In the Practice Room

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 3: Stretches – Part One – by Robert Jesselson

  I think that most people understand the importance of stretching before (and after) playing an instrument. I like to say that we are athletes: we are “small muscle” athletes involving the fingers, wrists, and arms. But actually playing the cello really involves the entire body. Whether it is a matter of producing sound from the lower back, or being physically expressive with our movements, we need to make sure that we are using our bodies in the best possible ways. Just as with any athletic use of the body, we need to make sure that our muscles are warmed up well before we start playing – and that we “cool-down” afterwards.  Warming-up helps by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscles, reducing the possibility of soft-tissue injury, and [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

Announcing CelloStream Master Classes 2016 – 2017

Streamed live from Pierce Hall at New England Conservatory in Boston COMING 2016 - 2017: YO-YO MA Monday, October 24th 2016 2:00 - 4:30 pm ET LAURENCE LESSER Sunday, November 13th 2016 7:00 - 9:30 pm ET ANDRÉS DIAZ Tuesday, December 6th 2016 7:00 - 9:30 pm ET PAUL KATZ Sunday, February 19th 2017 7:00 - 9:30 pm ET JOEL KROSNICK Friday, March 31st 2017 1:30 - 3:30 pm ET To tune in for a live-viewing of a CelloStream Artist Master Class, please navigate to the CelloStream page at the appropriate time. To read bios of previous CelloStream master class artists, please see below. PREVIOUS MASTER CLASSES JOEL KROSNICK TRIBUTE Mar 23rd 2016 7:30 pm EDT  Joel Krosnick has performed as soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician around the world. As a member of the Juilliard String [...]

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 [...]

A Chamber Music Concert is Worth a Thousand Words

One of the goals of good teaching is assisting students to develop into interesting, compelling and communicative artists. Of course, there are many influences that create artistic musicians and many of them can be discussed and demonstrated in lessons. However, one of the factors that I believe is extremely important is also one that cannot actually happen in a lesson. For it to get done, you must often rely on the parents of your students or, for collegiate students, the student themselves. That factor is getting students to attend concerts to hear and watch professional and artistic musicians performing “live”. Imagine the difference it would make to students who love sports if they could not see great athletes performing. It is relatively easy to see a basketball game, baseball game, tennis match, football game, gymnastic or swim meet, [...]

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 21: Alexanian Exercises

Today’s Blog is devoted to some thumb position exercises by Diran Alexanian that my teacher in Freiburg, Spanish cellist Marcal Cervera, gave to me in 1972. These exercises are not in included in Alexanian’s seminal book on cello technique, Traite Theorique et Pratique du Violoncelle  (Theoretical and practical treatise of the violoncello).Alexanian’s book includes several pages of other thumb position exercises (pages 125 ff.) which are well worth practicing, but I believe that these 13 exercises have never actually been published.  I do not know how Cervera got these exercises, but I copied them from his notebook, and studied them with him.  I find them to be very useful. Alexanian was born in Armenia in 1881. He became Casals’ assistant at the École Normale de Musique in Paris. His treatise [...]

What?….I have to listen too??

For seven long minutes he stood. Then he stirred And he said to the bear, “do you know what I heard? Do you see that far mountain…? It’s ninety miles off. There’s a fly on that mountain. I just heard him cough! Now the cough of a fly, sir, is quite hard to hear When he’s ninety miles off. But I heard it quite clear.” Dr. Suess In Dr. Suess’s story, “The Big Brag”, the rabbit goes on and on about how well he can hear. Of course, that is not the point of the story, which is about how dumb it is to brag about how great you are. (That is a possible topic for another article…not that musicians ever do that!). But it does have an important message that many musicians, especially [...]