Thursday, December 27, 2007

Yo- Yo on Charlie Rose - Great Interview

11 minutes in Yo-Yo performs Appalachian Waltz by Mark O'Connor

Brahms - piano quartet c-moll, 3d m. - Dimitri Miller

Alexander Kalashkov - violine
Sofya Lebed' - viola
Dmitry Miller - cello
Irina Osipova - piano
live in Rachmaninov hall of Moscow conservatory

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, Lo Saturnalia, Natulis Sol Invictus, etc.. from the Cello Geek.

This is my new tree topper.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Shostakovich - Suzana Stefanovic (SC 80)

Suzana Stefanovic (Cello) and Ilona Timchenko (Piano), 1st movement Allegro non Troppo

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Carlos Prieto - Suite No. 3 for Cello Solo in C Major

Gustavo Dudamel / SBYOV Shostakovich Symphony 10 II. Allegro

BBC Proms 2007: Prom 48
Royal Albert Hall
August 19, 2007

Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Cellist’s Companion: A Comprehensive Catalogue of Cello Literature

More than three hundred years after the violoncello became established as a solo instrument, A Cellist’s Companion: A Comprehensive Catalogue of Cello Literature is the first comprehensive catalogue of the literature for violoncello. The hard-cover edition can be purchased with the order form on this website. A paperback edition is available from Inquiries can be made to

A Cellist’s Companion is the culmination of more than thirty-five years of meticulous compilation of cello repertoire. A catalogue of this scope has never been published. Approximately 45,000 titles written by over 15,000 composers are listed alphabetically by composer, and ordered by opus number, and alpabetically by title. This unique project to compile all music ever written for cello solo – published or unpublished – is intended to be a reference work that will quickly become every cellist’s companion.

The categories of cello repertoire include: cello solo, cello with electronics or tape, cello and piano, cello and orchestra, cello duos and ensembles, duos with other instruments, cello solo and chamber ensemble, two or more solo instruments and orchestra, cello and voice, methods and studies. With the exception of cello ensemble music, chamber music works have been excluded unless the cello has a solo function. Unlike other catalogues which list only published music available at the time of the catalogue’s publication, A Cellist’s Companion: A Comprehensive Catalogue of Cello Literature includes all known works, spanning over 300 years. Published music, out-of-print editions, unpublished manuscripts, titles mentioned only in reference books, self-published works, and works mentioned only in reviews have all been included. The formidable scope of the project, combining seemingly unimportant fragments of information from multiple sources has made it possible to piece together work-lists by famous and unknown composers, as well as cellist-composers such as Romberg, Dotzauer, Davidoff, and Fitzenhagen.

Published editons are the primary source of information. Secondary sources include reference works, such as Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Riemann’s Musik Lexicon, and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, as well as publisher’s catalogues, library catalogues, handbooks, music information services, the back covers of sheet music, announcements, magazine articles, composer’s websites, and concert reviews. Although many titles have been translated into English, whenever possible titles have been left in their original language. Multiple spellings of composer’s names are cross-referenced to the main spelling. Arrangements are cross-referenced to the original composer’s work. Many collections are also cross-referenced to the original work(s). The appendices include a list of publishers, library sigla, a bibliography with a short list of internet sites, and an index of works by instrumentation.

Read more here

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Scriabin Etude Op. 8 No. 11 - Wendy Warner

Transcription for cello and piano, by Piatigorsky of Scriabin's piano Etude Op. 8 No. 11. Unedited recording of live recital by Wendy Warner, violoncello, and Iriina Nuzova, piano, at the Phillips Collection of Art Concert Series.

Schubert - Piano Trio No.1 - I. Allegro moderato

Yehudi Menuhin (violin)
Hephzibah Menuhin (piano)
Maurice Gendron (violoncello)

Steven Isserlis/Why Handel Waggled His Wig

I apologize for forgetting to add Isserlis to the favorite cellist poll - I have a feeling he is probably the cellist many have in mind when choosing other in the poll.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Yo-Yo Ma: Elgar Cello Concerto

Yo-Yo Ma with Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony in this performance from 1997

Monday, December 10, 2007

Haydn C- Major III Movement - J.L. Webber

A very lively performance of the last movement from Haydn's Cello Concerto in C.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bach Cello Suite no 3. Jean-Guihen Queyras

I bought his new CD last week and I find it very enjoyable. His unique voicing complements the music without "mudding the waters."

You can pick up your copy here

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pierre Fournier plays Dvořák cello concerto.

