The First

Huffington College - Sat, 2016-12-03 05:30
Tony Woodcock http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/tony-woodcock

Conversation with Mstislav Rostropovich

Cello Bello Blog - Tue, 2016-11-29 17:50

 

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 work, I always start at the piano instead of the cello. One of my father’s favorite games was to have me play a melody on the piano starting on a key that he chose at random. I became so proficient at this that at four or five years old he had me do it for friends. My parents never thought that I might have a special talent for the cello.

After my family moved to Moscow, my father played in orchestras that performed in small towns, such as Zaporozh’e. He did this to make some extra money in the summer months. I remember going with my godmother to open air concerts of my father’s when I was seven or eight years old. I’d cry when I listened to Tchaikovsky or some other sentimental music, and my godmother would give me a piece of chocolate to soothe me. I soon learned the trick to getting chocolate.

It was around this time that my father said he wanted to teach me how to play the cello. I told him that I didn’t want to be a cellist because I wanted to become a conductor instead. He replied, “First you must try the cello. If you are successful with the cello, you can do what you want after that.”

My mind, even at that age, was geared towards Romantic symphonic music, not cello music. My interest has always been in the large scale repertoire and that’s the sound I’ve always had in my head, not the cello sound. My “big sound” concept on the cello therefore came from my desire for a more orchestral scale projection. I don’t hear a cello sound when I play, I hear an orchestra. I never tried to copy another cellist’s sound.

My concept of sound also comes from my experience of playing works with many composers, including Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Britten, Penderecki, and Lutoslawski, to name a few. I also studied orchestration for three years with Shostakovich and I wrote two piano concerti. I am therefore very sensitive to the different orchestrations and timbres of different composers and I learned to vary my sound depending on whose music I was playing. I don’t think of myself as having a single sound.

I think some cellists have sounds that are best in certain types of music. My friend Janos Starker’s sound is absolutely fantastic for solo pieces like the Kodály Sonata or other more intimate works, but I prefer a different sound when I hear a piece like the Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante. I believe the Prokofiev needs to have a very strong and full sound.

Were you familiar with the recordings of cellists like Feuermann?

Of course, I was familiar with the playing of many cellists. Feuermann was a phenomenal cellist, but his sound in pieces like the Dvorak Concerto didn’t have enough meat for me. Please understand that I greatly respect my colleagues, whether I’m talking about Starker, Feuermann, or others. It’s just that I have a different concept of how certain types of music should be played.

Your playing changed significantly over decades. Your playing earlier in your career had a certain simplicity and sense of restraint. It became more rhythmically free and emotionally charged later on. Was there something that happened in your life that caused this change?

I simply evolved over the years. My playing changed as I learned more and as I gained more experience with great musicians around the world. I also started conducting in the 1950’s, so my perspective on music-making greatly widened. I became more comfortable with the music making process as a whole and I felt freer to express myself on a more personal level.

I also learned a lot about conducting from people such as Herbert von Karajan. I remember lamenting to him about my difficulties in getting a choir and orchestra to be in synch with each other. No matter what I did, they simply weren’t together. He told me to just lower my hands so that the orchestra couldn’t see my beat. This forced the orchestra to listen to the choir as they played instead of depending on visual cues. Suddenly the ensemble was perfect!

The Elgar, Walton and Barber concerti were not in your standard repertoire. Why?

I stayed away from the Elgar because I think of that piece as somewhat naïve. The theme from the slow movement sounds like it’s about first love, so I think it’s more appropriate for a young person. My pupil Jacqueline du Pré played it much better than I because I didn’t have the fresh perspective that a piece like that requires. After playing Don Quixote, the Shostakovich concertos, and other works, it was hard for me to go back to a piece like the Elgar.

Why didn’t you record the third Britten Suite?

That was a mistake. I have three musical gods — Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Britten — and I feel like I didn’t pay sufficient homage to the last one by recording that piece. I was devastated when Britten died so I stayed away from the third suite for awhile, but then I got too busy with other things and I simply never got around to recording it. This is one of my regrets in life.

I remember when Britten asked me to show his War Requiem to Shostakovich. He had composed it in just a couple of weeks. Shostakovich called me two days after I dropped the score off and said that he wanted to hear the work performed, saying, “I’m one hundred percent sure that Britten is one of the greatest geniuses of the twentieth century.”

Why didn’t you record the Walton Concerto? That seems like a great piece for you.

I didn’t have time to play everything. I gave 320 world premieres throughout my career, so I was always extremely busy. I was also busy playing the standard repertoire and conducting orchestras around the world. I could only do so much.

Walton was a great composer and I asked him to write a cello piece for me, but he never got around to it. He did write an orchestra work, Prologo e fantasis, which was his last composition. I asked Barber and Messiaen to write something for me too, but they never got around to it either. Messiaen wrote Concert à Quatre, which is a concerto for flute, oboe, cello, and piano, and he had me in mind when he wrote the cello part. I premiered it after Messiaen died.

Given your phenomenal technique, you must have practiced endlessly when you were young.

I generally practiced at most two hours per day. My record was over a four day period after Shostakovich gave me the score to his first cello concerto. I knew that he was working on it, but I first learned that he had completed it from the local newspaper. I remember wondering anxiously if I would get to see it, since at the time I had no idea if I would be the one to give its premiere. I rushed over immediately when he called and he said that if I liked it he would dedicate it to me. I was in heaven! I went straight home and practiced ten hours that day, ten hours the next day, eight hours the day after that, and then six hours on the fourth day. I only practiced that hard because I was so excited about the piece, and that was the most I practiced in all of my 79 years. I played it for Shostakovich from memory after the fourth day, which was one of the proudest moments in my life.

I was very lucky because I didn’t need to practice when I was young. While some performers had to practice every day in order to stay in top form, I didn’t. It was as if my fingers had a memory of their own. They never forgot what they were supposed to do.

If you weren’t a big practicer then what was that story about you hanging food from the ceiling as you practiced.

That was when I lived in Orenburg, which is in the Urals. I was thirteen years old when my father passed away. He had been the cello professor at the local music academy and I was the best cellist in town after he died, so I was asked to take his place. My family needed the money, so I dropped out of school in eighth grade and took the job. In order to earn some additional cash, I also played some pieces at the local theater as part of an operatic production and I made kerosene lamps to sell at the market. Basically, I was so busy that I didn’t have time to practice more than an hour or two per day.

My godmother often baked large flatbread for me, which I tied to a ceiling lamp such that it hung near my head as I practiced. The hard part was catching it so that I could take a bite. The bottom line is that I was so busy that I didn’t have time to eat, so I ate while I squeezed in some precious practice time.

What are your priorities when you perform? Are you thinking about the music, the composer, the audience?

I never choose because they are all important, but I do care very deeply about doing justice to the composer. I’ve had many composers play parts for me on a piano. Sometimes they play very badly, but I see what they feel in their face. I try to re-create their feelings in my performances.

What were Shostakovich and Prokofiev like as people?

Shostakovich was very shy and sensitive and he had a rich inner life that he kept to himself. He avoided confrontation and would fib to spare somebody’s feelings. I remember him going up to somebody after a concert and praising their performance and predicting a great future career even though the performance was actually pretty bad. He generally kept his true thoughts and feelings to himself, though he did tend to open up a bit at parties.

Prokofiev, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have an unexpressed thought. If he didn’t like something, he never considered another person’s feelings before he shared his opinion. As an example, Prokofiev once asked Shostakovich why he used so much tremolo in his Fifth Symphony, telling him that it sounded like Aida, which I gather was a bad thing. He could be quite acidic.

Their composition process was also very different. While Prokofiev did a lot of his composing at the piano, Shostakovich worked out a lot of ideas in his head. I do have in my collection small pieces of paper on which Prokofiev would jot down ideas during massage sessions, so he did do some work away from the piano, but Shostakovich’s process was much more internal. I took many walks with Shostakovich during which he would suddenly raise his head and become very quiet, which I understood to mean that he was composing.

What did Shostakovich and Prokofiev think of each other’s music?

They both had enormous respect for each other, though their tastes were very different. Prokofiev loved Tchaikovsky while Shostakovich preferred Mussorgsky. They listened with great interest to each other’s works and got ideas from each other. Shostakovich liked the combination of cello and celeste in Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante, so that instrumentation appeared in Shostakovich’s next work. Shostakovich also liked the dramatic beat of the timpani after a run of high notes in the cello in the Sinfonia Concertante, so he used that idea in another piece, though he used seven timpani beats instead. Shostakovich thought that the Sinfonia Concertantewas Prokofiev’s most brilliant work.

The Soviet composers all kept a close eye on each other. I remember after I performed the Miaskovsky Sonata with Sviatislov Richter, Prokofiev complained that he couldn’t hear any of the difficult fast notes in the cello’s lower register because the piano was drowning them out. Interestingly, fast low notes in the cello part appeared in beginning of the second movement of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante (see Figure 1), but he made sure that the orchestra isn’t playing so that the notes are audible. They all borrowed from each other.

Figure 1 — Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante, Second Movement

How much of the Sinfonia Concertante was written by you?

Much less than the rumors would suggest. I remember when I played his Opus 58 Concerto in recital with piano. Prokofiev was in the audience and he came up to me afterwards and said, “I think there is some good material in the piece, but I don’t like its shape. How would you like to work with me on revising it?” I was so elated by his offer that I practically floated out of the hall!

There was only one section where I wrote something, and that was at Number 20 (see Figure 2) in the first movement. Some think I wrote the cadenza, but that was all Prokofiev. He said that he needed eight bars of something virtuosic for the cello. All I had to do was write the cello part since he had already composed the orchestration to go with it. Week after week he’d ask me if I had written something, but I kept putting it off and coming up with excuses. He finally blew up at me and said, “You don’t have the talent of Brahms! Brahms wrote tons of piano etudes in addition to his other works and you can’t even write eight bars!” That motivated me to finally write it.

Figure 2 — Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante, Number 20

I came in the next week with the eight bars and he immediately took it to the piano with a pencil and eraser in hand. As often happened when he concentrated, drool dribbled from his lower lip as he reviewed it. After changing maybe ten notes, he thanked me and said it was good. As I walked down the stairwell from his apartment, he shouted behind me, “Nice eight bars!” It was rare to receive compliments from Prokofiev so that was a great day for me. Unfortunately, he never heard the piece played with orchestra because the Soviet government didn’t allow his music to be performed in public. I premiered it in Copenhagen in 1953 after he died.

I also remember when Prokofiev was brought by Miaskovsky to my recital in 1949 to hear the premier of Miaskovsky’s cello sonata. Prokofiev said to me, “I shall now start writing a cello sonata for you.” I was ecstatic! Being a pianist as well as a cellist, I learned both parts before we met. When we first played it together, I kept correcting him. “I think that F natural should be an F#…. The chord isn’t C, E-flat, G, it’s C, E natural, G#….” Prokofiev finally said, “Who wrote this, me or you?”

What do you think of the Soviet government’s relationship with music and the arts today?

They are so busy with other things that they don’t have time to make things worse.

 

 

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

Cello Bello Blog - Thu, 2016-11-17 12:00

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 Saint-Saëns, and Robert Schumann. He also participated in the orchestra’s many tours, including its historic 1979 tour to China under Seiji Ozawa.  Major repertoire in which Mr. Eskin recently served as BSO principal cellist, under the direction of Andris Nelsons, included Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and Shostakovich’s Symphony Nos. 5 and 10, the latter of which won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance in February 2016. 

