vibrato

Emanuel Feuermann and the Art of Phrasing — by Brinton Averil Smith

There has been a long-running debate in the string-playing world regarding the 'Golden Age' of string playing, generally considered to span the 1920s to the 1960s. While many today are happy to listen to and model their playing on more contemporary players, there has been a persistent argument made that the players of that era—Heifetz, Feuermann, Kreisler, Oistrach, Casals, and numerous others—played in a different way than more recent players. It is easy to dismiss this argument as the eternal 'nothing is as good as it used to be' meme and, when painted with too broad a brush, such generalizations quickly fall apart. The string players of that era were, after all, a group of vividly different players with different approaches—as are today's players. Yet when one begins to examine [...]

By |2018-12-19T17:55:07+00:00May 18th, 2018|Categories: Artistic Vision, Self Discovery|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

On How to Play the Baroque Cello: Vibrato (Part 2) — by Guy Fishman

In last week’s post, I attempted to set out the basic arguments made by those musicians who, for over four centuries, advocated a judicious approach to the application of vibrato to stringed instrument sound, and those who, for the last ninety years or so, have championed a more continuous presence for this expressive tool. Members of the former group adhered to the original attribution of vibrato as an ornament that is most highly effective when employed sparingly, where those who belong to the latter group see it as an indispensable component of good tone production. Two things should be kept in mind. The first is that each statement constitutes what is largely a philosophical stance, although the latter is supported by the overwhelming majority of live and recorded playing on [...]

On How to Play the Baroque Cello: Vibrato (Part 1) — by Guy Fishman

  In my first blog entry I described a coaching I had gotten on the F major sonata by Brahms, during which I was told I sounded like a “baroque” cellist. I think this was because I disappointed her expectations as to what good cello sound should be, because I’m familiar with some of the excellent players in her circle and with how they play. More than anything else, I think it was my use of vibrato that gave her pause. I should say, however, that my playing at that time did not evince any provocative stance on this topic. But what vibrato I did apply to Brahms clearly did not near her idea of what is appropriate for romantic music. In her defense, I concede that this idea is [...]

By |2017-10-30T05:07:22+00:00November 20th, 2014|Categories: Artistic Vision, Baroque|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

On “What Makes a Baroque Cellist”: Foreign Languages (Part 1) — by Guy Fishman

Photo: painting by Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) of the Gore Family (1775).   I began answering “What makes a baroque cellist?” in a blog posted last year. Since that time, some memories of my not-so-distant youth have been prominent among the many thoughts that are conjured by the question. I first encountered what we now call historically-informed performance practice when I was about 14. I had only been playing the cello for a couple of years, but my first teacher gave me tapes (yes, tapes) of cello concerti by Vivaldi and Boccherini, performed on standard instruments, very early during my time with her. I found that I felt an immediate kinship and attraction to music of the 18th century. Two years later, the film Tous les matins du monde premiered. I [...]

By |2017-10-30T05:10:53+00:00September 8th, 2014|Categories: Artistic Vision, Baroque, Self Discovery|Tags: , , , , , , |

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 Swan — by Arnold Steinhardt

When I was eleven years old, my violin teacher assigned me The Swan by Camille Saint-Saëns. I had no idea that The Swan was a famous cello solo or that it was part of a much larger work, “The Carnival of the Animals.” I had never even heard of its composer, Saint-Saëns, or seen his name in print before. I wondered why there was a funny line between his two-word last name and what could be the purpose of those strange dots perched on top. And was Saint-Saëns actually a saint? I thought that The Swan was very pretty and probably associated the music’s title with its general mood in some vague way. As a child, I often saw swans gliding regally through the water on the lake near where [...]

Exploring Beethoven’s Fifth: Second Variation — by Jonathan Pegis

Picking up where we left off last time, at the conclusion of variation 1 it is a good idea to keep counting in between the two variations.  You want to play this second variation in the exact tempo as the theme and first variation.  I will say right at the outset that there is no ideal fingering for this excerpt!  It just doesn’t lie well on the cello.  My fingering is a bit unusual in that I do not use the thumb at all, or any open A strings.  I do, however, use the A string for some of the notes.  I highly recommend not playing the open A just because it tends to really stick out.  Many cellists don’t use the A string at all which is also fine [...]

Exploring Beethoven 5th, Variation One — by Jonathan Pegis

Continuing our discussion of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, let us examine the first variation. As I did with the theme, I will first talk about the technical challenges of this excerpt and then look at the musical challenges.  First of all, it is very important that you play this excerpt in the exact same tempo that you played the theme.  A common mistake is to play this variation much faster than the theme simply because of that long first down bow.  One trick that helps is when you finish the theme keep counting the quarter note rests at the end of measure  10, and then count off the two quarter note rests in measure 49.  (Almost like you were making a cut!)  You can do the same thing at the end [...]