Cello: Pierre Fournier
Conductor: Nikolaus Aeschbacher
Orchestra: NHKSymphonyOrchestra
Tokyo Metropolitan Hibiya Public Hall 1954

Ist Movement

3rd Movement

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yo-Yo Ma - Bach recital in NJ -

Hurry tickets are going fast!

Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Monday, March 10, 2008

Yo-Yo Ma returns to Prudential Hall, this time with a rare solo recital devoted to Bach's unaccompanied suites for cello – meditative music sure to take flight in the hands of one of classical music’s undisputed royalty. One of the most forceful musical communicators of our time, Ma “brings humility, warmth, intelligence and gentle humor to virtually everything he plays,” says The New York Times.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

David Popper's "Dance of the Elves"

Daniel Gaisford 1989 recital in Salt Lake City, Utah

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cantique de Jean Racine - Fauré

This arrangement by Mooney was performed by Just the BASSics Cello Ensemble under the direction of Kari Moen.

Monday, November 19, 2007

*World Premiere* Richard Ratner Duo for Two Cellos

Cello: Erik Anderson
Cello: Monty Moncrief
November 18, 2007

Opening: Intro by Dr. Erik Anderson

I. Allegro moderato

II. Grave

III. q = 80

IV. Largo (Tempo rubato) & V. e = 100

Janos Starker - Dvořák: Concerto - 1st mvt.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The missing link in the reel - By Norman Lebrecht

The saddest letter I have ever set eyes on fell out of a dusty book I was buying in a basement shop off Charing Cross Road. Dated ‘Hollywood, 5 March 1957’ it was written by the wife of a dying composer to a conductor, Mark Lubbock, who had arranged to give a short talk on the BBC on the composer’s 60th birthday.

In a tone that veered from ingratiating to embarrassingly obsequious, Luzi Korngold applauded Lubbock’s advocacy of her husband’s work and showered him with a pile of recordings. ‘My husband is still not well enough to write himself,’ she wrote in laborious English, ‘(but) I thank you in his name, already in advance, for the pleasure we will have in listening to you.’

Her husband, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, had once been the most successful composer in movieland and, before that, at the Vienna Opera. But musical fashions flicker faster than old films and Korngold’s time had passed; he had six months to live, just long enough to see his reputation vanish.

A commemoration in the coming weeks at London’s South Bank offers some reparation with a long-belated British premiere of Korngold’s 1927 opera Das Wunder der Heliane, a post-romantic work that lifts opera out of the Richard Strauss dinner-jacket into a realm both mystic and modern.

Conducted by the London Philharmonic’s new chief Vladimir Jurowski, the mini-series may provoke a Korngold reappraisal, at least I hope it will. What it cannot do is heal the schism that Korngold left behind – a seismic faultline in the musical process that has prevented the best classical composers from engaging seriously with the cinema, the most popular art form of our time.

No such constraints existed in the world that Korngold was born into in 1897, a world where Johannes Brahms and Johann Strauss played cards together twice a week, celebrating their parallel dominance of cerebral and popular art. Korngold’s father, Julius, was music critic of Vienna’s influential Neue Freie Presse. He took the wunderkind, aged ten, to see Gustav Mahler and came away with a commission to write a ballet. Musicians acclaimed the kid as the best since Mozart, though this may have been in deference to his father’s career-breaking power.

By 18 Erich had two operas on stage. At 23, he addressed the post-War malaise with Die Tote Stadt (Dead City), co-written with his father, a necrophiliac opera about a man who drives himself crazy that his dead wife is having an affair in another town. It won soprano Maria Jeritza world fame and transferred within a year to New York. Over the next 15 years it had more performances in Vienna than any contemporary work.

Eclectic and inquisitive – keen on movies and keen, too, to escape his overweening Papa – Korngold sailed in 1934 to join director Max Reinhardt on the Warner Brothers lot for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (with Micky Rooney and Olivia de Havilland). There, he so impressed the moguls that they let him write his own contract, allowing him, uniquely among Hollywood slaves, the right to own his music and recycle it in any form he chose.

Over the next decade, while Nazism ravaged Europe, Korngold single-handedly defined the parameters of movie music as we know it today – a patchwork of Mahler, Wagner, Berlioz and Johann Strauss, with occasional chromatic moments of original melody for love and tragedy. He specialised in rowdy scores for Errol Flynn swashbucklers but he could turn to baroque pastiche for The Sea Hawk and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and to contemplative, disturbing quietude for the psychological studies of Kings Row (1942, with Ronald Reagan), Of Human Bondage and Deception (both 1946).