Mr. Eskin was also a founding member of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, which Erich Leinsdorf established in 1964 and which played its first concert in November of that year, at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge; upon its founding, it was the only chamber ensemble made up of the principal players of a major orchestra. With the Chamber Players, Jules Eskin toured throughout the world on numerous occasions, including a series of concerts in the former Soviet Union in 1967 and a tour to South America in 1998. He recorded extensively with the Chamber Players in repertoire ranging from Mozart to Michael Gandolfi, most recently appearing on the ensemble’s 2016 BSO Classics release of serenades by Dvořák and Brahms; the ensemble’s “Profanes et Sacrées: 20th-Century French Chamber Music,” released in November 2011, was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.” Mr. Eskin and the Chamber Players celebrated the group’s 50th anniversary with a series of special programs during the 2013-2014 season.

Prior to joining the BSO, Jules Eskin spent three years as principal cello with the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell and seven years with New York City Opera; the Cleveland Orchestra’s historic recording of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Leon Fleisher as soloist and Mr. Eskin performing the prominent third-movement cello solo, is considered the gold standard of interpretations of the work. Born in Philadelphia in 1931, Jules Eskin had his first cello lessons with his father, Samuel Eskin, an amateur cellist, and at the age of sixteen joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra under Antal Dorati. Mr. Eskin studied with Janos Starker in Dallas and later with Gregor Piatigorsky and Leonard Rose at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In 1948 he was a fellowship student at the Tanglewood Music Center, performing in the TMC Orchestra under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky. In 1954, Mr. Eskin was awarded first prize in the prestigious Walter Naumburg Competition and also gave his New York Town Hall debut recital, leading to an extended concert tour in Europe. He also participated in the Marlboro Music Festival and played with the Casals Festival Orchestra in Puerto Rico. In addition to his concerts and recordings with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, his chamber music collaborations included appearances with Isaac Stern and Friends and the Guarneri String Quartet, and piano trio performances with violinist Arnold Steinhardt and pianist Lydia Artymiw.

Mr. Eskin is survived by his loving wife, BSO violinist Aza Raykhtsaum, his sons Alexander Eskin and David Eskin and their families, and his step-daughter Anna Raykhtsaum Tratt and her husband Daniel.

Quote from Andris Nelsons, BSO Music Director

“It is so terribly sad for all of us in the Boston Symphony family to hear of the passing of our very dear Jules Eskin, a treasured member of our Family and a legendary cellist of the orchestra for 53 years, said BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons.

“I feel so honored to have had the privilege of working with Jules during my first two years with the orchestra.  With his incredible leadership of the cello section and the profound link he provided to the past-back to his days as a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow, under the tutelage of the great BSO genius Serge Koussevitzky in the 1940s-Jules brought the orchestra such a wealth of experience and influenced the glorious sound of the orchestra for more than half a century, a staggering commitment for which we owe him so much.

“I will never forget my amazement when during an early rehearsal for our first tour together in September 2015, Jules spontaneously started playing the solo cello part for Strauss’s Don Quixote-one that would eventually be played by the wonderful Yo-Yo Ma.  All of us who were there-myself, BSO members, and staff-were overwhelmed by the beauty, power, and richness he so effectively conveyed in what is considered to be one of the most difficult works for cello and orchestra.

“Words are not enough to express the powerful feelings of us all at this moment, just as they are not enough now when we try so hard to express our sorrow over the loss of our friend and colleague, and our condolences to his family, who we are thinking of very often at this time of great sadness.”

Quote from Mark Volpe, BSO Managing Director:

“There is no doubt that Jules Eskin will be counted as one of the legendary cellists of the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Mark Volpe, BSO Managing Director. “For more than half a century, Jules Eskin has led the BSO cello section in thousands of concerts, among them landmark performances under the BSO’s illustrious maestros past and present, including memorable performances under the leadership of Andris Nelsons of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, and the Grammy Award-winning Shostakovich Symphony No. 10.

“His countless performance and educational accomplishments over the course of 53 years, as well as his role as a founding member of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, will take a prominent place in the orchestra’s storied history of major accomplishments, and his loss will be felt by the classical music world at large for generations to come.

“We will greatly miss Jules’ paramount musicianship and steadfast presence, as well as his equally legendary sense of humor and strong spirit of camaraderie with his orchestra colleagues. We send our deepest condolences to his family, especially his wife, BSO violinist Aza Raykhtsaum, and we will hold Jules’ memory in our hearts and minds for years to come.”

Quote from Malcolm Lowe, Boston Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster

“I want to celebrate Jules’s life and acknowledge the huge loss that I feel. No words can express the great joy Jules gave to me through his playing or impart the sadness of his passing. If only I could write a ‘Song Without Words.’ Jules embodied the heart and soul of our string section. He had an inspired musicality and infallible instinct coupled with a masterful understanding of the cello, its sound, and its role in all of the music that we played. His sound was always present, always poignant, and always incredibly moving. Jules was a great personal friend and colleague. I will miss him dearly and I treasure every moment that we had together.”

Quote from Yo-Yo Ma

“Jules Eskin is a legend in the cello world. A role model for me, he has always embodied the best of what a cellist could be – a consummate musician, as a solo artist, an ensemble musician, and as principal cellist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 53 years.  His life in music was filled and sustained by the love of his wife Aza, the roar of the engines of his sports cars, an almost Herculean ability to do chin ups, and of course the comradeship of his fellow musicians in the Boston Symphony Orchestra family.”

Quote from Arnold Steinhardt, violinist and founder and first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet (1964-2009)

“Jules was a close friend of mine for over 50 years, and he was a wonderful cellist and musician, but above all, Jules had an uncanny ability to pull at your heart strings when he played. I think some of the most beautiful sounds that I’ve ever heard came out of his cello. I will miss him as a friend greatly and I will certainly miss his one-of-a-kind cello playing.”

An interview with Jules Eskin, hosted by Brian Bell.

"Why Not?"

Huffington College - Thu, 2016-11-10 02:25
Tony Woodcock http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/tony-woodcock

Awakening Joy Through Jazz Studies

NEC @ Huff Post - Tue, 2016-11-08 08:50
New England Conservatory http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/new-england-conservatory

Essay: Opening the Paradox of Conversations

Jose-Luis Estrada - Tue, 2016-11-01 02:27
“Opening the Paradox of Conversations”

Thank you for welcoming me at the Philips Theological Seminary today to lecture on the subject of Conversations. My presentation today is titled “Opening the Paradox of Conversations.” This class couldn’t have been more appropriate at this time—a time of growing political anxieties, virtual realities, and spiritual decay. I don’t mean to paint a crisis out of our times, because we are not living in an impossible crisis. You are an optimistic group of people. Yet, I do want to point you to these fragile states of awareness—to urge you—in your role as seekers of truth and conveyors of purpose, to examine the role of conversation for hope. And today, I would like to focus on hope. But first let me tell you how we will approach our time together.

I’ve been tasked today with exploring metaphors that would help us understand the idea of conversation. Conversation or the experiment of “living together” is a matter of great complexity. I’ve set myself a lofty goal—to use music as a metaphor to understand the dynamics, tensions, and resolutions of such an experiment. This essay is also a result of my observations of contemporary life. Some of the issues (musical and beyond) will resonate with you in particular ways. I invite you to challenge my own thinking as well. Overall, my goal is to encourage you to pursue relevant connections to your field of work and ask you to offer plausible applications. For our purposes, and in addition to music, we will visit the fields of, education, theology, politics, and philosophy. Let’s make this a multidisciplinary exploration! 

Let’s talk about conversations. What is a good conversation and where does this idea come from? By definition conversations are dialogues. I also think they are more than that--they can be pinnacles of purpose. In the mid-fourteenth century, the etymological definition of the word conversation denoted the act of living with or “having dealings with others.” The Latin roots of the word imply “being with” (com-) and “often” (-versare).

My art form including both the performative and appreciative aspects of it has everything to do with conversation. A conversation with the art form, the art work (or composition in this case), and the performer/interpreter are all part of the equation. In speaking of the art form we take into account its place in history—we realize that Mozart couldn’t have been possible without Bach and Dylan wouldn’t have been possible without Guthrie. You get the idea. The art work itself is a matter of great complexity because it couples the continuum of history together with the contemporary intentions or vision of its creator. Intention is where the creative process begins, but ironically creativity is not all free since some of it is still constrained by the evolution of the art form. Let me illustrate further.

The history of music is divided in periods like the renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, etc. Changes or innovations came very slowly and gradually throughout time. We did not ever have major shifts of thought from one year to another. Yes, there were pivotal events but these were happening as a result of the bubble being more than ready to burst. (You might have heard about the famous riot following the first performance of the "Rite of Spring" by Stravinsky. This was certainly one of those pivotal moments in the history of music; and yet it was met by skepticism and disdain.) The performer is a messenger, one who has to take the history, the artwork, and give it to us in real time and space. The performer is also constrained by her technical vocabulary or skill. The greatest musicians have worked on their technical abilities so much that this is not an issue, but for the majority of us, it is a work in progress. You might be beginning to draw the parallel with your own discipline. Who are you? Are you the performer, the historian, or the purveyor of new ideas? Each role is of significant importance. And each role requires a specialized skill.

These three roles all converge in the artistic elements of music. Let’s take the conductor of an orchestra for example, she will need to have a knowledge of the time period where the work lives to discern any particular historical performance practices or intent regarding context (or at least to inform the orchestra of what the work represents). She will also need to study the actual work of art and look at the score for the notes and the rhythms. Finally she will have to form an interpretation of the work. This is where the creative process becomes manifest again. And this is also where we learn that the creative process is not exclusive to the composition process but can also be found in the process of interpretation. That is a conversation in itself, a very meaningful one. And the test of a true masterwork a well, since it invites us to a continuous exploration of meaning. 

Musicians in the orchestra don’t have the entire score or layers of instrumentation available to them while they play. They only see their own part. Now, I want to show you an orchestra score. There are more than 16 parts stacked on top of each other here. How do you begin to listen to all of this at once! This where the conductor or moderator of the musical experience comes in to try to make sense of all of these parts and make sure that they are in sync and in tune. I promise you that conductors do a lot more than wave their hands. But here is the challenge—they can also get in the way! And more often than not, they do because they might want to micro-manage the experience or worst of all bring all the attention to themselves. The traditional practice itself makes it very difficult to separate the conductor from the ensemble and to make it a more democratic experience for all. This begs the question, do we need conductors? The answer for now is yes. There have been some experiments with smaller chamber orchestras like the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra that are conductor-less but even then, individuals or groups of musicians will still take the helm. Influencing is a natural human response.

Next time you are in your classroom notice who the influencer is and why? Is it because they are officially in charge of the class like I am now? Or is it because they are prepared to share ideas or because they are just too irresistible? Does gender play a role? You can formulate your questions and criteria. In this political cycle there has been a whole lot of influencing going on. The surrogates on television, rally-goers, church-goers, your grandmother, you name it. You will always listen to some more than others because your moral or political affiliations are already in tune, and you might dismiss others because it makes you feel uncomfortable. Now, let me pose to you the idea that good conversations are supposed to be uncomfortable. Is that an ironic statement?

This class is a bit uncomfortable for me. I have never taught to a group of theologians and certainly nothing I have done has prepared me for this experience. I still accepted this opportunity with the hopes that it would be an experience where I could learn from others and hopefully grow in my own thinking abilities. So I am taking this time to stretch my abilities and make my brain hurt a little bit.

The work of a good conversationalist is not to impose a point of view but in the words of the modern French philosopher Michel Foucalt, to analyze his own thinking and to continually examine evidence and assumptions so that he can then shake up routine ways of working and thinking. This is a very tedious process but when it is done right you can truly make a difference. The early Methodist church thinkers, specifically John Wesley expressed the idea of thinking and letting think at the same time. Do you notice there is an implicit tension in this argument? The formation of political, social, or spiritual will is a matter of self-determination. It cannot be imposed, although we might want to think we can. This was the belief of the Spanish Catholic church when they conquered Mexico and tried to bury all native expressions of the Divine. Granted, the people later experienced a revival focused on syncretic practices that honor the local history and theology of the colonizing church. I think this example falls well into your study of practical and systematic theology, which was explained so eloquently to me by your professor Dr. McGarrah Sharp.

