repertoire

The Rep…More than Quartet — by Thomas Rosenberg

More or Less...String Trios, Quintets and Beyond  It is generally agreed that the string quartet is the ultimate chamber music idiom. While there are surely those that differ with that assessment, I confess that I agree from my perspectives as both a listener and a performing artist. Many of the greatest composers from Haydn to the present day have tried their hand at quartet writing. Many have succeeded in giving us their best creations, some of which are regarded to be some of the greatest creative work of human kind. When asked about repertoire for other combinations of strings, most musicians can come up with a relatively small list of trios, quintets, sextets and more. However, in reality, there is a lot of music for string ensembles that are not quartets. Although the most well known [...]

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.   [...]

Power Is Energy, Unblocked and Properly Directed

The words of truth are always paradoxical.  –Lao Tzu Paul Katz was here recently in London giving a workshop on the bow to the members of the London Cello Society and raised an interesting point about strength.  His Tai Ch’i teacher once said to him, “Hardness is Weakness, Softness is Strength: Hardness is Death, Softness is Life”  This remarkable saying inspires this article. […]

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 [...]

Bach Suites and You – by Robert Battey

“In a work of art the intellect asks questions; it does not answer them” -Friedrich Hebbel Few tasks are more daunting than attempting to discern and convey J.S. Bach’s precise intentions for his Cello Suites.  Just playing them is hard enough, but a true and meaningful interpretation of the Suites requires an entirely different heuristic model than that of our other repertoire.  This is because the autograph of the Suites has been lost, and we are left only with several flawed and inconsistent copies.  Since there is no original source, everything, from notes to rhythms to phrasings, must be questioned. With many pieces, one can rely on the fidelity and accuracy of a high-quality edition, prepared either from autographs or composer-supervised prints.  There, you have the simple choice of either [...]

Myth Busters — by Brant Taylor

Instrumentalists often prepare for an orchestra audition by seeking feedback on their preparation from a teacher or colleague.  Perhaps because my career includes both orchestral playing and teaching, I am frequently asked to coach players who are preparing solo work(s) and orchestral excerpts for a given audition.  Some players I hear are very new to the audition game, while others are already seasoned professionals looking to step up to another ensemble or for a promotion in their current group.  After years of talking with these musicians about auditions in general and about the specifics of their preparation, I've noticed several assumptions that players sometimes make about auditions.  While some of these assumptions are true, and made with good reason, many others are best described as myths. Some of these are half-truths, and [...]

It’s Time to Start [NOT] Practicing — by Martha Baldwin

It’s September, the school year has begun, and the concert season is looming large. This time of year is the New Year’s Eve of the academic and music world—a time for resolutions and new beginnings. For cellists everywhere these resolutions often focus around practicing—namely doing more of it. For myself, I somehow already feel behind and the temptation to try to cram as much work in as possible, especially on my “day off” from the orchestra is strong (well, to be honest there are other days when the temptation to sit on the couch is stronger). But this year my resolution is two-fold.  Yes, I want to prepare upcoming repertoire earlier than ever this year but before I come up with a plan for that, I’m going to be planning [...]

The F-Word — by Aron Zelkowicz

“Do you play with a regular ensemble?” the lady at Kinko’s asked me. Lately I’ve noticed this to be one of the routine first questions that new acquaintances throw my way, especially in New York.  My theory is that music aficionados latch on to this question, while novices (often in airports, as we can all testify) tend to focus on the size of the cello case and the hilarity of imagining something else inside it: an AK-47, King Kong’s tennis racket, mother. In this instance my cello was not with me, but the scraps of dissected scores scattered across the work station easily gave away my vocation. She asked, “Do you play with a regular ensemble?”, which is exactly the wording that gets me like a deer in headlights. The [...]

I Found my “Dream Quartet” in an Unexpected Industry — by Margo Drakos

My love for string quartets drew me to the cello, or rather, it motivated me to practice. It isn’t just the repertoire—I was hooked by the music the first time I ever heard the early Guarneri recording of the Cavatina and Grosse Fuge.  I love the idealist concept of a quartet, and the feeling of playing an individual voice that joins together with three other voices to form a single interdependent expression.   I also love the cellist’s role in a quartet, as it requires a multitude of skills.  At once the quartet cellist is the anchor, sometimes quietly without notice, sometimes with declarative strength, sometimes a supportive counterpart, yet at other times is the prominent, docile melody.  I have taken great pride in seeking the seemingly unattainable perfection of [...]

Thirds, Thirds, Thirds… — by Lev Mamuya

Practice your thirds.  As well as improving your technique, it can be…sigh…well, even a little bit fun. Many people give thirds an unfair label: they’re boring, they’re tedious, and they’re hard… Thirds are hard at first, and require daily repetition to maintain to the fullest, but never fear! A good daily method can change you from someone who hates thirds, to someone who can look forward to practicing thirds every day. Scales are always good. Thirds scales are even better. Practicing thirds scales slowly and repetitively is an important way to improve technique such as left hand finger rounding and intonation. Plus, a slow tempo can give you more time to focus on right hand/arm technique. This may not be the most fun part of practicing thirds, but JUST DO [...]