By now, the war over and downcast by his aged father’s death, Korngold realised how far he had drifted off course. ‘I will be 50 in May (1947),’ he told Warner Brothers. ‘Fifty is very old for a child prodigy. I feel I have to make a decision now if I don’t want to be a Hollywood composer for the rest of my life.’

He resumed composing concert works, only to face rejection. Hollywood success had blighted his highbrow reputation. He wrote a gorgeous violin concerto for Jascha Heifetz, scorned by the New York Times as ‘a Hollywood concerto … ordinary and sentimental in character … matched by the mediocrity of the ideas.’

A cello concerto, drawn from the Deception score and intentionally discordant, was similarly derided. The more Korngold composed, the less he got played. Conductors like Wilhelm Furtwaengler, who once accepted his pieces sight unseen, no longer replied to his letters. Broadcasters dropped him from their playlists. The desperation in Luzi’s appeal to the BBC must have echoed Korngold’s deathbed despair.

Through no fault of his own, he had come to symbolise the success of popular movies against the stagnancy of musical tradition. His ostracism was intended as a warning to future composers never to defect to mass temptations.

The line he crossed remained inviolate until the past decade when, facing audience crisis, orchestras took up the Steven Spielberg scores of John Williams and the Lord of the Rings suite by Howard Shore - along with occasional airings of the Korngold violin concerto (a recent Vancouver recording by the young Canadian James Ehnes is outstanding). The excommunication had been lifted.

Yet listening to current movie scores – Patrick Doyle’s fine work, for instance, for the forthcoming Sleuth – you realise how little the art of movie composing has advanced since Korngold gave up in 1946, how stuck directors have become in the expectations of action and emotion that he cultivated, major themes for love, minor for loss.

Korngold, 110 next month and 50 years dead, richly deserves to be welcomed back to the concert hall. But he deserves even more to be recognised as a pioneer of an allied art, an art that now cries out for a new Korngold to rejuvenate its methodology. The time has come to erase the line between movie and concert music, to encourage the likes of John Adams, Thomas Ades and Mark Anton Turnage to try their hand at lifting film tracks out of the Korngold groove and into 21st century modalities.

The LPO play Korngold’s film music on 2 November, the violin concerto on 14 November and Heliane on 21 November. Audio samples can be heard on

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Andersons and Piazzolla - Le Grand Tango

Piano – Dr. Dianna Anderson

Cello – Dr. Erik Anderson

November 5th 2007 - Ann Nicole Nelson Auditorium.

Amazingly neither had ever performed the piece and had only four practice sessions prior to performance.

Both Erik and Dianna are members of the Luminus Trio and faculty at Minot State University.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Kirshbaum coming to USC

Photo/J. Henry Fair

London-based cellist Ralph Kirshbaum is named holder of the Gregor Piatigorsky Endowed Chair in Violoncello at USC Thornton. He will teach in the school’s strings department next fall.
By Ljiljana Grubisic

Cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, who holds a distinguished position among the world’s foremost musicians, has been appointed the fifth holder of the Gregor Piatigorsky Endowed Chair in Violoncello in the strings program of the USC Thornton School of Music.

As “one of the outstanding cellists of his generation,” according to The New York Times, Texas-born Kirshbaum has excelled in a career which encompasses performances with the world’s leading symphony orchestras, solo recital appearances, chamber music collaborations, teaching and numerous recordings.

“Ralph Kirshbaum’s artistry is unsurpassed and his teaching is phenomenal,” said Midori Goto, holder of the Jascha Heifetz Endowed Chair in Violin and the artistic and academic chair of the strings department at USC Thornton. “Kirshbaum’s commitment to mentoring younger musicians is well-known, and he will bring to our strings program a force that cannot be matched anywhere else with his artistry, expertise and dedication.”

Bernard Greenhouse, a founding and longtime member of the Beaux Arts Trio and one of the elder statesmen of the American cello community, called Kirshbaum “undoubtedly one of the most respected teachers and artists in the world. And the fact that he has agreed to take this post at USC will certainly bring the best and the most talented young minds to the university.”

The USC Thornton strings program is considered among the nation’s finest. Its eminent artist/teachers are noted for both individual instruction and coaching in chamber music. High standards of professionalism in performance and teaching have been upheld for more than a century by a faculty that has included Piatigorsky, Heifetz, William Primrose, Eudice Shapiro, Eleonore Schoenfeld, who passed away this year, and her sister Alice Schoenfeld, who is still teaching.