Speaking of will, the perpetual debate of nature vs. nurture comes into play here. In my own experience as a teacher, I can tell you that you can nurture all you can and want, but in the end the decision to act accordingly rests solely on the student and according to his will. So, let us not be discouraged when the outcomes don’t materialize exactly as we envisioned them. As theologians and practitioners of faith you have the Holy Spirit on your side; and that conversation with the Divine is of particular importance.

There are some established techniques which connect the individual to the Spirit. I know that meditating on Scripture is one of them. Reading the verses slowly, pausing between in each word, and letting the ebb and flow of each cadence surround you with its presence. I remember that as part of my education growing up in a Christian school we were asked to memorize verses, sometimes complete passages with up to ten or twenty verses! To this day, I remember many of these passages and they live deep within my soul.

As I share  this, I am also drawing parallels with the experience of music and the kinds of conversations performers or interpreters might have with the scores. When you practice a passage of music of great technical difficulty you begin with deciphering the inner workings of the notes—the shapes of the notes, their duration, and the physical effort required to actually make them come alive. Practicing on the keyboard for example, you might start very slowly and consciously playing each note in sequence with the right fingering to minimize mistakes. Doing this slow, consistent, and deep practice activates a part of the brain that triggers the secretion of myelin, a protein that helps develop muscle memory so that the passage then becomes automatic and flawless in performance.

Once the technical hurdles are solved the interpreter can invoke the powers of creativity and make her interpretation transcend the notes or the score. This is why music performance is such an enigma to many. It is easy to believe that many great performers are somehow touched by the muses to exert power over their listeners, but this is not at all how it goes. There are layers upon layers of preparation, meditation, and practice over time to achieve any kind of meaningful conversation the score itself or with an audience in the room. For the artist, instant gratification is not part of this experience.

I am told that as young Pastors you will be entering in a territory that will be quite challenging with multiple and opposing views are being discussed regarding the future of the church. Passionate arguments are being made for one issue or the other. I won’t go into them today, but you know exactly what I am speaking of. There are deep divides and tensions stemming from issues like marriage and inclusion for example. Again, to echo Foucalt, if one arrives at the table with the intention of moulding the will of the other, that same conversation will falter! Abrahm Lincoln said the same of our own country, if we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

Some modern thinkers have referred to orchestras not just as groups of individuals making music but as examples of social life. One such thinker is Jose Antonio Abreu who said that orchestras are groups of people that decide to come together to agree with themselves. First and foremost, they agree with the goals of music. That is melody, harmony, and rhythm. They might not agree with the repertoire all the time or with the conductor but they agree that to make good music they must focus on these elements. So already, there is a point of convergence in the experience. Can you think of ways in which you can find points of intersection among your adversaries? In the orchestra, each musician depends on each other and their fate as performers are bound up in each other. So they must let the score guide that process (remember the music with all the parts written in it). If the score is guiding force, where do we leave the conductor and the aspirations of the musicians themselves? This is still an interesting conundrum which brings me to the forces of truth.

I recently read a piece by a young theologian named Michael Stark on the Huffington Post, he was exploring the why of our tense political climate and he drew the work of Father Thomas Merton, a 20th Century monk. He said that:

“The basic falsehood is the lie that we are totally dedicated to truth, and that we can remain dedicated to truth in a manner that is at the same time honest and exclusive: that we have the monopoly of all truth, just as our adversary of the moment has the monopoly of all error.” When we enter into these extreme bias says Stark, our “ability to listen and learn from those with whom we disagree disintegrates. As a result, we fight and convince ourselves that those with whom we disagree are full of ignorance, and hold views that we might deem unfairly as dangerous.”

Now, let me give you an example of this by way of Amy Schumer, the very well-known comedian. It was recently reported in the NY Times that during she singled out a Donald Trump supporter and invited her to the stage to justify her support before her 8,000 plus audience. She referred to the political candidate as an “orange, sexual-assaulting, fake-college-starting monster.” I am not here to defend or support any candidate and whoever you vote for is your decision alone based on your own will which is also sacrosanct. What I do want to point out is the process and modus-operandi of this conversation. Do you think this was the best way for Ms. Schumer to show support to her cause? Does this episode help mend the fractures of our Union? This election cycle is very interesting because in part, it is about influencing the supremacy of impassioned truths. Our human capacities do not and can never reach the absolute. Yet we try and try and we become more and more frustrated with the outcomes. I want you to be attuned to these challenges. I am also trying to be more attentive to this phenomenon.

Assumptions fuel the rise of polarized societies. These come in different shapes and forms. Some are well meaning—when a person in a wheelchair gets overwhelmed with helping hands to the point that they also want to press the elevator button for him. Others which might be rooted in racial stereotypes can occur—when a Black man (who was to become US President, but no one knew about it yet) is mistakenly handed keys to a car at the valet section of a prominent social club; or when a White high school student gets treated unfairly because someone assumes that affirmative action somehow doesn’t apply to him. When we assume right or wrong we enter into a realm of misunderstanding.

A few days ago, I spoke to a group of executives here in Tulsa and I made a blunder of painting progressives as people that celebrate diversity and are invested in building strong communities as a result. Someone came up to me at the end and asked, “What about conservatives? We also believe that we can achieve the same objectives,” he said.  After this conversation, it was clear to me that as citizens there is more than can brings us together rather than divide us. Yet, these common denominators are not often found in strictly binary approaches to political ideology. It is worth taking a look at the Pew Research study on "political typology." You’ll find that many of your views can co-exist with that of a person from a rival political party. It is an eye (and mind) opening experience. 

Obviously achieving meaningful conversations is a real challenge. How can we move towards places of encounter or resolution? I can draw lessons from the orchestra as metaphors for this. Did you know that the etymological meaning of the word orchestra as expressed by the Greeks is the “dancing place”? Let’s start there with examining the beat and how musicians can either react or respond to the beat in music. You might already be aware that part of the function of a conductor is to keep a steady beat by way of the baton, which by the way, could also be seen as a symbol of influence. Let me show you how this works. I brought the baton with me today. I begin by drawing up a pattern that musicians in the orchestra can read. These patterns are generally very consistent among conductors, with some slight aesthetic variation to show your personality. Four pulses per measure looks like this. And this is how 6 pulses per measure look like. Conductors aren’t the only people that use symbols of influence like the baton. Pastors use stoles and robes. I’ve seen some wear their doctoral robes with three bands to signify their attained academic degrees. (From a layman’s perspective, I think this is unnecessary).

Let’s go back to the idea of reacting vs. responding. I want you to try to react to my pulse by clapping each time you see each beat in my 4/4 pattern. Ready? Now I would like for you to try to respond to my pulse. In order to do this you will have to anticipate the next pulse in such a way that you can meet me at the inflection point. Do you notice the difference? Which exercise yielded the best ensemble?

I think it is obvious that the second try was the best. Rather than reacting to the pulse you engaged in a conversation with me. You read my gestures in such a way that could predict the right timing of each clapping sound. Now let’s make this exercise a bit more sophisticated by adding nuance. This time I will give you a melody in 4/4, “Joyful, joyful we adore Thee.” Your job will be to read my gesture in such a way that can anticipate where I am going with cadences and dynamics of the melody line. Let’s try.

I want you to be aware that I am aware that this might an exercise of manipulation. This is where the role of a conductor becomes challenging. But to dissipate any conflict of interest, one can always refer to the score and try to follow it as faithfully as possible. Now, saying that the conductor plays a manipulative role is a rather cynical approach. Each conductor loves the music so much that she is willing to take these risks.

Something that was very interesting today is that I did not instruct you to listen to each other as you clapped beats or sang the melody, but you did it anyways. You took the risk of succeeding (and failing) together and you emoted a sentiment of trust at the same time. And this is something very important that we can learn from the orchestra because ultimately conversations in the orchestra or elsewhere are about trust.

The paradox of conversations lies in the idea that successful experiments, especially those that can move us forward into the realm of understanding, come with varying degrees of uncertainty and fear. This fear is natural because we protect what is most dear to us. And to a great degree our own truths are our most guarded and relished patrimony. And to cherish the act of living with others and for others, we must also go to great lengths to protect the truths of all.

Jose Luis Hernandez - October 2016

Preparing for Cello Auditions as a High School Senior

Cello Bello Blog - Mon, 2016-10-31 11:17

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 prescreenings is the flexibility the format gives you. I chose to record five of my pieces all in one weekend, and that worked for me, but if that seems a little stressful, a lot of people like to record, say, one piece every few weeks because it leaves time to really focus on that specific piece for a certain block of time. Basically, just know what you’re capable of and don’t be afraid to try out either way. I was definitely unsure of how I would be prepared for an intense weekend of recording, but the extreme focus really helped me to record the best takes that I had.

One of the most useful tools I had used to prepare was recording myself. Often when I was unsure of what to practice, I’d make a recording and listen back as if I were the judge in an audition. If you aren’t used to recording yourself, you might be shocked to hear what you sound like, but don’t use it as a cruel method of self-deprecation, make it constructive; look at it from a professor’s perspective and try to think what you would like to fix. After a while of recording yourself, you’ll feel more comfortable with your playing so when it comes to the actual recording, you can feel more relaxed.

When preparing, and during your final recording, it’s so important not to get hung up on tiny mistakes, because the judges aren’t looking for a perfect performance, rather, they want to see who you are as a player and whether or not they want to teach you. When I was making my recordings, I got very hung up on small blips in my playing and that negative attitude didn’t work in my favor. If you make a mistake during your recording, don’t stop or shake your head. Pretend it didn’t happen, and continue, as if it never happened.  Don’t take this the other way though, it’s very important to drill runs and shifts during practice, however, try to focus on other things when you get to the final stage of recording.

One of the final things you might want to decide is whether you want to record yourself or book a studio to do so. Both are very viable, and there are pros and cons to each. I was able to professionally record mine in a concert hall, and that was nice since I didn’t need to worry about setting up a camera, getting the audio ready, and doing post work on the recordings; all I had to focus on was my playing, and that helped me perform better. However, there’s nothing wrong with doing it yourself, as long as you’re performing in a fairly resonant space (not too much so), you have a camera to record with, and reasonable audio.

Overall, the whole process has been some work, but it’s totally worth it. I hope this helped some people out applying to college right now who weren’t too sure about some things and needed some tips specifically about the prescreening process.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Drew Cone is a Senior at Williamsville East High School. He began studying cello at age 8 with Eva Herer, and currently is a student of David Ying, cellist with the Ying Quartet and Associate Professor cello and chamber music at the Eastman School of Music.

Drew has performed solos with the Buffalo Philharmonic under the baton of JoAnn Falletta, as well as the Ars Nova Chamber Musicians on their annual Viva Vivaldi Festival. He received first place in the junior division of the 2011 MTNA Empire State Competition and won the Interlochen Concerto Competition in 2014. He has attended Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, Bravo Workshop, the Castleman Quartet Program, Interlochen, and Bowdoin International Music Festival. This school year, he will be performing with the Amherst Symphony Orchestra and will be featured on From the Top.

In his spare time, Drew enjoys hiking with his family, playing the occasional video game and hanging out with his younger brother Matt (who plays viola) in their chamber group at Eastman Community Music School.

Executives of Tulsa Speech 10/14/16

Jose-Luis Estrada - Fri, 2016-10-14 11:35

Executives of Tulsa Club Speech - 10/14/16 

by Jose Luis Hernandez

It is an honor to be able to speak at the Executives of Tulsa Club. I am grateful to Tom Campbell for inviting me. Exactly two years ago I arrived here as a new Tulsan. Now I can proudly say that I have embraced this city as my own. And what a wonderful city it is!  We have some much: parks and trails, our annual fair, ballet, and the touring Broadway shows. And of course, we have the Philbrook, one of the most beautiful museums in the world. 

