Sunday, September 28, 2008
Afterward, I was interested (and gratified) to hear Z comment that at one point he heard several phrases that sounded like they came from "Peter and the Wolf". There's hope for him, yet.
The concert also included a short piece by Shostakovich, Mussorgsky's fascinating "Suite from Khovantchina" and Stravinsky's "Firebird". It's too bad that Anchorage is so far away, or I'd go to
I thought Wendy Warner was marvelous to hear and to watch -- I look forward to following her career.
Links to this post:
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Progress, I'm told...
We worked on some position etudes from the Percy Such book my teacher gave me at the last lesson. I find them sort of relaxing - mentally at least - I do have to keep working out the kinks in my hands and wrists as I play them. I guess what I like about them is that after so much focus on playing musical pieces in the Suzuki and Mooney books, the basic ordinariness of these etudes is refreshing. After warming up on scales, I spend about 20 minutes or so on these, adding in a few new lines every day or so. This also got me to start using my metronome again after several weeks (months?) of "forgetting" to use it.
Next we worked on several parts of the Breval "Sonata" that I'd been focusing on, with lots of tips and suggestions for practicing these. Then we turned to "La Cinquantaine", one of my three selected performance pieces. As I stumbled my way through so much of it, I had to wonder what I'd gained from so much focused practice on this piece these past two weeks. Finally we spent a few minutes on "Humoresque", playing my toughest part. I'd worked on the rhythm and bowing for quite a while this week and was able to play that part fairly well today - at least.
Although my teacher pointed out several areas where she felt I'd made significant progress... [hmmm], I felt as if it just wasn't that good of a day. Well, maybe next time.
Saturday, Z and I will drive to Anchorage for a concert by the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, featuring cellist Wendy Warner playing Prokofiev's "Sinfonia Concertante". The concert will also include pieces by Shostakovich, Mussorgsky and Stravinsky.
Another really good book of Position pieces is:
Position pieces for cello by Rick Mooney
It does good target practise and a 'geography quiz' for each position
Links to this post:
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Adios to Two Cellobloggers
Pink Fluffy Slippers' blog, "Cello, Et Cetera", was one of the first celloblogs I encountered not long after starting my own. We got to know one another through back-and-forth comments, and last summer (2007) I had the good fortune to actually meet her and play some duets together.
I also enjoyed reading Diana's blog, "Frog-Swans and Swan-Frogs", which largely dealt with her experiences as a teacher in the inner-city schools of New York.
Goodbye PFS and Diana. I hope you still drop by once in a while to visit my somewhat neglected blog.
Regardless, I will miss your blogs.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Music Theory Class
I learned a basic version of music theory in seventh grade (it was a required one-semester course back then). I spent my eighth-grade year attempting (and essentially failing) to learn the clarinet as part of the school marching band. The band teacher was big on theory and made sure we learned at least something about music, even if certain of us last-chair slackers did forge our mothers' initials on our weekly practice cards....
When I started learning the cello I was surprised how much of that theory was still with me; the basics, at least. Still, it took more than a year to convert my treble-clef reading ability over to bass-clef (even now, every once-in-a-while, I still see "C" and think "A".) Since my understanding of theory fades out somewhere in the early treatment of chords, I'm really looking forward to this class.
Cellocracy picked up a small part of another Christmas gig. We decided on a cool arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" for four cellos, done by Terry. We're also going to work on Apocalyptica's version of "Hall of the Mountain King". Their arrangement is wa-a-ay beyond us, but we think we can work out a presentable version sooner or later. It looks like a lot of fun.
Links to this post:
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Lesson #56 notes
Focus extra attention on the eighth-note string crossings beginning at measure 29; also the triplet scales, USING A METRONOME!!!
Isolate the tricky passages and break them down into two- and three-note segments. Play through them over and over, varying the bowing, rhythm, tempos, etc. The idea is to get my fingers used to the combinations. Then return to the proper rhythm and bowing; and finally start adding in the notes preceding and following these segments.
Keep playing through the whole piece WITH A METRONOME but don't stop on any errors - over time they should slowly disappear after a lot of work on the isolated segments.
After a lengthy discussion about my continued frustration at my efforts in the Mooney "Position Pieces" book, I'm going to set it aside for now (yippee!). Instead, I'll start working on several pages from the "New School of Cello Studies" book by Percy Such. These straight-forward etudes drill all the positions up through 4th. After I've reached some sort of comfort level with these, I'll return to the Mooney pieces.
Continue working in the Mooney "Double Stops" book, pulling out the trickier parts for extra attention.
I picked out three pieces from the second half of Suzuki Book 3 to work on exclusively (as a review). Rather than spend time just playing these through over and over, I'm going to highlight the tricky parts that always catch me up, and zero in on them... After I've cleaned up these tricky parts, I'll add them back into the whole piece and work on "performance".