Building on that illustrious legacy, USC Thornton Dean Robert Cutietta recently welcomed internationally recognized Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham to its strings faculty. Midori joined the program four years ago.

“Mr. Kirshbaum is a perfect addition to the already stellar faculty in instrumental music. His impeccable reputation as both an artist and a teacher exemplifies the spirit of the Thornton School,” Cutietta said.

The Piatigorsky Chair of Violoncello was established in 1974 to recognize the achievements of Gregor Piatigorsky, one of the greatest cellists of the last century who taught at USC from 1962 until his death in 1976. Previous holders of this position were Piatigorsky himself (1974-76), Lynn Harrell (1986-1993), Ronald Leonard (1993-2003) and Eleonore Schoenfeld (2004-07).

In a statement from London, Kirshbaum said, “What an honor it is to assume the chair which bears the name of one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century. He served as my boyhood idol. I played to him in a master class as a teenager, and I treasure the memory of a personal visit some years later at his home in Los Angeles. I recognize this appointment as an opportunity and a responsibility; I embrace both wholeheartedly.”

Kirshbaum has appeared with most of the world’s great orchestras and conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, James Levine, Andre Previn, Zubin Mehta and Sir Simon Rattle.

Aside from his busy concerto schedule, his recital programs are much in demand and each year he appears at several of the great international festivals such as Edinburgh, Bath, Verbier, Lucerne, Aspen, La Jolla, Santa Fe, Ravinia and New York’s “Mostly Mozart.” He continues to delight in the pleasures of chamber music and ensures space in a busy solo schedule to continue his associations with many leading chamber musicians, including Pinchas Zukerman, Vadim Repin, Jimmy Lin, Miriam Fried, Yefim Bronfman, Peter Frankl and Nobuko Imai.

Kirshbaum currently teaches at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, where he holds the International Chair in Cello. He was founder and for 20 years the artistic director of the RNCM Manchester International Cello Festival. He gives annual master classes at the International Musician’s Seminar in Prussia Cove, the London Master Classes and throughout the world. He has served on the U.S. President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities for the past four years.

Kirshbaum’s many recordings have included the world premiere recording of Tippett's Triple Concerto, the Elgar and Walton Concertos, the complete Bach Suites and the Barber Concerto and Sonata, and the Brahms Double and Beethoven Triple Concertos. His most recent release in November 2006 is his recording of the Shostakovich and Prokofiev Sonatas with the pianist Peter Jablonski.

The rare Montagnana Cello that Kirshbaum plays once belonged to the 19th-century virtuoso Piatti.

Currently living in London, Kirshbaum will assume his teaching duties at USC next fall.

In accepting the post at USC, Kirshbaum said, “Having been based for the past 38 years in Europe, I find something particularly apt about my returning to an American base in Southern California, where my father was born and where I spent many happy summer holidays as a child. More significantly, I am very impressed by the palpable sense of excitement and purpose that is evident in the Thornton School and that exists in equal measure in the burgeoning and dynamic arts community of greater Los Angeles.”

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sophie Feuermann dead at 99 - Robert Battey

Sophie Feuermann, younger sister of the famed cellist, passed away on 11/6 at 99. She was Feuermann's accompanist in the early years of his career.

She was a true survivor. The youngest of 5 children, she was the only one to make it to middle age, and was victimized in the Holocaust as well.

I met her once, she was sharp and lively well into her 90's, and generously offered tips and recollections about her brother and his playing.


Robert Battey

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Schnittke, Sonata for Cello and Piano (Part 1 of 3)

Heinrich Schiff - Violoncello
Paul Gulda - Piano

Schnittke, Cello Sonata (Part 2 of 3)

Schnittke, Cello Sonata (Part 3of 3)

Franz Schubert ''The Trout' Quintet (documentary) 1

Franz Schubert ''The Trout' Quintet - 2

Franz Schubert ''The Trout' Quintet - 3

Franz Schubert ''The Trout' Quintet - 4

Franz Schubert ''The Trout' Quintet - 5

Franz Schubert ''The Trout' Quintet - 6

Rianne reports from the Kronberg cello festival

My first cello festival! A month ago, I spent a wonderful weekend in the small medieval town of Kronberg, Germany. Just got the photos back (I'm one of those stone age people that uses light-sensitive chemicals on a strip of plastic), so I thought I'd share some impressions with you.

