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How My Cello Found Me

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her blog on Interlude.

My Cello and Me — We Were Made for Each Other

I was smitten from the first moment. Finding an instrument is like finding your soul mate — you know it instantly.

I was twenty- two- years old and had just been accepted to Janos Starker’s elite class at Indiana University. My parents understood that I needed a better instrument. With trepidation they sent me to New York with a long list of dealers to see. (The only reason they even considered the idea was that my aunt lived in New York. I would stay with her.)

I decided to start at the top — why not? I happily traipsed to the famed dealership Jacques Français known to have the best selection of quality instruments. He was elegantly French — over six feet tall, impeccably dressed and haughty. A vast carpeted showroom appeared before me. The walls were lined with instruments and virtually all the small rooms to try them were filled to overflowing. Well that didn’t stop me. I introduced myself unabashedly to Mr. Français saying I wanted to try cellos — telling him a price-range that was higher than my parents intended.

Français brought me several cellos. I grabbed a chair, parked myself in the enormous anteroom and started to play. The place was packed — what else could I do? The first instrument I tried — Italian, honey colored, with a rich golden tone to match — was the one.

Keep reading on Interlude

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Envy the Cellist

JanetHorvath_019Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Read more about cello envy on her blog at Interlude.

Why I Love the Cello

Because it is me. Because it is the closest sound to the human voice. Because I can engulf it with my body in an embrace. Because when I tell people that I play the cello they say, “ Oh! I love the cello. It makes me cry.”

The demeanor of the cello is complex and varied. The room resonates with the low baritone counterpoint notes; sears the soul with amorous melodies. The cello can dazzle with virtuosic flights of fancy in its uppermost range. The cello soothes and inspires; stirs and arouses.

Our playing position is quite natural. We don’t have to contort our bodies to play the cello — not like poor violinists who must unnaturally twist their left arms, and on top of that, hold the instrument under their chins.

Other performers have cello envy. They even steal our repertoire. It is not unusual to hear the Bach Solo Cello Suites on — heaven forbid — the trombone, or The Swan, from the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens on the double bass. (Shouldn’t they just stick to The Elephant?) The piccolo player must play shrill high passages; some people snicker at the bassoon players — leaving so bassoon?
If your electronic device goes off you will be forced to play the bassoon! 

The violists are typically relegated to play the oomm- pah-pah of a piece of music and other boring accompaniment figures. Rarely does a composer throw them a bone — a short melody once in a while. Viola players are the brunt of jokes too — How is lightning like a violist’s fingers? Neither one strikes in the same place twice.

And pity the pianist who has to learn a vast repertoire of music, performing entirely from memory.

Keep reading at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

David Popper: Cellist and Composer

Janet Horvath_019#2 4x5Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath is the author of Playing Less Hurt. Here is an excerpt of her article on David Popper at Interlude.

David Popper

Composer and cellist David Popper is well known among cellists. His High School of Cello Playing is our Bible—40 Études comprising every acrobatic feat of cello pyrotechnics.

Popper was born among the narrow streets of the Jewish ghetto of Prague, Czechoslovakia June 16, 1843. David was five years old when in 1848 the Hapsburg emperor granted civil equality to the Jews and their isolation in the ghetto ended. The gloomy, unhealthy homes of the ghetto made a lasting impression on Popper despite the fact that most of his music is cheery and uplifting. The family was able to move out of the area when Popper was eight years old. By then employment restrictions had been lifted and some trades were permitted, as was being a musician.

Popper’s father was a Cantor—the religious leader who sings the prayers in the Synagogue. At a very young age Popper began to imitate his father’s singing. Popper’s talent was such that he was allowed to study with the famed cello pedagogue Julius Goltermann, (a name cellists are familiar with due to his cello compositions.)

In December of 1862 Popper was bestowed the coveted title of “Kammervirtuoso” by Prince Constantine Hohenzollern-Hechingen. In appreciation, Popper composed a series of pieces that are among his most cherished works Arlequin and Papillon from the Six Character Pieces. Conductor Hans von Bülow, heard Popper perform and was so impressed with the young man that he helped arrange a concert tour for Popper, his first, in 1863. As a solo cellist Popper had the opportunity to try his own compositions as well as to perform the major works for cello and orchestra. He was always dedicated to the music of his time, premiering several new cello concertos.

Find out more about David Popper on Janet Horvath’s blog!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

My Father’s Cello

Guest blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Read her blog on interlude.hk.

After the Second World War, my parents escaped from their native Hungary to Munich. At that time refugees had to go to Munich in order to procure documentation that allowed them to leave Europe. They did everything they could to recover from the chaos of the war. Finally, they saved enough money to purchase an Italian cello on the black market of Europe for $100 — a Vincenzo Panormo. It was an immense amount of money then. In October of 1948 they set sail for Canada somehow managing to take the cello on the ship Scythiaacross the ocean.

When they arrived in Halifax, Canada, the immigration officer, doubtful of my father’s stated occupation as a farmer, looked at his hands and said, “These hands have never farmed a day in your life.” My father retorted, “But I can learn!” And he did. My parents were sent to a small farming community outside of Toronto. Soon my parents heard that no one succeeds in music unless they live in Toronto. They packed their few belongings and the cello to try their luck in Toronto.

They were dismayed to learn that they would have to live in the city for two years before my dad could join the musician’s union. It seemed endless as he practiced relentlessly by day and at night he cleaned office buildings and washed cars. My mother worked in a sweatshop.

Keep reading this post on Janet’s blog

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Musician Mishaps

Janet Horvath is the author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her blog on interlude.

Musicians are fallible. Most of the time we attain near perfection in our performances only to be foiled by very human blunders. Recently, we have heard of musicians leaving their precious instruments on trains and in taxicabs. Both cellists Yo Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell have done that.

The story that captured our hearts was that of the principal cello of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Peter Stumph. After a concert, he had set his precious Stradivarius cello down to pull out his house keys. He opened the door and absent-mindedly left the instrument on his front porch. A security video filmed a thief racing away on his bicycle, the cello in hand. The video picked up the sound of a clattering encounter with some garbage cans. The thief left the cello leaning against a dumpster. He evidently had no idea what he had found.

Later, Melanie Stevens a 29-year-old nurse saw the cello in its hard case among the trashcans. She took it home. She showed it to her boyfriend, a cabinetmaker who thought he could make the cello into an attractive compact disc case. She had no idea that the L.A. Phil was missing the instrument until ten days later when she heard a television report. Fortunately, the cello sustained only minor damage from the trash can crash and was reunited with it’s mortified owner. The Antonio Stradivari instrument, built in the Cremona, Italy, in 1684, is one of only 60 cellos made by Stradivari. It is insured for $3.5 million.

Keep reading this article on Interlude.

Playing Less Hurt

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.