virtuoso

Reminder: Memorial for Janos Starker at Indiana University this Sunday, September 22

  All invited to the Janos Starker Memorial at Indiana University, Sunday, Sept. 22. A message from Janos Starker’s daughter, Gwen Preucil; I am writing to let you all know that there will be a memorial for my father at Indiana University on Sunday, September 22nd at 4 pm at the Musical Arts Center in Bloomington, Indiana. […]

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 [...]

Remembering Hungarian Cello Master János Starker — by Benjamin Ivry

Having survived a Nazi internment camp during World War II, Hungarian Jewish cellist János Starker (1924-2013) led a life focused on civic contributions and behaving with utter freedom. Starker, who died in Indiana on April 28 at age 88, witnessed some of the worst horrors of modern history, and was determined to devote himself to constructing the future. He and his parents, of Polish-Ukrainian Jewish origin, survived their imprisonment, but his two older brothers Tibor and Ede, both accomplished violinists, were murdered in Nazi labor camps. Starker’s notion of free behavior included a lifelong habit of consuming quantities of whiskey and cigarettes, neither of which impeded his ferociously concentrated playing. It also embraced free speech, even when the expression of his musical taste might wound students or established colleagues. In [...]

Backstage with the Boston Cello Quartet — by Blaise Déjardin

A few weeks ago, I had a video conversation with my 4 years-old nephew and my brother on Skype. At one point, my brother (also a cellist) tells my nephew: “You know Blaise plays in a cello quartet? He plays with three other cellists.” My nephew starts laughing: “A cello quartet? Noooo…That’s not possible!” Yes, it is! But it is indeed a strange concept and I believe it is rare to get a chance to have such a group with a long-term commitment. Since the Boston Cello Quartet is now releasing its first CD album, “Pictures”, it was interesting to look back on our three years together and talk about the challenges of being in a cello quartet. When I asked my colleagues to form a cello quartet, I knew [...]

A New Look at Sight-Reading (Part 2) — by Robert Battey

"I can play something ok if I have some time to practice it, but I can't sight-read to save my life."  How many times have we heard this lament or some variant, particularly among adult amateurs?  It does express a common deficiency.  Sight-reading is a specialized skill, which must be acquired separately and in addition to one’s general technical work, so it’s quite common for a competent player to be a weak sight-reader. The term “sight-reading” is a poor one since it’s both obvious (how else will you read music if not by sight?) and inaccurate (“sight-playing” is a little closer, though not by much).  It’s been used to mean several different things, but the meaning we’re concerned with here, and the only context in which the skill level really [...]