I really enjoy the many options for recreation that the city gives us—every week I get to visit at Lafortune Park to play tennis and then I do a few runs on the Riverside trail, just between 41st and 71st. That distance over and back covers about a 5K. I will be participating in the Tulsa Run this year, my first race ever! (I’ve really come to enjoy running, especially because you can easily gauge progress and with the new technology available you can also track your pace and distance, all in real time.) 

In Tulsa, a lot of people care about education and philanthropy. I’ve gotten to meet so many leaders in the field through my work as director of Sistema Tulsa. Interestingly enough I am part of a new wave of educational, religious, and artistic leaders who have also recently arrived or started new leadership roles in the city. People like educator and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gist, Signature Symphony conductor Andres Franco, Philbrook Director Scott Tullen, or my own colleague David Wiggs, the Senior Pastor at Boston Avenue. Many institutions are celebrating major anniversaries (30 and 40 year anniversaries). So it is time to learn from their accomplishments and move them forward into the future. 

I am glad that some very traditional institutions are now looking to millennials like me for leadership. And that is good, but even better when we can strike a compromise with colleagues who can remind us of the culture and traditions of the institutions where we serve. I am proud to work at the Boston Avenue church, a community that is open to all who would want to experience God’s love. We are lot of more than iconic building and we want to continue to play a role in the progress of our city. Come visit us, we think deeply and let think for yourself as well. (I think David Wiggs would be proud of me for putting in this plug here this morning). 

Now that I’ve touched on the subject of millennials I should say (and quoting data from the Pew Research Group), that this group represents the most diverse population in the history of our country. So obviously this same group will bring about a long lasting change to the American way. 

We are very optimistic in spite of the tragic events that have shaped our generation—9-11, Columbine, Katrina. We are more tolerant of races and other groups different from our own. Unfortunately, as a whole, we have become less and less engaged in the political process. I noticed one of your members today brought in signs regarding one of the questions on the next local ballot. That’s good. Regardless of where you stand on the issues it is good to engage in conversations about our future. 

Millennials also long for more and deeper human relations, but at the same time, in the Age Facebook and virtual realities this has actually become harder to achieve. 

I was born in a small Texas town very close to Mexico. I learned English when I attended a US school for the first time in the 4th grade. I am proud to be a first generation American. My parents grew up in Mexico and met in college. My dad was the book worm, my mom the social butterfly. Opposites attract, right? Here is an explanation by way of physicist David Bohm—when we see seeming polarities, look for the larger truth that contains them both. And so my parent’s larger truth fell into the realm of fear of God, hard work, respect for others, and the belief that strong families are pillars of successful communities. 

My early experiences as a volunteer at church and at the local Lion’s Club led me to discern the responsibility to care for others less fortunate than I. At the same time my journey as a student musician taught me how to harness my own imagination. I remember fondly the eye-care crusades that we led for very poor families through the Lion’s Club. I also remember my first piano recitals, how I felt so special because people cared about my work. 

I don’t mean to make this autobiographical speech, but I think it is important that I share at least a little bit of my own story because ultimately our stories and experiences clamor to become intertwined. By invoking our shared stories as a metaphor for community, we honor the ultimate goal of our citizenry. The Founding Fathers called this building a “more perfect union.”  And yet in spite of our progress, this public “union” is still both the greatest virtue and challenge of our times. 

Our personal stories also shed light on why we do what we do. Eric Booth, a teaching artist active at Lincoln Center and a mentor of mine, often quotes an idea that affirms that 80% percent of what we teach is who we are. You can substitute what we teach, with what we think or what we care about. As leaders it is important for us to be mindful of how we conduct ourselves, what we feed our mind, body, and soul. It all makes an impact in how others perceive our influence. Hopefully this 80% analogy is a golden nugget for you to take home. 

About 5 years ago, I took a sabbatical and moved to Boston to take part in a special training program for young musicians who are passionate about social justice. (Taking a sabbatical makes me sound like a professor on the verge of retirement, but I was only 27!) I would call this training program a music educator’s version of AmeriCorps. For a year I studied methods to nurture human development through the practice of music alongside fellows from across the US. Together, we became missionaries of the social mission of art, as our sponsor Dr. Abreu would call us. 

Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu has been a boundless source of inspiration and energy for me. His educational philosophy, which was first applied in Venezuela is known as El Sistema (or the system). It is thriving in 25 countries around the world and now in Tulsa.  There is a new book called "Playing for their Lives" that chronicles the expansion of this important thinker's ideas. I would say that El Sistema works as a living and breathing experiment of how the learning of music can nurture the individual and how the individual can transform his community and lead a fruitful life. And because it is an experiment, there is room for leaders to model each chapter after the needs of the community they serve, and as a natural consequence, after their own aspirations for shaping the common good. This is something that is very appealing to me. 

In Tulsa, I am now working with close to 100 students and families who attend the program as members of orchestras and choirs. Each orchestra and choir is a public space that brings students from across the school district to form a diverse community.  We do not charge tuition or require an audition. Everyone is free to attend the program if they make a commitment to put in the work (and it is hard work!). 

An orchestra is a community that comes together for the sole purpose of agreeing with itself, says Abreu. And what is it that they need to agree upon? They agree to make music together. And what does that imply? That is a question that I constantly ask myself. 

Let’s elaborate on a few ideas—in practice, making music together in an orchestra makes you accountable to the group. You are responsible for the success of the overall music and you cannot let your peers down. This is a quality that is important to succeed in the workforce. Robert Putnam, an academic who has studied the demise and revival of American communities wrote that trust is the dominant predictor of success in any community. If one is reliable; you can surely trust him or her. And if we can trust each other we can make progress. 

There are also the physical and metaphysical properties of music. Music is sound but what is sound and what is there? As a musician I have observed several things. First, that sound can move you emotionally—it can lead you to experiences that are sometimes difficult to explain. The fact that you can’t see the sound makes it almost mystical. 

I also heard Dr. Abreu refer to the phenomenon of sound as an invisible language. What makes sound so powerful in the context of building community through music is that one does not have talk about the need to work together because integration is already explicit in the goals of music. Voices and instruments in tune and playing in unison or harmony are perfect examples of this same integration. What music does is that it provides a platform where these voices and instruments can meet, without empty rhetoric getting in the way. 

When I think of orchestras, I think of the virtues of public spaces. Let’s take parks for example. I am amazed at the new local project called the Gathering Place led by banker and  philanthropist George Kaiser. Of course, this will be more than a public park; it is also going to be a platform to bring people together and to interact with each other. When you visit our public parks, whether it is Riverside or Lafortune parks, you can feel the pulse of and celebrate the diversity of our city. These spaces are vibrant and colorful where many languages are spoken and people can experiment with the idea of togetherness. We often hear progressive politicians talk about how we are stronger together; but these promises fall short of ideas for the actual practice of becoming stronger together. Why? (There are no cut and paste formulas that will work for every single city or community.) 

Because of this same challenge, leaders must develop opportunities to help people enter into the stories of others. In my case, let me give you an example from a teaching moment at a symphonic rehearsal. There is now a growing anxiety regarding immigration to our country. Our Community Youth Orchestra at Sistema Tulsa was rehearsing a work by Dvorak. Every time I introduce a new work, I like to give a short lecture about its origins, why the piece is important, and what it can teach us. The New World Symphony was composed by a Czech immigrant who in the late 1800’s landed in a small rural town in Iowa. While in America he discovered African-American spirituals and other Native American musical expressions. One of his new friends, a man named Harry Burleigh, sang spirituals to him and he internalized the style and weaved it into a very sophisticated creation that transcends borders and has stood the test of time. “These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil,” Dvorak said. As they play this work, our students are entering into the chronicles of history, negotiating their own identities through the stories and ideas of others. And that is the beginning of a process to discern the potential that we have as a “union,” or at least to begin useful conversations about who we are and what we can become. 

What I see as a way to bring us closer together is to learn from experiments like the Gathering Place or Sistema Tulsa. Our orchestra is a microcosm of the entire Tulsa community. We are African, Native, Hispanic, Asian, and White Americans working towards one goal, one ideal. We are also converging or meeting in a church with a membership that has been historically homogeneous but is now slowly establishing a new identity. Of course, these shifts of purpose happen very slowly and gradually, and they can come with certain amount of tension and anxiety. 
  
To alleviate the burden of change, one has to think very strategically and lead by example. One can also apply the rules of public policy. During a professional development course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I learned that people will not only support most what they help create but also what they can clearly understand. I also learned a useful technique that perhaps you could also apply when trying to enact change in your companies or work areas. It brings visioning and public-policy thinking together to bring people into the core of your idea and then invite them to develop and model it after the place or community where it will be implanted. It is called the “Eight-Fold Path” by Eugene Bardach. 

The “path” includes several steps: a definition of the problem to solve, collection of evidence pertaining to the problem, identification of alternatives that can solve the problem, criteria by which to weigh the best course of action, a projection of outcomes, examination of costs vs. benefits, and documentation through storytelling. 

This is speech is an example of storytelling. 

Not everyone knows this but before we started Sistema Tulsa we worked for an entire year to define our mission. We sought out key leaders in the community who could teach us about how to best position our program as a change agent.  (Looking for moral support is important.) We looked at resources that were already available in the community, we set up a timeline, and looked years ahead. We asked many questions like – How would we know that the program was actually working? Or how would we know our investment and energy was being put to good use? 

After our first year of operation and through early independent research done by OSU-Tulsa we affirmed our program’s ideals—Sistema Tulsa is inclusive of all races and socio-economic groups, it is giving children a better love of music and broadening their horizons, it is teaching lessons in discipline and community. 

Also, 100% of parents would recommend the program to other parents. 93% of parents believe that the program has taught their child to work hard to reach his/her goals. And my favorite stat – 97% of students want to get better at playing their musical instrument and 87% of them believe they have made their families proud. 

Most importantly, we are learning how to work together and how to build a community that is constantly aspiring to better itself.  One of our students said it best: “We learn important things here, and we have the opportunity to do something very special.” 

So my friends, all it takes for steady and systematic change is that we bring the best of ourselves to each opportunity and to make sure that those opportunities can also motivate, inspire, and nurture others at the same time. Also, most ideas for innovation can already be found right in front of you.  Take what you know, take what you love, and make something out of it. Ideas abound, our job is to experiment and practice connecting the dots to come up with something entirely fresh and new (They call this simple formula genius). 

I hope that my message this morning spoke to you in some way. I hope that you can begin to think of music as a metaphor for community building and most importantly, that we can continue to aspire to be good friends, colleagues and neighbors as our communities grow and evolve over time. 

If you or people that you know can help me take my work to the next level please let me know. I would be happy to continue the conversation. More about Sistema Tulsa (its mode of operation, funding, and goals) can be learned from our annual report which is found our website

Thank you all. I am so glad to meet you. 
 

The Indispensable Pianist By Pei-Shan Lee

NEC @ Huff Post - Mon, 2016-10-10 12:56
Pianists have increasingly come to understand that collaborative piano is not an escape for a failed solo pianist but is an exciting, rewarding field open to wonderful musicians who love making music and exchanging ideas with others. New England Conservatory http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/new-england-conservatory

How Music and Cello Changed My Life

Cello Bello Blog - Tue, 2016-10-04 10:00


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 my creative and spiritual guide growing up. They would often put on LaserDiscs (the older ancestor to the DVD) featuring conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa on this TV we had at home. Using a chopstick as a baton, I did my best in emulating these legends who became my musical heroes. A chance event became an alignment of the stars when as an audience member, then assistant conductor of the San Francisco Opera Sara Jobin (now assistant conductor of the Toledo Symphony) noticed something peculiar in the toddler a few rows ahead of her at an orchestral performance. I must have been conducting from my seat! After a brief introduction to my parents, Sara gave me informal conducting lessons which led me to my debut with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra conducting Beethoven’s 5th Symphony at age 3. So my musical life started then, through the art of conducting.