I arrived late at night on thursday and left early on sunday morning, but those 2 days were absolutely crammed with exciting events. Concert highlights included Lynn Harrell & Pavel Gililov in the Debussy sonata, Gabriel Schwabe & Gililov in the Rostropovich humoresque, David Geringas in Vasks' Gramata Cellam, Gary-Hoffman & David Selig in the Magnard sonata, and Natalya Gutman's Schnittke (the end of which was unfortunately marred by the gigantic sneeze of an idiot at the back of the church). There were lots of encores too, including a melancholy transcription of Sibelius' valse triste by Geringas and a reprise of the volcanic humoresque by Schwabe.

I managed to get audience tickets for 3 masterclasses. Unfortunately, Gutman's class was oversubscribed, and I had difficulty hearing anything she said from my place in the windowsill behind the curtain. I had a better seat in the Hoffman & Harrell classes, and fortunately they were loud and clear. Interpretation issues aside (works featured were the Dvorak concerto and sonatas by Brahms, Prokofiev and Miaskovsky), I was amazed by how much both of them went back to basics. There were lots of remarks on posture, arm position, tone production, mental preparation, listening carefully etc. Lots of stuff that's directly relevant for me as a beginning player.

The theme of this year's festival was 'Remembering Slava'. There were book presentations by Harald Eggebrecht ('Great cellists') and Elisabeth Wilson ('Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist, teacher, legend'). Unfortunately the latter's readings were crammed in the small interval between Eggelbrecht and the Gutman masterclass, and she was cut short in middle of some wonderful anecdotes. She very kindly signed my copy as she went out. Lots of wonderful Slava anecdotes were also recollected during a panel discussion in the city hall with David Geringas, Natalya Gutman, Mischa Maisky and composers Giya Kancheli and Rodion Shchedrin. Moods varied wildly, from Maisky's moving recollection of Slava's care for him when his father died ('I feel I lost a second father now'), to a funny anecdote by Shchedrin about the premiere of one of his works in Kronberg (apparently Slava sent a student to collect S. from a restaurant who told him he was urgently needed in the artist's room of the city hall. When the composer arrived only minutes after interrupting his meal, Slava just asked him: "Please, this bar - up or down bow?". "Down." "Thank you, now go!". For Slava, the composer's will was law.

What I loved most of all was the informal atmosphere of the place. Lively discussions with the performers after the concerts, chatting cellists young and old in the cobbled streets and the hotel breakfast room, and a buzzing market with students trying out instruments and music lovers browsing through sheet music and cds. Gary Hoffman played a wonderful slow movement as an encore after his late night concert, but I didn't hear who the composer was. I initially thought "I'll just do a Google after I get home", but then I decided "why not ask the man himself after his masterclass?". I did, and he kindly wrote it down for me (turned out to be from the cello sonata by an Alsace composer called Leon Boellmann).

I guess I know now where I'll be in two years time...

Go to ImageShack® to Create your own Slideshow

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Harvey Shapiro (1911-2007)

Legendary musician and teacher has died. He was 96

Harvey Shapiro, of Russian parentage, was born in New York City. His first cello teacher was Willem Willeke (1880-1950), who was both a medical doctor, and a well-known cellist of the early 20th century. Willeke was the principal cello teacher at the "Institute of Musical Art," which merged with Juilliard in 1926. Shapiro also studied with Diran Alexanian, who was both a pupil and partner in teaching with Pablo Casals. He was a winner of the highly regarded Loeb and Naumburg Prize. In 1937 he joined the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini, and from 1944 to 1946 he served as principal cellist.

In 1938 or 1939, at the invitation of NBC, he, Oscar Shumsky, Josef Gingold and William Primrose founded what became called the Primrose String Quartet, considered to be one of the finest quartets of its time. He and the Primrose Quartet along with Emanuel Feuermann, another famous cellist, gave historic performances of the Schubert Quintet.

From 1947 to 1963 Shapiro performed with the WQXR Radio Quartet. He has recorded as soloist with Victor Records, Columbia Records, US Decca Records and Nonesuch Records.

Later life and career

In 1970, on recommendation of Leonard Rose, he became professor of cello at the Juilliard School in New York, a position he held for more than twenty years. Many of his students have gone on to become famous cellists in their own right. In 1991 he was nominated as "Best Teacher of the Year" at Julliard, and he was awarded the "Schatzer Award".

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Yo-Yo Ma on Studio 360

October 19, 2007

Yo-Yo Ma
The virtuoso cellist has gotten a lot of attention in the last decade for forming and leading The Silk Road Ensemble –- a group that draws its members and music from countries all across Asia. Whether on the road or at home in Cambridge, Ma tells Kurt how every day begins with a Bach cello suite.

