veil" (which has been called a "cult" recording).  Do you have any approximate idea of how many copies that album has sold? I don't know—quite a few, anyway. I wonder how many people have listened to the Britten, though! There's another connection: the very first time I went to see John Tavener with my cello, I played him the passage in the coda of the Britten where the cello breaks into a chordal version of the chant for the dead—like a Russian Orthodox choir.  I remember him saying how wonderful that music sounded on the cello.  Much later, John heard me play the whole suite, and—rather to my surprise, because it [...]

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 3): An Introduction to the Third Suite — by Aron Zelkowicz

  Britten chose to build his Third Suite for Cello around four pre-existing Russian themes: three tunes taken from Tchaikovsky’s volume of folk-song arrangements, and the Kontakion, the Byzantine chant for the dead taken from the Russian Orthodox liturgy.  Rostropovich considered himself Russian Orthodox, and one can appreciate the impact of Britten presenting a score based on this theme as a gift to the cellist in Moscow.  The Third Suite also serves as a dual tribute to Shostakovich.  The second movement, Marcia, includes the signature “anapest” rhythm found in Shostakovich’s symphonies (“da-da-DUM”), and in a subtle yet ingenious linking, the final statement of the Kontakion in C minor employs the notes C-B-Eb-D: a reordered allusion to Shostakovich’s famous four-note D-S-C-H signature (D-Eb-C-B). Britten goes about weaving the Russian-themed motifs in [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]