It was two years later at the age of 5 when my parents thought a more formal musical education in the form of an instrument would help solidify my musical understanding. I initially was drawn to the double bass because I always loved the low sounds of the orchestra. But of course the double bass is huge and I was (and still am) a very small guy. So we settled on the cello! My first private teacher was the wonderful Irene Sharp, with whom I studied for over 11 years. She held monthly studio classes in her home in Palo Alto, which I am so thankful for because they made me so comfortable performing new repertoire every single month. Mrs. Sharp, (who we all affectionately called Reinie) was instrumental in getting me to where I am today.

The thought that the cello could be my career materialized years later at age 11 when I had an epiphany about its intrinsic value as a communication tool. This realization only occurred after I was fortunate enough to be a part of an HBO TV series called “The Music in Me”. I auditioned for the show via video (which I produced myself on iMovie!) and was asked not only to play the cello, but also to speak a bit about myself. I later asked the show’s producer Leslie Stifelman why I was chosen among the 500+ applicants, and she said that I had the ability to inspire others through the communication in my playing instead of scaring off or dominating via technical ability.

“The Music in Me” was premiered in Carnegie’s Zankel Hall on via a huge projector. All of us from the show also performed too! I distinctly remember watching the show for the first time, where I performed and spoke about Camille Saint-Saens’ The Swan and felt absolutely astonished at the way music made me feel and how it could make other feel. Subconsciously, the show also reinforced my attraction to film and video (much like the way video inspired me as a toddler). This would have a great influence on my life when I started to explore music video creation on the internet.

I’ve never been a technical perfectionist at the cello, and while I am always trying to improve my technical ability, I have tried to focus more on how I can communicate a story or an emotion. I once watched an amazing news bit featuring Yo-Yo Ma when he was only 25 years old. In it he said:

You can say ‘I never want to miss a note’, and that can be dangerous in the sense that you can be too careful about what you want to do. If you take a risk… and you miss something, you’ve still communicated something. But if you don’t take a risk and you get it right, you may not have communicated anything except perfection, which… I don’t think is an end in itself. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emZaPicXie8)

Going to the fantastic high school in San Francisco named “Lick-Wilmerding High School” so changed the way I viewed myself and how I viewed others. The depth and breadth of knowledge my colleagues possessed made a huge impression on me. I suddenly became fascinated with so many things outside of the cello, like film, history, business, table tennis, chess, and even a bit of acting. So, looking towards college it felt natural for me to investigate dual degree programs. My teacher at the time Sieun Lin was instrumental in recognizing my strengths. She had a great ability of honing in on my communication skills as a cellist. But she knew that I needed to up my technical level going forward. So, I eventually settled on the Columbia-Juilliard Exchange, where I would get to experience the magic of New York alongside a cello teacher who I very much look up to named Richard Aaron.

The greatest event of my college life occurred magically during the first week of orientation, when I met my cello colleagues and classmates Justin Zhao, Maddie Tucker, Steven Bennett and Corinna Boylan at a casually organized sight-reading party. What first started out as truly joyful musical readings, eventually turned to, “Hey, this sounds pretty good. Why don’t we form a band?” Thus, our 5-person cello ensemble String Theory was born.

String Theory was a great musical experience for me in that I felt we were able to push the musical boundaries of many musical genres and most importantly, make music fun. Because the cello is such a versatile musical instrument we were able to play pop, jazz, classical, rock, movie and even Chinese and Indian music. We first started by playing for many of the student groups across campus. We had such a blast that we recorded and made music videos for our most popular pieces and uploaded them to YouTube. Amazingly, these videos became popular enough to reach other cool communities outside of the Columbia campus. We were invited to perform at places such as Google Zeitgeist, and even a Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical conference. Being a part of String Theory made me realize the importance of reaching out to all different types of audience in order unite people through music.

While this was all going on, my studies at Juilliard gave me the opportunity to focus solely on improving my technical ability on the cello. Richard Aaron really whipped me into shape over the course of 5 years. For the first time in my life, I learnt how to practice. I used to never know what I was doing whenever I practiced. Richard gave me a plethora of tools and skills to analyze whatever I did and have the self-confidence to get better. In doing this, I challenged myself to always improve my technique. But this also made me lose some of confidence I had, as learning more and more secrets of the cello revealed the errors I never knew I had. Getting the opportunity to study with a different sort of master in my first year of graduate school changed this thinking for me forever.

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to be a participate in the great cellist Gautier Capuçon’s “Classe d’Excellence du Violoncelle” at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, France. Studying with Gautier opened my ears to the importance of sound and color. As I traveled back in forth 5 times that school year, I always would put on a huge smile whenever I heard Gautier draw his bow on his Gofriller cello. The hugeness of his sound must be experienced live. His sound affected all 6 of us cellists in his class. We were playing bigger and rounder each visit and I was always inspired by the emotional experience one got when faced with incredible sound.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to regain the confidence in my cello playing with regards to technique. And now, I am most interested in how freely I can be a creative artist when I play. This past summer I got to work with Mike Block in the Silk Road Ensemble’s “Global Musicians Workshop” as a fellow at Tanglewood. In it, I got a chance to explore the farthest reaches of my musical knowledge through Arabic and Bluegrass music. It was an amazing feeling to try and transfer as much of my knowledge in the classical world over to these new genres. It felt great to improvise and learn about microtones and learn new things by ear. It reminded me of the importance of music on a global level as something spontaneous and creative. This is what ultimately makes me tick.

Currently, I am residing in New York and constantly exploring. I am a passionate believer in the power of YouTube and am continuing to make music videos that push classical music to the next level. I am also periodically performing with the St. Louis Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra as a cellist in the section. I am very excited to be performing Brahms Double with Simone Porter and Maestro Laura Jackson in January 2017 with the Reno Philharmonic.

Being a cellist is such an interesting career because you are only limited by your creative imagination. I can’t wait to see where cello takes me next and hope to continue pushing myself to the next discovery!

 

Cellist Nathan Chan made his musical debut at age three conducting the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. He has performed as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic, and the Albany Symphony, among others. In 2016, Chan was a chosen artist for the Foundation Louis Vuitton’s Classe d’Excellence du Violoncelle with renowned cellist Gautier Capucon. Nathan earned his Bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and has a growing internet presence with over 5.6 million views. Nathan studied with Richard Aaron at The Juilliard School, where he recently earned his Masters of Music.

Announcing CelloStream Master Classes 2016 – 2017

Cello Bello Blog - Tue, 2016-09-27 12:08
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 Quartet since 1974, he has performed the great quartet literature throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. With his sonata partner of more than 30 years, pianist Gilbert Kalish, Mr. Krosnick has performed recitals throughout the U. S. and Europe. Since 1976, they have given annual series of recitals in New York City and in 2007 presented the series “American Milestones of the Last 100 Years” at The Juilliard School.

A dedicated teacher, Mr. Krosnick is chair of the cello department of The Juilliard School and is a member of the faculty of Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival in Maine. He has been associated with the Aspen, Marlboro and Tanglewood music festivals, and appeared for the third time as a member of the artist-faculty of the Piatigorsky Seminar at the University of Southern California. A recipient of the Chevalier du Violoncelle Award from the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center at the Indiana University School of Music, Mr. Krosnick holds honorary doctoral degrees from Michigan State University, Jacksonville University, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

PAUL KATZ
Monday, Jan 25th 2016
4:00 – 5:30 pm ET

Paul Katz is known to concertgoers the world over as cellist of the Cleveland Quartet, which during an international career of 26 years made more than 2500 appearances on four continents, in all of the music capitals, great concert halls and music festivals of the world. As a member of this celebrated ensemble from 1969-1995, he performed at the White House and on many television shows including “CBS Sunday Morning,” NBC’s “Today Show,” “The Grammy Awards” (in 1973, the first classical musicians ever to appear on that show,) and was seen in “In The Mainstream: The Cleveland Quartet,” a one hour documentary televised across the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Katz has received many honors, including the American String Teacher’s Association “Artist-Teacher of the Year 2003, Indiana University’s “Chevalier du Violoncelle”, Chamber Music America’s highest honor, The Richard M. Bogomolny National Service Award,  and an Honorary Doctorate of Musical Arts from Albright College. Mr. Katz served for six years as President of Chamber Music America. As an author, he has appeared in numerous publications and wrote the liner notes for the Cleveland Quartet’s three-volume set of the complete Beethoven Quartets on RCA Red Seal.

PETER STUMPF
Tuesday, Oct 27th 2015
7:00 pm EDT

Peter Stumpf is professor of cello at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Prior to his appointment, he was principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A dedicated chamber music musician, he is a member of the Johannes String Quartet and has appeared on the chamber music series at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, the Boston Celebrity Series, the Da Camera Society in Los Angeles, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Casals Hall in Tokyo, and at the concert halls of Cologne. He has performed with the chamber music societies of Boston and Philadelphia and at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico as well as the Festivals of Marlboro, Santa Fe, Bridgehampton, Ottawa, Great Lakes, Ojai, Spoleto, and Aspen. He has toured with Music from Marlboro, the Casals Hall Ensemble in Japan, and with pianist Mitsuko Uchida in performances of the complete Mozart Piano Trios.

Concerto appearances have been with the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Boston Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony, the Vermont Symphony, the Connecticut String Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of the South Bay, the American Youth Symphony, and at the Aspen Music Festival. As a recitalist, he has performed at the Universities of Hartford, Syracuse, and Delaware, at Jordan Hall in Boston, and at the Philips and Corcoran Galleries in Washington, D.C. Most recently, he performed the Six Suites for Solo Cello by J. S. Bach on the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society Series and on the Chamber Music in Historic Sites Series in Los Angeles. His awards include first prize in the Washington International Competition, the Graham-Stahl Competition, and the Aspen Concerto Competition and second prize in the Evian International String Quartet Competition.

GARY HOFFMAN
Sunday, Oct 18th 2015
1:00 pm EDT

Gary Hoffman is one of the outstanding cellists of our time, combining instrumental mastery, great beauty of sound, and a poetic sensibility. Mr. Hoffman gained international renown upon his victory as the first North American to win the Rostropovich International Competition in Paris in 1986. A frequent soloist with the world’s most noted orchestras, he has appeared with the Chicago, London, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, Baltimore and National symphony orchestras as well as the English, Moscow and Los Angeles chamber orchestras, the Orchestre National de France, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Netherlands and Rotterdam philharmonics, the Cleveland Orchestra for the Blossom Festival and Philadelphia Orchestra, among many others. Mr. Hoffman collaborates regularly with such celebrated conductors as André Prévin, Charles Dutoit, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pinchas Zuckerman, Andrew Davis, Herbert Blomstedt, Kent Nagano, Jésus Lopez-Cobos and James Levine. In the 2015-16 season he performs Elgar’s Concerto in E Minor with the Baton Rouge Symphony.

Gary Hoffman performs in major recital and chamber music series throughout the world, as well as at such prestigious festivals as Ravinia, Marlboro, Aspen, Bath, Evian, Helsinki, Verbier, Mostly Mozart, Schleswig-Holstein, Stresa, Festival International de Colmar, and Festival de Toulon. He is a frequent guest of string quartets including Emerson, Tokyo, Borromeo, Brentano, and Ysaye. Mr. Hoffman performs throughout Europe with various orchestras: Cordoba, Helsingborg, Warsaw, Stavanger, Budapest, Bodensee Festival, Orchestre National d’Ile de France, Russian National Philharmonic, het Gelders Orchestra, Holland, Luxembourg; and around the world in the United States, Asia, South Africa, in halls such as the Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Auditorium de Dijon, Concertgebouw, and the Kennedy Center. He also plays and gives master classes at the Ravinia Festival, Bloomington, Kobé, Manchester Cello Festival, Kronberg Cello Akademie, Salzburger Mozarteum, Festival de Prades, and Santa Fe.

