Repertoire

Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Forgotten Masterpiece — by Brinton Averil Smith

With over 200 film scores to his name, it's more likely that you've heard Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco's music than his name. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was born in Florence in 1895 into a family that had been in Italy for generations, since the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. His career as a composer began with conservatory study in Italy, and by the 1920s he was beginning to garner attention in greater Europe. In 1932 Mario began a lifelong friendship with the guitarist Andres Segovia, who inspired perhaps his most famous work, the Guitar Concerto No.1, and became an important champion of his music. It is largely due to Segovia's influence that Mario wrote over 100 works for the guitar, which today form an important and frequently heard part of that instrument's repertoire. [...]

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 [...]

The Bach Suites Dilemma – by Laurence Lesser

For longer than any of us may care to remember, we know that violinists are blessed with a beautiful manuscript of Bach’s 6 solo works they have, carefully written out by the composer; but sometime after he wrote the 6 suites for solo cello (finished by 1721) his manuscript disappeared, probably after his death, and has to date never been found.  We are very lucky to have 2 sources, each important in different ways, that have saved these works from oblivion: copies by his wife, Anna Magdalena and by his Leipzig fellow musician, Johann Peter Kellner.  While each has its share of problems, we have more than enough from them to be able to perform these great works.  But still, no MS from the composer . . .  In this [...]

By | 2017-03-10T21:06:11+00:00 January 22nd, 2017|Categories: Performance, Repertoire|Tags: , , |

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 soliloquy.   [...]

HIP, To Be Fair — by Brant Taylor

During my years in high school and college, discussions of what is now referred to as historically informed performance (HIP) could generally be summed up like this: a player belonged either to the “modern/romantic” camp or to the “authentic baroque-y” camp. Highly impressionable students forming fledgling opinions tend to view such things through an unnecessarily black-and-white lens. But something’s also changed in the larger musical community’s awareness and acceptance of what “historically informed” means. While a certain tribalism existed during the early decades of the HIP movement, today we are in a more enlightened and accepting place where, for example, wonderful and highly varied performances of Bach’s Cello Suites are noticed first for their musical merit rather than for whether the player uses gut strings or an endpin. In teaching [...]

Some Thoughts About My Bach Recordings — by Laurence Lesser

When anyone approaches the Bach Cello Suites, it’s natural to begin thinking about a “correct” way to play them.  My teacher, Gregor Piatigorsky, used to say:  “Never play for the cellists in the audience—they always have a different idea.”  Start that instead with “Never play Bach for . . .” and life gets even harder! Like every young cellist of my generation, I was very influenced by the recordings of Pablo Casals. How could I not be? He was considered the “greatest” cellist of his day and my then teacher, Gabor Rejto, had studied with him. And how could one deny the performances of an artist who always convinced you, at least as long as his sounds were in your ears. I was lucky enough to play the D minor [...]

CelloStream Artist Master Classes – Fall 2015

Streamed live from Pierce Hall at New England Conservatory in Boston COMING THIS FALL 2015 MARCY ROSEN Tuesday, September 22nd 2015 10 am EDT LLUÍS CLARET Sunday, October 11th 2015 1 pm EDT GARY HOFFMAN Sunday, October 18th 2015 1 pm EDT PETER STUMPF Tuesday, October 27th 2015 7 pm EDT 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. […]

Beneath the Surface of Brahms — by Brant Taylor

Brahms' 3rd Symphony Cello Excerpt A successful audition performance involves showing many different sides of yourself, musically, in a condensed period of time. Therefore, it is useful if not imperative to conceive each excerpt on a list in its own distinct world of character and color. Despite being works from the same composer, the well-known cello audition excerpt from Brahms’ Second Symphony, which we previously discussed, and the cello audition excerpt from Brahms’ Third Symphony, which is the subject of this post, present quite different opportunities. While these suggestions are not the only solutions to the challenges presented by this excerpt, they are a starting point for practice and discussion and illustrate some of the details that must be carefully considered in any successful performance. Sound Production In thinking about [...]

A Return to “What Makes a Baroque Cellist”: a Slight Digression about Textbooks (Part 2) — by Guy Fishman

I ended last week’s post by qualifying the common sobriquet for the period between 1600 and 1750, “Baroque,” with a “so-called.” I didn’t mean to incite controversy, but I said “so-called Baroque period” because I meant just that. It is so called. It simply does not exist beyond us calling it so in textbooks and elsewhere. Or more accurately, we repeat some music critics’ derogatory epithet for music written during this time, an aspersion that can be found as early as 1753. The word is evidently based on the Portuguese word for “misshapen pearl.” Clearly to some, reading through a concerto of Vivaldi was comparable to risking one’s life by diving in search of a coveted calcite bead only to come up with a deformed and therefore worthless specimen. I say [...]

On How to Play the Baroque Cello: the Baroque Bow, or What Your Ear Imagines Your Bow Should Do (Part 3) — by Guy Fishman

This illustration and text come from the Methode by Michelle Corrette, published in 1741. The work remains the earliest extant treatise that deals with every technical aspect of playing the violoncello. This section details the variations in the manner of holding the bow that Corrette found acceptable. The areas that he prescribes for placing the right hand upon the bow are familiar: A player may hold the stick at the frog, or may “choke” the bow higher on the stick. The exact distance depends on the balance point of the particular bow, which in any case would be different from that of a Tourte-style stick. I caution against taking Corrette’s illustration where “ABCD” are concerned literally, that is, placed almost in the middle of the bow. I rather believe he means [...]

By | 2017-10-30T05:07:11+00:00 November 12th, 2014|Categories: Artistic Vision, Baroque, Self Discovery, Repertoire|Tags: , , , , |