Bonus Track: Ma plays Bach
Yo-Yo performs J.S. Bach's "Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major: V. Menuett" in Studio 360.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This Old Cello....

Yo-Yo Ma and other experts explore the inner workings and outer components of a cello.

Almost Everything You Should Know about the Dvorak Cello Concerto

An exploration of Dvorak's Cello Concerto including interview footage with Yo-Yo Ma and performance footage from the New York Philharmonic.

The legendary Neikrug Sauret Cadenza

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Yo-Yo Ma: The Rest Is Noise Interview


© 2001 Cylla von Tiedemann

How goes the Silk Road Project? Since I wrote about Yo-Yo Ma's innovative multicultural music series in The New Yorker back in 2002, I've kept an eye on its progress across the country and around the world. On the occasion of the release of the latest Silk Road CD, New Impossibilities (Sony Classical), I spoke to Ma about how the project has evolved and how it has affected his musicianship. This was the first interview I’d conducted exclusively for the blog, and I wasn’t sure what form it should take. I decided simply to let the ever-affable and articulate cellist speak for himself, with minimal intrusion on my part. He does so after the jump.

I first asked Ma to talk about the concept of “classical music” both in the West and in the Near and Far East. He said: “I don’t know what classical music is, just to start off. I have no idea. I think I remember Bernstein once saying something like, ‘It is exact music.’ I have a slightly different view of it. In this world in our era nobody grows up with one kind of music. Listening to, say, Stravinsky, you immediately get a sense that he is working with many different kinds of music: religious music, secular music, written-down music, folk music.

"I have always been interested in the question of what it is that people need to know to be a musician. As a writer, as a composer, as a performer, or as a listener — what are the core values? When I started the Silk Road Project, I began to understand the geographical and musical connections between all these incredible cultures — all these ‘other’ classical musics, the Persian classical music and Indian classical music and mugam in Afghanistan and so on. I got a sense that at one time these connections were much closer and over time that certain things got split off and developed independently, in the way that the French spoken in Louisiana and Quebec broke off from the original. The same is true of, say, Persian music and Greek music. And at the edges of the traditions you always find people looking to cross over between what eventually got perceived as different traditions. Franghiz Ali-Zadeh grew up in Baku, where Rostropovich was born, and she was born trained as a classical pianist and joined the Soviet avant-garde. And then she started listening to the mugam and began creating works that are essentially mugam written down but informed also by her training and the twentieth century.”

One core value, Ma said, had to do with intonation. He pointed out that schemes of tuning are not consistent within Western classical music and that they vary widely from place to place. What matters, he said, is that different kinds of music require idiosyncratic tunings, and that learning the tunings takes you toward the core values of the art. “Working with Pablo Casals and Alexander Schneider and the Budapest Quartet, you were always taught that half steps should be really close together, the leading tone should be really close to the tonic. That’s correct intonation for classic string-playing. But it is not the same tuning as the piano. You make that adjustment. Then, when I started working with Mark O' Connor, everything he did was always unbelievably consistent, but it was not my intonation, and it was not piano intonation either. When I worked with Ton Koopman, nothing I did was in tune. All that opened my mind.

“Finally I started learning the Persian dastgah scale, where, if you started on D, the E-flat immediately sounds sharp. But with about an hour’s work any musician can acknowledge these as the desirable notes and the beautiful ones. You can quite easily get your ear inside a scale or mode. And then of course there are the different understandings of rhythm, falling in with West African grooves or with the amazing rhythms created by the tabla player Sandeep Das. What he did on his piece Vocussion was so mindboggling that all our percussionists’ jaws just dropped. And when we were learning from each other and when this great virtuoso was sharing with us so generously his unbelievable skill and his communicative powers and what he needed to express, then I realized that the core principle was exactly this: sharing what you know, passing on this knowledge.”

Ma then talked about the creative process behind several Silk Road works. “In modern times, the lines between writing and performing were separated, and we’re trying to bring them back together. For Kayhan Kalhor’s piece The Silent City, we were based at Harvard, meeting regularly with students from Thomas Kelly’s course 'First Nights,' about famous premieres in history. The idea was that we would create our own ‘first night.' We wanted to do something that came out of our project, and asked Kayhan Kalhor to write a piece for us. We though that he might do something involving Hafiz, or Rumi, or someone from Persian tradition. But he didn’t want any of that. He’s of Kurdish ancestry; he had Persian classical training as a kemancheh player; and he has studied classical composition and performance as well. He has lived through a number of tragedies in his life, and playing music is a very spiritual tradition for him. It's what kept him together. So he had in mind this piece, which is a memorial for all Kurdish people.