LLUÍS CLARET
Sunday, Oct 11th 2015
1:00 pm EDT

Born in Andorra, Spain in 1951, from exiled catalan parents, Lluís Claret began his musical studies at the age of 9. His musical future would be strongly marked by his contact with great teachers such as Maurice Gendron, Radu Aldulescu and Enric Casals (Pablo Casals brother) who, though not a cellist, would be his principal musical adviser for many years. His meetings with György Sebök, Eva Janzer and Bernard Greenhouse were also to be decisive for the development of his artistic personality.

First Prizes at the Casals (1976) and Rostropovitch (1977) Competitions helped to project an international career to the principal capitals of Europe, America and Asia. He received invitations from The Washington National Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, France National Orchestra, as well as others in cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, Bamberg, Moscow, Madrid, Barcelona, and has played under the baton of Vaclav Neuman, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Pierre Boulez, Karl Münchinger, Dimitri Kitaienko, Sakari Oramo and Georges Malcom among others.

MARCY ROSEN
Tuesday, Sept 22nd 2015
10:00 am EDT

Marcy Rosen has established herself as one of the most important and respected artists of our day. Los Angeles Times music critic Herbert Glass has called her “one of the intimate art’s abiding treasures.” She has performed in recital and with orchestra throughout Canada, England, France, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, and all fifty of the United States. She made her concerto debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of eighteen and has since appeared with such noted orchestras as the Dallas Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony, the Caramoor Festival Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, the Jupiter Symphony and Concordia Chamber Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, and the Tokyo Symphony at the famed Orchard Hall in Tokyo. In recital she has appeared in New York at such acclaimed venues as Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street “Y” and Merkin Concert Hall; in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center, Dumbarton Oaks, the Phillips Collection and the Corcoran Gallery, where for many years she hosted a series entitled “Marcy Rosen and Friends.” In recent seasons she has given Master Classes and appeared on stage in Beijing and Shanghai, China, the Seoul Arts Center in Korea and in Cartagena, Colombia.

A consummate soloist, Ms. Rosen’s superb musicianship is enhanced by her many chamber music activities. She has collaborated with the world’s finest musicians including Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, Andras Schiff, Peter Serkin, Mitsuko Uchida, Isaac Stern, Robert Mann, Sandor Vegh, Kim Kashkashian, Jessye Norman, Lucy Shelton, Charles Neidich and the Juilliard, Emerson, and Orion Quartets. She is a founding member of the ensemble La Fenice, a group comprised of Oboe, Piano and String Trio, as well as a founding member of the world renowned Mendelssohn String Quartet. With the Mendelssohn String Quartet she was Artist-in-Residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and for nine years served as Blodgett-Artist-in Residence at Harvard University. The Quartet which disbanded in January of 2010, toured annually throughout the United States, Canada and Europe for 31 years.

ALISA WEILERSTEIN
Apr 30th 2015
2:30 pm EDT

“A young cellist whose emotionally resonant performances of both traditional and contemporary music have earned her international recognition, … [Alisa] Weilerstein is a consummate performer, combining technical precision with impassioned musicianship.” So stated the MacArthur Foundation when awarding Alisa Weilerstein a 2011 MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship, prompting the New York Times to respond: “Any fellowship that recognizes the vibrancy of an idealistic musician like Ms. Weilerstein … deserves a salute from everyone in classical music.” In performances marked by intensity, sensitivity, and a wholehearted immersion in each of the works she interprets, the American cellist has long proven herself to be in possession of a distinctive musical voice. As the Los Angeles Times explains, “Weilerstein’s cello is her id. She doesn’t give the impression that making music involves will at all. She and the cello seem simply to be one and the same.”

Weilerstein has appeared at major music festivals throughout the world, including Aspen, Bad Kissingen, Delft, Edinburgh, Jerusalem Chamber Music, La Jolla SummerFest, Mostly Mozart, Salzburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Tanglewood, and Verbier. In addition to her appearances as a soloist and recitalist, Weilerstein performs regularly as a chamber musician. She has been part of a core group of musicians at the Spoleto Festival USA for the past eight years and also performs with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio, the trio-in-residence at Boston’s New England Conservatory.

ROBERT deMAINE
Apr 13th 2015
2:00 pm EDT

Robert deMaine is an American virtuoso cellist who has been hailed by The New York Times as “an artist who makes one hang on every note”. He has distinguished himself as one of the finest and most versatile instrumentalists of his generation, performing to critical acclaim as soloist, recitalist, orchestral principal, recording artist, and chamber musician. In 2012 he was invited to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Principal Cello.

deMaine has appeared on the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Teatro Colón, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, the Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus, and Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall, among others. He was the first cellist ever to win San Francisco’s prestigious Irving M. Klein International Competition for Strings. The recipient of a career grant from the Helen M. Saunders Foundation, deMaine’s distinctions have included first prizes and awards from numerous competitions. His principal teachers include Leonard Rose, Stephen Kates, Steven Doane, Paul Katz, Ronald Leonard, and Aldo Parisot, among others. Master classes and additional studies were undertaken with Bernard Greenhouse, János Starker, Boris Pergamenschikow, Felix Galimir, and Jerome Lowenthal.


JOEL KROSNICK
Oct 19th 2014
10 am – 12 noon EDT 

Joel Krosnick has performed as soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician around the world. As a member of the Juilliard String Quartet since 1974, he has performed the great quartet literature throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. With his sonata partner of more than 30 years, pianist Gilbert Kalish, Mr. Krosnick has performed recitals throughout the U. S. and Europe. Since 1976, they have given annual series of recitals in New York City and in 2007 presented the series “American Milestones of the Last 100 Years” at The Juilliard School.

A dedicated teacher, Mr. Krosnick is chair of the cello department of The Juilliard School and is a member of the faculty of Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival in Maine. He has been associated with the Aspen, Marlboro and Tanglewood music festivals, and appeared for the third time as a member of the artist-faculty of the Piatigorsky Seminar at the University of Southern California. A recipient of the Chevalier du Violoncelle Award from the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center at the Indiana University School of Music, Mr. Krosnick holds honorary doctoral degrees from Michigan State University, Jacksonville University, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

MARCY ROSEN
Sept 28 2014
2:30 – 5:15 pm EDT 

Marcy Rosen has established herself as one of the most important and respected artists of our day. Los Angeles Times music critic Herbert Glass has called her “one of the intimate art’s abiding treasures.” She has performed in recital and with orchestra throughout Canada, England, France, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, and all fifty of the United States.

A consummate soloist, Ms. Rosen’s superb musicianship is enhanced by her many chamber music activities. She has collaborated with the world’s finest musicians including Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, Andras Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida, Isaac Stern, Robert Mann, Sandor Vegh, Kim Kashkashian, Lucy Shelton, Charles Neidich and the Juilliard, Emerson, and Orion Quartets. She is a founding member of the ensemble La Fenice, a group comprised of Oboe, Piano and String Trio, as well as a founding member of the world renowned Mendelssohn String Quartet.

GARY HOFFMAN
April 8 2014
2 – 5 pm EST 

Gary Hoffman is one of the outstanding cellists of our time, combining instrumental mastery, great beauty of sound, and a poetic sensibility. Mr. Hoffman gained international renown upon his victory as the first North American to win the Rostropovich International Competition in Paris in 1986. A frequent soloist with the world’s most noted orchestras, he has appeared with the Chicago, London, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, Baltimore and National symphony orchestras as well as the English, Moscow and Los Angeles chamber orchestras, the Orchestre National de France, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Netherlands and Rotterdam philharmonics, the Cleveland Orchestra for the Blossom Festival and Philadelphia Orchestra, among many others. Mr. Hoffman collaborates regularly with such celebrated conductors as André Prévin, Charles Dutoit, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pinchas Zuckerman, Andrew Davis, Herbert Blomstedt, Kent Nagano, Jésus Lopez-Cobos and James Levine. View video of Gary Hoffman masterclass

PIETER WISPELWEY
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
7:00 – 9:30 pm

Pieter Wispelwey is among the first of a generation of performers who are equally at ease on the modern or the period cello. His acute stylistic awareness, combined with a truly original interpretation and a phenomenal technical mastery, has won the hearts of critics and public alike in repertoire ranging from JS Bach to Schnittke, Elliott Carter and works composed for him. View videos from previous Pieter Wispelwey master classes

RALPH KIRSHBAUM
Tuesday, 21 October 2013
7:00 pm-9:30 pm

Ralph Kirshbaum has appeared with many of the world’s great orchestras, including the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, BBC and London Symphonies, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Zurich Tonhalle, Orchestre de Paris and Israel Philharmonic. He has collaborated with many of the great conductors of the time such as Herbert Blomstedt, Semyon Bychkov, Christoph von Dohnányi, Andrew Davis, the late Sir Colin Davis, James Levine, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Sir Antonio Pappano, André Previn, Sir Simon Rattle, and the late Sir Georg Solti. Ralph Kirshbaum has appeared frequently at such prominent international festivals as Edinburgh, Bath, Verbier, Lucerne, Aspen, La Jolla, Santa Fe, Music@Menlo, Ravinia, and New York’s Mostly Mozart.

A renowned pedagogue, he served on the faculty of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester for 38 years, and in 2008 accepted the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. He serves as artistic advisor of IMS Prussia Cove, and is Founder/Honorary president of the Pierre Fournier Award as well as honorary president of the London Cello Society. He recently served for five years on the US President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. View videos from previous Ralph Kirshbaum master classes

LLUÍS CLARET
Thursday, 26 September 2013
7:00 pm-9:30 pm

Born in Andorra in 1951, from exiled Catalan parents, Lluís Claret began his musical studies at the age of 9. His musical future was strongly marked by his contact with great teachers as Maurice Gendron, Radu Aldulescu and Enric Casals (Pablo Casals’ brother), who, besides not being a cellist, was his principal musical adviser for many years. His meetings with György Sebök, Eva Janzer and Bernard Greenhouse were also decisive for the development of his artistic personality.

He founded the Barcelona Trio (1980-1993), performs regularly with the pianists Josep-Maria Colom and Benedicte Palko and collaborates very often with other prestigious musicians at festivals like Kuhmo, Naantali, Ernen, l’Epau, Pablo Casals (Prades), Granada, and Seoul.

His great interest in contemporary music brought him to a close professional collaboration with Henri Dutilleux, Witold Lutoslawski, Kristoff Penderecki, Joan Guinjoan, Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Boulez.

