5 Minutes That Will Make You Love the Cello


In the previous, we’ve requested a few of our favourite artists to decide on the 5 minutes or in order that they’d play to make their mates fall in love with classical music, the piano and opera.

This time, the objective couldn’t be simpler: Persuade those self same curious mates to like the cello, that almost all soulful of devices. We hope you discover tons right here to find and luxuriate in; depart your selections in the feedback.

Even when the cello strikes into its excessive register, the sound appears to emanate from a deep, russet realm. That high quality comes via sublimely in the fifth motion of Messiaen’s mystical “Quartet for the End of Time.”

The composer signifies that this “Praise to the Eternity of Jesus” needs to be performed “infinitely slow, ecstatic.” Aren’t these phrases opposites? Not to Messiaen. The cello line is restrained, wistful, seemingly unending, however the cellist Fred Sherry brings simply sufficient throbbing depth to recommend religious ecstasy. The piano helps with a sequence of regular, spare, low chords, performed by Peter Serkin with glowing richness and eerie calm.

Dvorak’s Cello Concerto is probably the most beloved work for cello and orchestra. It is an astounding piece. But as a performer, I’m all the time on the lookout for the preconditions of a composer’s creativity, the family tree of a piece. A very short story: In March 1894, Dvorak heard the New York Philharmonic perform his friend Victor Herbert’s new E-minor cello concerto. Afterward, Dvorak is said to have rushed backstage, telling Herbert it was “splendid, absolutely splendid.” Almost exactly a year later, Dvorak finished writing the concerto that we know so well.

While I was working with the cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras on the choreography for “Mitten wir im Leben sind/Bach6Cellosuiten,” he told me that, for him, the Sarabande of the Fifth Cello Suite is the quintessence of what Bach does in these suites: achieving transcendence through the dematerialization of music.

I decided not to dance to this sarabande and leave it like a delicate void, embraced by the physical and emotional intensity of the previous suites, and the glorious Sixth Suite that comes right after. This moment in the choreography might embody what T.S. Eliot describes so beautifully in the poem “Burnt Norton”: “At the still point of the turning world … There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

The opening eight bars of the Andante of Brahms’s B-flat Piano Concerto shine with a luster that places them high among the many melodic masterpieces this composer has given us. With a range of slightly over an octave, the home key of B flat brings a glowing warmth after the rousing Appassionato in D minor.

I don’t know why Brahms chose the cello to present this arioso. However, with its vocal characteristics and breathtaking control, always capable of producing the suggestion of portamento, it’s hard to imagine any other instrument for this role. The cello and this tune seem destined to come together, and we are once again in great debt to Herr Brahms.

The great Abdul Wadud comes to mind, and specifically a track from his 1977 solo record “By Myself,” called “Camille.” I first learned about Wadud’s work mostly from recordings with Julius Hemphill such as “Dogon A.D.,” then work he did with James Newton and Anthony Davis. I was super excited to learn that he had a solo record, but I could never find it! A friend of mine had to make a copy for me.

Finally, I got a vinyl copy about six years ago and even got to meet Wadud and have him sign it. I love the freedom and creativity in his playing. He uses the whole range of the cello and moves between lyrical, free playing and groove with ease, something I strive to do in my own work. He’s definitely a cellist I wish not only more cellists knew about, but also more people in general.

I cannot think of a richer, more subtle yet complex work for violin and cello than Ravel’s duo sonata. It is truly a symphonic work for two instruments. Ravel was the painter of sounds. His musical language was a true expression of his native tongue, in search of its most precise and delicate colors. This work is music stripped to the bone, and a fascinating journey to the Paris of the 1920s. The first movement is particularly graceful and fluid. It is the dance of an inseparable couple.

I love the cello. My brother was a concert cellist, and I wrote my “Paganini Variations” for him. Although my favorite work for the instrument is Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto, the most moving musical experience I have ever had was at the BBC Proms. It was the night Mstislav Rostropovich played the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Soviet State Symphony Orchestra on the day Russia invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968. While demonstrators chanted outside the hall, Rostropovich’s tears poured down as he played this most deeply nationalistic of Dvorak’s works. The closing minutes will forever remain with me.

It’s often said that the cello resembles the human voice — in range and in timbre. But its sonic possibilities are so much vaster. For example, Kaija Saariaho’s “Sept Papillons,” a 2000 set of solo miniatures played here by Wilhelmina Smith, treats cello technique as metaphor: Harmonics and “sul ponticello” bow movements evoke the butterflies of the title, soft-spoken and fluttering.

I don’t even like Elgar’s constantly trotted out cello concerto that much! But when I was 7 or 8 and starting to learn the instrument, nothing entranced me more than the magisterial opening, played by Jacqueline du Pré as she played everything: like each fiery note was a matter of life or death, a prophecy. This couple of minutes made me want to be a cellist.

I love the Bach suites because there is a world within them. There is something very special about the sound and range of color a solo cello can have. I’m always amazed at how Bach is able to create the illusion of many different voices happening at the same time with just one instrument, with implied bass lines and the conversational nature of the music. It’s also such natural music in the way it rises and falls like speech. I return to these works time and again: for inspiration, solace, joy, everything.

I can think of nothing more beautiful than Fauré’s famous “Élégie” for cello and piano. It is both instantly appealing and profoundly felt. The painful beauty of the main theme is balanced by the angelically comforting second theme; it can bring tears to one’s eyes while also being uplifting. Like all great pieces of classical music, it can be appreciated on multiple levels, and will affect each listener in a deeply personal way.

In performance, the cellist and pianist must have the ability not only to tap into the more obvious passionate and sweet qualities of the music, but also to bring out the myriad subtle shades of nobility, reflection, sorrow. Steven Isserlis does justice to Fauré’s treasure with the pianist Pascal Devoyon.



Source link Nytimes.com

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