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The Bach Suites as you Have Never Seen Them Before – By Antonio Lysy

Hundreds of scholars have studied and written about the Bach Suites, yet we can only speculate about how or when they were first performed. The original manuscript is lost, leaving us with various facsimiles to decipher, and there are no written accounts by Bach’s contemporaries. The one advantage of this predicament is the wide spectrum of artistic decisions on which a cellist is compelled to ruminate, in order to make them “their own”. Apparently the suites were not intended to be performed as a cycle, although this approach has become increasingly common in the last couple of decades. My current perspective, developed over many years of performing and teaching the suites, is that each of the six tells a distinctive story. And, like a series of books or films, each [...]

If it ain’t Baroque, don’t Break it? Thoughts about Playing Bach Today…. – By Inbal Segev

When I decided to record the Bach cello suites a couple of years ago, I started not by playing but by reading. I read Bach's biography, and then a few Baroque practice books (extremely dense and quite boring) and then I became inspired to change almost everything about the way I played Bach. I eventually came back to doing things the way that had been a part of my DNA after years of playing Bach the "modern" way (but improved), and I'd like to share some of my experiments with you. I never played from a manuscript copy before. The notes are difficult to decipher and so the work is slow and cumbersome. Worth it! Playing from copies of the surviving manuscripts by Anna Magdalena and Kellner taught me so [...]

17 (Not so) Random Tips for Practicing the Bach Cello Suites – by Inbal Segev

1. First play the bass line. Then add the top voice. 2. Think about voicing. 3. Sequences. 4. Find circles of fifths and enjoy them! 5. Gestures on slurs; the Baroque bow is heavier at the frog and lighter at the tip and sometimes it's beautiful to show the tapering of sound towards the tip. 6. Show where codas happen. 7. Interrupted cadence? 8. Sigh figures. 9. Be aware of the underlying harmony. 10. Echo effects (not too much!). 11. Vary bow pressure — Baroque bow is heavier on the down bow, lighter on the up bow. This can shape a passage of descending eight notes for example. They are not all equal in length and strength. 12. Gigue — breathe more. Feel like you are about to skip before [...]

B A C H S U I T E S – by Colin Carr

Bowings, beats, bass, bowings and fingerings fit together, bow distribution, bible? Articulation and Anna Magdelena Chords, cadences. common themes within each suite, comfort? Harmony, harmonics? Slurs, scales, sequences, spontaneity Understanding direction of phrases. Up bow or down bow? Intonation Tension from dissonance. tempo choices, trills Extremes? Surprise I was asked to choose a Bach related topic for this live Facebook chat, but I couldn’t think of justone. Instead I thought I would try to cover as many issues as I can think of, using this (gimmicky) chart as a starting point. I will talk about each of the sub-headings, and in doing so hope to answer a lot of questions before they have been asked! I have been playing and teaching the suites all my life. There have been countless [...]

Preparing for Cello Auditions as a High School Senior – by Drew Cone

By Drew Cone Applying and auditioning for schools can be really scary at times, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve been working on my repertoire for auditions for well over a couple of months now and throughout that time, I’ve learned a few things when it comes to preparing for college. Now, just to clarify, I’m no expert on this stuff; I just thought that maybe if someone if my position had any questions needing answering, it might be nice to hear from another person in the same situation, especially since I’ve already recorded most of my prescreenings and have that experience under my belt. Even if it’s a tiny tip that helps, I hope that this could help out people my age with the same aspirations! Prescreenings The [...]

How Music and Cello Changed My Life

By Nathan Chan Hey CelloBello readers! My name is Nathan Chan and I’ve been playing the cello for over 17 years. Throughout this time period, my relationship with the cello has been an ongoing evolution in the way I see music as an incredibly powerful tool of expression and creativity. What started as a hobby in the beginning of my musical learning initially evolved into a battle for technical mastery and now has begun to blossom as a freeing medium for spontaneity and exploration. As a child born and raised in the 90s, my parents were very supportive of me. My father, a Hong-Kong born cardiologist who emigrated to the states for college, represented the discipline and detail-oriented leader in my early life. My mother, a Chinese-Canadian who is a [...]

Opening the Beethoven A Major Cello Sonata: Obsessing Over the First Five Bars

By Brian Hodges: The five Beethoven Cello Sonatas are iconic for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they’re some of the first pieces to include the cello in a true duo partnership, something the violin had been enjoying for a long time. While the first two sonatas (Op. 5, 1 and 2) are actually listed as Sonata for Piano and Violoncello, things have changed by the third sonata, Op. 69 in A Major, with the cello now getting top billing. The sonata was written during Beethoven’s middle period and immediately one can sense his expansive creativity at work in full force. The opening is one of the more notorious openings in all of the cello literature. It starts with the famous melody played by the cello alone, like a [...]

Some Hassles of International Cello Travel

By Zachary Mowitz: Curtis Institute cello student Zachary Mowitz tells the story of his recent travel to Europe, and the stress and aggravation caused by inconsistent cello policies between airlines, and untrained and uninformed airline personnel. As a student cellist I've had several occasions to travel by plane with my cello, both domestically and internationally. This is the first journey where I've had any difficulty at all-- every time I've traveled before, I've always been let on (I even traveled to Europe with Lufthansa a couple years ago, and they were one of the most helpful back then), with at most a look of incredulity at my bringing a big guitar on board. In fact, everything looked all right, at first, for this flight. Lufthansa let me check in (at Philly for a flight to Valencia, [...]

Despicable WestJet Airlines Once Again Refuses Cello in Cabin!

Cello boarding pass correctly purchased by Nathan Chan. (CBBG stands for Cabin Baggage.) Canadian-based WestJet Airlines, to my knowledge, is the only airline with an official policy of not allowing a cello onboard, yet they seem to have no problem selling a seat for a cello and then denying boarding at the gate! Read in the Boston Globe how this happened to me in 2013. The situation has been suffered by cellists numerous times since, the latest being Juilliard student Nathan Chan, who I applaud for fighting back! By contrast, competitor Air Canada recently adopted a a “friendly skies” policy towards musical instruments as cabin baggage, and in the United States, the Passenger Bill of Rights says that airlines must allow the purchase of a ticket for a [...]

A Remembrance of Things Present

Bernard Greenhouse with his daughter, Elena By Elena Delbanco: In the aftermath of a grand celebration of Bernie’s 95th birthday, in Wellfleet, five years ago— a dinner for seventy five people— Bernie and I sat at the round, marble table so many of you may remember, facing the harbor. As guests had arrived and the house reverberated with laughter and conversation, he had lain in bed, telling us he was not feeling all that well and didn’t have the energy to get dressed. We told him he didn’t need to dress; it was a come-as-you-are party and his best bathrobe would be fine. And so, my father attended, making a grand entrance into the living room in his wheelchair, to applause and the beginning of a long night of toasts and merriment. [...]