Friday, October 19, 2007

California here I come!

It has been a few weeks, and the project has taken me places I did not expect. Where to start!?

I still have two bows from the Quebec bow maker, and am expecting another one from a Toronto maker any time now. I have gotten re-acquainted with baroque playing and am loving it.

I am starting to realize that I have really missed type of the baroque performance practice that I grew up with. In Alberta I miss hearing baroque music performed the in a manner I can identify with.
We do get rare visits from leading baroque performers such as the Tafelmusik orchestra (from Toronto) or a soloist like Anner Bijlsma. But those performances are far and few between.

I have started to practice the 6th suite! No I do not have a piccolo yet, (more on that later) but have felt the urge to start practicing the 6th.
While somewhat awkward without a 5th string, it certainly is playable on a regular cello. Great fun even! I had a chuckle when, after I read through it the first time, at the end if the gigue, in the Henle edition, it said: "end of the 6 suites"!
Rostropovich called this suite "a symphony for solo cello" and characterised its D major tonality as evoking joy and triumph.

I practice it on the baroque cello, so that I will at least keep it in the baroque tuning ( a=4:15HZ, rather than 4:40HZ).
This suite has a much more free form than the other suites.

It is also the only one of the suites that is partly notated in the tenor clef, and even the treble clef! None of these clefs are used, or even necessary, for the other five suites since they never go above the note g4 (g above middle c; the 4th finger in the 4th position for the cellists among us). That will certainly help in performing it on 5 strings. For those on the inside: a little trick some beginners at the use of the tenor clef use; the notes in the tenor clef are played "a string above" the notes in the bass clef. While that involves some more advanced "geography" on a regular cello; it becomes very logical on a 5 string.
For me: it will probably confuse me for a while. I am excited to find out though.

Which brings me to the highlight of the week: I am going to California shortly, to try out several baroque cellos! There are four baroque cellos set up for me in one location. I am so very excited!! There even is a chance that I am going to commission them to build a piccolo for me! It depends on the quality of the baroque cellos that I find. I am eager to find out.

And while I am there, I am going to...
Dare I say it out loud?!?...
Look for a possible replacement for my Mirecourt...

PHEW!!! That was difficult to write down!!!

And I haven't even told my parents yet! My father helped me find this cello... O! I won't even go there!

My Mirecourt has been my faithful companion, my musical identity, for almost 19 years.
I have always loved its sound. Loved its warmth, its depth.
I have always struggled with its moods. I struggled with its size (it seems very large!). I also have found it difficult to play. And I am not getting younger and instrument related injuries are accumulative. Do I sound as if I am trying to justify it? Perhaps!
But I have always accepted all of its flaws, because I was so in love with the sound.

Over the past two years, my faithful Mirecourt and I have grown apart. (My husband jokingly wonders if he is next, since I started dating both my husband and my Mirecourt in the same week in 1989!).
I blame the perfect Luis and Clark carbon fibre cello. While that instrument certainly has its flaws; it will mostly do whatever I ask it to do, without much complaining. The weird thing is: I have no personal bond with the instrument. I feel so very closely connected to my old Mirecourt, I feel totally blank with my Luis and Clark, but... I am only playing the carbon fibre...

Lat week I had a performance, which was also recorded by the learning channel (TV), for a documentary on the maker of my contemporary bow, Roy Quade. I had decided that I should probably play the Mirecourt for this, since the instrument would not distract from the craft and artistry of a conscientious maker such as Roy.
I was sincerely excited about it: I had not performed a solo concert on it in nearly two years! I played it all of the week, also during my string quartet rehearsals. I got mixed reactions there. Our first violinist was disappointed that I used my Mirecourt: it was so much more difficult to play with, so much fuzzier!

I asked her to listen to my solo piece on both instruments. She found it no contest: the carbon fibre was far superiour in clarity, sound quality, even character in her opinion. I asked several people, all with the same answer.
In the end I decided against playing the Mirecourt!
I justified it by telling myself that I would be playing in a very dead space (the heavily carpeted ballroom of a hotel), with about 200 guests, finishing their dinner, so I would need to project with ease, and compensate for the dead space. The only answer: Carbon Fibre...
I performed, it was great fun, I was glad to have the carbon fibre.

But this sent me on a completely different train of thought...
Perhaps I should look for a different wooden cello?!?!
Perhaps I have now been somewhat spoiled with the ease of carbon fibre that I finally realize that perhaps I should sell my Mirecourt and buy a different instrument?
Perhaps this isn't my instrument, my voice anymore?

And thus: I have approached several luthiers in California. I was going to go there anyway, right?!
I will visit them while I am there. There is much more choice there than we can possibly dream of here.
It will make for some very long hours in the car! My husband, who will go with me, just planned the trip, based on the addresses of luthiers that I gave him, and figured we would drive at least 6000 kilometres. At an average of 100 kilometres an hour that is 60 hours. And that is not counting any stops.
It better be worth it!!

I am hoping to fall "head over heels in love" with an instrument, so that I will feel no regret letting my old friend Mirecourt go.

I have strayed so far from my original blog idea of talking about baroque interpretation, performance etc. I will certainly come back to that; My world is currently in such upheaval.
  • Trying to justify and getting used to the idea of replacing my cello.
  • Possibly buying a baroque cello.
  • Perhaps commissioning the building of a piccolo.
  • Choosing a baroque bow.
It is quite the emotional roller coaster.

I should say that in my search for instruments and bows I have had the most interesting conversations with musicians and luthiers all over the world. It is great fun!
Talking to a leading baroque specialist, a cellist, just this week, I discovered a lot of common ground.
It will be fun to share my experience and thoughts on interpretation and performance practice with you in the coming months. I will be so excited to share the enormous differences the instrument and the bow makes in the interpretation! This project makes me such a different player and teacher already.
It is important for any artist to keep challenging themselves!

1 comment:

  1. Hello Josephine!
    Maybe you have already returned from your trip - but if you are in the Berkeley area Ifshin Violins is worth a look: When I lived in the Bay Area they were THE place to go to for top-of-the-line choice. Good luck with all of your decision-making!
    Pamela in Vermont