Friday, November 16, 2007

The Roller Coaster Continues

A difficult decision has made been made...

Andrew Carruthers Cello 44.

Let's start last week.
As you know, I had fallen head over heals in love with the Carruthers cello. A great instrument. The quartet loved it, I certainly did. And still do.

I took my old Mirecourt out of his case again.
And started crying.
What was I going to give up?!?

The Mirecourt has a very special sound. Rich, warm and something else magical.
However: I have not played it seriously for two years. The only reason for that is, that it is difficult to play.
I have always been willing to live with that, but after I played the carbon fibre cello, I realized that things could be much easier.
For a while, I forgot that I missed playing wood; it was just too comfortable.

The carbon fibre cello is a great "work horse".
It is great for teaching, for outdoor gigs, for endless symphony rehearsals: it almost impossible to injure yourself on them. But they lack the warmth of wood. I guess they sort of lack personality.

That is why I started to look for a different cello. Wouldn't it be great if I found an instrument that would have the carbon-fibre-type ease, and the depth and warmth that I was searching for?
I found it in the Carruthers!

But playing it against my Mirecourt changed everything...


I played the instruments at the next quartet rehearsal.
I played both of the cellos for my quartet friends, in a variety of pieces. I played Bach, Elgar, Andrix; they preferred the Mirecourt in all of the solo works.
But... as cello in the quartet they preferred the Carruthers! The Carruthers has a much more focused tone, very clean and easy.
The Mirecourt is more sluggish, obviously harder to play, which you hear.

That did not make things easier for me! I did not know a person could cry so much over such a thing!

I took both cellos to my luthier, Ross Hill in Calgary.
He restored my Mirecourt years ago and really loves that instrument. But he knew that I was looking for something else, and he is really honest.
He examined the Carruthers and really liked it a lot. It is obviously an instrument of the highest quality. A great buy, he assured me.
Then I explained to him my feelings about my Mirecourt...

A colleague of mine, who was there at the same time, played both cellos for me. He asked if I had considered a different set-up for my Mirecourt.
Ross agreed.
The bridge of the Mirecourt is a little soft and it has a tendency to "walk". This can make an instrument sluggish, unpredictable and difficult to play. Changing the bridge, possibly the sound post (the soul of the instrument) and tweak things like the tail gut, he figures he could make the instrument easier to play.

The current bridge on my Mirecourt.

I have decided to give that a try. I know that I could never buy this instrument back if I sold it. I need to know that I tried everything before I could give it up. If this does not work out, I will at least know that I have given it all that I can. Perhaps I will then be ready to sell it.

People have asked why it is so difficult, especially since I have not played the Mirecourt much and since I love the Carruthers so much.
I don't have a good answer except that I always knew that the Mirecourt was there anyway. I read a short story the other day, about a woman who had not had contact with her father for four years. Now he passed away. For four years she had not missed the man or even thought about him very much, but now that he passed away, she felt a sharp pain, missing him terribly. While missing a person like that is very different, I somehow felt that that story described to some extend what I was going through with my Mirecourt.

I consulted more colleagues. They all agreed: first give the different set-up a try.
I will.

Mirecourt bridge.

I do have to say that it is with pain in my heart that I will send the Carruthers back. If only I could afford both: they would have such a different place in my performances.
I also can not say that one is better than the other. Perhaps, if I am perfectly honest, the Carruthers is better in many ways. But I have such a history with my Mirecourt. It is such an extension of my personality....

Carruthers bridge. Nice bridge!

One of my students said something, completely intuitively that stuck with me. When she heard me play the Mirecourt, she said:
"Grandpa has experience, but he is sure stuck in his ways".
It does describe it well. The Carruthers has a youthful energy that the Mirecourt does not have. The Mirecourt has "experience", character perhaps, that maybe the Carruthers does not yet has.



No, none of this has been in vain. I have needed this to reconnect with my old friend Mirecourt.
I am, however, not willing to permanently injure myself. I will give this an honest chance, and if the Mirecourt will still prove to be a difficult instrument... well: I do know where to find Andrew Carruthers (!


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