Wednesday Teaching Reflections: Cello Schools of Playing

"Portrait of an Artist" by Jon Silpayamanant
"Portrait of an Artist" by Jon Silpayamanant, color pencil collage drawing of the late Mstislav Rostropovich, original dimensions 11 x 19 (1990)

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about various technical advances purportedly made by different schools of cello playing over the, well, centuries. Some of this has been spurred on by my interest in how cello technique has developed outside the Western World, but earlier last year I came across a dissertation by Marie-Elaine Gagnon from 2006 titled “The Influence of the French Cello School in North America” and also last year I had purchased a copy of the Cambridge Companion to the Cello (ed. by Robin Stowell) and my thoughts turned toward how the cello is used in Western countries as well.

The past couple of weeks, I’ve just been spending a lot of time reading through so many of the old method books by various cello pedagogical figures in the Western world and have just become more and more intrigued by this instrument I’ve spent so many years learning to play and am just delighted to constantly find interesting things about the instrument’s history. Continue reading “Wednesday Teaching Reflections: Cello Schools of Playing”

Wednesday Teaching Reflections

As I mentioned in my previous post I spend most of the afternoon and early evening giving private cello lessons.  Wednesdays are much the same though I do start and end a bit later in the day (roughly 4:30 – 9ish).

I first started giving private lessons while I was still in high school.  Occasionally, while I was an undergrad at DePauw University School of Music, I did the same.  For a couple of years I was a “music assistant” to my cello professor.  Most of those duties involved giving technique lessons to other cello majors.  Also during those undergraduate years and following I would occasionally sub for some of the professors in theory courses or special topics courses. Continue reading “Wednesday Teaching Reflections”

Monday Cello Coaching Reflections

Mondays are usually a cello coaching day for me–at least during the k-12 school year.  Nearly every afternoon I coach the cello section of the Floyd Central High School 7th period Orchestra.  This is a high school group that has gone every year for 21 (or maybe 22 or 23?  I lost count) years in a row to the state level.

This year 6 of the student cellists in this orchestra were members of the Indiana All-State Orchestra (a total of 13 students from Floyd Central High School were in this year’s All-State Orchestra) which, proportionally speaking (as well as from an absolute number standpoint) for the cello section (which I think had 13 members this year) and from the standpoint of the orchestra as a whole is the most students from one school to have privilege of being members.

Pound for pound, this is likely the strongest string section in the orchestra.

The repertoire that they will be playing for this year’s state contest, and with which I’ve been coaching them (since Fall of 2008), is the finale of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 8, Op. 46; Bach’s Air on G which is an adaptation of the second movement from his Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 (this is the Stokowski arrangement–meaning the cellos get the melody throughout the whole piece); and the finale to Shostakovich’s  Symphony No. 5 in d minor, Op. 47.

Continue reading “Monday Cello Coaching Reflections”

Ottoman Cello Suites

This is a project I’d been thinking about for some months now but just haven’t had the time to get around to for various reasons.  With the recent publication of Eric Siblin’s The Cello Suites as well as the general lacunae in conservatory Music History education regarding the music in portions of Europe during the Arabic, Byzantine, and especially the Ottoman Empire, I thought the new year might as well be the time to start.

It’s been nearly a year since I starting seriously considering doing solo recitals again.  One of the ideas I had back then was to do a program of just Ottoman compositions.  Over the past few months of reading and research I’m finding good structural parallels between the Bach cello suites and what are ostensibly called “suites” in Ottoman music (fasıl) and I thought that it might be an interesting experiment to take an Ottoman fasıl and give a solo cello performance of it.  There are any number of Ottoman pieces that I just absolutely adore, but working from an outsider’s perspective [of Ottoman music] makes it difficult to decide how to negotiate a number of the issues that come from such a project.

I don’t have the time to sort through (or even list) some of these issues in this post, but I think I will be using my blog as a sounding board for them as well as just a place to document some of my solutions as good or as bad as they may be.