Master classes from earlier years

 

Sistema Fellowship Resource Center Report

Exploring El Sistema - Tue, 2016-09-20 15:54
NEC’s decision to reinvest in the fifty alumni of the Sistema Fellows Program created an exciting opportunity to deepen the relationships that had begun on campus. The creation of the Resource Center also presented me with an opportunity to learn the stories of the Fellows from the first three classes... Sistema Fellows Program

Machali

Huffington College - Tue, 2016-09-20 08:18
Tony Woodcock http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/tony-woodcock

Center for Professional Development and Performing Arts Leadership

Exploring El Sistema - Mon, 2016-09-19 07:00
Welcome to Exploring El Sistema! Dating back to 2012, this blog documents many of the experiences of NEC's Sistema Fellows Program. Since the completion of the five-year program, the blog has continued to serve as a platform for the Fellows to share reflections on their work and new ideas with... Sistema Fellows Program

Wednesdays at Kroger

Exploring El Sistema - Mon, 2016-09-12 10:21
Laura Jekel, Sistema Fellow '11 and founder of MyCincinnati, has been experimenting with creating opportunities for broad community engagement by showing up with her cello on Wednesday afternoons at the Price Hill Kroger. Read about her project by enlarging the image below. Sistema Fellows Program

Playing for Their Lives

Exploring El Sistema - Mon, 2016-09-12 10:17
Eric Booth, Senior Advisor to the Sistema Fellows Program, and Tricia Tunstall, author of Changing Lives, have jointly produced a new book about how the global El Sistema-inspired movement is exploring the intersection of music education and social change. Available on Amazon beginning September 13. Sistema Fellows Program

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

Cello Bello Blog - Thu, 2016-09-01 12:04

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 in the overhead compartments or under a seat, without specific size limitations.
• Airlines that apply the same size limitations to musical instruments as to regular cabin luggage are rated as RED (lowest grade).
• Airlines that do not comply with the current US FAA regulation but apply size limitations that are more favourable than those applying to regular cabin luggage are rated as AMBER.

Please note: irrespective of the airline’s applicable policy, an instrument may only be accepted in the cabin if there is enough space available at the time of boarding (either in the overhead lockers or under the seat in front of you). Be first in line if you want to maximise your chances to keep your instrument with you.

To see the ratings by airline, click HERE.

Musicians And What They Carry By Cristi Catt

NEC @ Huff Post - Fri, 2016-08-26 09:21
Tunes, traditions, styles, perspectives -- one might think of us as the carriers of a DNA that can both stubbornly endure and spontaneously mutate as we meet other musicians and enter new realms. New England Conservatory http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/new-england-conservatory

'The Path Through Science to Bach's Emotions'

NEC @ Huff Post - Tue, 2016-08-16 09:52
Twice in my life I had devoted time to performing and recording these works; I felt the itch to do it one more time. This, I knew, might be the last time, and I wanted it to be special. I also thought it might be an opportunity to write about this music. In order to do it well, I wanted to do some research. New England Conservatory http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/new-england-conservatory

Conversation with Bernard Greenhouse

Cello Bello Blog - Thu, 2016-08-11 13:59

 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 to my lessons where Salmond would often say, “Oh, Bernard, I just came from Philadelphia where I have the most wonderful talent in the world, just a great, great young talent, Leonard Rose.” After a while, I grew tired of hearing about Leonard Rose, and I would bristle each time he mentioned him. Naturally, being an ambitious youth, I had a high opinion of my own talent, and I wanted him tell me how great I was.

A couple of years later, the Curtis Orchestra came to New York to play a performance of “The Marriage of Figaro” with Fritz Reiner conducting, and we had to share our rooms with some of the musicians. As luck would have it, Leonard Rose was my guest. He took one look at me and said, “So you’re Bernie Greenhouse! Every time I have a lesson, Felix says, ‘Oh, I have the most wonderful talent in the world, just a great, great young talent, Bernard Greenhouse.’ After awhile I began to hate you.”

We both had a good laugh over this and decided that this was Salmond’s way of urging us on.

TJ: Did you continue to feel competitive with Leonard Rose after this?

BG: Yes, there was a certain amount of competition between us, though less on my part because I knew that I wanted to study with teachers after Salmond. Leonard Rose completed his studies with him, and then pursued his career. After studying with Salmond for four years, I was ready to move on to another teacher.

Felix Salmond was enormously gifted when it came to “sound.” Frank Miller, Victor Gotlieb, Leonard Rose — some of the best talents in America at the time — came away from him with a beautiful sound. Unfortunately, Salmond was not a truly great cellist himself. He was a wonderful musician and a fine artist, but his technique was very limited. Consequently, his repertoire was very limited too.

TJ: If he wasn’t a great cellist, then how did he teach so many first rate cellists?

BG: You don’t have to be a first class cellist to be an effective teacher. He kept us in line by insisting that we use all of his fingerings and bowings. You could not come into his room and make changes because you thought you had a better idea. I now think this approach was wrong because it prevented us from learning how to think for ourselves. As a result, many of his students never went beyond using his editions, and weren’t terribly creative artists.

TJ: Did he play with a more modern technique, or was he from the old school?

BG: He was very much a product of the old school, which was why I was anxious to go beyond Salmond’s teaching and to begin my studies with Emanuel Feuermann. Feuermann was a great help in developing my left hand.

TJ: What sort of exercises did Feuermann have you work on?

BG: He didn’t work with exercises, he was mostly concerned with repertoire. He believed that concertos and other major pieces provided plenty of opportunities for technical study. He discussed and demonstrated the technique of the left hand in a completely new way, minimizing the use of extensions. Before him old-school German teachers like Klengel and Becker relied much more upon extensions, which required that you practice eight hours a day in order to build up enormous strength and endurance. With Feuermann the left hand was supple and moved freely. He showed me the technique of how to get around the instrument with minimal effort, taking advantage of arm weight when fingering.

TJ: Did he also work with you on bow technique?

BG: Yes, he did to a degree, but I found it extremely difficult to imitate him. He had the most natural bow arm of any cellist I’ve ever heard before or since. Even Heifetz admired his bow arm. I learned mostly about left hand technique from him.

TJ: Was he a kind teacher?

BG:  He was rather sarcastic actually. In spite of this, I would hear rumors that he spoke well of me to others. But he knew how to push my buttons, and would say things like, “If you practice five or six hours a day for the next few years, you might play as well as Frank Miller or Leonard Rose.”

TJ: Did Feuermann talk about musical issues or was he mostly a technical teacher?

BG: He was mostly technical. He would demonstrate a great deal during lessons and would ask me to imitate him. When I attempted some of the more difficult passages he would either smile or ridicule me when I couldn’t do it. He expected everybody to be able to play with the natural ease that he had. On the positive side, he provided a clear vision of how I wanted to play from a technical standpoint, which was very inspiring.

TJ: Do you consider him to be more of a profound artist or profound technician?

BG: I don’t think of him as one of the great creative artists in history, and I didn’t think so even then. I think his legacy is that nobody had been able to play the instrument with the same ease and unerring intonation before he came around. He is probably the best cellist, technically speaking, I’ve ever seen or heard.

There were three cellists who made a great impression upon me in my student days. The first was Feuermann. The second was Cassado, who had a great feeling for the instrument and a superb technique. The third was Raya Garbousova, who came from Russia and exhibited a profound technique and a wonderful performance presence. Of course, the one who was the most impressive was Feuermann. But then I became aware of Pablo Casals. When it came to making music, once you were in the presence of Casals and knew his playing, the rest faded away.

TJ: Before we discuss Casals, you studied with one of Casals’ proteges, Diran Alexanian.

BG: Yes. I was principal cellist of the Navy Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. when I first met him during the Second World War. I met Mischa Schneider, cellist of the Budapest Quartet, on a train to New York and he invited me to sit in on his lesson with Alexanian. I thought the lesson was fabulous so I decided that every time I had a weekend pass and a chance to go to New York, I would have a lesson with Alexanian. This was the beginning of a long association with him.

TJ: Wasn’t Alexanian a pretty analytical musician?

BG: He was extremely analytical but also very musical. Casals had chosen him as his substitute teacher at the École Normale in Paris because of his wonderful musical intuition. He had a profound influence on many of the great musicians of that era — Fournier, Piatigorsky, Tortelier, violinist Alexander Schneider, to name a few. In fact, Feuermann never played in New York without first coming to play for Alexanian.

He was a superb pedagogue, but he wasn’t much of a cellist. He never touched the cello during lessons, except to show an occasional fingering or something. When he did play, it usually sounded terrible, but one excused him because he was not a cellist and he didn’t claim to be.

TJ: Did you consider Alexanian’s technique to be more old fashioned?

BG: Yes, he was definitely a product of the old school. He had enormous hands, which enabled him to do things without great extensions that smaller hands would have much difficulty in achieving. He sometimes took his large reach for granted and expected others to play with his fingerings, which created difficulties with some of his students.

He was also an extremely intimidating character. If you didn’t have a healthy self-confidence, he could overwhelm you. Raya Garbousova, for instance, went to work with him, which I think was a mistake. She came out a different person, much less self-assured. Fortunately, I wasn’t afraid to challenge him. I used to spend hours arguing with him about his cello technique and the stiffness of his bow arm, which was always interesting and informative. Our discussions were always on a high level, and he treated me almost as an equal.

TJ: How did he discuss music? Did he break down phrases note by note?

BG: He was very detail-oriented, so much so that it wasn’t always easy to understand him.

This reminds me of the time he and I went to Prades to see Casals after a separation of about 14 years. Casals had invited just the two of us to hear him play some sonatas with piano. Casals was so nervous to be playing for Alexanian that his knees actually shook as he picked up his cello to start.

Alexanian and Casals eventually got involved in a discussion about a single note in the C Minor Bach Suite, which lasted about half an hour. They couldn’t come to an agreement as to which note was the key note of a particular phrase. Three months later I was in New York at Alexanian’s home, and he showed me a postcard from Casals that said, &34;I think now, Diran, that you were right about that note in the C minor.&34; Three months later!

TJ: Looking back, do you think that Alexanian’s highly analytical approach may have been a little extreme?

BG: I think it was rather extreme. He had a hard time getting through to many of his students because of this. He could be a bit unforgiving if you didn’t follow him. If you didn’t have the technical ability to keep up with him it could be disastrous. He insisted on his way of playing and his way of making music.

TJ: How did you end up studying with Casals?

BG: Alexanian helped to arrange a meeting with Casals. He wrote a letter to Casals in Prades, asking whether he would listen to me play and perhaps give me some lessons. Casals wrote back that he couldn’t, since he was too busy taking care of exiles from Franco’s Spain. With that letter I decided that I would go to Fontainebleau to study with Hekking, in the hopes that I would get another opportunity to study with Casals. When I arrived in Paris, I sent a letter to Casals asking whether he would at least listen to me play once. He sent a postcard back saying that, if I would donate $100 to Spanish charities and come to Prades on such and such a day, he would listen to me.

So I met him in Prades and had a nice talk with him for about a half hour. He asked me to come back the next day and play for him then. When I returned the following day I was shaking like a leaf. He noticed that I was very nervous, so he said, “You take your cello out and warm up a little bit. I’ll come back in a few moments.”

As I warmed up, I gradually started to feel a little better. After twenty minutes went by, I noticed that Casals hadn’t yet returned. I turned my head and saw his head in the doorway. He was standing just outside the door with the door opened a crack. He had been listening the whole time. He walked into the room, smiled, and said “I wanted to hear you play when you weren’t nervous.” I’ll never forget his wonderful sensitivity to my feelings.

Then he asked me to play many things in the cello repertoire. He wanted to hear the Haydn D Major Concerto, the Brahms F Major Sonata, and some Bach, of course. After 45 minutes or so he told me to put away the cello so we could talk. He said, “I would like to send you to a great artist because I believe in the apprentice system, the association of a youngster with an artist. Unfortunately, I don’t know who to send you to. But if you agree to stay in the village for at least six months and take several lessons, perhaps two or three lessons per week, I’ll teach you.”

That, of course, was a great moment for me. For weeks I didn’t even send for my things in Paris. I just stayed on and began my work with him, which was the most wonderful time of my life. I stayed there most of the year, returned to America to play some concerts, and then went back to study with him for another seven months.

TJ: Did he dictate bowings and fingerings?

BG: Definitely. I studied Bach’s D minor Suite for three weeks. He insisted on certain bowings and fingerings for each movement, which meant that I had to write into my part exactly what he did. We went through the entire suite in this manner. After a while, this started to bother me, so I finally said to him, “Mr. Casals, I am concerned that I will end up being just a poor imitation of you.”