"The music came to us in bits and pieces. We developed it as Silk Road players and talked to the class throughout the semester about what we were doing. Finally we received the last little bit of the kemancheh part. Everything else happened within the group. Although it is about the destruction of the city it winds up with a sense of hope in the dance at the end. Colin Jacobsen in particular devised how we could get to the point where the Sufi dance enters. The piece also benefited tremendously from Ljova's arrangement of it. So The Silent City ended up being mutually created. We tend to forget how many classical compositions depended on composers' collaboration with performers, whether it was Brahms talking to Joachim or Dvořák's encounter with Victor Herbert for the cello concerto, or in early music the freedom allowed to performers to realize figured-bass or add on ornamentation. There is this idea in the modern West that we must all be original; we all must be authors in the sense that authorship is individual. I think we got too hierarchical and the idea of originality was developed almost to the point of absurdity. This is a different model, and a much older one."

I asked Ma whether his Silk Road work might have changed his playing of works such as the Dvořák concerto. He talked about how Mark Morris had heard him play at Tanglewood this summer and told him afterward that it didn’t sound entirely like equal-tempered intonation — that he was adopting some other tuning. Ma didn’t say that he did so consciously, but he certainly is experimenting with introducing different intonations into classical works, because, he believes, they are already there. “Dvořák was very open in the process of finding his voice, in playing with folkish melodies and folkish grooves. The rhythmic invention is often overlooked and quite amazing. The inner voices almost never repeat the same rhythmic patterns — it’s a constant invention that is almost a subtext for his modus operandi, for the coding of his voice.

“All this work makes me wonder whether we are heading toward something like world classical music. People right now do partake in a recognizable tradition, but they want that tradition to acknowledge the world as we experience it, especially after the nineteen-eighties, when suddenly we became more conscious than ever before of living in a global culture, or on a globe of many cultures. Nothing is totally distinct. Every great world religion has elements that are taken from other religions or overlap with them. It’s a sort of biological or ecological need to keep evolving. If we don’t, then a tradition gets smaller and may eventually die out. If we want to preserve a tradition, the best way to preserve it is to let it evolve.

“That is what we have in mind in calling the disc New Impossibilities. We want to show how this one group has evolved over seven or eight years. We are also very proud of how the ensemble has interacted with local communities, especially during our experience in Chicago, working with five hundred kids at Millennium Park, in neighborhoods, at the Chicago Symphony, developing new habits as musicians that affect us as musicians as radically as the music from thousands of miles away. And now we go to China!”

Rastrelli Cello Quartett Piazzolla - Oblivion

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Viola da Gamba: Carl Friedrich Abel

The correct title is - Pieces (27) for Viola da Gamba: no 20 in D minor, WKO 205.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hindemith - sonata for cello solo, 1 & 2 m.

Classical-music magazine voted the cello the 'sexiest instrument.'

Dorothy Lawson performs in New York City earlier this summer.
Courtesy of Stephanie Berger

For the cello, an amplified role in the avant-garde

Around the world, cellists are pulling up a seat next to indie rockers, pop bands, and DJs. No wonder readers of a classical-music magazine voted the cello the 'sexiest instrument.'

As one of the few cellists to have made a career as a jazz soloist, Erik Friedlander believes his instrument is comfortable in the worlds of jazz, popular, and avant-garde music. "Musicians are opening up to what the cello can do," he says. "If you play saxophone you have the weight of history on your back. We don't have that to live up to so we can create our own way."

Mr. Friedlander's fellow downtown musicians might agree. The cello is becoming the preferred instrument among many experimental rock bands, forward-thinking composers, and promoters of avant-garde concert series.

This past June, at the Bang on a Can Marathon, an annual festival of new music in New York, cellists were the backbone of several of the headlining groups including Real Quiet, a chamber trio consisting of cello, piano, and percussion; Odd Appetite, a cello and percussion duo inspired by Balinese gamelan and South Indian music; and the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the organization's house band, which features the amplified cello of Wendy Sutter.

Elsewhere, cello soloists are tweaking the instrument's serious image. The Canadian cellist Jorane has released five albums in which she simultaneously sings and plays the cello in songs by artists such as Donna Summer and Daniel Lanois. On Friedlander's new album, "Block Ice & Propane," he evokes American roots music by using lots of banjo-style plucking along with traditional bowing.