Exploring Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — by Jonathan Pegis

Here in just a few measures is an excerpt that has confused, befuddled, and downright scared more cellists than just about any other excerpt (please click image to enlarge): The theme from the second movement of Beethoven's fifth, along with the first two variations, shows up on the vast majority of cello audition lists.  I thought it would be educational to spend some time exploring this theme, and future blogs will explore the first and second variations.  To begin with, this excerpt is one of a handful that I have coached for many years where I am actually LESS confident than I used to be.  Why?  Because every teacher, every coach, and every conductor has had radically different ideas about all the different aspects of this theme.  Temp, color, dynamic, [...]

Holiday Blues — by Mickey Katz

It’s an exciting time for the BSO, as we’re finishing a week of concerts and preparing to go on our first tour in a long time, playing some major pieces by Berlioz, Bartok, Harbison, Mozart, Carter, Brahms, Wagner, Ravel and Mahler (really).  But every visit to a retail store or a coffee shop reminds all of us of the inevitable—the day after we return to Boston is our first concert of Holiday Pops. In just over a week, the Miraculous Mandarin will turn into Frosty the Snowman, and Daphnis and Chloe into Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The Boston Pops has been the alter ego of the Boston Symphony since 1885, and is an integral part of the job of orchestra members. During the holidays we’re required to do a good [...]

The Rules — by Brant Taylor

A while back, I accepted an invitation from my good friend Pansy Chang to teach her cello students.  Pansy teaches cello at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  She was taking a sabbatical for a semester and wanted to make arrangements for her students to receive lessons from different teachers in her absence.  I had a very enjoyable time meeting and working with the cellists in Oxford. It is always enlightening—and sometimes highly entertaining—to observe the various posters, photos, educational degrees, cartoons, and other items which adorn the walls of teaching studios around the world.  Among many other things hanging on the the walls of Pansy's studio, I noticed a piece of paper which I immediately knew could occupy a prominent place in my studio as well.  Titled simply "The Rules," [...]

Finesse — by Brant Taylor

Any musician who has interests outside the realm of music has probably discovered ideas and concepts important to other disciplines which are directly applicable to the study and performance of music.  The lessons we can learn about greatness from outside our own field are often very powerful because the underlying principles tend to be universal and not confined to any single discipline.  For the famed American chef Thomas Keller, there is one word he uses to describe his entire philosophy of approaching his craft at the highest level: finesse.  Chef Keller apparently doesn't want anyone who works for him to forget it—the word and its dictionary definition are emblazoned directly on the tiles above the entrance to the kitchen at Per Se, his high-end (and delicious) New York City restaurant: [...]

Searching For One’s Cello Voice — by Bonnie Hampton

It is a remarkable thing that just as our vibratos show our  individual expression, so ultimately does our “cello voice” as we develop our sound with the bow on the cello. What are the elements which make up this search? It is a given that we can’t make a beautiful sound unless our bow arms are free and we are finding our energies all the way from the back, with none to the various joints or muscles adding physical tension or tightness.  We need to have in our imagination, the qualities of sound we respond to. Perhaps we have heard a wonderful cellist who has inspired us, or perhaps there is a tone quality in our inner ear which we strive for. We are so fortunate,  the cello is capable [...]

Bernard Greenhouse: January 3, 1916-May 13, 2011

Bernard Greenhouse left us May 13, 2011. Please scroll to the bottom of this posting and add your personal recollections and tributes for Bernie in the comment box. Bernard Greenhouse, one of my true cello heros and a man I loved and admired, passed away this morning in the middle of his 96th year. It was a peaceful death, middle of the night, in his sleep. It was not unexpected, yet it is so hard to accept. Thousands of friends, family and colleagues, generations of students will be saddened by this loss, for his music, his teaching, the legendary warmth of both his cello sound and his personality, have truly inspired the love and devotion of untold numbers. I had been eagerly looking forward to an upcoming visit to Bernie’s home on [...]

“Which Hand Do You Hear?” — by Bonnie Hampton

When Paul Katz invited me to participate in the “CelloBello” Blog, I was intrigued and immediately saw his idea of a free exchange of cellists sharing their experiences, exploring ideas together and just being in contact as a larger community.  As cellists,we have a rich heritage and spirit and we certainly love that instrument a great deal.
  Otherwise, why would we carry it all over the world! There is so much to explore, but one thing which I find an endless investigation is the whole use of the bow.  Of course, all the issues of the left hand are immediate.  We play the notes.  Expressively, our uses of vibratos are part of our individual “voice,” but while one might call the work of the left hand, our craft, how we [...]