CelloBlog

100 Cello Warm-Ups and Exercises Blog 3: Stretches Part 1 — 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 [...]

Travels with Ima – by Robert Jesselson

This year my cello is celebrating its 300th birthday. Made in 1716 by Jacques Boquay, I call her Ima, as in “I’m a Cello” because whenever I fly with her I book the ticket as Ima Cello. That way I collect the frequent flyer miles and get a free meal! When I was younger it was a lot easier to travel with a cello—in fact when I lived in Germany, I used to fly with Swiss Air and they usually just let me take Ima on the plane without paying for a seat. Later I bought a big Kolstein travel case—it is huge and bulky, but it has an inflatable “balloon” that surrounds the cello inside the case and is made out of Kevlar so you can shoot a gun at it and it won’t pierce the [...]

By |2018-08-05T06:32:03+00:00March 9th, 2017|Categories: Luthiers|Tags: , , , |

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 much. There is really no way of [...]

By |2017-10-30T04:21:55+00:00February 13th, 2017|Categories: Artistic Vision, Baroque, In the Practice Room, Performance|Tags: , , , , |

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 the start. 13. When playing [...]

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 just one. 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 [...]

By |2018-03-15T04:30:28+00:00February 2nd, 2017|Categories: Artistic Vision, Baroque, Teaching, Performance, Repertoire|Tags: , , , , |

Cellist Taeguk Mun wins $25,000 János Starker Foundation Award

Reprinted from The Strad 12/14/2016 South Korean cellist Taeguk Mun has won the János Starker Foundation Award, worth $25,000. Granted to cellists under the age of 30 ‘who have already begun a significant career in music’, the prize was created in memory of legendary Hungarian-American cellist and pedagogue János Starker, who died in April 2013 at the age of 88. Candidates submit an unedited video recording of six works, representing Pre-Classical, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century and Contemporary eras of Western music. A former Juilliard School student, Mun is currently a pupil of Laurence Lesser at the New England Conservatory in Boston. He won the Pablo Casals International Cello Competition in 2014, and the Andre Navarra International Cello Competition in 2011.

By |2017-10-30T04:28:29+00:00December 14th, 2016|Categories: News, Janos Starker, Competition|Tags: , , , , , |

Conversation with Mstislav Rostropovich

Reprinted from Internet Cello Society 11-29-2016 By Tim Janof 4-6-2006 TJ: When you burst onto the music scene, people were struck by your white hot performances. Your sound was strong and your vibrato was wide, which was a striking contrast to your predecessors. Where did your unique concept of sound come from? MR: Let me give you a little background first. My family lived in two-room apartment in Baku until I was seven years old. My mother was a pianist and my father was a cellist who had worked with Casals. There is a picture of me sleeping inside my father's cello case when I was four months old. My first instrument was the piano, which was my first love. To this day, when I am learning a new cello [...]

Jules Eskin, Principal Cellist at Boston Symphony Orchestra, Passes at Age 85

Reprinted from the Boston Symphony Orchestra 11/17/2016 Jules Eskin, the legendary principal cellist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 53 years, passed away at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts, after a long struggle with cancer. Mr. Eskin began his more than half-century tenure as BSO principal cello in 1964 and since 1969 occupied the Philip R. Allen Chair, endowed in perpetuity. He played for five different music directors, including Erich Leinsdorf, William Steinberg, Seiji Ozawa, James Levine, and the BSO's current music director, Andris Nelsons, and performed as soloist with the orchestra on numerous occasions. He was featured as soloist with the orchestra in Richard Strauss's Don Quixote, Ernest Bloch's Schelomo, Brahms's Double Concerto, Beethoven's Triple Concerto, William Schuman's Song of Orpheus, and cello concertos of Samuel Barber, Antonín Dvořák, Franz Joseph Haydn, Camille [...]

Preparing for Cello Auditions as a High School Senior — 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 nice thing about [...]

By |2017-10-30T04:31:43+00:00October 31st, 2016|Categories: Auditions, High School Blogs|Tags: , , |

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 Juilliard-educated pianist, was [...]

International Federation of Musicians Publishes Ranking of Airlines’ Musical Instrument Policies

The International Federation of Musicians has published a ranking of airlines' musical instrument policies. The rating system ranks policies as red, amber or green according to how accommodating each airline is of musicians’ instruments in the cabin. From the IFM website: Airline rating | Disclaimer 1. The information that we provide about the airlines’ policies re. musical instruments strictly reflects the information that was available on the airlines’ websites at the time these data were last updated on the FIM website (please check the date of the last update). 2. Our rating of airlines is based on the following criteria: • Airlines complying with the current US FAA regulation (entered into force in 2015) are rated as GREEN (best grade). These companies accept musical instruments in the cabin, provided they fit [...]

By |2017-10-30T04:39:14+00:00September 1st, 2016|Categories: Cello Travel|Tags: , , , , |

Conversation with Bernard Greenhouse

 Reprinted from Internet Cello Society 11/28/98 By Tim Janof: TJ: You studied with Felix Salmond who also taught Leonard Rose. BG: When I was 18, I had to choose between entering a pre-med program or trying out for Juilliard. I chose to try for a Juilliard fellowship, which I was awarded, and I began to study with Felix Salmond. He was sort of a funnel for talent from all over the United States, since there weren't many cellists at the time. There were only eight cellists at Juilliard, as well as at Curtis, and each one was a very gifted player. TJ: Did you attend school with Leonard Rose?  BG: No, he was at Curtis, in Philadelphia, though we were quite aware of each other because of our common teacher. I remember going [...]

The Spine: Our Very Own Superhighway — by Selma Gokcen

I only learned about the importance of the spinal column to cello playing as I was introduced more deeply into the Alexander Technique. Of course I knew the superficial facts about the spine and especially how vital it is to the health of the nervous system. But its particular relevance to cellists was not brought home until I began training in the work of teaching the Technique. Here are a few interesting facts about the spine to start off 1: The spinal cord is surrounded by rings of bone called vertebrae. Both are covered by a protective membrane. Together, the vertebrae and the membrane make up the spinal column, or backbone. The backbone, which protects the spinal cord, starts at the base of the skull and ends just above the hips. The spinal cord [...]

Yo-Yo Ma on Intonation, Practice, and the Role of Music in Our Lives

Reprinted from Strings Magazine, September 17 2015 By Martin Steinberg: "A cellist walks on a beach and picks up a bottle. A genie pops out and says, “I give you two wishes.”  The cellist says: “Wow, I’d like to have world peace.”  The genie thinks for a second and says,  “That’s too hard! What’s your second wish?” The cellist says, “Well, I’m turning 60 and I want to play in tune.”  The genie thinks for a second and says, “What was your first wish again?”  Musicians, take heart. That joke was told by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma during an interview ahead of his 60th birthday on Oct. 7. After 55 years of playing, yes, even Yo-Yo Ma needs to practice. “What all string players have in common is that if [...]

By |2017-10-30T04:38:40+00:00June 28th, 2016|Categories: Self Discovery, Interviews|Tags: , , , , , |