The cello's popularity outside of the classics is partly driven by necessity: The lean standard repertoire for the instrument consists of four or five major Romantic concertos.

"There isn't this huge weight of repertoire," says Mary Lawson, a cellist in Ethel, an amplified string quartet. "A pianist can't even hope to learn the complete piano repertoire in a lifetime. A violinist can barely manage the major violin repertoire. But as a cellist, you can definitely play the whole cello canon. You very quickly start looking beyond that."

Friedlander points out that rock musicians are becoming more aware of the cello's range and see it as an alternative to the violin, with its folk fiddling or jazz associations. "Because it's not saddled with bluegrass, 'le jazz hot,' or any of those things the violin has, you can put the cello into an indie-rock situation and it doesn't have baggage," says Friedlander, who has performed with indie-rockers such as the Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice.

A major inspiration for many cellists seeking to expand their repertoire is Mstislav Rostropovich, who, before his death at age 80 in April, helped bring about some 100 cello pieces including concertos by Shostakovich and Prokofiev. "He was such an inspiration not just as a cellist or musician but as a creative force," says Ha-Yang Kim, a cellist and composer who performs in Odd Appetite.

Indeed, there is evidence that the cello repertoire is growing at a faster rate than a decade ago. Music publisher Boosey & Hawkes reports that it published 52 new pieces for the cello in the past eight years, up from 41 works in the previous eight years.

Many recent cello works incorporate pop-style ingredients. In May, cellist Matt Haimovitz joined the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra to première Tod Machover's "Vinylcello," which pairs the cello with live electronics controlled by DJ Olive. Cellist Maya Beiser frequently gives recitals with a video component.

Cellists concede that there are drawbacks to the instrument – it is difficult to learn, expensive to own, and with its dark amber tone, it struggles to cut through rock textures. Yet it also seems to benefit from a certain sex appeal. Recently the British classical music magazine Muso surveyed its readers and found that, of all of the instruments in the orchestra, the cello is the "sexiest instrument."

"A certain kind of personality is attracted to the cello," says Mr. Kim, who cuts a sleek, black-clad figure on stage. "Cellists tend to be laid-back and cool. Besides, it's a really gorgeous instrument."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Feuermann plays Dvorak and Popper

Definitely one of the greatest musicians to ever live on this pale blue dot.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Clara Rockmore plays "The Swan" (Saint-Saëns)

If you think she is singing that tune under her breath you are WRONG. She is playing an early electronic music device known as a “Theremin”.

Léon Theremin playing an early theremin

Monday, September 3, 2007


This excerpt is from a 1989 recital in Tokyo, Japan.


This is not cello related but it is written by Casals. The piece is new to me, I just discovered this beautiful piece yesterday. Enjoy!



Sunday, September 2, 2007


Was the cello once played like a Violin? Violin maker Dmitry Badiarov believes it was and has recreated an instrument he calls the Cello Piccolo Da Spalla. Visit his site here for more details.


Hans-Ludwig Becker is a left handed European cellist who has listed 27 videos of himself playing various Bach Suite movements. After losing his left pinky in an accident he re-dedicated himself to learning the cello left handed. His dedication is inspiring and should send us all back to the practice room! You can see the rest of his videos here.


Hi Rich,

Thanks for your message and your interest for my left handed playing. The story is quite simple: I started playing cello at the age of seven. Two years later I had a stupid accident with my bicycle and cut one finger on my left hand. The situation at this time was, that in our big family everybody was playing an instrument and my parents wanted me to continue with the cello. So the only possibility was to get an instrument changed, which is quite expensive and not healthy for a very old and fragile instrument. But all the three cellos I have didn't suffer of this "operation".

Later on I studied with Karine Georgian, Johannes Goritzki and on masterclasses with Daniil Shafran, became principal cellist for seven years in a small German opera house. Since nine years I've been 2nd soloist of the Flemish Opera Antwerp/ Ghent.
From my experience I can say, that many orchestras don't accept "the other way 'round", but luckily there are some which do accept.

Your question, what strings I am playing: A and D "Jargar", G and C Wolfram spirocor. I tried for A and D different ones, but came back to Jargar, because of the sound. The weak point is that you cannot play very long on them.

I hope you got the right information. Let me still say you, that you play the Bach beautifully. I didn't have the time to check all your videos, but in one of these days I will do.

Best greetings from Belgium,
Hans-Ludwig Becker