He replied, “Don’t you worry about that. You just put your cello down and listen.”

He then played the entire D minor Suite, changing all the bowings and fingerings from what he had taught me during the last three weeks. I sat there absolutely aghast as he finished. He smiled and said, “Now that’s the real lesson of how to play Bach. You must learn it so well that you remember every single idea that you have had in your practice. Then you forget everything and improvise.”

This was very difficult to do, especially after such rigid training the prior three weeks, but it was a profound lesson. I eventually played each Suite in a recital in New York, but it took me a whole year to learn each one to the point where I felt I could improvise as I played.

TJ: Did he work on technical issues with you?

BG:  He didn’t work on technique with me. He felt that I had a good command of the instrument. I did get the idea of using arm weight when bowing from him. He was very complimentary about my cello playing, though not so much about my music making. For instance, one time he told me that I sounded a little too much like Kreisler, which meant that he didn’t like my style of playing. I had been greatly influenced by the Viennese musicality of Fritz Kreisler, and it was part of my playing at the time.

TJ: He didn’t like Kreisler’s playing?

BG: He loved Kreisler’s playing, but he didn’t want me to imitate him. He had a great friendship with Kreisler, but the Viennese style was not for him.

TJ: Do you consider Casals’ technique to be more old fashioned or more modern?

BG: He was modern to a great extent. He had a great fluidity in his playing, which was very different from the Klengel or Becker school. He didn’t play with the ease of Feuermann, since his hands were smaller and rather pudgy, though enormously strong, but nobody could play like Feuermann at the time.

TJ: Did Casals play differently live than on recordings?

BG: Definitely. Some of his recordings, especially the encore pieces, sound a little exaggerated. I never heard him play that way, live. I studied with him when he was 70 years old and still had enormous ability on the cello. As he got older, his playing became more exaggerated and less accurate, which is when many of his recordings were made. But when I studied with him, his playing was still wonderful and I never heard anything that was less than musically superb.

TJ: So we shouldn’t really judge him by his recordings?

BG: Definitely not. Once in a while you’ll hear something so exaggerated that it makes you jump out of your chair, especially in the later recordings. But there are also recordings, especially the earlier ones, like of the Chopin Nocturnes, that are splendid. In these recordings, you hear musicality that is unsurpassed. Nobody could ever match his level of artistry.

TJ: What was he like as a person?

BG: He was very genial, though at times he could be very stern. His stern side didn’t usually come out when music was discussed, though he was very insistent on his ideas. It came out for issues outside of music. He was very firm about people who didn’t understand that Franco was a tyrant. When it came to politics, for instance, his jaw would tighten any time we spoke about what was happening politically in France or America. He was very disturbed that the United States recognized Franco. Of course I was very much influenced by his political ideas.

TJ: When you finished your studies with Casals, did you pursue a solo career?

BG: I did for 12 years, but it was very difficult. The cello was not a very popular instrument in the United States at that time. There were two main cellists in the United States — Piatigorsky, who was doing fairly well, and Feuermann, who really struggled, only playing twelve concerts in the season before he died. Piatigorsky performed quite a bit, but he didn’t really have a full scale career like the major cellists of today, such as Rostropovich or Yo-Yo Ma. Agents weren’t interested in booking cellists, and orchestras would often only engage one cellist per year, if that. I really struggled.

In order to make ends meet, I joined the Bach Aria group, which afforded me some financial security as well as giving me the great pleasure of playing some of the Bach Cantatas, which have some wonderful cello arias.

During this time, violinist Daniel Guilet asked me if I would like to record some Mozart trios with pianist Menahem Pressler, who was in Israel at the time. I didn’t know Pressler’s playing, but Guilet was very enthusiastic about him. Later, when I was recording the Haydn D Major Concerto with the Indianapolis Orchestra for MGM Records, Guilet contacted me, suggesting that I ask Pressler if he’d be willing to come to New York and do some recordings. Eventually we all met in New York, started rehearsing, and formed what was to become the Beaux Arts Trio.

TJ: Do you find that you have to expend a lot of energy just to be heard as a cellist in a piano trio?

BG: That depends more upon the pianist than the cellist. We were fortunate to have a really superb pianist who had a sense of sound color in the piano, which enabled the other instruments — the violin and the cello — to be heard. He would never overpower us.

TJ: As a cellist in a piano trio, you spend a lot of time doubling the pianist’s left hand, particularly in the Haydn trios.

BG:  That’s true, but I actually think I had more influence on the performance of the Haydn trios because I had more time to think about the music, instead of worrying about technique. Of course, there is plenty of beauty and difficulty in the rest of the piano trio literature to keep me busy.

TJ: The Beaux Arts Trio was one of the first professional full-time traveling piano trios. Was it difficult finding work?

BG: It wasn’t easy in the beginning. Piano trios were not accepted in the chamber music world, which embraced string quartets for the most part. In our first season, our managers got us 80 or so concerts, but 75 were community concerts. We didn’t mind at the time since we were busy learning repertoire. Eventually, we became accepted as a professional chamber group and we were able to give up the community concerts and play for fine chamber music societies throughout the world.

TJ: Do you think that the art of phrasing and rubato is becoming extinct?

BG: I wish that I could say that it still exists, but I find that there’s less and less communication in phrasing, less individuality, and less creativity. Instrumental technique, whether for piano, violin, or cello, has increased enormously. We now have hundreds of cellists with technique that would have been called astounding 75 years ago. We have 13-year-old prodigies who would have been considered musical geniuses 50 years ago because of their fabulous technique. We now have the means to produce music with an ease that was unheard of when I was a young man.

The problem is that I cannot tell the difference between the finest talents anymore. When I listen to a recent recording, I can’t tell who’s playing, since they sound mostly the same. Occasionally I’ll hear a moment of creativity and individuality, but it still lacks the stamp of an individual artist. Young people want desperately to succeed, so they imitate success without trying to find a way of speaking the language of music for themselves. Copying success can be very destructive.

TJ: In your videotape, “Cello Master Class with Bernard Greenhouse,” you said something like, “We must wake up to the fact that there is more to cello than a beautiful sound. We must learn how to build phrases.”

BG: Exactly. I try to zero in on this very idea with my own students. We must develop a freedom of expression that is personal, that has nothing to do with what we hear others do. There are special techniques for making music that have to be learned, and can be used to create one’s own musical style. These techniques are difficult to learn today because those who studied with the really creative and individualistic artists of our past, like Casals, Szigeti, and Enesco, are largely gone, and are not around to fight the trend towards musical uniformity. In my own teaching, I am trying to revive an interest in the technique of phrasing and music making so that talented musicians can put their fantastic technique to good use.

TJ: In your video tape, you also said, “Everything in music has to have an architectural feeling about it.” What does this mean?

BG: There is a structure involved in building a performance. You start by building a simple phrase, then another, then another, and so on. You then combine these phrases to build a structure for the overall work. When done well, this approach will result in an “architectural” feeling in the work, since each phrase will have context within the overall work.

Casals emphasized the “arch” in music making. Each phrase has a beginning, reaches the top in a beautiful arching way, and then comes down to the starting point. He called these “rainbows.” He was very insistent that every phrase have this feeling of motion toward the top, and then a receding motion to the bottom. Each piece consists of smaller rainbows that are part of larger rainbows, which gives the piece a sense of form. This is what he called the “architecture” of building phrases.

TJ: You also mentioned that there are “consonants” and “vowels” in music. What are these?

BG: This relates to another concept that Casals emphasized — articulation. He insisted that every note have a definite beginning, even if it was to be played pianissimo. A consonant is heard when the finger audibly comes down on the instrument, giving the note a sharp beginning. A vowel is played when the finger is placed less percussively, giving the note a milder beginning. In other words, a consonant is more articulated.

TJ: You caution your students to not become overly involved in the beauty of the music, to not lose control their emotions. Why?

BG: I have to be careful how I explain this to my students. Of course, you must be emotionally involved in the music, but there is a limit. You don’t want to start crying while you play. If you show that much emotion, you take it away from your audience. Your goal is to get the audience members to feel these emotions, not for you to distract them with your own display of feelings. There have been times when I have been extremely successful in creating a beautiful phrase, and I have seen people take out a handkerchief to wipe a tear away, which is a tremendous compliment. But it’s enormously difficult to be overly expressive if you let your own emotions go, since you also lose technical control. You tend to lose your audience too, since they can be repelled by such displays.

TJ: How do you go about analyzing the pieces you play?

BG: I try to develop an understanding between myself and the composer, which doesn’t necessarily come through highly theoretical analysis. Remember that we are playing beautiful music, not studying mathematics. My goal is to attain a sympathetic feeling toward the music, which then shows me the path towards more technical analysis if necessary. For instance, when I study the Beethoven G minor Sonata, I begin to understand each phrase when I develop a sympathy for what Beethoven is trying to say, and what he may have been feeling as he composed. I don’t think of my approach as the kind of analysis that one would do in a music theory class.

TJ: Why do you encourage people to play closer to the bridge with the bow, particularly when playing forte?

BG: Moving the bow closer to the bridge creates a sound that has more of a forte character, much more than what one achieves when playing midway between the bridge and the fingerboard. When one plays forte closer to the fingerboard, it sounds like the cello is being forced to do something that it doesn’t want to, like shouting with one’s hand over one’s mouth.

My priority is to have an enormous range of tonal colors. You can’t be fully expressive without having a wide palette of colors available. The speed of the bow, the position of the bow, and the amount of pressure are the three primary things we can vary to alter the tonal colors on the instrument. Like a painter who mixes his colors on his palette, we mix ours with the bow.

I don’t ask people to play closer to the bridge because I want to hear a “bigger” sound. The cello is not a trombone or a trumpet, and there’s a limit to how much sound one can get out of the cello. I think my fine colleague, Rostropovich, has shown us the limit. I’m impressed by tonal variety, not sheer volume.

TJ: You take advantage of arm weight when you play, in both arms.

BG: Definitely. But arm weight is not the most important thing, it’s being able to attach the weight of the arm to the spine, since the back has an enormous influence on the ease of playing, a notion I got from Feuermann and Casals. The smaller the amount of body you use, the more difficult it is to play with strength. When the back is more involved, you achieve a feeling of freedom and power that you cannot attain when you play only with your arms, hands, and fingers. The motion should starts from the back, not from the arm or shoulder. When you put your finger down, for instance, it’s not the finger that is creating the strength, it’s your back that’s pulling the finger down. You should use the large muscles of your body in order to create the ease and strength.

TJ: How do you achieve subtle shades of vibrato, if you use arm weight and your back as the primary ingredients for any motion? The large muscles are not known for their subtlety.

BG: Vibrato doesn’t depend on strength as much as it does from which part of the arm you’re using. If you’re on the C string, your entire arm should be used, since the C string requires a wider vibrato in order to be discernable. If you play on the A string in the lower positions, and if you want a luscious sound, you should use a movement that hinges more at the elbow. If you play in the upper registers of the cello, the wrist becomes more important. As you can see, there isn’t only one type of vibrato motion, there’s an enormous variety of vibrato types that vary depending on where you are playing on the cello, not to mention the shades of vibrato available when you strive for a variety of tonal colors.

Remember also that the bow is always working in conjunction with the left hand. There is as much crescendo or diminuendo in the left hand as there is in the bow. The right and left arms always work together to create sound.

And most important, we mustn’t forget that the goal of all this technical discussion is to create music that says something, not just to play with a beautiful sound. I implore all musicians to express their unique inner selves deeply and creatively. Don’t look to recordings or to your neighbor for answers, study the score, learn about the composer, and look inside yourselves.


IF YOU HAVE TO ASK WHAT JAZZ IS, YOU'LL NEVER KNOW. LOUIS ARMSTRONG