I brought up my vibrato exercises, and demonstrated where I am, so far. Apparently, my arm motion isn't too bad, but I definitely need to work on the finger motions: Pick a note - D on the A string, or even A on the D string - "find" the note with my fingertip and then flatten it by straightening the outer knuckle and then return to the pure note. Do these "oo-ee's" slowly; exaggerating the flat; and USE THE METRONOME!! Then pick up speed and shorten the range. Exercise all four fingers.
Cellocracy and our Community Strings Orchestra will play some pieces at an Evening of Classics presented by the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra on October 10th. Cellocracy chose one of the Rudolph Matz trios that we played at the lunch-time concert at the library this summer. We're reasonably good at this, but we've scheduled a session with our coach to fine tune it.
Which 3 pieces did you pick from Suzuki book 3? I either warm up or close out my practice sessions with both the Boccherini Minuet and La Cinquantaine.
For the past several weeks I've been revisiting the Breval. When I first played that 2 years ago I didn't like it, but it's grown on me now that I can play it better. It's worth the effort.
Thanks for the anniversary wishes!
I chose Bach's "Gavotte in C Minor", Dvorak's "Humoresque", and Marie's "La Cinquantaine" from Suzuki 3 to really focus on as "performance" pieces.
I've found myself enjoying Breval's "Sonata", maybe because I've approached it with much more discipline and am seeing reasonable progress.
Links to this post:
Sunday, September 07, 2008
When Y came out to collect him we heard this loud chattering coming from beneath the shed. Then a stoat peeked out at us and kept chattering as he ran back and forth under the shed, peering out at us from various openings. This guy seemed pretty curious about us and continued to pop out and stare at us for quite some time, before finally disappearing.
Stoats are also known as ermines; in the winter their coats turn pure white. A few years ago I thought I'd glimpsed a long thin white critter skimming along a snowbank near that shed, but I wasn't sure and never saw another trace. Since stoats live for 10 years, this could be the same one.
After consulting the trusty internet (when I was a kid, we used our Encyclopedia Britannica set) we learned some interesting facts about stoats: These cute little critters are in fact vicious killers; smaller than ferrets, they even prey on rabbits. But their usual diet consists of mice, voles, rats, birds, insects. I've always wondered why we have no mice sneaking in under the garage door to raid the cat and dog food supplies. Stoats can climb trees and run down the trunks like squirrels. No wonder the swallows avoid all the birdhouses. That might also explain why there are no rabbits around here.
At first we assumed that the stoat was complaining because we'd let the cat get close to its hideout. Now, though, I wonder if it wasn't actually telling us off because we'd recaptured the cat and taken away a rather substantial feast...
Thursday, September 04, 2008
The Cellist of Sarajevo
This book calls to mind another recent novel about a fictionalized historical cellist, "The Spanish Bow", by Andromeda Romano-Lax. Andromeda (I love that name), who herself is a cellist, presents an enthralling story about a cellist, loosely based on the life and times of Pablo Casals. Unlike the cellist in Galloway's book who is not really the main character in the story, the cellist in "The Spanish Bow" is the focus of the novel, and we read about his life from the time as a young child he receives "the bow" from his absent father until he ultimately becomes one of the most celebrated cellists of his time.
It seems, as I watch way too much television for my own good, that more and more often one of the guest characters in the various series (frequently a child) is studying the cello. It seems to be a fad these days. A few recent movies present cellists as a main character [including "The Soloist", based on the book by Steve Lopez, which hasn't yet been released]. The depictions on TV are fleeting, almost superfluous. The movies are a little more engrossing, but I tend to get distracted watching the actor's simulated playing.
I much prefer to read about cellists. So from this fan: thank you, Andromeda Romano-Lax; thank you, Steven Galloway; thank you, Steve Lopez.
Smailovic's anger is understandable. I can see how he feels the book's author has stolen his identity and is capitalizing off his story. I would have liked to see the author [or at least the publisher] reaching out to Smailovic before the book was published...
Nevertheless, the book itself stands on its own as a remarkable examination of an extraordinarily brutal episode in our recent history.
Perhaps some accommodation could be reached between the author and the cellist if the author were to use some of his anticipated profits to fund some sort of music program in Sarajevo...
If you extend your interest to upper string players too, an acquaintance of mine, Jessica Duchen, has recently published a neat book about Gypsy violin players called Hungarian Dances. I've started reading it and it's interesting. Though it will make you crave stew.
Links to this post:
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Back to Cello Stuff
With the "Sonata", the Mooney "Double Stops" pieces, the Mooney "Position Pieces", and my desire to continue working on the older Suzuki pieces, I find myself running out of time each morning when I practice. I've been juggling the play order each day so that I do manage to attend to each piece every day or so. But as we move back into orchestra season (we're supposed to have a concert in mid-October) and our cello trio/quartet is trying to figure out what next to add to our repertoire, I am once again wondering how the heck I'm going to find the time to work on all of these extra pieces.