Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Changing direction

After a month (where I diligently practiced, I swear... I only missed one day) I finally had another lesson (#64). I started off grousing a bit about not getting anywhere with the Breval Sonata; after working on it every day this last month, I've been feeling as if I've just run out of steam. I'd gotten to where I was dreading sitting down with it each day; I didn't know what else to do with it. Of course, I know that each time I practice I improve in some way, but...

My teacher suggested I just put the Breval piece aside for now and pulled out several books to look over. One is a set of Bartok duets arranged for two cellos. These pieces are all attainable after some work. It's going to be interesting to have something different to do for a change.

I also expressed concern about my lack of progress in the Mooney Double Stops book. She suggested I could set it aside as well, but I think I'll continue working on it with a lot less expectations. At least I have been successfully working through the Percy Such position etude book.

My vibrato apparently looks pretty good. I don't need to worry about increasing the "speed", for now. Instead I'm going to go back into Book 2 and start playing some of those pieces using an exaggerated vibrato with a goal of controlling my left hand actions separately from my right hand.

My teacher said she's thinking about putting together a cello ensemble this spring for her students. Not a Suzuki countdown, it would consist of some group pieces, and various solos, duets and trios. Possibly our Cellocracy group can play one of our Matz trios, since she now teaches all three of us. Two of us have been working on the now-famous Rameau duet, "Tambourin", apparently arranged for cellos by Jean LeClerc, and she suggested we might play that as well.

I sure enjoyed watching Yo-Yo Ma at yesterday's inauguration. I've since run across a few complaints about the fact that the piece was composed/arranged/conglomerated by John Williams, but it was a perfect piece for the occasion and for an audience of some 40 million people. As always, Yo-Yo was in his element, clearly enjoying the piece, the setting, and the occasion - even if it was 20 F. I noticed the pianist wore fingerless gloves while the clarinetist, Yo-Yo and Itzhak Perlman all played with bare hands. They must have been surrounded by space heaters....

I noticed the gloveless fingers as well. There's a video on YouTube with Yo Yo Ma playing with fingerless gloves so I guess he was comfortable enough at 20 degrees.

Have you memorized the Breval or still playing from the score?
I have memorized the piece, but when I go to play it, my hands don't seem to always do what my memory tells them to do (actually it's no different when I play it off the score). Maybe it's my OCD showing up here, but if I miss a note or get a bowing wrong, I tend to get too wrapped up in that mistake and end up losing my place. My teacher tells me that I need to just play on, but that's not easy for me.

I have been able to play on when I'm playing with a group such as my trio or orchestra, but not when I'm just playing alone (or with my teacher).
I have played with fingerless gloves a bunch, especially when weddings and casuals were my bread and butter.

I am a fan of letting a piece percolate a bit, too. Sometimes when we work on something for too long it just gets weird on us and becomes something it's not. Make a lateral move to a piece that presents you with some of the same issues in a different context. Then, in a few months, take out the infernal Breval and see what's happened in the hiatus. I love those Bartok duets, especially their names. I think there's one called Braul, and my younger students look at me and ask, "Wanna brawl?" The answer is always yes. How can you say no to an 8 year old who wants to brawl over Bartok? My advanced adults and I also play them to work on atypical phrasing and ensemble playing. Excellent.

Learn to keep going, above all. You know me, blah blah. Work on what's hard. When you make even the smallest progress the reward will give you that tingle you only get from truly new learning. I'm rooting for you on this one!

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